- Dark Venetian romance
- On the Grand Canal
- Iconoclastic designer den
- Discreet in Dorsoduro
- Baroque elegance
- Canalside charm
- Through the looking glass
- A stroll from San Marco
- Modern Italian Gothic
- Beyond the Bridge of Sighs
- Archipelago of alleyways
- City life
- Walking on water
It may seem curious in a city that sits out in the sea and is characterised by its glittering waterways, but it’s walking you should prepare for when you visit Venice.
One of the most beautiful cities on earth, La Serenissima is an atmospheric maze in which to lose yourself. With most of its buildings right on the water’s edge, Venice hides all the snap-happy sightseers well; drift along the canals by gondola and float back in time as you admire Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Give the film-familiar Piazza San Marco a chance to sink in, then follow the locals off the main drags to the best restaurants, hidden churches and lively markets. With so many palazzi and piazze to discover, Venezia is a place for early nights and misty mornings spent wandering charming, traffic-free alleys: it’s the romance capital of the world.
Think Venice and you’ll automatically think theatrical costumes and masked balls. There’s no fee for turning up in town during Carnival time, but you must buy tickets to attend any given party – certainly for the best events. Tragicomica on Calle dei Nomboli (+39 041 721102) is one of the best traditional mascareri (mask makers) and costumiers, and also the organisation behind the Mascheranda ball. Antonia Sautter, another highly respected costume designer, organises the opulent Ballo del Doge. Tickets are expensive, (from €300, up to €600 or thereabouts for the Ballo del Doge), but if you are going to go to the ball, it’s best to go all out.
- Use public water buses (€6.50 a journey, or €14 for a 12-hour travelcard); they all take the same route – the difference is how many stops they make. You can hail or call for a water taxi, but they can be pricey.
- Tipping culture
- In restaurants, service is generally included in bills, so Venetians will just round the amount up a few euros, or leave a handful of coins. If you really want to, add five to 10 per cent extra.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Business hours are fairly standard, with food shops closing in the afternoon and reopening at around 4–5pm for a few hours. In the winter months, shops close on Sundays and Monday mornings.
- Packing tips
- Comfortable shoes; mosquito repellent in summer; bubble wrap for protecting fragile purchases such as Murano glass.
- Recommended reads
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann; The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan; A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich.
- Venetian cooks exploit the fruits of the sea to produce oceanic dishes as intriguing as Venice itself: risotto nero, stained black with cuttlefish ink; silky marinated sardines and hearty fish soup. Recipes often include ingredients recalling the city’s merchant days (pine nuts, raisins and pomegranate) and produce from the mountains to the north. Other regional stars include fegato alla Veneziana (calf’s liver and onions), raddichio from Treviso, asparagus and fiery grappa from Bassano, and of course, Veneto wines, especially pinot grigio, merlot, valpolicella and sparkling prosecco. Venice also has a version of tapas – cicchetti, little savoury mouthfuls best enjoyed around midday with a thimbleful of wine.
- Euro (€).
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Italy: 39. Venice: 041.
- Do go/don't go
- August is hot, sticky and full of tourists. Autumn can be lovely. February is great if you’re going to the ball for carnival, but trying to find a hotel room in that month is no picnic.
Don't go home without...
… having a coffee in Piazza San Marco. The price will get your heart racing faster than a ristretto will, but there’s a reason why the tourists flock here – it’s spectacular. If you’re lucky, you’ll even have an orchestral soundtrack. Il Caffè Florian is legendary (www.caffeflorian.com).