For centuries, Venice's international reputation has been one of a decadent carnival, a place where anything goes. It's easy to imagine that those living in such decadence are as corrupt, and as colorful.

In truth, however, most of Venice's population now is middle-aged, and more than ever does Venice's nickname, La Serenissima (The Most Serene Republic) seem appropos. Many of the young workers in restaurants, museums, and stores throughout Venice actually live in the nearby suburb of Mestre, which is growing in population and thriving in its own way. At night, particularly outside of the main tourist sestieri of San Marco, Venice develops an eerie, quiet calm (a lot of shops and cafes close early) and seems almost an abandoned city, particularly in Dorsoduro, a more residential section of the city.

On the other hand, many cafes/bars near the University areas, such as Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro, are lively and open until as late as 2 a.m. - "Margaret Duchamp", "Ill Caffe", "Ai Do Draghi" in the Campo or near by `Cafe Noir" in Crosera San Pantalon, "Round Midnight" in Fondamenta dei Pugni.or "Cafe Blue in Calle de la Scuola" .  Elsewhere in Cannaregio  "Al Parlamento" in Fondamenta San Giobbe, "Fiddler's Elbow Irish Pub" in Corte dei Poli gia Testori, "Iguana" or "Paradiso Perduto" both in Fondamenta della Miserocordia, "Aldo'sPlace" in Fondamenta degli Ormesini, or "Zenevia" in Salizzada San Cancian are all open until 1 or 2 a.m.  There are many others scattered around Venice whilst for tourists both Caffe florian and Gran Cafe Quadri in Piazza San Marco stay open until midnight.

For those who seek more cultural entertainment recitals, concerts and the opera rarely start before 7.30 p.m, and many do not start until as late as 9 p.m.

The Cannaregio is also a quiet neighborhood, in which one still finds the "world's first Jewish ghetto" (according to JewishVenice.com).

The Venetian character is typically described as shrewd and practical: Because of its past glory as a wealthy mecantile center, (and perhaps thanks to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice) Venetians are attributed with a talent for business and prosperity. But one of the great contradictions of this city is that this practical streak coexists with an incredibly rich artistic and historic past. No city is quite as instantly recognizable as Venice, with its mix of Italian Renaissance art and Byzantine-influenced architecture, another legacy of its past ties, in both commerce and war, with the East.

Music also plays an important part in the character of Venice and the Venetians. Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice and Mozart librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, had significant ties with the city. Venice was also home to the first public opera house, and later, to one of the most famous opera houses in the world: La Fenice, built in 1792, and tragically destroyed by fire in 1996 but now restored to full glory with operas and concerts once again being performed.  Music plays an important role in the city: concerts abound in churches, musicians play in Piazza San Marco and tuneless vagabonds "entertain" patrons at cafes and restaurants.