When to go?
Definitely during Carnival. The sight of everyone in masquerade roaming the movie set canals of Venice is a unique experience. Despite the crowds, the cool January weather makes it all tolerable. I definitely wouldn’t want to be battling the hordes during the peak summer months.
Duration: 48 hours
Local eats: Fritelles, Chichetti & Spritz Aperol
To be honest I wasn’t all that enamoured with the food in Venice but chichetti is the thing to do while you’re here. Effectively the Venician take on tapas, you hop from wine bar to wine bar eating sampling small plates and knocking back spritz aperols, the local cocktail of choice. Exclusively during Carnival you can find fried dough balls filled with cream at pasticcerias such as Tonolo.
Memorable eats: Tiramisu from I Tre Mercanti is a must. There’s all different kinds of flavours on offer, but the original was my personal favourite.
The risotto from Trattoria al Gatto Nero (see below) is also a must if you’re visiting the island of Burano.
What to do between meals:
People watch. The dazzling array of costumes is a sight to behold and the very brightest congregate around piazza san marco. It’s remarkable how much time and effort that some people put in for this event and most are more than happy to pose for a photo with the every-man. If you’re attending one of the various balls held throughout the festivities, you’ll need to (a) organise a costume of your own well beforehand and (b) make sure you book tickets well in advance. The tickets aren’t cheap but offer a fun excuse to play dress-up for the night. Even if you’re not attending a ball, putting on a mask is part of embracing the atmosphere at Carnival – akin to donning lederhosen at Oktoberfest.
Get on the water. Yes there’s the iconic gondolas but I’m referring to the water taxis aka vaporettos. A loop of the island on vaporetto no. 1 will allow you to see most of the iconic landmarks that you’ve explored on foot, but from a different perspective that’s especially worth doing at sunset.
Day trips to Murano and Burano
The islands of Murano and Burano are a short ferry ride away and an easy day trip. While Murano is the more ‘famous’ of the two due to its glass blowing factories, I personally found visiting Burano to be more worthwhile. You’ll find canals lined with colourful fisherman houses, its own leaning tower and most importantly the home of the purported ‘king of risotto’ – if visiting be sure to call up beforehand to book a table at Trattoria al Gatto Nero.
Where to stay and logistics:
Venice’s small footprint means everything is within walking distance regardless of where you choose to stay on the main island.