48 Hours: Venice

Italy's most romantic city is the perfect place to take your Valentine – or get into the carnival spirit, says William Cook.

Click here for the 48Hours In...Venice map

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Venice bursts into a riot of sound and colour this week, as masked Venetians take to the streets for the city's annual carnival (until 21 February; carnevale.venezia.it). With less tourist traffic than you'll find during the warmer months, the Serene Republic is also the ideal destination for a romantic break.

Touch down

Marco Polo airport is on the mainland about 12km north of Venice. I travelled with British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com), which flies daily from Gatwick and Heathrow and also offers packages, for example £375 per person for two nights at the Palazzina Grassi (1).

Marco Polo is also served by easyJet (0905 821 9000; easyJet.com) from Gatwick and Bmibaby (0905 828 2828; bmibaby. com) from East Midlands. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies from East Midlands, Leeds/ Bradford, Stansted and Bristol to Treviso, with a bus link to Venice.

Bus 5 leaves Marco Polo airport every 15 minutes during peak hours (30 minutes off peak) and terminates at the bus station at Piazzale Roma (2). The journey takes 20 minutes; singles €5. A taxi is about €40 for a 15-minute trip. If you'd rather travel by boat, the Alilaguna ferry (00 39 041 240 1701; alilaguna.it) costs €15 single or €25 return. The two lines, Linea Arancio and Linea Blu, each leave from the airport every 30 minutes and take about 75 minutes to reach the landing stage at San Marco (3). The Linea Arancio also stops at Rialto (4) and several other inner city stops en route. A water taxi takes around 15 minutes and costs about €100.

Get your bearings

Venice is an archipelago, but if you're here for a only few days you'll easily find enough to do in the historic city (centro storico), which is crammed on to a compact island in the middle of the lagoon. The island is bisected by the Grand Canal and divided into six municipal districts, or sestieri. San Marco is the heart of town, with the most famous sights – and the most sightseers. It's also the location of the tourist office (5) (00 39 041 529 8711; turismo-venezia.it) at 71 San Marco (open daily 9am to 3.30pm).

To escape the crowds, cross the Grand Canal at Ponte dell' Accademia (6) and wander through Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce – three enclaves with more indigenous street life and just as much to see.

Check in

Concealed in a side street behind the Palazzo Grassi art gallery, Palazzina Grassi (1) at Calle Grassi 3247 (00 39 041 528 4644; palazzinagrassi.it) feels more like a private members' club than a hotel – no wonder Johnny Depp holed up here while shooting The Tourist. The chic décor is by Philippe Starck but the architecture is 16th-century. Doubles from €320, room only.

The Ruzzini Palace (7) at Castello 5866 (00 39 041 241 0447; ruzzinipalace.com) is a handsome hotel housed in a splendidly restored Renaissance palazzo, overlooking Campo Santa Maria Formosa, one of Venice's prettiest squares. The interior design is a striking blend of classic and contemporary. Doubles from €280, B&B.

The Santa Marina (8) at Castello 6068 (00 39 041 523 9202; hotelsantamarina.it) is a homely four-star in an old convent on the picturesque Campo Santa Marina. B&B from €70.

Day one

Take a ride

The easiest way to get around town is aboard a water bus (vaporetto). Lines 41, 42, 51 and 52 circumnavigate the island, while lines 1 and 2 chug up and down the Grand Canal. For the best view of this ancient thoroughfare, board a boat at Piazzale Roma (2) and get off at San Marco (3) (or vice versa). You can buy tickets at the tourist office (5) or at most landing stages. Single tickets cost €6.50, but a 48-hour pass can cost as little as €21 online (00 39 041 2424; actv.it).

Take a view

Break your vaporetto voyage along the Grand Canal at the Rialto (4). This beautiful bridge is (and always has been) the centre point of the city. On the left bank is the mercantile city of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, with its atmospheric street market (9). On the right bank is the stately Venice of Othello, with the Piazza San Marco (10) at its hub.

Lunch on the run

It can be hard to find a restaurant in the city centre that isn't overrun with tourists, but at the cosy little Trattoria Ca' D'oro Alla Vedova (11), Calle del Pistor (00 39 041 528 5324), locals still outnumber sightseers. A plate of antipasti costs €6 and a main pasta dish costs €10. Desserts are €5. Try the spaghetti alle vongole followed by a glass of sweet white wine and biscotti.

If you're really rushed, bolt down a delicious polpetti (homemade meatball) at the bar, washed down with a glass of good house red for €2. It opens noon-2.30pm and 6.30-10.30pm. Closed Sunday lunchtime and all day Tuesday.

Window shopping

The Trattoria Ca' D'oro Alla Vedova (11) is just off Venice's main shopping street, the Strada Nova (12), but there are quirky boutiques all over town and a welcome dearth of chain stores.

Venice's speciality is fine glassware, made on the nearby island of Murano. An especially good place to browse is Vecchia Murano (13) at Castello 4392 (00 39 041 271 8410; vecchiamurano.it) where you can spend thousands... or buy a pretty pair of glass earrings for €10.

An aperitif

Most foreigners flock to the bars and cafés around the Piazza San Marco (10). For a cheaper drink in more authentic surroundings head for Café Noir (14) on the Crosera San Pantalon in Dorsoduro (00 39 041 710 925). As the name suggests, the decor is dark, but there's nothing gloomy about the atmosphere. A young arty crowd lends this nightspot a lively, cosmopolitan air. A Bellini here (the classic Venetian cocktail – peach nectar and prosecco) costs €3.50, a fraction of what you'd pay in Harry's Bar (15) on Calle Vallaresso, where it was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani in the Thirties (00 39 041 528 5777; harrysbarvenezia.com).

Dining with the locals

Hidden in a quiet square beside the Santa Marina Hotel (8), L'Osteria di Santa Marina (16) at Castello 5911 (00 39 041 528 5239) is a smart, intimate restaurant decorated in timeless, traditional style – dark wooden panelling, white tablecloths, tiled floors. It's renowned for its classic Venetian dishes (black barley risotto, lemon sorbet with liquorice). The five-course tasting menu costs €80, without wine.

Day two

Sunday morning: Go to church

The Basilica di San Marco (17) on Piazza San Marco (10) (00 39 041 270 8311; basilicasanmarco.it) is a spectacular relic of Venice's medieval links with the Orient. Throughout the Middle Ages, much of the city's trade was with Constantinople (Istanbul) and the cathedral's lavish interior feels more Orthodox than Catholic.

Early morning mass is the best way to experience its Byzantine splendour. A multilingual mass is held at 10.30am. Otherwise, the cathedral is open 2-4pm Sunday (9.45am-5pm Monday to Saturday; free).

Out to brunch

Venetians don't really do brunch, but the next best thing is cicchetti. A good spot to sample these tasty bar snacks is Aciugheta (18), a sleek restaurant on Campo Santissimi Filippo e Giacomo (00 39 041 5224292; aciugheta-hotelrio.it). A rich cross-section of finger food (from fried sardines to polenta) costs €17. Just a short walk from the Basilica di San Marco (17), this place is popular with sightseers, but it's not a tourist trap. You're just as likely to see a group of gondoliers at the next table.

Take a hike

From the Basilica di San Marco (17) walk east along the seafront, down the Riva degli Schiavoni, Riva di Ca di Dio and Riva dei Sette Martiri. Despite the varying street names it's all the same stretch of promenade, so (unlike virtually everywhere else in Venice) you won't get lost along the way. Carry on along Viale dei Giardini Pubblici and Viale Vittorio Veneto to the Santa Elena (19) landing stage. From here you can retrace your steps back to San Marco (3).

A walk in the park

Built on water, Venice is inevitably a bit short of parkland. The best it has to offer is the Giardini Pubblici (20). Created by Napoleon when he conquered the city, it's perfectly pleasant, in a modest, unassuming sort of way – but the best thing about it is the view across the water of Giudecca and the smaller islands in the lagoon.

Cultural afternoon

Returning to the Piazza San Marco (10), the Palazzo Ducale (00 39 041 271 5911; visitmuve.it) presents a fascinating picture of Venice at its most flamboyant. For more than 1,000 years it was the residence of the Doges, the elected dukes who ruled this city state from the 8th to the 18th century. There are sumptuous paintings by Venetian masters such as Titian and Tintoretto, but the most striking thing about this building is its sense of omnipotence. Open 8.30am-5.30pm daily, €16.

Admission also includes entry to the adjoining Museo Correr (00 39 041 240 5211; visitmuve.it), which tells the history of the city through fine art and ancient artefacts. Open 10am-5pm daily.

Icing on the cake

If you're visiting the Palazzo Ducale (10), for another €4, you could buy a Museums Pass (€20), which covers admission to 10 attractions (museicivici veneziani.it). Even if you visit only one or two, it's still a bargain.

Pick of the bunch are Ca'Rezzonico (21), with its predominantly 18th-century works at Santa Croce 2076 (00 39 041 241 0100; visitmuve.it) and Ca'Pesaro (22), with 19th-and early 20th-century art (00 39 041 524 0695; visitmuve.it). Both are open daily 10am-5pm. What's really special about both collections are the magnificent palazzi that contain them. Wandering through their marble corridors you get a vivid sense of how wonderful it must have been to be a rich Venetian during the Renaissance, with a lifestyle that today's tourists can only dream of.

News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
film
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
World Book Day
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot