Venice is steeped in history and thriving with tourists throughout the year but to avoid the mass crowd and the heat – as well as the smell, it would be worth visiting Venice in the cooler months. Visiting in November will mean there are less people, cooler temperatures (down to 4°C at night and up to 11°C during the day) with some fog and rain but a good opportunity to stock up on some original Christmas presents for family and friends!
While shopping through the cobbled streets of Venice, you might experience some flooding which is prone to happen about 2 months of the year from October to early January. It is no surprising that there is flooding considering there are 117 bodies of land that make up Venice across the city’s six sections along with 400 bridges and 150 canals – with Grand Canal passing through the centre of the city.
Famous in Venice is the Venetian glass and more so the Murano glass from the island of the same name. Murano is located just off of Venice and has been famous for glass making since the 10th century. Today among the artisan stores in Venice you can find a wide range of beautiful colourful glass. These are made into decorative plates, paper weights, earrings, photo frames, clocks – the originality of each piece makes them perfect both as a souvenir and as a present for Christmas.
Also unique to Venice are carnival masks, marbled paper and lace. Other ideas for presents include the hats similar to what the gondaliers wear as well as the touristy Venice logos on T-shirts and sweaters.
If you live in Europe you can take back some fantastic Venetian food specialities. Although the seafood will not travel, polenta, rice and Italian chocolate will!
With poorer weather means less people walking through the streets and in the museums. It may also be cheaper to rent one of the short term rental apartments in Venice. Some great places to start exploring include Saint Mark’s Square or as the Italians call it; Piazza San Marco. It is named after the Basilica San Marco which is located at the east end of the square consecrated in 832 AD. Piazza San Marco is the main square in Venice with lovely cafes and shops enclosing the area. When flooded, it makes an interesting photo as the square fills up with water and both pigeons and visitors have to walk to man-made boards to cross the square. In the evening here, you can listen to live music – weather permitting.
Remaining on Piazza San Marco is Doge’s Palace or in Italian; Palazzo Ducale. During the rainy showers it is worth exploring this building which, until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, housed the government. The infamous “Bridge of Sighs” still connects the palace to what was its prisons. Palazzo Ducale has been a museum since 1923 and is seen as one of the top museums in Venice with its amazing and elaborate architecture as well as famous paintings by the likes of Titian and Tintoretto.
It is well worth travelling along or next to the Grand Canal (Canal Grande in Italian) with its river lined with boats and streets of interesting and beautiful buildings. The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is the main bridge that crosses the Canal Grande and is located in centre of the city. At over 400 years old it is a magnificent piece of architecture. Even when it’s raining, it’s a beautiful area and to stock up on local produce and souvenirs you can pop to the Rialto Market nearby. The market is actually older than the bridge and is famous for its fish and produce. Surrounding the market is a selection of restaurants – well worth stopping at if you want to taste the local Venetian cuisine!!
With so much to see in Venice, you will need at least 3-4 days in the city. Going in winter will mean you spend less time queuing and more time enjoy seeing the sights and shopping for your Christmas presents!