Venice remains one the most singularly remarkable cities in the world; an entire city rising impossibly from the turquoise lagoon. Though for all its beauty, it’s hard to overlook the sheer volume of visitors that flood the narrow passages and crowd the main spaces each day. This needn’t be an issue if you know a few tricks to help navigate these busy periods and carve your own peaceful experience of the city.
Pick Your Hotel Accordingly
While staying in the central districts of San Marco and San Polo will place you directly in the throes of the action, picking a hotel on the periphery will provide a calmer setting to return to once you’ve finished your days exploring. Venice is a small island, meaning you’ll never have to walk too far wherever you are. Il Palazzo Experimental is a prime candidate for this approach, sitting quietly on the western edge of Dorsoduro and surrounded by superb cicchetti haunts and osterie.
Retreat During Peak Hours
The island swells in the early afternoon hours from 12-4PM, during which time you would be wise to remove yourself from the crowds with a well-chosen lunch reservation in a secluded location. The leafy oasis of Gio’s Terrace at The St. Regis hotel is an ideal option overlooking the Grand Canal, or hop across the lagoon to the Cipriani’s waterside restaurant, Il Porticciolo in the summer months.
Swap Burano for Mazzorbo
By all accounts, don’t skip the technicolour dream coat of houses residing on the quaint island of Burano, but once you’ve seen enough, cross the narrow footbridge to neighbouring Mazzorbo where the secluded wine resort, Venissa provides a safe haven from the crowds and features both an informal osteria and a fine dining restaurant encompassed within a walled vineyard.
Gondola at Dusk
Arguably the best times of day to take that promised gondola ride, when the daytrippers have left and the traffic on the water is both quieter and slower. Cruising the canals as the evening descends and the city’s lights start to twinkle is a special experience with strong romantic overtones.
Rise and Shine
Those who wake up early in Venice are rewarded bountifully with privileged scenes of deserted alleyways and the predawn hush of Piazza San Marco. While the rest of the city sleeps, you may wander freely and enjoy a private audience with the city’s most iconic landmarks. Even if you only manage this just once, you certainly won’t regret it. To be clear, we’re talking 6AM out the door kind of early.
As one of the more hip areas in Venice, Cannaregio has managed to remain inexplicably free from major crowds. Disregard the tawdry strips of Strada Nova and Lista di Spagna, before plunging into the restorative cool and calm of the district’s more residential hub where the Jewish Ghetto formerly existed. Escape the throngs and potter along these backwaters where you’ll find local establishments, such as the trendy natural wine bar, Vino Vero.
Skip Public Transport
The water buses and vaporetti are economical ways of getting around the city and across the lagoon, but they’re also subject to overcrowding and long queues. For a more direct approach, you can pay the price to hire a water taxi to ferry you around the island to catch the sights in peace. There are even taxi tours available that will provide expert commentary along with the experience.
Visit Outside of Peak Season
For a more intimate encounter with Venice, consider visiting during off peak season when Venetians reclaim their city. Experience the narrow streets amid the misty, atmospheric winter light, when the squares are quietened, mystical and hazy, and you can take refuge in the hushed museums.
With these tricks at your disposal, you’ll stay one step ahead of the crowds and navigate the bustle of Venice with ease. Knowing where to go is the next challenge, for which we’ve expertly curated a luxury travel guidebook for Venice with recommendations for everything from hotels, restaurants, bars and museums as well as seasonal itineraries.
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