Take time out to explore the wonders of La Serenissima

1 Greet the day from your palace

08.00: Wake up with a wonderful view of the water at the Hotel Danieli (00 39 041 522 6480; starwood.com). Teetering on the water's edge, overlooking the lagoon, this restored 14th-century, Gothic-style palazzo offers some seriously opulent surroundings. Doubles start at €460 (£330), with breakfast.

2 What news on the Rialto?

09.30: For a taste of what remains of local Venetian life, cross the Rialto bridge from San Marco into San Polo and you will find yourself amid the chaotic Rialto market, which takes place every morning except Sunday. Walk through the jumble of market stalls selling fresh fish and vegetables. If you get up early enough, you can stand on the bridge and watch the boats loaded with produce passing underneath.

3 Mixing it with the Doge

11.35: You will have booked ahead for one of the secret itineraries conducted in English of the majestic Doge's Palace (00 39 041 520 9070). This tour takes you high into the rafters, above the lavish public rooms, and shows you ancient corridors of power once occupied by Venice's Council of Ten and the cell where Casanova was held. Admission costs €12.50 (£8).

4 A quiet lunch on the lagoon

13.00: Lunch on the water's edge at Riviera (00 39 041 522 7621), Fondamenta Zaterre Al Ponte Lungo, in a quiet corner off the tourist trail on the charming Dorsoduro, which serves a selection of mainly fish dishes.

5 Squaring it with San Marco

15.30: The Piazza San Marco, dominated by the splendour of the 11th-century Basilica (basilicasanmarco.it), is one of the world's most famous squares. Scale the interior of the Campanile (€6/£4.30) and afterwards take a peek inside the cathedral. Entrance free.

6 A cocktail at Harry's Bar

19.00: Yes, it's crowded and yes, it's expensive, but a Bellini (a cocktail of prosecco and peach juice) at Harry's Bar (00 39 041 528 5777), calle Vallaresso, is as Venetian an experience as a gondola ride. Prop up the tiny bar, if you can jostle a space, and people-watch.

7 La dolce vita for two, please

20.30: Alle Testiere (00 39 041 522 7220), calle del Mondo Nuovo, is a tiny, trendy restaurant hidden down a side street in Castello. Most dishes use local seafood combined with an interesting mix of spices. The wine list is superb and dinner for two is around €90 (£60). Venice isn't a town for night owls - all that culture is exhausting. But the deserted streets hold a special magic at night.