Discover a golden era of Gothic palaces and Venetian romance on holidays to Venice as you glide by gondola through the floating city
Sipping macchiatos for breakfast, stopping for cicchetti come lunch and drinking cocktails created by George Clooney at the Hollywood A-list’s favourite waterfront hotel; it’s easy to fit into the Venetian way of life – relaxed, car-free and somewhat otherworldy. Come summer, Venice heaves with tourists around Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, but slink off to tiny fairytale alleyways and you’ll discover hidden treasures like one of the last few shops in the city where oars are still handcrafted for gondoliers and the almost secret church of San Vidal where world-class chamber concerts are held near-on nightly.
Venice holidays are as much about huge marble palaces as they are about getting lost in a maze of storybook canals and pretty bridges, stopping for great food, music and gelato along the way. After all, the city is nicknamed La Serenissma (serene) for a reason.
We’ve seen the Titian masterpieces inside Galleria del Accademia, admired the opulent Gothic architecture of Doge’s Palace, watched opera beneath the jaw-dropping ceiling of La Firenze and taken midnight walks along San Marco pier when the city silences all but the sound of gondolas bobbing up and down.
If you want to escape the stuccoes, frescoes and high ceilings, we can recommend the modern art at Peggy Guggenheim Collection, an iconic Bellini in Harry’s Bar or a Vaporetto ride to Burano Island where you’ll find those Instagram-worthy candy coloured houses and mouthwatering swordfish pasta. Chat to one of Personal Travel Experts to find out more and craft your ideal Venice holiday.
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 when the world-famous carnival and Easter week hit the city)
• 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), home to famous St Mark’s Square. Bordered by iconic buildings such as Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica and the clock tower Torre dell’Drologio, this renowned piazza is the place to start for the big attractions, fancy cafés, and evening music. Laced with a criss-cross of pretty bridges, two of the most famous to visit are the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto. Rows of shops and the famous morning fish market are a joy to peruse on the wide arches of Rialto, and for the perfect photo of the Bridge of Sighs view it from Ponte della Paglia.
Museum, art and church highlights include the Galleria dell Academia for Titian and Bellini masterpieces, the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute for jaw-dropping interiors, Madonna dell'Orto for Tintoretto’s exquisite canvases and The Correr museum for a look into Venice’s decadent past. A gondola ride is pretty much a ritual on a visit to Venice, but it’s also fun to take the vaporetto on a Gran Canal tour and over to the islands of Burano and Murano for handmade lace, glass blowing, candy coloured houses and picturesque canals. And for something a little out of the ordinary, you can also kayak yourself over the Venetian lagoon.
For the most beautiful of frescoed ceilings, visit Palazzo Grimani, for modern art its the Peggy Guggeheim Collection and for Tontoretto’s magnificent paintings of the Bible (it took him 20 years to complete) step inside the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Where is Venice?
On the north coast of Italy in the Veneto region, Venice is spread over 118 small islands and is also known as the Floating City. Its S-shaped Grand Canal is the most famous in the city.
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-a lifetime experience for which this romantic city is famous.
Come home with antique lace from the island of Burano, handmade gondolier slippers as a souvenir and Venetian glass from the island of Murano. Head to the series of streets on Le Mercerie for high-end designer shops including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, and the San Samuele area for luxury textiles and crafts. For Venice’s first and only luxury department store, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, set in a magnificent 13th century palazzo brings together world-class brands as well as gourmet foods lace and glass, all with a spellbinding rooftop terrace with spectacular views over the Grand Canal.
Food & drink
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, and local speciality chichetti – tapas. Due to its marine location many of the city’s restaurants boast delicious seafood dishes and you’ll also find plenty of pizzerias and gelaterias. Venice is an expensive city, so it’s best to be prepared in advance that food and drink will be pricey. Spritzers are the favoured drink of the evening and a Bellini at the original Harry’s Bar (Hemingway was a fan) is a must. We recommend veering away from the overpriced tourist-trap restaurants around Piazza San Marco and the Rialto and instead focusing on family-run trattorias and wine bars offering cicchetti. Fine dining here is also an extraordinary experience with a choice of Michelin-starred restaurants and the Oro restaurant at Belmond Hotel Cipriani offering a sublime menu overlooking the starlit lagoon.
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