Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a book that defies description: it consists of 55 vignettes, each of which describes a different fictional city. Yet each of these cities is in fact Venice, seen from one perspective or another, as told by a fictional version of Venetian traveler Marco Polo to the emperor Kublai Khan. By describing cities that are at once exquisite and squalid, vibrant and numb, mundane and impossible, Calvino paints a portrait of Venice that is as varied and subtle as the city itself.

When you visit Venice, you can experience for yourself the same ambiguities and paradoxes that Calvino describes in Invisible Cities. Venice exists on the border between sea and land, between ornamentation and significance, between the past and the present.

For example, you can visit the beautiful Saint Mark’s Basilica, which represents centuries of religious practice, art and architecture. However, due to rising sea levels and sinking land, certain areas of the basilica flood about 250 times each year, exposing the famous building to serious water damage.

In Venice, even the eternal is temporal. That’s all the more reason to see the wonders of the city now, and take the literary trip of a lifetime.