1. Enjoy surrealistic beauty at a leisurely pace
The city gets enveloped in a wintry fog that casts a dewy glow on people’s faces and gives the landscape a mysterious quality. As there are significantly fewer tourists, it is easier to explore the city’s highlights in its six districts, which are accessible on foot via bridges, or by river taxis on the lagoon. Walking time is reduced to one-fifth of the time it takes in peak tourist seasons, as estimated by the locals. On San Marco sestiere (the Venetian word for ‘district’), stroll to St Mark’s Square (below), the Doge’s Palace, and the original Harry’s Bar where the Bellini was invented. Cross over the Rialto Bridge where Italian goldsmiths ply their craft in centuries-old shops. This bridge connects you to San Polo, the smallest sestiere with some of the best restaurants, and watering-holes that serve cicchetti (Venetian tapas), such as salted cod on toast.
2. Sweetest seasonal seafood
According to Venetians, the best time to eat shellfish is in winter as the water is at its most pristine then. The frigid water also makes the seafood develop depth and sweetness in taste, as well as render the texture more tender. In the Rialto fish market in San Polo, you’ll find fish, prawns, squid, octopus, scallops and clams on ice – many are from the Venetian lagoon. To sample some of these seafood cooked, head to Osteria da Fiore, a one-Michelin-star restaurant and an institution in Venice as it has been around since 1978. The kitchen is helmed by chef Mara Martin who plans her menu for the day based on what the fishermen bring in every morning.
3. Music and opera season
Even when it is off-peak travel season in Venice, the opera, music and theatre scenes are in full swing. Though you can find these performances all year round at La Fenice, the city’s most famous opera house which opened in 1792, the most celebrated season is the Venetian Winter Festival which takes place from November to January every year. Special performances and exhibitions are held in many venues throughout the sestieres. Apparently, Russian composer (and said to be one of Coco Chanel’s lovers) Igor Stravinsky loved the city so much that he asked to be buried here when he died in 1971.
4. Accommodation at a third of peak period’s prices
Along the sidewalk facing the Grand Canal are some of Venice’s most famous and high-end hotels – the Bauer Palazzo, Belmond Hotel Cipriani and Hotel Metropole. Metropole is a restored 16th-century chapel where Vivaldi taught music to orphaned girls and composed many concertos, including The Four Seasons. While the interior of the buildings might have been transformed to one befitting a five-star establishment, the eclectic decor, ornately furnished rooms and centuries-old curios collection belonging to the Bellagiatos, the owners of the hotel, will transport one to a long-forgotten time in history. It’s easy to imagine Vivaldi composing his music in the very same building if you were to get a room with a canal view, and listen to the winter concerto of The Four Seasons. You’re more likely to fulfil this fantasy in winter – hotel rooms in Venice are known to cost only a third of what they would in summer.
5. Party at the Carnevale
If you need a lesson in letting your hair down at a party, visit Venice during Carnevale (Carnival) where people hide their wild antics under elaborate fancy costumes and painted masks. Many hotels and even some homes throw their doors open to everyone who is suitably dressed. Some parties even spill on to the streets where there are public festivities too. Join in the revelry during 2018’s Carnavale from January 27 to February 13.
– TEXT BY MAVIS TEO
PHOTOS: TEATRO LA FENICE FACEBOOK, HOTEL METROPOLE VENICE FACEBOOK, VENICE CARNIVAL FACEBOOK, 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.