Venice is impossibly romantic and gloriously theatrical. This city is one of the most unique cities in the world and one that everyone should visit; but we have a particularly strong case for why you must visit during the winter months. The early morning fog and dew rising from the canals linger long into the morning, creating an eerie yet incredibly dreamlike atmosphere. Just don’t tell the locals we told you – they are fiercely protective of their winter; these are their months when they reclaim their city! Here are our top reasons to visit and things you must do whilst there:
1. Witness the infamous Carnevale in February. The annual masked and costumed Carnevale extravaganza returns to the Lagoon City, and was originally created as a method of ringing in the celebration of Lent in the Christian calendar. Venetian masks can be made of leather, porcelain or using the original glass technique.
2. Kick back and have a Bellini to unwind after a day of sight seeing, setting the scene for a Venetian evening in style. Either at Harry’s Bar: for history’s sake (the Bellini was invented at this establishment some time between 1934-1948). Or in the Bar Dandolo in Hotel Danielli for shameless decadence and a central location in the city.
3. If you visit Venice in the winter months you will feel like the city is all yours to enjoy. You’ll find the usually heaving Saint Mark’s Basilica almost deserted, making for a magical experience. We advise at least one morning with a sunrise set off time, just to truly soak up Venice, see the square and to share it with no one. Remember to take some sensible (ideally waterproof) shoes though… the Aqua Alta can otherwise catch you unawares and cramp your style (and plans). But it is something the city is well prepared for and also allows for more stunning misty photos with reflections shimmering in the hazy dawn light.
4. You may have heard about the incongruous and rather unpleasant smell that can waft over the city during the soaring heat of the summer months. This can put some visitors off, although with 15 million visitors a year Venice clearly still has a strong draw throughout the summer months! By visiting in the winter, not only will you skip the burgeoning crowds but also the pongy odour!
5. For another key ‘tick’ off the Venetian list, pop in for an afternoon hot chocolate at Caffè Florian, the oldest coffee house in Italy; opened in 1720. The sumptuous yet cosy interior lures you in from the cold and damp and gives you a hug in the form of the thick, creamy, ganache-like hot chocolate.
6. Each winter the Campo San Polo is transformed into an ovoid ice rink, complete with food stalls selling mulled wine and local crafts, glittering lights and the romantic ambience that could only be created by the combination of being in Venice surrounded by the stunning architecture and the glamour of an outdoor skating session.
7. You may think that hopping on a gondola in winter would be freezing and therefore one touristy thing to be avoided. However this is the most splendidly romantic time to take one; the smaller quieter canals are empty, you will feel like the canal system is built for your enjoyment only and you can haggle the prices down a few euros being off peak (think 70E rather than 80E for 30 minutes!)
8. Exploring the other smaller and quieter islands will be much simpler and less busy in the winter, they’ll be little jostling on the vaporetto for space or queuing for tickets! One ‘must see’ island is Murano which is the famous glass blowing island, be wary about who you book with however; if you use a tour guide there will inevitably be an expectation to buy in the showroom, so check with your hotel before booking. Once there, enjoy the tranquil peace of the island, a hot chocolate with a sensational view and all the new knowledge of glass blowing to discuss.
If we have inspired you into a winter break in Venice please give us a call on 01993 899 430 so that we can tailor-make a trip for you or enquire here. But there are many European cities you really should explore in winter so please don’t hesitate to ask us for more inspiration!