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Explore the romantic floating city
Lying in the north east of Italy in the lush Veneto region, timeless Venice is a floating city of opera, melodrama, tragedy and comedy that has been the gateway to the Orient for hundreds of years.
One of the world’s few truly unique cities, in romantic Venice you can glide through narrow canal streets on a gondola, admiring ornate bridges and breathtaking architecture that spans centuries, such as the Renaissance-style St Mark’s Square and the picturesque palaces and churches which are dotted along the canal.
Best time to visit Venice
• It is always a good time to visit the historical cities of Italy. During spring and summer you can dine al fresco in charming piazzas and stroll leisurely around the many gardens
• In autumn and winter you can stay cosy and warm in romantic hotels
• All year round you can explore Italy’s vast cultural heritage, visiting world-famous galleries, museums and historic monuments
• Winter and early spring in Venice are cold, however there are fewer tourists at the major sights, apart from February when the world-famous carnival and Easter week
• May is a lovely time to visit as there warmer temperatures and sunny spells
• During the summer the mercury rises and the beaches by the lagoons fill up with holidaying families; in August the locals head off on holiday and the city is mainly filled with tourists.
• Autumn is often rainy, however there are sunny periods and slightly smaller crowds.
Venice holiday highlights
The heart of Venice is found in the San Marco sestiere (neighbourhood) which is home to St Mark’s Square. This famous piazza is bordered by exquisite and iconic buildings such as Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica, and the clock tower Torre dell’Drologio. Just a short stroll from the square lies the atmospheric waterfront promenade Riva degli Schiavoni which is home to a number of bars and restaurants.
Traversing the famous Rialto Bridge you cross into the San Polo sestiere which is amongst one of the oldest parts of Venice and this is where you will find the famous fish market. For museums, nightlife and views of the Giudecca Canal step into the sestiere of Dorsoduro. Tour the Grand Canal on the number 1 Vaporetto, which makes its way steadily along this iconic waterway. Catch a popular glassblowing demonstration on Murano Island, where glass has been produced since the late 13th Century.
Foodies will enjoy a trip to the historic Rialto Market, where the locals shop for supplies, which is as much a cultural sight as a shopping opportunity. The market is famous for its seafood, most of which has been caught in the lagoon that morning.
Don’t forget to wander across Venice’s many romantic bridges including the iconic Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs. Shopping in Venice is a diverse experience – from the souvenir shops that line the streets surrounding St Mark’s Square and the major sights to the Venetian lace and glass workshops further afield.
The islands of Burano and Murano are the home of the lacemaking and glass-blowing trades respectively. For those seeking high end boutiques. Calle Larga XXII Marzo is the ultimate destination. From Prada to Gucci to independent shops selling glassware, leatherwear and handmade paper products there will be something for a variety of tastes.
The local custom is to eat small dishes while standing at the bar and meals consist of a number of courses including the traditional and inexpensive tramezzini – small triangular sandwiches without crusts, often filled with tuna or prosciutto. Due to its marine location many of the city’s restaurants boast delicious seafood dishes. Try a pizza at a traditional pizzeria, a pasta dish, or a gelato.
With its traffic-free streets, numerous foot bridges, spacious squares and the small scale of the city, the best way to travel around Venice is by foot. If you tire of exploring on foot there are numerous water buses that make their way along the city’s network of canals. These vaporetto run frequently between a number of stops along Venice’s main waterways and also round the outside of the city to the neighbouring islands located in the lagoon. Various ticket options are available depending on your length of stay and how regularly you use the service. For speedier transfers throughout the city, and between the airport and hotels with their own water entrances, there are water taxis. Then of course there are the gondolas – the once-in-alifetime experience for which this romantic city is famous.