Without knowing the backstory you would never guess Aria the Original and its follow up series Aria the Natural are actually set in the 24th century on Mars, because it has been terraformed to look EXACTLY LIKE VENICE. And it really does! The creators went to great lengths to recreate the real-life setting of Venice, doing extensive research on the city’s canals and architecture. The city is actually called Neo-Venezia, while planet Mars’ name has changed to planet Aqua.
As for what Aria is about well, it is a slice-of-life/sci-fi-ish anime about a bunch of lady gondoliers [aka Undines] in training, exploring their city, meeting new folks. It is probably one of the most beautiful anime shows I have seen. The illustration is lovely, the music involves a lot of mandolins and dreamy chants [theme song not included], and overall is just a beautiful, serene, and at times mysterious, anime. Each episode focuses on the appreciation of the small things in life, friendship, doing your best, etc – it is amazing how positive the show is without going over the top or becoming preachy and boring. Aria sort of just makes you feel good about life. If it hadn’t been for this anime I don’t know if I would have made it through this past winter. Whoah, shiz just got DARK. But really, the weather was AWFUL. Aria really saved the day. Here are a few screenshots of some choice scenes: