Welcome to Venice

Guide to Venice, Italy
"Like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go" Truman Capote

Some places have been depicted so often that they become simply a vague image in the collective imagination. Venice means the classic Canaletto view over the Grand Canal, striped poles, gondolas and carnival masks. But to arrive there in reality is to watch a well-loved old book unfold into life, its characters demonstrating minds of their own, its ancient buildings rising from the flat page to touch the shimmering, watercolour sky. Yes, the main tourist areas- San Marco, The Doge's Palace, the Accademia and the Rialto Bridge- heave with visitors, and the waterfront around the main Vaporetto station can resemble a football crowd streaming past, all pausing to photograph the familiar dove-grey silhouetted domes and bobbing gondolas. But unlike any other city this famous, it's easy to find peace. Just a few minutes from the waves of tourists, all frantically absorbing Art under the glittering afternoon sun, is the other Venice.

This is where the citizens live in their apartments, eat at their cafes, and shop at their grocery stores, untroubled by the worshipful hordes. The main streets swiftly give way to the residential areas, where alleys as narrow as animal tracks lead to forgotten canals of still, seaglass-jade water, floating markets and tiny osterias- neighbourhood bars, where local-born gondoliers with eyes the colour of sunlit rivers gather. Venice is uniquely wonderful - but if you try to do too much, as Truman Capote said, it can be "like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." Venice needs to be understood and uncovered gradually- by slow seduction, rather than in the heat of passion. Don't try to see seven museums and eight galleries- you will only find the true city by walking and looking. The weather will change constantly; fog will creep through the streets, rain will make the marble steps more hazardous than black ice, then sun will gild the spires and domes again, and the happiest visitors will emerge from some small, hidden bar, abandoning their wine glasses and coffee cups, and continue to wander. It is the best and only way to become a part of this haughty, ancient and exquisite city.

Guide to Venice, ItalyGuide to Venice, Italy


St. Mark's Square

Piazza San Marco, the island's only square, where the remarkable Byzantine Basilica overlooks the people and pigeons flocking below. more
San Marco Vallaresso

Ponte Dell'Accademia

The city runs on water, and watching the river traffic is best done from a bridge with a view in both directions, such as the Ponte Dell'Accademia more

Vaporetto Trip

There are no sightseeing buses in Venice, and no overpriced cabs to transport you around the islands of the lagoon. Instead, there are the Vaporetti more
Santa Lucia


Caffe Florian

This Venetian landmark is a Rococo biscuit tin more
Piazza San Marco, 56 Venice San Marco

Ostaria a la Campana

Simple, wood panelled walls and a short, fixed-price menu make it clear that this is not a place geared towards the tourist dollar more
Calle dei Fabbri 4720 Venice

I Figli Delle Stelle

Sitting outside offers one of the loveliest views in Venice as the sun sets over the canal more
Sestiere Giudecca, 70 Venice Palanca

Guide to Venice, ItalyGuide to Venice, Italy


Bar da Gino

Full of chatty locals drinking wine mid-morning - the perfect antidote to the ghosts and crowds of the tourist city. more
Dorsoduro, 853/A Venice


It seems almost cruel to invade the few spaces left to locals more
Cannaregio 3912 Venice

Harry's Bar

Opened in 1931, it remains shorthand for European glamour more
Calle Vallaresso, 1323 Venice San Marco


Molino Stucky Hilton

The building houses Venice's newest and largest luxury hotel. Rooms are soothing and elegant, with the sort of timeless, Deco-inspired design which suggests that nothing bad can ever happen here. more
Giudecca 810 Venice Palanca

Liassidi Palace Hotel

A Small Leading Hotel Of The World, the use of the word "Palace" is justified, as it's set in a 15th century palazzo. more
Castello, Ponte dei Greci 3405 Venice San Zaccaria

Hotel Palazzo Barbarigo

This new hotel, which has its own dock on the Grand Canal, is an antidote to the frivolous charms of the city more
San Polo 2765 Venice San Toma

Guide to Venice, Italy

In The Mood


Serenissima - Erica Jong

Venice- Jan Morris

Death at La Fenice- Donna Leon

The City Of Falling Angels- John Berendt


Don't Look Now

(click here for review)

Death In Venice

The Thief Lord


Ultimate Vivaldi- The Essential Masterpieces

Luchino Visconti Presents The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack From The Film Death In Venice

Evening In Venice - Emile Pandolfi


Gondola rides are the pinnacle of the Venice tourist experience- but they are not cheap, and in busy areas, gondoliers can seem less like glorious symbols of the city and more like ticket touts harassing passers-by. Expect to pay up to €120, and negotiate the length of the ride in advance.

Wear very comfortable shoes; with some grip. Boring but essential, as great tracts of Venice consist of slippery cobbles, rain-slicked marble and crumbling canal sides. High heels or smooth soles could swiftly land you in A&E.

Do not over-plan. In Summer, sunlight reflects from the water, and the city swelters in a fug of heat. Two key destinations a day are enough, regularly interspersed with cool bars and shady cafes.

While private water taxis are speedy, the swell from other boats on the Grand Canal can make the ride uncomfortably bouncy. Vaporetti are the slower-moving cattle to their skittering deer, and provide a far more comfortable, and cheaper, ride.

The Rialto Bridge is highly overrated- it's a beautiful structure, now smothered in graffiti, souvenir shops and miserable, ragged beggars. Though it offers a view of the Grand Canal, there are other, better views which are far less stressful to admire.

The Tourist Information office in St Mark's Square would be better suited to a small industrial town in the Midlands. Endless queues, harassed staff and peculiarly limited opening hours make it an ordeal rather than an aid to your visit. Go to the office at The Basilica instead, or plan your trip in advance, and invest in a good map and a Venice card for discounts. (www.venicecard.it)

Getting Around

Replacing regular taxis are Venetian vaporetti – public water taxis. Private water taxis tend to be expensive, and gondolas are generally intended for scenic, slower journeys. For an efficient scenic ride, a vaporetto is the wisest choice.

A single journey is around €6.50, while travel cards can be purchased to give discounted fares; a 12 hour card is €18, a day is €20, and a week costs €50. A Venice card – which has a junior equivalent - offers access to the city’s various attractions.

Obviously, you can’t drive in Venice – although, there are parking lots and garages on the outskirts where you can leave a car, should you be driving through Italy. Due to the rarity of cars in Venice, parking is expensive, but if you follow signs from the A4 to the Piazzale Roma, the AZM Venezia Car Park can house your car as you explore for €24 a day. This is the closest car park to Central Venice.

Tourist Info Venice APT Province of Venezia APTN 15

Tourist Board of Venice    041-5298711

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