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Things to Do and See – Last Minute City Breaks

There is plenty to do, from short city break trips to the islands, visiting museums, art galleries, monuments, buildings and churches to people watching on St. Mark’s Square.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Santa Croce – Fondaco dei Turchi (Turk’s Warehouse) is a palace which was renovated in 1880 and became the Natural History Museum in 1924.
  • Ca’ Mocenigo houses the original 18th century furnishings as well as the Vittorio Cini collection of curtains, hangings and religious fabrics.
  • San Polo – The Rialto Bridge – The original bridge was made of barges in 1172 and replaced by a bridge with wooden columns which was destroyed in 1310. A new wooden bridge was built in 1444 which had shops on it.  The final stone version that we see today was built in 1588-91.
  • The House of Carlo Goldoni – In 1952 became the Institute of Theatrical Studies. The Correr Museum Library is also housed here containing theatrical works. There is a beautiful courtyard with open staircase and the façade with pointed arch, faces the canal and can be seen from the bridge.
  • Scuola Grande di San Rocco – This beautiful white marble building was a school in 1489 which also helped the poor and protected artistic items. It sadly fell into decline when the Marine Republic ended.  In 1806 it reopened for religious services with the help of donations from concerned citizens.  Bible illustrations by Tintoretto, Tiziano, Tiepolo and Giorgione can be observed here.
  • San Marco -Palazzo Ducale was the duke’s palace dating back to the 9th The Porta della Carta, the grand entrance, dates back to the 15th century.  It was named so because proclamations issued by the Republic were posted here.  The rooms of the palace are a treasure trove of frescoes in golden wooden frames showing the history of the Republic by grand artists such as Tieopolo, Tiziano, Veronese, Bassano and Palma il Giovane.
  • The Procuratie and the Napoleonic Wing are located on St. Mark’s Square on the right and left sides. The well known Café Florian and Café Quadri can be found under the porticoes as well as the beautiful Venetian jewelry shops of Nardi and Missaglia.  There are galleries above the fifty arches. The Napoleonic Wing contains the Correr Museum collection.
  • The Torre dell’Orologio – Clock Tower is on the side of the Old Procuratie. Atop the tower is a terrace with a large bell and two bronze statues called the ‘Mori’ beneath which is the clock with its gold and blue enamel face.  It shows the time, lunar phases and zodiac signs.
  • Scala Contarini or ‘del Bovolo’ built in the 17th century is located near Campo San Bortolo. This unusual structure has a spiral staircase in the shape of a snail which is ‘bovolo’ in the Venetian dialect.  The steps wind up the Palazzo Contarini façade resulting in a splendidly charming view of Venetian rooftops.
  • Cannaregio – Ca’ d’Oro or Golden House contains the Franchetti Gallery and is an excellent example of Venetian Gothic architecture dating back to the beginning of the 15th In 1927 the palace became a museum boasting works of art by Tiziano and Tintoretto as well as some
  • Dorsoduro – Ca’ Rezzonico overlooks the Grand Canal and now houses the Eighteenth Century Museum of Venice. The magnificent entrance hall leads to the large staircase on the ground floor. Robert Browning, the renowned English poet bought the building and last private owner was the Baron Hirschel de Minerby. In 1925 the City Council turned it into a museum.

Of course there are also many churches to be admired or you can take a day trip to one of the lagoon islands.  Murano is famous for its glass making and you can watch it being blown there.  Burano is known for its painted houses.

There are walks around the city, gondola rides – with or without gondoliers serenading you as you glide under the Bridge of Sighs. You can also obtain tourist cards which reduce entrance fees to museums and galleries for the under 30’s or over 65 year olds.

The best time to visit Venice

If you wish to escape the hordes of tourists, the best time to visit Venice would be in the winter in December. Hotels are much cheaper as well as air fares. It can get cold but is a truly magical experience wandering the quiet streets where you can feel connected to the past.  Make sure you wrap up warmly.

January/February is carnival time and next year is 23rd January – 9th February.  The city is crowded, colourful and lively but of course accommodation is well booked in advance and expensive. Jazz festival begins from January to April.

March/April is still pretty cold and quiet apart from the Easter break which gets very crowded and is better avoided.  25th April is the Feast of St. Mark a mass is held in the Basilica, wives and girlfriends receive red rose buds and there is a gondola regatta.

May is a lovely month, sunny but not too hot, ideal for sightseeing, exploring the islands and Venice is seen at its best.

In June the weather starts to heat up, the city isn’t yet too busy and it should be warm enough to visit the Lido for a swim.  Jazz festival begins from June until August.  Venice has its Art Biennale every odd-numbered year from now until November, with various openings and previews.

July is hot and with the school holidays, Venice begins to really fill up.  There is the Festa del Redentore on the third Sunday of the month which is an enjoyable spectacle as St. Mark’s basin is lit up by fireworks. Tradition says that this day celebrates the end of the plague in 1577.  There is also gondola race.

August is the busiest and hottest month when the locals take off.  Even some shops and restaurants close around the 15th August, which is the Ferragosto holiday (Assumption Day).  There is music, dance, food and fireworks.

The Venice Film Festival begins at the end of August until beginning of September when locals return to the city.  The weather can be changeable but it is a good time to visit as it is quieter than August.

October can bring some flooding and warm clothing is needed as the evenings get pretty cold.  It is opera season at the famous La Fenice, worth a visit even if you aren’t an opera fan.

November is the beginning of winter and time to warm up with a rich hot chocolate in one of the cafes.  The Art Biennale ends (odd-numbered years).  Music and theatre seasons begin and 21st November is the Festival of the Salute.  A temporary bridge is erected over the Grand Canal to the Salute Church for a special mass.