Here today, gondola tomorrow… Escaping the Draylon hordes and branded billboards of this crumbling lagoon jewel can be daunting, but venture beyond the centre into her winding waterways and labyrinthine alleys, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded. La Serenissima’s richly brocaded sleeve hides historic wonders and artisanal swag galore.
Venice is made up of six sestieri (districts). With San Marco (SM) at the centre, Castello fans north to east; south is Dorsoduro (DD); Santa Croce (SC) with train/bus termini Piazzale Roma, and San Polo (SP) with the Rialto market are both west; and northwest is residential vibey Cannaregio.
Need to Know
- Weather: Apr-May and Oct are best weather-wise, but Venetians love tourist-free Jan when it’s foggy one day, clear the next (be warned, many restos and shops shut). Pack your Pucci gumboots for Acqua Alta or ‘high water’ Nov-Feb. Prepare to be herded like cattle Mar-Nov
- Smart Stays: Many hotel rooms look onto a wall and have rip-off or no internet at all – do check ahead when booking
- Getting Around: Street numbers are confusingly assigned by sestieri, ask for the street name, landmark or closest Campo
- Transport: Make like a Venetian – work those gams and jump on vaps (to buy a pass, see below); water taxis are swanky but charge like a wounded bull (> €80); gondolas are for sightseeing; the traghetto is handy for crossing the Grand Canal
- Coffee: Caffè/espresso is a single shot, doppio is two; and milk in your coffee (eg. cappuccino) after midday screams ‘turista!’
- Aperitivi: At around 6.30pm, a spritz con bitter or un’ombra (glass of wine) with cicchetti (tapas) is essential
- Savvy Traveller: Crack this watery maze with a Venezia Unica card, including transfers, ACTV waterbuses, museums, churches and public loos (or prepare to pay an outrageous €1.50 a wee)
- Aqua Alta: During AA there are elevated walkways everywhere, but be warned some of the city’s lowest areas like Piazza San Marco will be submerged in mucky canal water. And although it’s business as usual, have your concierge check ahead for any changes to opening hours
- Events: Carnevale di Venezia If masked masses and tacky fancy dress float your boat, then go ahead; Festa di San Marco (25 Apr). Like Paddy’s but with boats and roses, this nationwide hol celebrates the patron saint of Venice (and Italy’s liberation from those nasty Nazis); Mostra di Architettura di Venezia This leg of the Venice Biennale provides a platform for architects and designers (the Art Biennale is in odd-numbered years); Venezia Jazz Festival that hep sound resonates through the city; Venice Film Festival The world’s oldest + greatest = serious actors, serious glam