The Venice giardini is an area of parkland in the historic city of Venice which hosts the Venice Biennale Art Festival, a major part of the city's cultural biennale. The gardens were created by Napoleon Bonaparte who drained an area of marshland in order to create a public garden on the banks of the Bacino di San Marco which is a narrow stretch of water dividing the gardens from St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace.
The gardens contain 30 permanent pavilions. Each pavilion is allocated to a particular nation and displays works of art by its nationals during the Venice Biennale. Several of the pavilions were designed by leading architects of the 20th century, including Carlo Scarpa and Alvar Aalto. Some of the pavilions have fallen into a state of decay and there is some criticism of the allocation of pavilions to certain nations who do not appear to have the funds required for structural maintenance and repair.
The gardens are also sometimes criticised for having become a stifling and cramped architectural museum since the pavilions are constructed in distinct but extremely disparate architectural styles and their collection in a relatively confined space can have a jarring, even irritating, effect leading many to query whether the area could be better used as a more open and relaxed recreational space. The gardens are also famous for the many cats which run wild in the vicinity and for some of the sculptures such as the statue of Garibaldi situated at the entrance.