Travel: Venice

By Rob Virtue on January 23, 2013 3:03 PM |

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Where else in the world but Venice can you wade around in wellies with murky water tantalisingly close to your knees and yet still feel you're in a historic and magical town?

It's not unusual for the Italian island to suffer floods in autumn and, until a new dam is completed, it's likely to stay that way.

Just a couple of months ago the tide levels reached new highs with photos of locals bathing in Piazza San Marco after the sixth worst flooding in 150 years of records, with almost 70 per cent of the island under water.

But, despite what the TV may have you believe, this is extreme weather.

You're more likely to be transported into scenes perfectly immortalised in the final phase of James Bond's Casino Royale, where the troubled star and his then-love Vesper Lynd skip through beautifully sunlit backstreets in a land time forgot, before the latter meets her untimely death.

Incidentally, the drink Vesper, named after the double agent character, is sold in some of the many luxury bars on the island.

One to try or avoid, depending on whether you're attracted to the potent mix of gin, vodka and French aperitif wine Kina Lillet, served by a barman who can barely suppress a smile at yet another Englishman trying to be James Bond. It will certainly add some zing to your evening.

For those that haven't been, the town built on water is incredibly unique. It is devoid of cars and pretty much any grass, apart from the odd private courtyard you may get a glimpse of if you are lucky.

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The area is in fact 118 small islands separated by canals. Cute bridges link them and - such as the aptly named Bridge of Sighs - are the spots you stop and marvel at the enchanted views, imagining a alternative life where you look out of your window on to the water as a singing gondolier floats by.

We stayed at the Westin Europa and Regina Hotel in San Marco. From Venice Airport, which is serviced direct from London City, board a riverbus to the area.

Or, if you're feeling flush - as it will cost in excess of £100 - get in a water taxi and zip through the waves, pulling up right at the entrance.

The hotel is stunning with exceptional views and a pristine bar. The breakfasts are wonderful but if it's rainy season prepare to be theatrically moved by the attentive staff once or twice as the flood waters rise.

For walks head to the Piazza San Marco and take in the majestic St Mark's Basilica. Wander around the expensive shops and find a quiet bar for a glass of wine.

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For the perfect souvenir head to the Ca' Del Sol mask workshop where the flamboyant owner will take you through a limitless selection of handmade goods.

Overall there really much to do but walk through history and marvel at the scenery. The perfect lazy holiday in a unique environment.

Where we ate:

Antinoo Lounge at the Centurion Palace Hotel

Jump in a boat and head to this beautiful, white and minimalistic restaurant. Food is amazing. Try the melt in your mouth chocolate pudding.

Terrazza Danieli

Traditional restaurant within the luxury Danieli Hotel. Fantastic attention to detail from the plates to the equisite service. Take a seat up in the terrace during warm months.

Flights

British Airways launched flights to Venice from London City Airport in September last year. They fly five times a week on new aircraft Embraer E190SR. Flights are from £65 each way.

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