Many would agree that no holiday to Italy, or indeed Europe, would be complete without a visit to Venice.
Represented worldwide by its gondoliers and carnival masks, Venice is also home to priceless art, magnificent architecture and ancient crafts.
Situated on a series of low banks on the Adriatic Sea and consisting of 40 islands across its large lagoon, Venice’s future is threatened by air and water pollution, sinking foundations, flooding and mass tourism, but ironically, this probably only serves to make it an even more popular tourist destination.
For many of us, a visit to Venice has to include a gondola ride. Who can resist the romance of viewing one of the most famous cities in the world from a curved hull gondola, ably captained by your very own gondolier?
But be warned, this is the most expensive way to travel the canals and waterways. Prices are fixed by the city and a 40 minute ride (for up to 6 people) costs around €80.
The cheapest, and best, way to travel is by vaporetto (water bus) – you’ll see the same sights but for less! A 24 hour water and land pass (bus and vaporetto) costs around €20 with services about every 10 minutes.
Venice’s famous landmarks include the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and Basilica with its lavish interior, the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace, and of course, the Canal Grande.
The Accademia Gallery is home to five centuries of paintings from Byzantine to Baroque, including works by Titian.
Glass blowing and lace making are crafts synonomous with Venice, and you can visit the artisans at work in the factories and galleries in Murano (glass) and Burano (lace), two smaller islands just a short vaporetto ride away. In many cases, these skills have been passed on down the generations.
Make sure you allow time to wander the narrow alleyways leading off Piazza San Marco.
Here you will find a living art gallery – brightly painted houses decorated with the day’s washing strung from the windows, and window baskets overflowing with brightly coloured flowers.
Most tourists will visit Venice during the warmer months, but if you arrive in late January, you may well be in time for the annual Carnavale. During this time, Venice becomes a hive of activity and entertainment.
The city teems with people dressed in the traditional masks who wander the streets and squares. Saint Mark’s Square is the heart of the Carnival, with a huge stage hosting performers, but there are numerous events throughout the city.
When your feet are sore and it’s time to eat, you will find an abundance of restaurants and cafes on offer. Bear in mind that those around the Square can be very expensive, so look a little further afield for something a little cheaper.
Traditional trattorie usually offer good food for a reasonable price. If it’s a waterfront setting you want, why not pack a picnic and take in the view of the Canal Grande?
Venice is a truly unique city which offers something for everyone. Whether you visit for just a day or stay longer, your visit to Venice will be a highlight of your holiday to Europe.