Easy Escapes: Venice

Miranda McMinn falls for a dreamy Italian city that floats on water

Miranda McMinn falls for a dreamy Italian city that floats on water

Why go? Because Venice is a perfect jewel, a wonder of the world – and a place where it’s impossible not to feel romantic pretty much every moment of the day…

When? Venice is an all-year destination but if you go in the next month or so you’ll have the place a bit more to yourself (it’s predictably hot and crowded in August), and you can still enjoy that famous silvery light and theatrical beauty. At this time of year the Venetians are more relaxed and seem happy to share their incredible city with travellers.

The smart way to do Venice: stay on Guidecca with its secret gardens

You really must
: Walk everywhere, and enjoy the peace of a city without a single car. Policing, rubbish collection, even DHL deliveries – it’s all done by boat. If you must have pure tourist cheese ride on a gondola (from £65 for 40 minutes) – your oarsman will probably be chatting on his mobile phone as he punts you up the narrow canals, but if you’re lucky he may burst into song. An equally glitzy, but far cooler, option is the pricey-but-wonderful water taxi (motoscafivenezia.it). A trip on a waterbus (vaporetto) is cheap and fun as you ride shoulder to shoulder with the locals (£5.30 for 60 minutes on as many boats as you like, or £23 for 48 hours).

Stroll among the glamorous people and window shop in Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton in the streets around St Mark’s Square. Check out the phenomenal Palazzo Ducale (palazzoducale.visitmuve.it) and Gallerie dell’Accademia (galleriorgeaccademia.org), which house many famous artworks. For a less frantic cultural experience head for the Guggenheim Museum (guggenheim.org/venice). This is the former Grand Canal home of heiress, art collector and all-round party girl Peggy Guggenheim, where she played host to many lovers and several husbands. It’s adorned with Kandinskys, Mirós and Picassos and also has a soothing sculpture garden with an Anish Kapoor among other works – not to mention her own grave and that of her many pet dogs and rabbits.

Little Italy: a garden room at the Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa

Stay at: The Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa (from £246, palladiohotelspa.com), which opens for the season on 15 March 2014. The most recent addition to the Bauer group of Venetian super-luxury hotels, it’s set in a former convent, wrapped around a still functioning church, on the calm, peaceful island of La Giudecca. Guests have use of a private shuttle service to St Mark’s Square and a big plus is the hotel’s lovingly-kept three-acre gardens – the largest in the city – which are a secret oasis away from the hustle of the mainland.

The main building (the convent) has 50 rooms and suites with another 29 set in a companion residence beside the garden. The very best are not so much a room with a view as a room with THE view – right across to St Mark’s Square and the Palazzo Ducale. Here the bathrooms are lined with marble, the walls draped with tapestries, the beds deliciously comfortable and you awake every morning to the gentle lap of water and clank of boats. Staff are solicitous and friendly and there’s an elegant spa with floor-to-ceiling windows offering stupendous vistas. Treatments use Philip Martin’s natural products – for something truly indulgent try the 110-minute Oasis Treatment (£90) which includes a deep head massage, Turkish bath and a restorative body massage.

Oh so pretty: gondolas on the lagoon © Fototeca ENIT

Dine at: Corte Sconta (cortescontavenezia.it), which is hidden down an alleyway in the Arsenale district and a not very well kept secret among Venetians and cognoscenti. Book in advance to sample their divine seafood menu featuring antipasti delights such as carpaccio of swordfish, salt cod, and clams with ginger, each more delicate and delicious than the last (starters from £12, mains from £16). If you’re footsore after a morning of culture have lunch in the restaurant of Pensione La Calcina (lacalcina.com) where the bruschetta, sea bream, meringues and LOTS of white wine make a wonderful way to spend a romantic afternoon. Back at the Bauer Palladio Hotel, its restaurant L’Ulivo overlooks the elegant terrace and garden beyond with dishes that feature sophisticated flavours, such as loin of veal with radicchio and pomegranate served with breaded fennels (a triumph, £21).

Bring home: A lot of what you see in Venice – blown glass and harlequin masks ad nauseam – is garish and tacky, although some of the glassware is quirky and can be pretty. There are designer shops aplenty – for a pocket-friendly guide to the best get Luxe City Guide Venice (£4.99; luxecityguides.com). The one thing we all love to bring back, though, is a good, fresh chunk of parmigiano for around a fiver – a happy and lasting reminder of your Venetian break.

Book now: easyJet (easyjet.com) flies to Venice from Gatwick, Luton, Southend and Manchester, from £62 return per person including taxes, based on two people on the same booking.

Info: Pocket Rough Guide Venice (£7.99; Rough Guides) is a handy guide, for more information see turismovenezia.it. For a list of films set in Venice see filmaps.com, for books fictionalcities.co.uk.

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