A Venetian New Year

By LIZ GRIFFITHS [email protected]

Liz Griffiths, 22, is a freelance journalist currently based in England. She has previously worked in the Algarve and hopes to return soon. Her main passions are fashion, travel and vinho verde!

People seem to feel the same about Venice as they do about Marmite… they either love it or hate it.

Well, maybe hate is too strong a word but before travelling to Venice I had many mixed reviews from people who had visited the quirky city.

“It stinks!” I was told by one. “It’s so crowded!” another told me. After spending quite a few pennies’ on my trip, this wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

Then I was enlightened by other friends who had fallen in love with the historic but supposedly sinking city.

The best way to travel is the Vaporetti (a water bus used to travel the Grand Canal). The Vaporetti in itself is a sightseeing tour from where you can take photos of the beautiful bridges including the famous Rialto Bridge and the smaller canals that lead to the eerie side streets and squares.  

We stayed near the Accademia Bridge, situated on the south bank of the Grand Canal. It is an excellent area to be as all the ‘touristy’ places are in easy reach. When booking your hotel, enquire if you can have a room overlooking a canal. It really will add to the excitement and enjoyment of your visit to such a visually stunning city.

We arrived in the evening and finding our hotel felt like a little mission – just make sure you have a really good map. We decided to venture out for a meal; there is no need to worry about finding a last minute restaurant.

There are many cosy little eateries offering everything from pizza to three course feasts. If on a budget, you will find pizza and pasta priced very reasonably, especially considering the size of the pizza!

The following morning we decided to venture to Saint Mark’s Square, where you are greeted by its most famous inhabitants – the pigeons that fly across the piazza. The area is buzzing with tourists taking photos of the famous Doge’s palace and the domes of the Basilica. Doge’s palace is now a fascinating museum which is definitely worth a visit as is the famous Campanile tower opposite which boasts the most incredible views over Venice. Don’t forget to experience the extravagance of the Basilica, Venice’s cathedral which is adjacent to Doge’s palace.  Your mouth will drop to the marble floor as you look up in awe at the golden mosaics on the ceiling. The attention to detail of the interior is truly overwhelming.  

My top tip has to be ‘comfortable shoes’. The best way to see Venice and all its meandering canals and bridges is by foot. Hours went by as we wandered through the small side streets, popping into bars for a coffee, visiting churches and watching couples taking gondola trips – Venice’s oldest form of transport. Be warned, a trip on a gondola can be very pricey but it is very romantic.

Heading back towards our hotel at the foot of the Accademia Bridge is the Accademia galleries which feature mainly pre-18th Century art. If you prefer something a little bit more modern, then just a little further down the Grand Canal is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection which is a must-see for any modern art lover. The collection includes Dali, Picasso and Pollock. The building is an unfinished 18th Century palazzo and remains a ground floor building which is unusual in Venice.

After many miserable New Year’s Eve celebrations in England (queuing up at a bar for hours for a drink and paying silly prices for a taxi home) my friend and I decided to do something different.

The restaurants were full of New Year revellers and many had special feasts which were very expensive but many restaurants still had normal menus on offer. After a meal fuelled with plenty of prosecco (a delicious Italian bubbly, a lot cheaper than champagne) we made our way on foot to Saint Mark’s Square. The atmosphere along the canals was electric as everyone headed there to celebrate.

The Italians celebrate New Year as a romantic event. This year they wanted to break a record and have a 70,000 strong kiss-a-thon. As everyone kissed their partners and friends at midnight while the big-band played on stage, snow fell from the sky. It was a phenomenal experience as the fireworks began to explode above Doge’s palace, one I shall never forget.