In 2016 Venice’s reputation as one of the most romantic cities on earth is unwavering. As Dean Van Es, the CEO of Fast Cover travel insurance who travelled to Venice in September said, “some 50 million people pass through Venice each year, though the majority appear to travel during the summer months.” Travel there in summer and you’ll spend a lot of time queuing. Travel in winter and you’ll get a rare experience of the beautiful city.
In winter the air is crisp and you avoid the odour you can get in summer from the stagnant waterways. Yes it can be nearly freezing (at its coldest in January the temperature can drop to around 4 degrees Celsius) but not having any queues to some of the world’s most famous sites is well worth it.
Numerous must-see sites are crammed into a small and easily navigated area in Venice. Saint Mark’s Basilica, where you can see dazzling gold leaf covered domes and mosaics, is right next to the spectacular Doge’s palace. Inside the towering Palace are magnificent paintings covering the walls and floors. The Sala del Maggior (Grand Council Hall), where hundreds of painted people in different scenes cover the walls, is sure to blow you away. Especially when there’s not a single tourist blocking your view.
Besides a gondola ride to see the waterways (which can be expensive- around 53 Euro/ 59 USD / $80AUD) you can explore Venice entirely on foot. Come during the Carnivale festival and every pathway will be covered in colourful stalls, with dozens selling beautifully decorated masks. You can walk from Saint Marks to the Rialto Bridge in about ten minutes. Santa Maria della Salute, where you’ll get a picturesque view of Venice, is another half an hour walk away. There’s no reason to be worried about the distance you’ll be covering during the day, as there’s amazing restaurants you can stop in to refuel.
There are various Italian delicacies to try while in Venice. During the day you can warm up with a thick, Venetian hot chocolate. And of course there are a wide range of different pizzas and pastas to try throughout the day, from creamy carbonara and risotto to fresh tomato and basil dishes. A tiramisu and a glass of prosecco is the perfect way to round off an evening meal. In winter you’ll also likely find outdoor bars where you can grab a cup of mulled wine or cider to warm up on your way to your hotel, bed and breakfast or hostel.
Travelling to Venice in winter is also significantly cheaper, as the costs of accommodation go down. Rather than going for the cheaper hostel option, you can treat yourself to a bed and breakfast which will provide comfortable rooms and a buffet each morning to start your day.
Many travellers only spend a day or two in Venice. However, this can mean rushing between historical sites. It is easy to spend three days exploring the city at a leisurely pace. With fewer people to contend with in the narrow alleyways through the city, you’ll find yourself completely lost in experiencing Venice.