Monday, 27 January 2014


Last time I visited was thirty five years ago. Hot, smelly and following a lady with an umbrella who kept running away from our group, I wasn't impressed by this place that allowed me to walk on water, well almost, and wonder why masks and glass were being sold everywhere.

Thirty five years on, in January rather than July, when the crowds are limited to the occasional stampede (and they do stampede) of Chinese tourists following a flag (their own not the red and gold of the Venetian), and you don't queue for anything and can get into even the smallest restaurant that has only five tables and waiters who look as though they have lived many lifetimes and all of them very interesting.

I will get up at 8.30 tomorrow morning when the tide is supposed to be very high, thereby potentially water logging the bottom floor of my hotel so that the lift has to stop at the first floor and everyone has room service for breakfast. I would have LOVED this as a child.  This acqua alta (high water) is happening more frequently when St Marco Square becomes flooded and you wear wellies (always trendy, this is Venice after all).

Everyone is a merchant in Venice but aware of their own fragility - it is sinking after all - they keep things light.  The masks are to hide behind, not just for partying and carnival, because Venice is a village where everyone walks and there is no escape, so everyone knows everyones business. There was (and is) the guide told me, more than one Casanova.  Isn't there always.   Strangely Elton John and Naomi Campbell have homes here and they don't come across to me as people who like their privacy invaded in anyway, but perhaps they change when here. And Johnny Depp is rumoured to be buying a place here.   It's an interesting city with a phenomenal history, but quirky with it. There is a street dedicated to a man who was a butcher and used the meat from babies.  Of course he was executed, but they named a street after him?

I've had fish every meal, except breakfast.  The restaurants are excellent.   Paradiso 0415234910,  Trattoria Alla Rivetta 041 5287302 and al Covo you need to book. They are the type of restaurants which film makers love and don't exist in real life. They exist here although there is so much fairy tale about Venice I'm not sure one could call living here 'real life'.

Our guide today (still don't know her name) made me laugh as she said she has two children and pushed them around in a buggy with the shopping (there are no supermarkets) up and down the steps of the bridges and became extremely strong.   "If anyone mugged me then I could have easily flattened them I grew so strong." Who needs Fitness First?

The Doge's Palace which we are five minutes walk from is beautiful and fascinating.   Take a boat tour for an hour and get a very good overview of the city. You will quickly get an idea of where things are, something which seems impossible when you first arrive.    I would highly recommend January in Venice. No crowds, weather is interesting whether the light is bright and blue (was on our first day) or silver grey (as on our second), and you can easily spend hours in the restaurants, eating fresh seafood and teasing yourself with a tiramasu if you must.   And drink the hot chocolate.  It is a must even if you have to forgo one of the tours, drink the chocolate.

This wonderful trip was care of Citalia (08437704443 who organise trips like this for just over a grand which includes bed and breakfast in all the hotels which are characterful as well as central, train fares, transfers and flights.

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