No city is harder to pin down than Venice. There is so much to see here, from the hundreds of canals and bridges to the magnificent palaces and piazzas that make La Serenissima what is it: an intriguing and enchanting place where even the most jaded traveler can’t help but feel a little awestruck.
In spring, the city is particularly romantic as it shakes off its winter coat and enjoys blue skies and spring festivals that bring both color and chaos to it, and if you’re headed there in the near future, here’s what we’d see and do.
For the fashionista
We’d head straight to the flagship stores of Armani, Prada and Gucci on the network of adjoining streets west of piazza San Marco. There is the salizada San Moisè and the calle Vallaresso. You’ll also find the calle Goldoni, and of course, the Frezzeria.
For something a little different, there is the store of jewelry designer Antonia Miletto Gioielli. She is known for her one-of-a-kind pieces made from precious metals, stones and natural materials, and there is nothing quite like them. If you’re a fan of Venice’s silk-trimmed straw hats and Carnival headdresses, the best bet is milliner Giuliana Longo on Calle del Lovo.
Where to check-in
If you’re going to be shopping around the St. Mark’s Square, you might as well stay in the area, and no hotel puts you closer to it than the Hotel Londra Palace. The hotel, housed in a 1900 neoclassical building, is also one of the most beautiful in the city, with fabric-covered walls and Biedermeier furniture throughout, and balconies that open to views of the St. Mark’s Basin.
For the globetrotter
The historic center of Venice is a tourist magnet, but look beyond the beaten track of starry-eyed visitors and love-up couples and you’ll find one of Venice’s best-kept secrets: a series of islands scattered in the lagoon like gems. Historically, each island had a particular role in the city’s operations. Sant’Erasmo, for example, provided most of the city’s produce, and every morning, farmers would pile their boats with fruit and vegetables and head to the mainland. Till date, not much has changed about this state of affairs.
Then there is the resort island of Lido with its café-lined promenades, beaches and secret nooks best explored by bike. This is a wonderfully sleepy and uncrowded side of Venice that you won’t read about in the tourist brochures, but you would be remiss not to include on your itinerary.
Where to check-in
The Aman Venice, of course. In a city with grande dames like the Cipriani and the Gritti Palace, it takes a lot for a newcomer to turn heads, and the Aman Venice delivers with aplomb. Think a place where palazzo pomp meets Aman’s understated brand of luxury, and you’ll get the picture. The sense of arrival, through an entrance under the Rialto Bridge, is also a highlight, while weary souls will find the holistic therapies at the spa to be just what the doctor ordered for a complete overhaul of mind and body.
For the cultural buff
For a sensory overload, the Basilica di San Marco, with its mosaic-encrusted interior, can’t be beat. It’s a vast cave of wall-to-ceiling glitter, and the crowded imagery is one you’ll never get tired of.
Then, of course, there is the Galleria dell’Accademia, which is a lesson in Venetian paintings. The 24 rooms are a voyage through the city’s tradition, from the Byzantine works of medieval painter Paolo Veneziano to the soft-focus portraits of Venetian noblemen by the likes of Rosalba Carriera.
Where to check-in
If you’re in Venice for culture, no hotel delivers more of it than the Gritti Palace. Commissioned in 1525 as the residence of the Doge of Venice, this palace hotel is as old-world as it gets, with interiors to match the priceless antiques and frescoes around and its stunning position on the Grand Canal.
For the loved-up couple
We’ll go with the cliche that loved-up couples are usually in Venice for the views and those dreamy canal rides in gondolas. For the best views in the city, there are only two serious contenders. One is the Campanile di San Marco. From the top of this soaring bell tower, the view stretches across Venice’s rooftops to the Lido on one side and the Dolomites on the other, and if this does not get you in a romantic mood, we don’t know what will.
Then you’ve got the tower at San Giorgio Maggiore. This is Venice’s equivalent of going to the Rockefeller Centre instead of the Empire State Building, and it might just be the best way to avoid queuing for hours.
Where to check-in
Venetian hotels know how to do romance with their individually designed rooms, old-world charm, balconies with incredible views and fine dining to rare Italian wines, but the lagoonside Belmond Hotel Cipriani has got to be something special. For a start, there is the exclusivity of it. Set on Giudecca, an island across from the thrall of St. Mark’s Square, it takes a ferry ride to get here, and once you are, you might never want to leave the pastel rooms that look out over the lagoon and the greenery of the garden; They are picture postcard Venice.
For the food enthusiast
Food is taken serious in Venice. How we know this? The local dishes have all been born of love, warmth and tradition. There is the classic starter of bigoli in salsa, which is a spaghetti served with a sauce of anchovies and Chioggia onions. Then the risotto al gò, made with a fish the Turks introduced the Venetians to, also comes with a good dose of history. Around this time of year, castraure is also a common appetizer. These baby artichokes, served raw with Parmesan and olive oil, are only available in spring.
For more city experiences, stay tuned.