Looking for insider tips to make the most of your visit to the Italian city of Venice?
I have had several clients take in the charms of this beautiful Italian city this year. With its endless narrow passageways, canals and hidden treasures, Venice is a must-see on most Italian itineraries. However, with its popularity can come tourist traps, hideous queues and over-the-top prices. So how do you make the most of your stay in Venice without a local by your side?
I’ve compiled a few of my insider tips for your next visit to Venice. These are a combination of comments from clients, hoteliers and my own personal experiences.
Firstly, take the plunge and stay on Venice Island proper (and not in Mestre or close to Santa Lucia station). The beauty of this city is St Mark’s and the Grand Canal, and to be a 20 minute train ride plus 30-40 minute boat ride away from the action is a shame, especially if you are only here for two or three days. So pay a little bit more and opt for one of the hotels within walking distance of St Mark’s, Rialto Bridge or anywhere in between. Personal favourites include Villa Igea (3 star), Londra Palace (4 star) and Il Bauer Palazzo (5 star).
Looking to buy Venetian glass? This tip from some recently returned clients: “5 bridges from San Zaccharia (heading away from San Marco piazza) is a great glass shop called Alice in Wonderland – its full of Murano glass of course but made by small local glass artists much cheaper than the Murano glass place.”
While on the subject of Murano, you can certainly take a trip out to the island to see the glassblowers at work. Many day tours also include the neighbouring islands of Burano and Torcello on their itineraries. However, recently I stumbled upon an article in Conde Nast about the lesser-known islands of Mazzorbo, La Certosa and Lazzaretto Nuovo. Full of history, archeological sites, vineyards, summer houses and some amazing restaurants, these islands will certainly add some unique sights and experiences to your Venetian stay.
Got the children in tow? The absence of cars makes Venice the perfect place to explore with children on foot. Take the lift to the top of San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower for a breathtaking view – plus the queues are shorter and quicker than those at the Campanile di San Marco. At the Doge’s Place, make sure you book in for the “Secret Itinerary”. It takes you through hidden passageways, over the Bridge of Sighs, through concealed doorways and finishes off in the prison cells and torture chambers. Young boys will love it!
For the garden lovers out there, you don’t have to wait until you reach the lakes to experience Italian botanic beauty. The Hotel Bauer and the Palladio Hotel & Spa have put together two extraordinary super-secret garden tours for their guests to enjoy. The produce grown within the Palladio’s three acre garden oasis is used by the two hotels in their restaurants for guests to enjoy. You can even enjoy a massage beneath a magnolia tree or a high tea in the garden. Sounds magical!
Venice is also well known as the birthplace of the Bellini cocktail. The peach and processo pink drink reminded barman Giuseppe Cipriani of a painting of a saint’s toga by Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini, hence the name! I have on good authority that the best Bellinis in Venice are served at the The Gritti Palace.
And while we are enjoying a sundowner at the end of a long day exploring Venice, a hotelier told me that one of the nicest ways to wind down is to enjoy a glass of wine on the Cip’s Terrace at the Belmond Cipriani. You’re guaranteed the best views of the sunset in Venice from here!
Let me know if you have been to Venice recently and have any other tips to share – I’d love to hear them.
x Sonia x