Europe Hints & Tips Sightseeing

The Venice of Dreams

venice gondolaIf you think Paris is the city of love, think again. The beautiful canals and waterways winding their way through the city of Venice makes it magical. It’s easy to find peace and quiet in a secluded alley when you want it, yet you are always just a few minutes away from the humdrum and bustle of the throng if you’re ready for some people-watching.

DO…

…the gondola ride. We know it seems cliché; an expensive tourist trap, and to some extent, it is. But it’s wonderful! You sit back and relax while you get to see the city from a new angle. The small boats are expertly manoeuvred through the tiniest waterways and collisions with other gondolas seem inevitable and yet never really occur. Your guide can explain a bit about the city and the buildings as you glide by, and you see some of the colourful but crumbling brickwork along the narrow maze-like alleyways which you otherwise never would have laid eyes on. Prices for the gondola rides are negotiable so don’t be shy to bargain a bit.

SEE…st mark's

…the richly decorated interior of the Basilica di San Marco. Dating back to the 9th century, the basilica has 8,500 square meters of intricately detailed mosaics, many of which dazzle since they are covered in 24 carat gold leaf. Between April and October, the diocese offers free guided tours at 11am from Monday to Saturday explaining the theological meanings of the mosaics (book in advance). Keep your eyes peeled for the Pala d’Oro; an alterpiece made of gold and silver. You can’t miss it, it is 3m long and 2m high and is adorned with almost 2000 gems, including pearls, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Entry into the Basilica di San Marco is free and a modest dress-code applies.

EAT…

…at Antiche Carampane for a truly spectacular and off-the-tourist-trail dining experience. Be warned, it’s extremely popular with the locals so it can be super busy. Even on a weekday, we suggest that you make reservations at least a few days in advance. Type the address into Maps on your smartphone or ask for directions from the hotel because this is not the easiest place to find. That is of course part of the beauty of this spot and we promise you, the hunt is well worth it. Cosy and with exceptionally warm and efficient service, the food is delicious and completely fresh, having been sourced from the Rialto Market that day. There is also an extensive wine list. (Address: Fondamenta de le Tette & Campiello de la Stua, 30135)

EXPERIENCE…

Masks…the Venice Carnival: an annual festival timed to end on Shrove Tuesday (the beginning of Lent). We’re telling you about it now because it’s so well-attended and people plan extensively, months and months in advance. The celebration is centred around the use of the exquisite and intricately designed Venetian masks, which are unique to the city. The masks can be made of leather, porcelain or glass, and the truly authentic ones are handcrafted, often including decorations of gold leaf, gems or feathers. If you can be there during the Carnival, do your research to see whether you can get yourself on the guest list for one of the extravagant balls that are on during that time. If you can’t make it during festival time, you can still get a feel for the atmosphere by visiting some of the shops that sell the masks. We suggest you check out Ca’ Macana, which supplied some of the masks for the film Eyes Wide Shut. The maskmakers take their work very seriously, and although they are happy to explain their creations to you, photos of the masks are usually not allowed.

Of course we could go on and on about what to see and do in Venice, it’s an incredible city. These are literally just our top picks to get you inspired. Have you been to Venice? What are your favourite things to see and do?

*All photos are our own.

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