One of the world’s great romantic destinations, Venice, attracts over 22 million visitors a year to its network of 118 islands. That’s in addition to the thousands of people who live there all year round, spending each day walking on the same piazzas and cobbled streets that Titian and Canaletto once passed through. The original Renaissance city is a proud and imposing monument to high art, both ancient and modern, that will enchant and beguile you in equal measure.
Venice is renowned for its spectacular art and architecture. If you’re only in the city for a short time, visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia and Cà Rezzonico. These palazzi house comprehensive collections of 18th century masterpieces, providing excellent introductions to the city’s treasures. Buildings like the Basilica di San Marco and the Doge’s Palace may already be familiar by name, but it’s well worth journeying to see them in all their stone, gold and bejewelled glory.
As a leading Italian city, you’ll find all the expected designer boutiques in Le Mercerie, between the Ponte di Rialto and Piazza di San Marco. At the Calle Larga XXII Marzo the crowds are thinner but all the names remain, from Louis Vuitton and Bulgari to Versace and Chanel.
The Venice Film Festival is held every September on Lida Island, attracting elite figures from international production houses and independent studios alike. Gorgeous Murano glass is still traditionally produced on the island that bears its name, with some studios accepting commissions. In the evenings, Di Fiore and Hotel Cipriani’s Fortuny are two of the city’s most celebrated restaurants for fine dining. The latter can only be reached by private boat ride, making it ideal for a romantic treat.
Contemporary art lovers should ensure that their visit falls during the Venice Biennale, held every other year. Primarily an outdoor event, centred around the Giardini park and the Arsenale shipyard, the Biennale provokes passionate responses from critics, but never disappoints its devoted clientele.
In a city with few cars, walking is the primary mode of transport – but you can’t visit Venice without getting out on the water. Traditional gondolas are beautifully romantic for days spent exploring, but if you’re actually going somewhere you may prefer to follow the locals onto scheduled water taxis called vaporetti.
Of the city’s six districts, known as sestieri, central San Marco is the most exclusive. Its attractive historic buildings and proximity to major sights have made it particularly popular with international second-home buyers, with property values correspondingly high. Neighbouring Cannaregio doesn’t feature on as many postcards, but it is quieter and more spacious while still within easy distance of the centre. Castello is affluent, green, and close to all the main sights. Across the Grand Canal, San Polo is where most of Venice’s old markets still operate, while Santa Croce is a tranquil district popular with retirees. The largest sestiere is Dorsoduro, a major boat-mooring hub that’s known as the artists’ retreat of Venice, making it popular with creative types and bohemians.
For more information on Venetian property or to start searching for your own, just visit the Engel & Völkers Venice website.