There’s no question that Venice is one of the most stunning, wonderful and unique cities anywhere on the planet. The fantastic brew of imposing Palladian palaces lining canals sprinkled with gondolas that flirt with the crowds of tourists that throng the streets, winding alleys and vast, imposing squares of La Serenissima, is only part of the charm of this amazing sea city.
Venice is irresistible gelato, café concerto orchestras swinging lushly through Strauss waltzes in the sweltering heat of summertime Piazza San Marco, and swarms of fattened pigeons looming against a flaring purple twilight, as dusk steals across the waters of ancient Guidecca. A million sights, sounds and sensations, all wrapped up in impossibly beautiful- and often painfully overcrowded- surroundings.
And, of course, most people are inevitably drawn to this magnificent melting pot in the long, warm summer months. Add into the mix the regular arrival of several cruise ships, disgorging literally thousands of day visitors into the scheme of things, and you begin to understand why exploring Venice in the summer can sometimes be as much of a trial as a treat.
There is one, potential way to circumvent all this; have you ever thought of visiting Venice in the winter?
For sure, the city will be a lot colder, and at times perhaps even freezing. But consider the vast, serene stance of this amazing sea city, dusted with a fresh blanket of powder white snow, and you begin to comprehend the possibility of something truly magical.
Imagine the vast, magnificent expanse of Piazza San Marco, bathed in the glow of lights shimmering on early evening snow, as bells toll over the great square. Perhaps see a stately, mysterious fog swirling like so many agitated wraiths around the Campanile, the famous bell tower, or the ice encrusted prows of rows of petrified gondolas as they sit stiffly at attention, crying out for the warm sun to thaw them out.
February is also the month of Carnevale (literal translation; goodbye to meat) when the entire city takes on a kind of quasi ethereal feel, and the shades of Casanova and Machiavelli lurk among the winding alleys and cafes thronged by hordes of masked revellers. For those who associate the carnival season with warmer, sunnier climes, the chic, chilly Venetian equivalent would prove to be a truly intriguing contrast, indeed.
So yes, Venice will be cold during winter, and often foggy, too. But the great city out of season is not one bit less magnificent. And, in many ways, she can be even more alluring.
Crowds will be much thinner, so getting ‘up close and personal’ to your must see list of Venetian masterpieces will be a whole lot easier, and infinitely more rewarding. Shorn of her heaving, summer time hugger mugger, Venice is an amazing, medieval theme park, shrouded in bridal white, that still fills your sights and senses with wonders on an epic, ageless scale.
Needless to say, you can always do some of the famous, touristy things right through the winter. You can still enjoy a Bellini in Harry’s Bar, where the legendary cocktail was invented, or take a motor boat across the lagoon to the famous glass making island of Murano. Again, odds are that you can do it in considerably more peace and quiet- a side of Venice that many people simply never get to see, feel, or breathe. And yet, for at least four months each year, this is the reality of life in the city.
Winter reveals the city’s treasures in a different, colder, and yet kinder frame of light. When watery sunshine spills out across the misty surface of the lagoon, the play of light on water can be nothing short of bewitching.
Gradually, yet inevitably, the sun begins to climb higher in the sky. Cafes begin to open out cautiously on the waterfront; the sagging, sodden covers come off gondolas long shrouded against the long winter months. Slowly but surely, La Serenissima blinks herself awake from her mellow winter slumber, and steels herself for the returning throngs that the lighter days and nights will soon bring.
Venice is, and always has been, a city for all seasons. And, like any city, there are pros and cons for visiting at any time of year. The purpose of this blog is to hopefully make you aware that winter, too, offers some wonderful possibilities in this most beguiling of cities. Enjoy!