Dolly Glitter steps back in time to explore the enchantment of Venice.
There’s something very special about Venice.
It might be its mesmorising waterways with its flurry of gondolas bobbing to and fro, or it might be its olde worlde architecture, with prim window shutters and rickety old doorways. It could even be the tale of Casanova and his risqué liaisons, or the grandiose face masks that adorn almost every shop window and market stall.
Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that Venice is a city that has in many ways stood still throughout the ages and, in turn, this has embellished its allure among tourists over the years.
Venice isn’t your conventional European city. Built on an archipelago of 117 islands, the city is sprawled across a marshy lagoon, with its buildings propped up on petrified wooden piles. It’s a construction marvel.
It’s estimated that 59,000 tourists flock to the city every day. Landmarks like the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco and St Mark’s Basilica are key magnets for visitors, but with six sestieres (districts) to explore – there are lots more to keep you occupied.
Sometimes popular tourist ‘must do’ activities can verge on the tacky side but a trip on a gondola is definitely not one to be missed. It’s a tranquil way to soak up the splendour of the city and can make a welcomed respite from walking along its labyrinth of back streets. If you pre-book and are willing to share a gondola with other tourists, it can be fairly cheap, too.
Another activity worth inclusion on your itinerary is a boat trip to the island of Murano to visit a glassmaking factory followed by a visit to a lace shop on the curious island of Burano.
A dusky rendezvous
Come the twilight hours, you’ll find that the crowds have fizzled out somewhat, with the inky night sky casting enigmatic shadows over the city’s narrow streets and canals.
There’s a good selection of bars to choose from – one of my favourites was Bacaro Jazz Bar located close to the Rialto Bridge. It serves up lots of gorgeous cocktails, including a chocolate margarita and has an array of colourful bras hanging from the ceiling – all donated, apparently.
The gelato (ice-cream) is the most luscious and flavoursome you will probably ever taste but it’s not just the sweet toothed who can revel in the Venetian delights on offer. There’s an abundance of restaurants to choose from - those located along the iconic Grand Canal are pricier but offer an unrivalled setting.
One thing to watch out for, however, is that some restaurants along the canal won’t let diners ordering simple dishes like pizza sit at a waterside table – you’ll have to dine a few metres away. If you have cash to splurge though, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
For a more prized and intimate Venetian culinary experience, it’s worth venturing away from the hullabaloo of the tourist hotspots – take a look at Time Out for a comprehensive guide.
You will, at some point, get lost in Venice. Even the most avid map reader will find themselves standing in an empty parish square, wondering where civilisation has escaped to. But this is one of the city’s many charms – finding secluded spots where you can perch on the steps of an imposing building and enjoy your surroundings.
Renowned for its supreme mix of architecture, art, fashion, literature, cuisine and glassmaking – it’s astounding to think how influential Venice has been over the centuries, especially considering its modest size.
Today, the Venice Film Festival is one of the glimmering gems on the city’s calendar of annual events. Established in 1932, the festival attracts the film world’s elite in their swathes come late August/early September each year.
Undeniably, Venice is a cultural, timeless treasure. It makes for a mesmerising city break for the more discerning tourist who will appreciate its unrivalled history and beautiful surroundings.
For more information about Venice, take a look at The Lonely Planet’s guide.