Venice is a unique city, and one on many a travellers’ wish list. It’s a place steeped in history and tradition, with an air of grandeur and romance. It is also a city that is actively decaying; with the waters rising, many buildings have had to abandon their ground floors all together. But even this only seems to add to the intrigue of the place, the sense that it’s slowly disappearing before our eyes draws travellers in their quest to fully explore it, while they still can.
Certain times of the year draw the crowds to Venice. In the summer, the warmer temperatures are a lure for many, whilst February brings with it Carnival, and a whole different type of traveller. During this time the streets and plazas are dotted with revellers in masks and elaborate costumes, many spending the entire day out, posing with tourists and locals alike. In the evenings there are balls across the city, allowing you to wine and dine and dance the night away, hidden behind your mask.
As for major sights, you’ll want to spend some time at the Piazza San Marco, with the St Mark’s Campanile and Basilica. Also a visit to the iconic Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs is recommended, though both can get busy. A punt along the Grand Canal is often a bucket list moment for many, though you’ll only find tourists using the gondolas, locals will hop on a local vaporetti, also known as a waterbus. There are also the lagoon islands, including Murano, famed for its glass, and Burano, famed for its lace and colourful houses. Some of the islands have also been turned into upmarket resorts, such as the San Clemente Palace Hotel & Resort.
If you are looking to take back some souvenirs, the two islands of Murano and Burano and their famed wares are often very popular. There are also plenty of Venetian mask shops, some more expensive than others, that can provide visitors with another typically Venetian memento. Though, do bear in mind that few will be handcrafted in Venice, so if you’re looking for something special, you’ll need to head to Ca' Macana. Most of the main shopping areas will have a mixture of international high fashion boutiques along with some specialist Italian and Venetian shops. Not only can you buy the carnival masks, but also tiny gondolas, Murano glass jewellery and traditional Venetian clothing.
When it comes to eating out, try to avoid the places near the big sites, these are often on the overpriced side due to their location. Instead, try to find places that are popular with the locals, rather than the tourists. You’ll find plenty of seafood on the menu, often sourced from the lagoon, whilst pizza is also a popular choice. For something truly decadent, head to Alle Testiere, a seafood restaurant seating just 22 people, or Osteria di Santa Marina, an elegant restaurant offering a new take on classical Venetian dishes.
After seeing the sights, browsing the shops and enjoying great Italian cuisine, you’ll need somewhere to relax and get a good night’s sleep, ready to do it all again. Venice has a great selection of boutique hotels right in the heart of the city, as well as some larger resorts on the outskirts and islands. One of our favourite boutique stops is the Ca Maria Adele, which has five statement rooms all offering a classically gothic Venetian take on luxury. The slightly larger Aman Canal Grand Hotel offers 24 rooms, many of which have views out over the Grand Canal and offers an opulent setting from which the explore this beautiful city.