A hugely popular romantic holiday destination, Venice is often swamped with visitors but, if you’re prepared to stray from the beaten track, you’ll find secret squares and Gothic arches where you can leave the buzz of the crowds behind you.
A trip to Venice should include a trip in a gondola; it’s an idyllic and supremely romantic way to get an overview of the city. With gondola rides being so popular, you’re better not to leave it to chance, but to book in advance. Look up the website for the Istituzione per la Conservazione della Gondola e la Tutela del Gondoliere and you’ll find recommended itineraries.
Venice is synonymous with art and you can use your trip to Venice to take in some of the world’s most impressive works by artists such as Titian and Canaletto. The city has dozens of art galleries, but if you want to see the classics and take a tour of the city at the same time, then go and see them in situ. I Frari, a Gothic church, is home to Titian’s Assumption. Seek out the Museo Del Settecento Veneziano to see works by Giambattista Tiepolo or the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a beautiful building in northern Venice that houses paintings by Tintoretto.
If it’s culture you’re after, pay a visit to La Fenice, Venice’s premier opera house, where you can listen to opera, watch a ballet or catch a concert orchestra playing some of Vivaldi’s works.
There are also a cluster of islands in the lagoon that are well worth visiting: head for Murano for its exquisite glass, Burano for delicate laces, Torcello, and the Lido for the Venice International Film Festival.
However, a trip to Venice doesn’t have to mean a culture-overload and there are plenty of things to see and do for visitors of all ages. Visiting a women’s prison might seem like an odd idea, but the Casa di Reclusione Femminile is much more than that. The inmates there run a tailors’ workshop that produces some amazing goods, from clothing, jewellery and cushions to reproduction 18th Century costumes, which have to be seen to be believed!
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum is perfect for children, brimming with weird and wonderful art to inspire young minds. There’s even a sculpture garden they can run around in.
Sometimes simple pleasures are the best and your trip to Venice ought to include a visit to the heart of the city: Piazza San Marco. There are cafés offering strong Italian coffee and delicious pastries and outdoor orchestras serenading visitors as they pass by. But don’t forget to look up occasionally and you’ll catch glimpses of some wonderful artwork on the outside of the Piazza’s buildings, including the iconic Clock Tower on the north side of the square.
Eating in Venice
Eating in Venice can be a mixed bag, unless you’re a local or you’ve taken the time to book in advance.
Because of its location Venice specialises in seafood, which is brought in fresh every day. One of Venice’s signature dishes is cuttlefish and its ink. It’s incorporated into everything from risotto and polenta. Cuttlefish and cuttlefish ink dishes are usually indicated by the phrase “nella seppia” for cuttlefish, and “nero di seppia” for dishes that incorporate the ink in their construction (especially in sauces).
Shopping in Venice
Venetians love to shop. It’s as much a part of their way of life as pasta and gondolas. Consequently, Venice’s labyrinthine streets are stuffed with hideaway shops and classy boutiques.
Mercerie, which runs between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge is a perfect example, practically overflowing with shops and stalls selling handmade trinkets, Venetia sweets and small leather items. However, to the west of the Piazza, you’ll find Calle Larga XXII Marzo, a street famous for its designer clothing, shoe shops and high-end boutique stores.
Venetians are friendly, talkative people and on your trip to Venice, you’re likely to meet some wonderful characters and maybe even make new friends.
There are no major cultural considerations to take into account; be respectful and you will be respected in turn.