Greetings from La Serenissima, where the sultry days of summer have descended as the lanes grow thick with eager visitors. It’s late June, and temperatures already read in the low 30s (high 80s for our US readers), humidity hovering around 65 per cent. By midday, as the sun burns through the Adriatic haze, gelato sellers enjoy a thriving business. Lucire has some insider tips to make your visit a happy one.
1. Arrive mid-week to avoid the extreme crowds. The city has finally limited the number of cruise ships—at one time 15 a day were allowed—now held to three a day. The behemoth vessels arrive on Friday, depositing 15,000 extra day-trippers loosed into the ancient city on weekends. The city can be more navigable on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
2. Expect higher prices. Venezia is old and delicate, and tourists a captive audience. There’s an old maxim for travellers, ‘Take half as many clothes as you think you need and twice as much money.’ This holds true for Venezia. As an example, a friend and her daughter sat down at one of the outdoor tables facing the Grand Canal, ordered two small pizzas and two bottles of water. Cost €50. Don’t be surprised!
3. Wear a hat and keep hydrating. The heat is deceptive, so cover your head and don’t overdo it. If you want to help preserve Venezia, buy an Italian-made straw fedora from a street vendor in support of the local economy. It’s the most functional headgear for the weather and you won’t regret the stylistic flourish you take home. You may also find an afternoon siesta in your hotel room another strategy to beat the heat.
4. Have a meal at an outdoor restaurant on via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Venezia’s best-kept-secret neighbourhood, where prices may be lower than Rialto or San Marco. A very typical quarter where you will see real Venetians going about their daily business. An easy 15-minute walk from San Marco, along the waterfront, just beyond Arsenale, facing the Lido and the open sea.
5. Visit the Ghetto. 2016 commemorates the 500th anniversary of the founding of the historic district, located very near the train station. There on March 29, 1516, Jewish residents were granted exclusive sanctuary and permitted to live and do business. While no official celebrations are planned, the area has fascinating architecture, shops and exhibits.
6. Explore fine dining at Venezia’s great hotels. During the summer, reservations at Venezia’s well known restaurants can be difficult to score. But many of the five-star hotels have great kitchens ready to show you the best of the lagoon’s catch, and new twists on classic preparations in their signature restaurants.
There’s good news in this category from the Luna Hotel Baglioni, a favourite property located just off San Marco, which upholds an incomparable standard of hospitality and comfort. The hotel’s outstanding Canova Restaurant will soon have outdoor tables adjacent to the entrance, where lunch and dinner can be enjoyed on a quiet passage facing a little-known gondola landing. Fine cuisine, prime location and impeccable service are the hallmarks of this great restaurant.
While we’re on the subject of the Luna, another new addition to the service package is the introduction this season of dedicated butler service, included with Junior or Senior Suite bookings. Maurizio, a career hospitality professional, brings the full complement of high-grade personalized service and acts as your primary contact to the Luna’s team and the outer world. His mission in life: to make any request come true.
Hot tip: at the Luna, request Room 407, smaller in size, but with a balcony view of the Grand Canal and Doge’s Palace and a light-filled white marble bathroom. Highly recommended.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor