TRAVEL

The star qual­ity and pulling power of this most mag­i­cal of Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions never fades

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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

Cate Blanchett

Natalie Port­man

SEA & DO Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

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