"Venice never seems quite real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water" ~ Frida Giannini
A magical maze of narrow waterways winding through Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance architecture… it can only be Venice. This Italian floating city is arguably one of the most distinctive and iconic cities in the world. Explore the exquisite symbiosis of the ancient and modern worlds as your eyes feast upon an explosion of colour and awe-inspiring artistry. Cloaked in an undeniable veil of intrigue and history, let your senses be seduced in this city of passion and romance. One you’ve had a taste of this enchanting place, be prepared to lose your heart forever.
Nothing is more synonymous with Venice than Carnavale. Whilst this world-famous event only takes place once a year (usually around February), its essence is ever present throughout the year, permeating through every inch of the city. Since 1162 the people of Venice would gather in San Marco to celebrate Venice’s victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia. And every year since tourists’ flock to the streets in masks and sweeping capes, to dance and revel in the magic.
Art lovers are spoilt for choice in this floating city. The Accademia is one of the finest museum’s in all of Venice and home to a myriad of Venetian art from bygone years with works by Bellini, Carpaccio and of course Titian’s haunting Lamentation. Venice is the canvas upon which many artists have beautifully decorated and in truth there are far too many places to list… from the Gothic Franciscan church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to Carpaccio’s St George and the Dragon. The Biennale exhibition also takes place here twice a year, and is widely considered to be one of the most important events in the world of contemporary art, hosting art from thirty different countries each within its own pavilion.
Nothing says “I’ve been to Venice,” more than a gondola ride and you might be forgiven for wanting to burst into a rendition of, “Just one Cornetto...” Without cars or buses to get around the city, your mode of transport is either a gondola or vaporetto (otherwise known as a water taxi, and significantly cheaper, although not quite as iconic or romantic.) You can still get around many of the streets on foot, but make sure your GPS is on, as the narrow winding paths can quickly become a labyrinth of hidden delights, especially by nightfall.
St Mark’s Basilica is surely the beating heart of Venice; with its spiritual resonance and the beautiful drama of its gilded façade and mesmerizing interiors. Bask in the glory of its jewel-encrusted altar fronts and Gothic panels by Paolo Veneziano; this outstanding cathedral is nothing short of a historical masterpiece. Doge’s Palace is quite possibly the greatest example of Gothic architecture in the city, and is located next to the Basilica of San Marco, which happens to be the most characteristic monument of Byzantine art. Take to the balcony and breathe in the view of the whole of the Piazza San Marco, one of the world’s most photographed locations. Ponte Rialto is the oldest bridge in Venice, crossing over the narrowest point of the Grand Canal. An elegant stone bridge, and a feat of engineering during the Renaissance, it divides the districts of San Marco and San Polo. Over the years lovers have locked away their heart’s desires on this and many of the other bridges, in padlocks referred to as ‘love locks’ with the keys thrown into the river. Pure romance or vandalism? You decide.
Much of Venice has been coloured by the decadence of its Carnavale… with tales of elaborate costumes and dastardly deeds…. But it is also known as La Serenissima, which translated means, “The most Serene Republic.” Built on water, Venice itself is testimony to the skill and ingenuity of architecture. Venetian Gothic is most prevalent throughout this spectacular city, showcasing the finest in art, music and literature – Carlo Goldoni was the Shakespeare of the city. Venice has also been the setting for many a cult movie, and hosts the Festival del Cinema di Venezia every year in late August.
The Venetian lagoon is the largest wetland in Europe, home to many unique species of animals, fish, birds and flora. There are many amazing parks just waiting to be explored, including Parco San Giuliano, a large open space with many walking and riding trails. Bosco di Mestre is a small reforested area which is part of an effort to create more green spaces in the densely populated area of Mestre – perfect for a walk, run or cycle. There are also the islands of Murano and Burano, just a short ride across from the main city. Both islands offer respite from the beaten track and an opportunity to immerse oneself in a slower pace of life from times gone by, as you marvel at their centuries-old artisanal traditions. If beach life is more your thing head to the celebrated Lido. With 11km of sandy coastline, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, it is also home to The Oasis of Alberoni – a protected nature reserve made up of pine forests and dunes, some measuring up to 9 metres tall.
No one does fashion quite like the Italians and Venice is no exception. Historically, fashion in Venice was led by the aristocracy and Courtesans, which explains the natural lean towards opulence and grandeur. Designer labels abound from Prada to Gucci, Pinko to Fendi. But perhaps what Venice is most famous for are its unique artisanal boutiques. Peruse specialist boutiques selling papier-mâché hand-crafted Venetian masks, to Murano glass chandeliers and elaborate tricorni (three-cornered hats.) Al Duca d’Aosta’s has grown from a humble shirt fabric shop over four generations into a four-storey building hosting over hundred top brands, whilst La Mercerie remains the top spot to put a dent in the plastic. Stretching from the Rialto Bridge to St Mark’s Square, expect to find stalls and shops selling everything from clothing to interiors, artwork to wooden sculptures, and take a piece of Venice home.
Who doesn’t love Italian food? Venetian cuisine, however, differs quite significantly from other regions of the country. Polenta is an important staple, often served with salted cod to create Baccalà mantecato. This creamy spreadable fish paste, often served with grilled bread, has been a favourite Venetian starter since the 1500s. With its unique lagoon location, it should come as no surprise that fish and seafood in general, feature highly. Curled octopus is also a classic menu item as is Venetian macaroni and bean soup. Meat-lovers will enjoy translucent slices of prosciutto and carpaccio but for those with a sweet tooth, sink your teeth into fritole venessiane – fried dough balls dusted with sugar and filled with creams and custard. If you’re feeling adventurous, try one filled with zabaione, an alcoholic custard! Now, Magna e tasi, bevi e godi – Eat and shush, drink and enjoy.
So many incredible hotels, so little time. Here’s our pick of the city’s finest...
Phillipe Starck is synonymous with cutting edge design, and the luxurious five-star Palazzina is the only hotel in all of Italy that has been bestowed with his talented touch. Situated in an enviable position on the Grand Canal near St Marco Square, guests can enjoy unobstructed views of the Grand Canal and choose from twenty-six uniquely decorated suites. Think billowing drapes, chic furnishings and mirrors galore – if you love your reflection, you’ll love the look of Palazzina. Send your taste buds to seventh heaven as you tuck into some of the most delectable Venetian fare at The Restaurant, or even enjoy an immersive experience with the chefs at the “Show Kitchen.” Sip on an original cocktail created by one of the talented mixologists, or head out to one of the many wine bars nearby – hotspots include Cantine del Vino, All’arco and Osteria Al Squero. Word on the street, however, has it that Palazzina is ‘the most glamorous’ place to party in Venice, as well as being a favourite amongst the glitterati jet-set.
A resplendent fusion of time-honoured tradition perfectly interwoven with modern design, Hotel Heureka promises all the magic of Venice, without any of the stress. Set within an oasis of calm, in the lively north-western Sestiere of Cannaregio, this sixteenth-century villa is a hidden jewel far from the madding crowds. We’ve all heard the expression, ‘a home away from home’, well Hotel Heureka would be your Venetian Palazzo away from home. This spectacular boutique hotel has been lovingly restored in the hope of providing guests with the experience of living like nobility. From restored Venetian murals to ancient terrazzo floors, every inch of this stunning hideaway shouts luxury, Venetian-style. Ten uniquely designed rooms, each a mosaic of styles that perfectly capture the magic of Venice, provide a starting point from which to explore this enchanted city. There’s even a secret garden within the hotel grounds where you can escape to and enjoy fine food, art exhibitions and the beauty of just being aligned with the lagoon.
A true Venetian fairytale awaits you at Ca Maria Adele. Behind the stunning façade of a sixteenth-century palace, lies a divinely decadent boutique hotel. Located just a stone’s throw away from Piazza San Marco, one of the world’s most iconic and photographed locations, this unashamedly opulent hotel pulls out all the stops. With twelve exquisitely and uniquely decorated rooms, in hues of rich scarlet to glistening gold, the luxury barometer is off the charts! Extravagant chandeliers and gilded fixtures abound. Beds are two by two metres with double orthopedic mattresses. Languish in the Jacuzzi at the foot of your bed or relax on a pony skin sofa as you feast on lavish meals and absorb the sensual grandeur of one of the city’s most theatrical hotels. On request your hosts can organize private guided tours, gondola rides, water limousines and so much more. Close your eyes and open them in your own Venetian film set.
Picture yourself languishing in a nineteenth-century palazzo in the heart of this colourful city. Centred around an eco-friendly and sustainable ethos, guests get to enjoy sustainable luxury in one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world here at Hotel Corte di Gabriela. And the aim is to keep it that way. Each of their eleven rooms are implemented with home automation, energy efficiency and ecological sensitivity, and the most sophisticated eco systems to ensure absolutely nothing goes to waste. Nestled between the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, this stunning hotel is just steps away from iconic attractions such as the Fortuny Museum, Accademia and Palazzo Grassi. Picture terrazzo floors alongside oversized frescos, exposed beams and industrial-chic materials, and you just might get an idea of the sublime bliss awaiting you. Those in search of something ‘extra’ might want to book into one of their luxurious suites, some of which boast ceiling frescos and playful circular beds. Don’t miss a visit to the wisteria-covered courtyard set within the heart of the hotel. The best place to enjoy tasty treats or sip on the famous refreshing Venetian Spritz.
The fishing village of Burano is better known for its lace work and distinctive candy-coloured houses, rendering it as Venice’s Rainbow island. Anyone who has visited Venice can attest to its charm and beauty but at times the volume of tourists can get too much. This is where the Burano (and its sister island, Murano) truly shine. Nestled in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon, these tiny islands offer a tranquillity not available in proper Venice itself, and on a clear day you can even make out the mountains in the distance across the green waters. Five houses in the heart of Burano have been transformed by local designers to provide guests with a true ‘experience’ of living in this colourful island. From Fontana Arte fans and Moroso chairs to glass showers and ergonomic mattresses, each of the thirteen rooms here at CasaBurano have been carefully designed right down to the very last detail, ensuring the most comfortable and relaxing experience possible. Burano is connected to Mazzorbo by a long wooden bridge, and it is widely believed that native Venice was born here. Home to colonies of flamingos, and bursting with hundreds of lilac Limonium flowers, also known as ‘sea-lavender’, step back in time and enjoy the most colourful and peaceful side of Venezia.
Wine lovers will rejoice at this unique wine resort set on Mazzorbo, one of the three islands of Native Venice. Venissa is best described as a “walled vineyard”, producing 3000 bottles of Venissa, widely regarded as one of the most sought-after wines in the world. Fun fact for those who love their bubbles – This stunning estate was restored by the Bisol family famously known as the Prosecco family, whose presence in the heart of Prosecco country dates back to the sixteenth-century. Part winery, restaurant, farm and hotel, Venissa Wine Resort is truly a destination unto itself. There are six charming suites situated within an elegant manor house to choose from. Think laid back luxury with exposed ceiling beams and colours coordinating with the lagoon. Its two hectare vineyard and gardens are all enclosed by a medieval wall, presided over by a fourteenth-century bell tower. You could be forgiven for thinking you’re stepping into the Secret Garden, and in many ways you are. This is the place of dreams. Picture perfect, authentic and hidden away. A place where you can sample one of the world’s finest wines and indulge your palette on lagoon – inspired dishes. You can also sign up for rowing lessons, cookery classes or even fishing expeditions, all of which are organised through the hotel. If this isn’t La Dolce Vita, what is?
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