When to Go
Travellers looking for elbow room for sketching in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, casual conversation with Venetians and spontaneous weekend dinners without reservations would be better off going in Venice’s quieter months of October through March. But even solitary types will find that some Venetian experiences are better in a crowd: happy hours, thunderous encores at La Fenice, and the chorus of ‘ooh!’ as crowds pass through the portals of Basilica di San Marco to glimpse shimmering gold mosaic domes overhead. For a balance of quiet moments and collective euphoria, stay at least overnight in Venice, so you can see what the city is like after the crowd thins out and the moon rises, and in the morning when the town throws back an espresso and starts the show all over again.
You’ll probably pay a premium for the privilege of being in town for masquerade balls during Carnevale, gala art openings for the Biennale, or star-studded premieres at the Venice International Film Festival. But this city has been internationally famed (and notorious) for its party-throwing prowess since the 16th century, and you can see why at any of the city’s major shindigs.
Since Venice is gorgeous inside and out, bad weather doesn’t have to scuttle your travel plans. The only thing more splendid than your first glimpse of Venice may be the sight of Venice reflected in a puddle – or on very rare occasions, Venice’s Gothic arches and gondola prows poking through a white blanket of snow. Bone-chilling weather in January and February can bring crystalline blue skies ideal for photo ops and gooey hot cocoa in Piazza San Marco. The heaviest rains fall from December through March, but you might luck into a freak summer thunderstorm – after you see lightning strikes over the lagoon, you’ll have a whole new appreciation of Tintoretto brushstrokes and the thunderous summer movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. July and August tend to be hot and muggy, but if you get uncomfortable, make like a Venetian on vacation and escape to Lido beaches or the Riviera Brenta.
Festivals & Events
Three rules for revellers are posted in major vaporetto stops: no littering in the canals, no defacing historic buildings, and no strutting about bare-breasted. The fact that Venice feels obliged to post that last regulation shows that opportunities for, erm, self-expression don’t begin and end with Carnevale.
Whether you like to spend your downtime getting arty, sweaty, mystical, or all of the above, Venice has you covered with Biennales, marathons, and weddings to the sea. The busiest months for traditional festivities are May through September; find out more about many of Venice’s upcoming events at Cultura & Spettacolo (www.culturaspettacolovenezia.it, in Italian). Fair warning: this town seems determined to see you dunked. Many festivals entail crossing makeshift pontoon bridges or rowing while standing up, and boozing canalside has obvious risks.