I read an article once that told me to never go near Venice in the winter. It said that it lost its charm and was empty and not as exciting as summer months. However, I completely disagree with this and if you’re in need of a winter get away to pick you up after all your festivities, Venice has definitely got you covered.
I went to Venice just before Christmas and it was absolutely magical. The streets aren’t all decorated but this makes the ones that are more impressive and the decorations aren’t garish, so you get a nice Christmassy feeling without the overbearing selling points. Italian Christmases have something understated and magical about them and their food only gets better with the seasons. The Christmas market at Campo Santo Stefano is extremely cute as it sells local produce and holds performances on some nights, as well as selling really good, proper Italian food. Go crazy because it is as Italian as it gets.
The streets were quieter but I found this to be a bonus. I walked straight into Basilica de San Marco with no queue and it was peaceful inside, which made it a more spiritual experience. The Piazza’s are quieter as well which means that you can take your time to explore them and the streets off of them. There’s lots of art shops where the window displays are sight enough, you just have to wander until you find them because there are so many. The Venetian Ghetto which was the Jewish quarter, the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Doge’s Palace are all exceptional and worth visiting. A lot of museums in Italy charge for entry but you can sometimes get discounts if you are willing to go at off-peak times, check the websites first.
The bridges were less crowded which meant it was super easy to get pictures of the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs, I recommend seeing all three. But the best thing I did in Venice was shut off from technology and take in everything on offer. I had Google maps for any emergencies but I just wandered between islands, hopping over as many bridges as I came across and venturing down all the alleyways that I could. It was such a nice time to be there, when you could move around freely without too many tourists or feeling like you were annoying the locals.
I was there on my own; a single female travelling through. I never once felt threatened, which is something I was warned about and in actual fact I found the locals to be super hospitable. One restaurant owner took a shine to me in particular and brought me the Wi-Fi code to, “Phone your Mama, tell her Marco is making sure you eat well”, as well as sending me on my way with a free bottle of water and extra bread. I learned an extremely basic level of Italian and trust me, a little goes a long way with them so at least attempt a Ciao or a Grazie.
Burano and Murano are really interesting places to visit and Burano is especially Instagramable if that’s what you’re looking for. Burano’s colourful buildings and Murano’s glass history should put both of these places on your to do list, just to see the beauty in them.
So try Venice in winter and hopefully, like me, you won’t be disappointed. My main recommendations for Venice are:
- Travel into Venice by train if you can. Bus is fine but seeing the Adriatic Sea from the train was absolutely breath-taking. Trust me on this one. All Italian transport is exceptionally punctual and well managed, just make sure you buy a ticket prior to boarding for trains and buses.
- Try and get accommodation as close to the train station/road in as possible. There’s a lot of bridges and stairs and trailing luggage over these is not fun, I learned this the hard way.
- Try and avoid the tourist restaurants. This is my advice for everywhere you go, follow the locals and see where they eat and I guarantee the food will be more authentic.
- Go to Rialto Bridge as early as you can. This is a main tourist point and it is beautiful but it won’t take long to see, go early and you can spend the rest of the day in more exciting places.
- Don’t be afraid of getting lost. It’s completely worth it in Venice and you won’t be lost forever, there’s only over a hundred islands!
Check out Sarah’s travel on instagram: @saraahmcneill