The star quality and pulling power of this most magical of European destinations never fades
More than 30 million tourists visit Venice each year. And well they should. Apart from being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Italy’s “Floating City” is an architectural and artistic marvel, featuring eye-wateringly spectacular churches, opulent palaces and grand museums, charming gondolas, maze-like cobblestoned streets and canals that seem to stretch on forever.
Most people begin their odyssey at St Mark’s Square, the principal public space in Venice. You’ll be hit by a powerful feeling of déjà vu when you arrive: that’s because you’ve seen it before in dozens of movies ranging from The Italian
Job to Casino Royale. Once there, you can stroll straight to two of Venice’s most iconic buildings: St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s
Palace. The inside of the basilica is simply stunning. There are more than 8000sq m of mosaics. Treasures won over centuries of history abound: for instance, the altar screen of the
Pala d’Oro puts London’s Crown Jewels to shame, boasting a majestic
1300 pearls, 300 emeralds and hundreds of other sparkling precious gems. Legendary lover Casanova was once imprisoned in the Doge’s Palace. Today it’s more famous as an example of the city’s Venetian Gothic style of architecture, packed with amazing places to explore. Take a guided tour to learn its secrets, as well as discover Venice’s fascinating history.
St Mark’s Square is even more magical at night. Stop at one of its bars and cafes and drink in the view.
You have two main ways of exploring Venice: by foot or by boat. Its vaporetto or water buses will take you just about everywhere you want to go in the Floating City. There are few more romantic ways to see Venice than by gondola. The city’s gondoliers will sing local songs as they take you along down the Grand Canal, which meanders through the heart of Venice and under the city’s most photogenic bridge, the Rialto. If you’re in the mood for amore, don’t worry: all of the gondoliers are sworn to secrecy about what happens in their love boats. Having a smooch under the Bridge of Sighs is on most couple’s checklists. According to popular superstition, if you lock lips underneath this bridge, you’re guaranteed eternal love.
If you want to see Venice in all of its pomp and pageantry, visit the city during its Carnival. The city lights up with masquerade balls, parades, strolling performers, music, food, costumes and enchantment. Join the fun and party incognito with your own disguise. Scoring your own Carnival mask is a rite of passage for tourists in Venice. Then leave the mask behind but keep your Carnival costume for a night of culture at La Fenice, the city’s opera house.
There’s plenty of fun day trips you can take from the centre of the city. One popular day-trip destination is Lido, a celebrity hangout and beach area that also hosts the Venice Film Festival. In 2018, everyone from Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Emma Stone and Natalie Portman to Lady Gaga walked its red carpet.
You’ll de nitely want to visit the “Glass Island” of Murano, Murano which has been making examples of the world’s nest handcrafted glassware for centuries. Many tourists come to Venice speci cally to see the glassmakers in action and to take home authentic Murano glassware. The lace of the island of Burano is also popular.
Venice is virtually a living work of art. Yet you can see great works from an ancient masters such Veronese and Titian at the Galleria dell’Accademia, or modern masters such as Pollock and Mondrian at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The annual Venice Biennale is also a huge drawcard for art lovers from around the world.
Hungry? Naturally, for a former maritime superpower, Venice does seafood very well. Try the city’s cicchetti – Venice’s answer to tapas; small bites of sh, meat and cheese enjoyed over wine. It also offers superlative pizza.
With views this beautiful, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to a place to stay. If you’re not short of cash, why not stay at the Aman Canal Grande, where George and Amal Clooney spent their wedding night? Or try the Gritti Palace, a 15th-century palazzo with fantastic views of the Grand Canal and the Santa Maria della Salute church. So what are you waiting for? Your gondola awaits. TVS
The Rialto Bridge ALL SQUARE Piazza San Marco GLORY TO THE HIGHEST Interior of St Mark’s Basilica
Bradley & Gaga
SEA & DO Daniel Craig in Casino Royale