I wasn’t sure that this trip was entirely feasible, I mean 48 hours in a place as beautiful and magical as Venice, how was it going to feel anything other than having your candy floss snatched at the fair just as you go to take your first bite? But it’s January, and we have plugged all our money into the house for so long that we’ve forgotten to take a holiday for a few years, so we decided to beat the January blues and impetuously booked a short city break to Venice. We packed the Wallpaper guide and not much else, letting our noses guide us down the winding roads. I had some vague plans, things I’d seen on the recent Nigella series, narrow passageways so beautifully evoked in classic novels and ghost stories, even the Brideshead trip to the Lido, but nothing prepared me for just how utterly seductive this city is. I should say that we married in Italy and have been on many holidays here but somehow never quite got to Venice, I’m so glad we finally did.In fact it turns out 48 hours is perfectly feasible, don’t get me wrong I could have stayed for months, but when you go out of season you have the city virtually to yourselves and I suspect you get a better feel of the place and it’s inhabitants now than you would over a week in the summer.
I am utterly in love with dreamlike quality of Venice, permanently drenched in ice cream hues, it is intoxicating. Venice makes it almost impossible not to fall into cliche and be described as decaying splendour and faded beauty thanks to its sinking ornate and grand structure. Like a city in which all the buildings are cut out paper silhouettes, so delicate and other worldly they are, this combined with the fine clouds of mist make Venice a truly special to spend a weekend wandering and immersing yourself in the surroundings.
From the water palaces and slip alleys that end in water to the architectural detail of ornate ironmongery on doors and marble structures, your eyes are constantly finding something new to pause and take in before being persuaded by something else out of the corner of your eye.
This may be a slightly contrary design highlight when surrounded by so much Renaissance and rococo beauty, but the modernist built Venice Santa Lucia train station has total wow factor for me. You can see the main image above, it is joined to this beautiful plaster pink building (image also above) The putty tones, the 1950’s Palm Springs lines from the era it was built in, down to the piano on the concourse open to all passersby to make use of, you can’t fail to be charmed by Santa Lucia Station.
Visiting the city out of season allows you to take it in in the way that it is lived as you encounter a higher ratio of residents than visitors. We had Piazza San Marco to ourselves at dawn, just us, the street cleaners and a few pigeons. The elderly local I helped with his bags just about made my year when he called me a principessa in thanks, I can think of no other place to be named a princess (not that I have necessarily given this a lot of thought) but if pushed I may just choose this beautiful, beautiful city as my kingdom!
Venetian architecture has something very organic about it, built on a grand scale each intricate structure has sympathy with the next, the buildings, despite their grandeur, are very settled, lived in, there’s a feeling of real life and comfort about its passageways and vistas.
The Rialto market is an absolute must see experience in Venice, it made me wish we were staying in an apartment so that I could justify buying some of the beautiful exotic fish laid out like pearls, all iridescence and opalescence on the stalls that they have been thrown upon like jewels.
I have no idea what these cartoon like fish (above, top) are, other than a guess that they were caught from Mars, just amazing.
And the vegetables are almost as incredible and extraordinary as the plethora of fish, the radicchio (above) shaped like miniature octopus’s are a true wonder of nature.
If going to Venice out of season, you absolutely must take tea at Florian. We found it in the Wallpaper guide and it is the very definition of glamour. In Paris there is Laudree, in London the garish Ritz (my vote always goes to the newer but somehow more authentically old world charm of The Wolseley) in Venice this little establishment some 400 years old is just my kind of old school charm. The Florian, although very old, was principally designed in its current style during the mid nineteenth century. It is not an interior I could live in (unless made princess of this kingdom of course!) but for the atmosphere of its opulence it is a delightful way to while away breakfast time in the arms of its refined splendour.
Venezia – beautiful, intricate, magical, nearly lost, intimate and glorious, an absolute gem of a city break.