TRAVEL: As you fly into Venice, gasping at the Roman marvel wrapped in a blue lagoon beneath you, feel smug in the knowledge you’re about to receive…
Do NOT get the public transport boat! It will waste hours of your time and cramp the Venice debut, surrounded by snogging couples with selfie-sticks…
Hold your breathe/pockets and invest in a private taxi-boat, or share with others at the airport to pool the cost, if you haven’t seen Taken. Feel the wind in your hair as you say ‘ciao’ to this enchanted city.
Pack light if you choose to ignore the above as you or your unwitting companion will be lifting your bags over endless bridges and cobbled stones from the public taxi to the hotel.
STAY: Palazzetto Pisani. This Venetian Palace (literally) is steeped in history, rugged beauty and old Italian glamour, owned still by the same family who once called it home and have since relocated to Tuscany. Think tilted chandeliers, white table clothes over large mahogany furniture, vast renaissance painted ceilings, marble floors, stained-glass windows. It smacks of Venetian charm, a tired decadence that is impossible to emulate.
Arrive and sip cappuccinos on their balcony overlooking the activity on the water below, the very balcony that is shoehorned into most Venetian films sets. This hotel still feels ‘unfound’, tucked away in a discreet corner of Venice, yet one that sits very close to the centre. Make sure you opt for the top three suites as there is a big jump between these and other rooms.
Palazzetto Pisani’s ‘Bond Factor’ begins as the boat drives you under the building or straight out of it, hopping on from the edge of their refined dining room and whizzing off into the fresh morning air…
LUNCH: Wander through the streets and check out All’ Arco tapas bar. This understated find comes highly recommended from those who have lived in the city, with prosecco and Parma ham you won’t want to share. You’ll find yourself surrounded by well-dressed but relaxed locals, putting the world to rights and in animated conversation with the owners.
Avoid tourist central. These are usually the main stretches along the canal. There are two Venices, Disneyland Venice and actual Venice. Opt for the latter. Live, eat, walk, drink like the Venetians and make the city stand out rather than another European break.
SEE: Saint Marco square will have plenty of these but you’ll have to wade through, every ounce of cortisol is worth it. The vast square’s architecture is breathtaking. From St Mark’s Basilica to the Torre dell’ Orologio, this square was the heart of Venice home to potent symbols of the city’s pride and power.
Book into a tour at the Doge’s Palace in the square, throwing you back to Venice’s golden era. The excess of this once gothic home to The Doge of Venice, gives Versailles a run for it’s money: the marble rooms, colossal ceilings and golden staircases… make sure you book online to avoid queuing.
COFFEE: a couple of streets away from Saint Marco Square is Pasticceria da Bonifacio, a miniature patisserie that the locals cherish (and so will you once you taste their Venetian pastries)! The coffee here is deliciously frothy and has packs a serious punch!
SHOP: Over and above the plethora of designer shops, leather goods and delis, Venice has some cracking vintage shops, more ‘pre-loved’ smart second hand designer shops. The Italians have a different approach to fashion: quality over quantity and if it’s preloved then so be it! These shops are like a tardis – they go on forever and will bewitch you and your wallet, the most recommended being L’Armadio di Coco and Laura Crovato.
The beauty of Venice lies in ‘stumbling upon’; getting lost in the ancient labyrinth with 1% phone battery. It’s all part of the fun.
SUPPER: Osteria Bancogiro is a relaxed Venetian restaurant under the arches of a 16th centry ‘Fabbriche Vecchie’ building, once used as storerooms by market traders. The gnocchi veal cheek is the one to go for and the waiters will take you meticulously through wines pairings. Book upstairs as it’s more atmospheric for eating, with the softly lit arches above. The bar downstairs is worth an apres too!
Scale The Rialto Bridge, just round the back of the restaurant, hopefully tourist-free at night, to soak up the mesmerising city… and walk of the tiramasu pudding.
BAR: It has to be Harry’s Bar, the most infamous bar in Venice and birth place to the Bellini… The place is fun and buzzy, a great way to see off your final hours in Venice. Aperol Spritz’ all round.