Perched on the north east coast of Italy, Venice is the perfect city stopover en route to the ski resort of Cortina or other close Italian resorts. With a couple of days immersed in culture, architecture and fine Italian cuisine before a week of fun on the slopes, you’ll have a trip that incorporates the best of both worlds. Here’s a recommended itinerary to get the most out of your time in the city known as La Serenissima – the most serene. Read on for our tips on how to enjoy 48 hours in Venice.
Once you’ve touched down in the city, begin your whirlwind trip with the quintessential Venetian experience: a gondola ride. Ask for a route that will to take you to the heart of San Marco, the beautifully grand main square. Alight here and explore the glorious Basilica San Marco, the most spectacular of the city’s churches, with strong Byzantine influences that make for the perfect photo opportunity. Look out for the gleaming golden ground mosaics and the marble sarcophagus at the altar, the final resting place of St Mark. Afterwards, climb to the top of Campanile di San Marco, the bell tower, for a panoramic view of the city’s copper-coloured rooftops – with a speedy elevator to save your legs for the slopes.
Stop for a spot of lunch and a glass of prosecco or two in St Mark’s Square. It’s a tourist trap, yes, but one you can’t miss. Then, head to the Piazza’s eastern edge to admire the Doge’s Palace. As well as home to the city’s dukes for over 1000 years, it’s been the seat of Venetian government and the Palace of Justice. It captures the very essence of the city’s flamboyancy and extravagance, lined with paintings by Titian and other Venetian masters. For another of Venice’s classic sights, peer around the corner at the fabled Bridge of Sighs. It connects the Doge’s Palace with the prison and was the last thing prisoners laid their eyes on before being taken down to their cells in the 17th century – hence the sighs. You can walk through the bridge and shiver at the spooky dungeons for yourself.
Night time transforms the city. Meander back to your hotel to freshen up before heading out to savour the quieter streets and romantic atmosphere. If music is your food of love, catch an Italian opera at Teatro La Fenice or Musica a Palazzo. Have a nightcap at the city’s most famous bar, Harry’s – once frequented by Charlie Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway – before indulging in an intimate dinner at the nine-table Osteria alle Testiere. Evening is a good time to take another look at St Mark’s Square. Without the crowds, it’s easier to take in the sheer scale of it, and the cafés lining the square often have live classical music.
On the second day, breakfast like the Venetians do with an expertly crafted pastry and a shot of espresso at a corner bar or a picture-perfect pasticceria. Once your sweet tooth has been satisfied, take a trip down the Grand Canal in a water bus, known as a vaporetto passing under the ornate Rialto Bridge. On the left bank, you’ll find the Mercato di Rialto, which has been the heart of Venice’s commerce for seven centuries. The market traders peddle fish and fresh produce alongside boutique cheese and wine. Pick up some treats to take with you to your chalet and make sure you sample the city’s famous gelato as you wander the narrow streets.
For some more sightseeing on the water, continue your boat journey north. Keep an eye out for the intricate Palazzo Santa Sofia, also known as Ca’ d’Oro (the golden house), en route. Stop in Cannaregio, an area largely untrampled by tourists, for a taste of local life. Sip a cappuccino at a traditional, family-run café, shop for delicate Murano glass and pay pennies for delicious local pink wine. Don’t miss the Santa Maria dei Miracoli church, a Renaissance marble masterpiece.
Stay a while in the northern part of the city as dusk draws in. If you fancy a flutter, step foot in the world’s oldest games hall, the Casino di Venezia, which is housed in an early modern palace. For a tipple before dinner, stroll down Fondamenta della Misericordia, a canal-side promenade lined with bars. Later, seek out authentic Italian food and an impressive wine list at local residents’ favourite Cantina Aziende Agricole, or exquisite seafood at the nearby La Colombina.
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