Romance and culture go hand in hand in one of the world's most unexpected cities. Venice is simply stunning, and ludicrously improbable, perched magnificently on thousands of wooden stakes driven into the seabed. Here are a few highlights.
1.) St Mark's Basilica
Possibly the most famous of Venice's churches, the gilded mosaics at St Mark's are like nothing you'll see elsewhere.
The Bridge of Sighs, Casanova's cell and the largest room in Europe; the Doge's Palace has it all. It's an incredible, lustrous place to walk around by yourself, but the Secret Passages tour is even more worthwhile for a chance to explore behind the public facade of this extraordinary building.
Outside the main islands lie some well-known for their individual crafts. Formerly a prison island, Murano now boasts the most fabulous glass craftsmanship. Hop on a vaporetto and watch glassblowers at work on the stunning chandeliers you see everywhere, or pick up a souvenir to take home.
A little further out, the island of Burano is home to the most colourful buildings in Venice. Their craft of choice is lace, and the lace museum here is an excellent introduction to the intricacies of the material, which you can buy all over the small island.
Synonymous with Venice are the gondolas and gondoliers, who navigate the canals with songs for their passengers. A gondola ride isn't cheap, but it is a romantic and fun way to spend a sunny half hour. The extravagant gondolas make great attractions in themselves.
At 6pm in Venice, it's time to head to a bar, order a glass of prosecco and eat some cichetti (small tapas like snacks). Venice's answer to champagne, prosecco flows freely through the city, even at lunchtime. The peach juice and prosecco combination we know as the Bellini was born here, at Harry's bar.
Since Napolean introduced the idea of a carnival to mark the start of Lent, Venice has channeled its reputation as a palace of fun into a something spectacular. With the carnival season comes masked balls, and the incredible papier mache masks which one associates with Venice.
You might take one home just to decorate the mantlepiece, or one ready for your own masked ball experience. You can pay under 25 euros for a simple half-mask, or hundreds for intricate, hand-decorated masterpieces. Sellers will pack them carefully for transit. Shops are unwilling to let you touch or photograph masks, but if they are convinced you do want to buy one, assistants are very helpful.
9.) La Fenice
Rebuilt after numerous fires, La Fenice stands as one of Venice's most stunning landmarks, a theatre to out glamourise any other in the city. Famous operas and singers alike have been showcased here, with the audience including Napolean, who remodelled the interior to fit his political agenda. If you can't go to a show, at least go for a tour.
Great Article. Congratulations.
I will be in Venice later this year and, although I have been there on a few occasions, revisiting places and discovering new ones will be a joy, so I will take note of your recommendations.