Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Venice

Claire and family enjoying their Venice explorations Claire and family enjoying their Venice explorations © Claire Richardson

Claire Richardson, Picture Editor for Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, recently returned from a trip to Venice, Italy.

Tell us more… My family and I were in Venice celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday. It was my first time visiting in over 10 years and there was so much to see and rediscover. As it was a short weekend break, we decided to stay centrally in the San Marco district, in-between two of its most famous sites – the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco.

In a nutshell… Venice is a remarkable city, built on over 100 small islands within a lagoon in the Adriatic sea, in the north-eastern corner of Italy. There are no roads, only waterways and people have to get around on foot or by boat. You may have seen Venice a thousand times on a postcard, but the warren of streets, canals and marble facades never ceases to surprise you.

Looking through the columns of the Piazza towards St Mark's Basilica and the Campanile Looking through the columns of the piazza towards St Mark's Basilica and the Campanile © Claire Richardson

You’d be a muppet to miss… The stunning Piazza San Marco. It’s worth getting there early to soak up the sights before the crowds show up. There’s nothing quite like walking between the piazza columns, and gazing upon the domes of St Mark's Basilica for the first, or the hundredth time; the gold leaf glinting in the sunlight and the Campanile towering above you, where Galileo once stood peering through his telescope. If you’re there in the evening, the piazza fills with classical melodies as musicians take to the floor.

If you do one thing… Get lost! I know it’s a cliché but it really is the best way to explore Venice. It’s a maze of tight alleys and small bridges leading you back and forth over canals as gondolas glide beneath. I loved slowly meandering along the narrow passageways, browsing in shop windows. You can get wonderfully disorientated, but look up and helpful Venetians have put up various signs directing you to either the Rialto or Piazza San Marco – so you're never truly lost.

The front of a gondola facing the Rialto Bridge Let go of any 'tourist cliche' worries and enjoy your gondola ride through the canals © Claire Richardson

Fave activity… One of the highlights of our trip was taking a sunset gondola ride. It may seem like a very touristy thing to do, but it gives you a wonderful perspective of the city from the water that you can't get from walking. Venice really starts to make sense as you bob slowly along the canals, following watery routes traders and their goods have navigated for generations.

We floated under the magnificent Rialto Bridge whilst taking in the sights of the Grand Canal before heading into the warren of narrow waterways. The Gondoliers will regale you with the history of Venice and facts about their gondolas as you drift along – you may even be treated to a song or two!

Good grub? I went on a mission in search of cicchetti, traditional Venetian tapas while I was in Venice. I'd read about these tasty small snacks that locals tend to have mid-morning or in the early evening with a glass of local wine. They cost between €1- €2.50 each and are served throughout the day at traditional bacari (wine bars). Common examples are polpette (Italian meatballs) and baccalà (creamed cod) on bite-size crostini.

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