A Weekend in... Venice
Anna Parker's latest instalment of 'A Weekend in..." continues with Venice.
The most important thing about a weekend in Venice is to take comfortable shoes! We lived in our trainers. The second thing is to try not to make too many plans, more of that later. And the third is to arrive in style - catch an elegant water taxi from the airport to your hotel.
Whilst there are stunning hotel palaces in Venice, I would actually recommend finding somewhere hidden away from the tourists. The little city is so busy that a peaceful spot to retreat to is a real sanctuary. We found Novecento which was away from the hubbub, by a canal and had plenty of space to relax in, a tiny little garden for breakfast and the cutest little trust bar. Perfect as a base, but there's so much to see we spent very little time there.
There are of course a few essentials that you can't miss visiting in the day time... St Mark's Square is a bustling place with coffee shops and incredible architecture dotted around. We enjoyed a visit to the Basilica as well as the views from up high as well as the history of the Doge's Palace, including the Bridge of Sighs. The view from Academia Bridge over to the Guggenheim, Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute is beautiful in the evening light. Take the ferry over to San Giorgio Maggiore for a more sedate pace and enjoy the views from the clock tower back across the city. The Rialto Bridge is also quite a sight, with some cute little gift shops too and nearby fish and fruit markets. However the views of the bridge is better enjoyed over lunch in one of the many restaurants on 'Riva del Vin'! Harry's Bar, the home of the bellini, is also a must. Very touristy, but essential.
If you want to see the main sites of Venice without them teeming with people then dawn walks or runs are essential and beautiful. Being in an empty St Mark's square is stunning, as is a misty morning looking over the moored gondolas across to San Giorgio Maggiore. A photo of the Bridge of Sigh's without having to queue is also a bonus!
I mentioned not making too many plans above. That's because my favoured parts of our trip were when we put the map away and wandered aimlessly. You can’t get very lost... But incredibly one needn’t go far to lose the tourists. There are some beautiful Venetian mask shops that have stunning products on display. We found the Libreria Acqua Alta book shop which is a must for book lovers. Books in boats in case of flooding, as well as 'book steps'! There are bridges and stunning buildings everywhere. We also stumbled across the Arsenale as we ambled around. And the food, away from the main drag is superb - if the menu doesn't have English on it you're onto a good thing!
I would recommend visiting some of the other islands - there's great variety across them. They are all well connected by ferry or water taxi. Murano is the home of the most incredible glass blowing. We visited on a rainy morning and were fascinated by the intricate structures that can be made from glass (and their astounding prices). From Murano head over to Burano, which is famous for lace and pretty coloured houses. It was a slower pace of life over here and perfect for a mooch and a lazy lunch with prosecco. It is possible to walk across to Mazzorbo which has a stunning little vineyard by the water. We particularly liked it here because no one else seemed to be heading that way, so it was peaceful and remote. We also headed over to the island that the Hilton is based on and enjoyed the city views from the sky bar.
Our final treat before we hopped back into a water taxi to take us to the airport was half an hour on a gondola. We were very lucky in that on the day we choose to do this the river was closed to motor-craft. This meant our cruise was particularly peaceful. Our captain dressed in black and white took us down tiny little side canals and pointed out all sorts of things to us. It really was spectacular to be shown around in this way.