I happen to believe that every couple should experience the unique wonder of Venice, Italy at least once – and, ideally, at least once every few years. This amazingly ancient city never gets old for me, perhaps because I always avoid visiting during summer tourist season, when both the heat and the crowds are unbearable. There’s no reason not to plan a trip here in winter, spring, or fall – okay, so the weather can sometimes be unpredictable (it’s typically very cold and damp in December and January, yet I have seen it hit the high 70s in early March), but that’s part of the fun. In fact, here are 10 reasons why Venice beckons now through April.
1. You’ll get more for your euro. Venice is an expensive city, so it helps that off-season airfare and hotel rates are discounted by one-third or more (except during the annual Carnevale in February). For example, flights from December to March dip to as low as $670 roundtrip (from an average of $1,000 in summer), while a Superior Room at the luxurious, Philippe Starck-designed Palazzina Grassi (shown at right; courtesy of Design Hotels) drops to $369/night from January–March versus $572/night in June and a King Hilton Deluxe Room at the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice averages just $236/night from January–March versus $389/night in June.
2. You’ll avoid weekend day-trippers. There’s nothing worse than waking on a sunny Saturday morning, heading out to explore, and being practically run over by a tidal wave of Italians converging on the city by train and bus. From November to March you’re more apt to avoid the weekend frenzy.
3. You’ll spend less time in line. A lot of folks try to cram into Venice’s top attractions – Basilica San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, the Campanile – so you’re practically guaranteed a wait in line during high and shoulder seasons. Off-season, especially midweek, you may be able to breeze right in – and enjoy an uncluttered view from atop the Campanile (shown at left).
4. You can say you saw the acgua alta. Visit in spring and fall, during the city’s most dramatic high tides, and witness the waters of the lagoon splash ashore, causing flooding in low-lying areas such as Piazza San Marco. Wooden boardwalks are temporarily erected and Venetians go about everyday life. If you enjoy an adventure, join them – just pack a good pair of galoshes.
5. You’ll be mesmerized by mist. In winter, a dense fog often descends upon the city overnight from the Adriatic Sea, creating early morning photo ops of the city’s beloved landmarks and bobbing gondolas bathed in white mist.
6. You can partake in the Carnevale. Those iconic, painted, and bejeweled Venetian masks are not just in store windows during this 10-day midwinter party (in 2011, the dates are Feb. 26–Mar. 8; www.carnevale.venezia.it). Masks are integral to the celebration, worn to legendarily lavish nighttime costume balls. Daytime antics include a roster of entertainers that turns Piazza San Marco into the alfresco equivalent of a Cirque du Soleil tent.
7. You’ll feel more like a local than a tourist. When Venice’s narrow streets are so crowded you feel like a salmon swimming upstream, it’s hard to imagine why people would ever want to live here. But when temperatures cool and the cruise ship hordes disappear, its residents reclaim the city. You’ll enjoy watching them go about their daily business – at the market, at church, in cafes – as you go about yours.
8. You can snap amazing images. In winter, you are less apt to get a tour guide’s waving flag or umbrella in your photo and you may actually be able to take a picture of Piazza San Marco totally empty (except for the pigeons). Plus, snow and mist make for some dramatic snaps.
9. You’re sure to snuggle during your gondola ride. Dress warmly and bring along a thermos of hot chocolate or a bottle of red wine as you explore the city’s hushed canals (shown at left) to its serene off-season soundtrack: the frosty slosh of sea water and the warm notes of your gondolier’s serenade.
10. You’ll discover Venice is as beautiful inside as it is outside. When the weather is wonderful, you want to wander Venice from dawn to well after dusk – there’s so much beauty on display 24/7. But when it’s damp and chilly, you are more apt to head inside, ducking into quiet churches (almost all offer something worth seeing), tiny enotecas (wine bars filled with lively locals and tasty sips and bites) and off-the-beaten-path museums (the city has almost two dozen) that you might otherwise overlook.
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