Palaces, masks and cicchetti on magical waterways


Palaces, masks and cicchetti on magical waterways

Are you looking to follow in the footsteps of Vivaldi, Titan, Casanova or Johnny Depp’s ‘Tourist’? Look no further. Wander the romantic labyrinth of alleys, quiet squares, bridges and islets that make up this beautiful city of canals. Soak up the other-worldly atmosphere, age-old traditions, and majestic palaces. Venice might be slowly sinking, but there is time yet to explore this unique and fascinating destination.

There is no denying it’s popular. A staggering 4000 visitors are welcomed annually for each and every Venetian resident. Tourists mostly arrive in the summer from all over the world, with cruise ship day trippers making up a good percentage of the numbers. A very different experience can be enjoyed in the low season November to March however, when crowds are fewer and prices more reasonable. The exception to this would be the Christmas period as well as February’s carnival. These are wonderful times to visit, and although you’ll find crowds and inflated prices, this is mostly due to domestic revellers rather than international arrivals. Otherwise winter offers the opportunity to explore at your own pace, get a table at a favourite eatery and even snag a bargain room with a view on Canal Grande.


The great financial and military power welded by Venice in the Medieval, Byzantine and Renaissance periods left a legacy very much in evidence today. St Mark’s Basilica, standing on the square of the same name, is simply gorgeous. It’s a fine example of Italian Byzantine architecture from the ornate detail of the front facade to the exquisite frescos on the domed interior. Nearby the Doge’s Palace is equally impressive featuring a series of beautiful white stone arches. See the legendary Bridge of Sighs from where criminals would catch a last glimpse of Venice. Take an elevator to the top of the red-brick Campanile for a brilliant bird’s eye view. At a towering 98.6 metres high, it’s the city’s tallest building. Or simply explore and enjoy the beautiful shops which line the streets and canalsides.

Find your Favourite Sestiere

Discover the six sestieri, the distinct districts which have existed since the very foundation of Venice. From the major landmarks of San Marco, venture to San Palo and explore Rialto, the old trade centre and antique Wall Street. It’s also home to the oldest church of the city and a maze of tiny calli streets, rich in love stories. The sestiere of Santa Croce will surprise you with its mascareri artistry, or head to Cannaregio, the most populated area, which includes the famous Jewish Ghetto. In Dorsoduro you’ll find lots of museums including the Gallerie dell’Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, while Castello is home to the Arsenale, the large shipyard where the Biennale takes place.


Forget road transport, experience Venice from the lagoon itself, darting along the Grand Canal, navigating the small channels and exploring the many islands that make up this cinematic city.  Take a seat in a classic black gondola. It might be pricey, but it’s the iconic way to travel. Private water taxis can be great fun, flexible, and work out more cost effective if you are travelling with a family or small group. Vaporettos are probably the most ubiquitous form of transport. Rather like a water bus service, it’s an efficient and quick way to get about especially if you buy a pass for multiple trips.

Low Season Months

Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov

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Top Experiences

Bacaro Tour

Travel from bar to bar experiencing an early evening aperitivo as the sun sets over the city’s canals. Drinks are served with delicious cicchetti, or Italian tapas. Seek your own favourite watering hole or hook up with a local guide to find the real Venetian traditional and historical hotspots.

Make A Venetian Mask

Visit the artisan workshops of the mascareri, highly skilled craftsmen whose families have long designed and created beautiful intricate carnival masks, and learn about their complex history. Try your hand at producing your own attempt, choosing a shape and decorating your masterpiece.

The Islands & Murano Glass

Explore the city’s principle islands by vaporetto or on a private tour. Tiny Torcello is famed for its beautiful Byzantine mosaics while Burano has scores of picturesque colourful fishermen houses. The island of Murano is perhaps the best known for its beautiful hand-crafted glass making.

Insider Tips

  • Low season is the perfect time of the year to enjoy one of the numerous musical concerts that take place in the palaces on Canal Grande or the small churches in town. Check the schedule for La Fenice, Venice’s renowned and beautifully gilded 18th century opera house.
  • Housed inside the former church of San Maurizio in Campo San Maurizio, in the San Polo district, is the fascinating Museo della Musica. Free to enter, it houses an impressive collection of rare 18th and 19th century instruments. It also has an exhibit on the life of Vivaldi.
  • The Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop in the Castello District enjoys a rather eccentric set up. Piles of vintage titles in all languages, line the shelves, with some are shovelled into an old gondola and a bathtub. It’s a cosy quirky place to while away an hour if the weather is bad.

Good To Know

  • During the low season, look out for acqua alta, literally ‘high water’. This natural phenomenon occurs during peak tides causing partial flooding. It lasts for a couple of hours and it’s absolutely possible to explore the city. Raised walkways are erected but a pair of boots is useful.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave the main tourist areas to explore properly. Discover the tiny streets, hidden canals and many bridges. Yes, you will almost definitely get lost, but that is part of the experience. You never know what you might find and you’ll always find your way home…eventually.
  • Escape to Venice Lido for a different perspective. It’s much quieter than the centre with a relaxed residential vibe, shops and bars. The strip of land forms a barrier between the main island and the Adriatic, creating a lengthy strength of beautiful beach, lovely for a stroll even in winter.

Food & Drink

Locanda Cipriani, Piazza Santa Fosca

An upmarket restaurant on Torcello Island, offering elegant yet simple food with impeccable service. The perfect spot to taste Bianco Venissa, a limited and prestigious production from the vineyards of the lagoon. Specialties include Torcellana Risotto and fried soft shell crab.

Osteria dai Zemei, San Polo

The best cicchetteria in town and popular with the locals. It’s the place to go for its excellent selection of wines and for their great variety of cicchetti, bite-sized snacks and appetizers that can be tasted at the counter. Try the Pizzetta con l’Acciuga – mini anchovy pizza.

Osteria Oliva Nera, Salizzada dei Greci

Perfectly tucked away but not far from Piazza San Marco, this intimate family run osteria serves fantastic typical Venetian fare. Enjoy the most delicious dishes including their famous white fish specialty baccalà, home-made lasagna and stuffed courgette flowers.

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