Get an inside view of life in Venice, Florida.

By Carlos Harrison
November 17, 2004
William C. Minarich

Setting: Venice sits directly on the Gulf of Mexico, midwaybetween Tampa and Fort Myers. It's less than 20 minutes south ofSarasota, about an hour north of Fort Myers. The city proper isdivided in two, after engineers of the Intracoastal Waterwayfinished cutting "The Island Avenues" away from the mainland in1967.

Attractions: Fourteen miles of beaches line the gulf.Fine-dining options are scarce, but The Crow's Nest, nestled besidethe Venice Inlet, boasts a 21-page, award-winning wine list.

Drawbacks: Hurricane season runs June through November.(Venice survived last year's hurricanes with minimal damage.) Thejob market and nightlife are limited. The town does have one of theworld's leading skim-board makers, Zap Skimboards, founded and runby lifelong local Bob Smetts.

Housing Options: Depression-era apartments were originallybuilt for railroad workers and their families. Concrete-blocksingle-family houses sit a short walk from the water. Condos andupscale multistory residences rise beside the beach dunes.Well-kept 1920s Mediterranean Revival houses dot the "Island ofVenice," as the area west of the Intracoastal is called.

What It Costs: Rentals range from less than $800 for aone-bedroom apartment to $1,600 or more for a single-family home.Condominiums near the water and single-story, ranch-style homesstart in the low- to mid-$300,000s. Modern custom houses climb fastto more than $1 million.

Your Next-door Neighbors: Sigrid Gebel, widow of the famedcircus tiger trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams; other performingfamilies that stayed behind when the circus stopped wintering here;hotel and restaurant employees; financial industry professionals;physicians; retirees.

How You'd Spend Your Free Time: Golfing, biking, jogging,birding, and diving the reef that lies a quarter-mile offshore. Artfestivals, crafts fairs, and parades are held throughout the year.Scores gather at nearby Nokomis Beach on Saturday nights for abonfire and the free-spirited "drums on the beach."

(published in 2005)