Sat on the edge of the canal are several couples eating ice cream and swinging their legs over the edge of the boardwalk. Dotted around are also several groups sipping wine and chattering noisily. It seems like nothing out of the ordinary doesn’t it? Except it’s half ten at night. The canal is illuminated by lights reflected in the water, and music can be heard from various bars and restaurants around.
It’s the sunken city, the city of love and romance – it’s Venice. And it’s beautiful. However it’s not without it’s imperfections. It has graffiti, like any other city, and litter. It’s beautiful, but it’s also a living and breathing city where people carry on their daily lives.
Defined as the city of love means visitors come with certain expectations. However, it’s hard to grasp the concept surrounded by hundreds of other tourists all crammed into St Marks Square. Similarly being herded into a gondola with five other tourists doesn’t quite guarantee the romantic experience you’re led to believe in. But Venice at night is another story…
Late enough so that the majority of tourists from cruise ships and excursions have left, but early enough so that it’s still light, the best time to explore Venice is after 7pm. You can happily wonder through its quirks and charms without being constantly stuck behind people. The great thing about Italy is that a lot of the shops stay open quite late, some even until 10/11pm. Of course you won’t be able to go inside any museums or attractions but you’ll just have to brace yourself and brave the crowds in the day for that.
So is a gondola worth it? Perhaps the most frequently asked question about Venice. With over 433 gondolas the city is teeming with them, it’s iconic, a symbol of ultimate romance. But at 80 euros it can seem extortionate. For the best experience go at quarter to seven, as late as possible before the price goes up to 100 euros – that way you’ll be more likely to have the gondola to yourselves in a much less crowded and quieter environment.
Many people will tell you one of the best things to do in Venice is to get lost in Venice. But trust me when I say you don’t need to try. The city is a maze with hardly any straight lines anywhere, so wherever you go give yourself an extra twenty minutes or so to allow for getting lost. You never know though, you might discover something wonderful, the city is filled with hidden treasures.
Another couple of places worth a visit are the islands that surround it. At 20 euros you can buy a waterbus day pass that will get you to both Murano and Burano Island. Murano is the island of glass making – walk along the streets and almost every shop is filled with glass from sculptures to balloons on the ceiling to full-blown floor to ceiling chandeliers. You can see the glass blowers at work crafting a glass horse in less than one minute. And then there’s Burano…
The island is an explosion of colour. Houses range from lemon yellow, to fuchsia pink and sky blue. It’s a photographer’s haven. However in terms of attractions the island is limited with just a few restaurants dotted around and not much else.
Although it’s filled with tourist traps, at the right time in the right place, Venice can seem almost surreal. You won’t find a city partly submerged underwater anywhere else, it’s completely unique – a place even the biggest skeptics can fall in love.