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Destinations

5 reasons to visit Venice

This oh-so-pretty city really floats my boat!

By Sarah-Kate Lynch
Don’t let anyone tell you that Venice isn’t the most magical of cities – even at the height of summer, you can find your own place somewhere on these beautiful Italian islands.
O sole mio! Gondoliers don’t actually sing, but there’s no better way to see the city.
1 How to get there
For my money, you can’t beat arriving by train because Santa Lucia station is right on the Grand Canal. Two steps and you’re looking at a world wonder! My pal Tessa and I had Eurail passes (raileurope.co.nz) and had travelled from Austria. It’s such a lovely, low-key way to arrive – no customs queues or security checks – just pop on the train in Salzburg, have lunch, admire the scenery and hey presto, there you are. Happily, we had an extra surprise waiting in the form of Cristina, our Airbnb host.
2 Where to stay
From Santa Lucia, Cristina led us out on to the Grand Canal, where she and her son loaded us into her family runabout and delivered us via the water to our home for three nights. I can’t imagine a better welcome anywhere in the world. Our apartment was just off a smaller canal, actually only a five-minute walk to the train, but in a
quiet local neighbourhood complete with a café serving Aperol spritz (my favourite Italian drink) right on our doorstep. Another pal came to stay and the three of us loved our two-bedroom, two-bathroom, perfectly located apartment. Look for “The Conservatory” in Venice on Airbnb and give Cristina my love.
Our lovely, light Airbnb home was a brilliant alternative to a costly hotel.
3 The art scene
Last year was the Art Biennale, where different countries exhibit in remarkable places around the city. Visitors can wander the back streets (which are totally empty of tourists) and find all manner of wonderful things. We stumbled into an old palazzo full of Indian visual art and checked out the New Zealand exhibition right on St Mark’s Square, Venice’s busiest tourist spot.
But our best discovery was Fortuny Museum. Don’t ask me where it is – looking for it with a map was no help at all, as is often the case in Venice. We stumbled on it in the end. This palazzo has changing collections, but also a lot of art and furniture from when it was owned and lived in by artist Mariano Fortuny. Oh, and don’t forget the Peggy Guggenheim Collection too.
4 What to eat
It’s easy to eat bad food in Venice, especially in the tourist spots. I’d recommend Urban Adventures’ Cicchetti and Wine Tour, cicchetti being the yummy Venetian bar snacks. They’re often served in hidden spots, so having someone show you where to find them and fill you in on local history as you go is perfect. Sadly, I can’t be specific about the locations as I drank every last drop I was offered and don’t appear to have taken notes. But it was all delicious.
The Bridge of Sighs once led to a jail but now is a must-stop photo op.
5 What to do
Every second year, architecture replaces art in different Biennale exhibitions. If you go this year, it might be worth checking out the NZ offering at Palazzo Bollani. You don’t have to be an aficionado, just curious – often it’s the palazzos themselves that leave you awestruck. Last visit, Tessa was keen to go to Murano, the island once famous for its hand-blown glass, but this was very disappointing as most of the glass now comes from China. Much better to just enjoy getting lost in the back streets, go to the beach at the Lido or catch a vaporetto to San Giorgio Maggiore and climb the church bell tower to see Venice in all its glory – without the crowds.

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