It is a mark of how utterly splendid Venice is as a city that tourists continue to flock here during the winter months. However, it is also a source of exasperation for those who want to uncover the true nature of the floating metropolis. This is a feature for all those who have done the gondola rides; who have frequented Santa Maria della Salute and now avoid Piazza San Marco like the plague. In short, this is a feature for all the people who want to see the raw Venice – the face beneath the touristy mask. We don’t blame you as she is rather beautiful.
The positive points about the city are numerous, but one of the reasons for her immense popularity among British tourists is her proximity to the UK. Monarch Airlines offer reasonably priced flights that can have you at Marco Polo Airport in just two hours. So go ahead and book. Then you can get to know Venice properly by visiting the following.
Ghost tours are a great way of getting to know any city more intimately. Through an actor-driven experience, you learn their deepest and darkest secrets during an hour or two of wandering the streets (or in the case of Venice, her waterways). You’ll also come across a number of hidden architectural gems as, depending on the guide, you may be led to areas often missed by the madding crowd. There are numerous ghost walks about the city and prices vary.
Another rather macabre attraction, the Prigioni Vecchi, or old prisons, are hidden within an extensive complex that includes 18 cell blocks. Indicated by their Roman numerals, these ancient buildings once housed the worst of Venice’s criminals. While some of the artefacts on display are horribly fascinating, the most ominous of all are the very walls. Constructed out of Istrian stone and partially coated to resemble real coffins, it is a small insight into the psychological torture that went on here. The Prigioni Vecchi can be explored for 18 euros, but concessions are available for children.
One of the best kept secrets of Venice is its proximity to a surrounding group of islands. Certainly, a number of these are regularly overrun with tourists, but Burano and Torcello have maintained a sense of calm serenity and also have a number of worthwhile attractions. Visit their numerous basilicas or simply wander their ramshackle streets, taking in the multicoloured facades and picturesque canals.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked attractions in the whole city, the Accademia Gallery offers a monumental display of Baroque architecture. The extravagant permanent exhibition is reason enough to visit, but it is also worth checking out whatever temporary shows might be coming up. Work by Leonardo Da Vinci has been featured, as well as the influential painter Titian. In one way or another, such veritable geniuses helped to shape Venice into the gorgeous city that it is today – renowned for its art, architecture and culture. Visit the Accademia Gallery to check out their works.