If you’re looking for the perfect way to kick off the fall season, a vacation in Venice, one of Italy’s richest cities both culturally and historically, is sure to hit the spot. Venice is world-famous, among many things, for its beautiful Gothic style architecture, ornate glass work, annual Carnival of Venice (for which participants don elaborate masks and costumes) and Grand Canal, the banks of which are lined with more than 150 centuries-old buildings. Home to some of the most famous composers the world has ever known – from Antonio Vivaldi to Giovanni Picchi – the city has been the setting for such renowned works of literature as Othello and movies including The Italian Job.
Set roughly 240 miles from Rome, it is home to St. Mark’s Basilica, which lies on Piazza San Marco; the Rialto Bridge, one of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal; and Ca’ Rezzonico, a public museum that boasts a vast collection of 18th century Venetian art. One of the city’s most alluring attributes is that it is uber-pedestrian friendly. Interestingly, vehicles are not permitted within the city of Venice, which is actually made up of a group of islands. Instead, people get around by foot or boat. While it may seem odd at first blush, the fact there are no cars, buses, or motorcycles on Venice’s narrow streets means more room to stroll around and take in the historic environs.
Among Venice’s architectural gems are its grand hotels, some of which are ideally set in the heart of the old city. Hotel Ateneo Venice, only minutes away from Piazza San Marco and La Fenice Theatre, couples the charm of a 17th century Venetian residence with a full spectrum of modern amenities. If you want to be far removed from the hustle and bustle of Venice, you can head to the centrally located Locanda La Corte Venice, whose courtyard makes the perfect setting for an early morning breakfast or an evening of wining and dining under the stars. And only a short walk from the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square is Casa Santa Maria Formosa, which delights travelers with its striking neo-gothic design, intimate rooms and sweeping canal views.
If getting up close with nature is high on your wish list, look no further than Best Western Villa Mabapa on the island of Lido. This elegant Art Nouveau style villa lies immersed in a lush garden laden with flowers and overlooks the Venetian Lagoon. A private beach, 18 hole golf course and scores of elegant shops are also just minutes away. (Art and film buffs will appreciate that the Venice Film Festival is held here every September.) Other noteworthy properties on the Lido include the Quattro Fontane Hotel – of which noted English poet Robert Browning was a frequent patron – and the budget-friendly Helvetia Hotel, which was originally built as a restaurant and tobacco shop in the 1920s.
Whether your idea of a perfect vacation includes communing with nature or soaking up art and history, Venice teems with great surprises around every corner.