Luxury Venice

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Venice is a magic place. Rising out of the misty waters, Venice is a mythic kingdom, unlike any other. Once you're there, it is easy to daydream yourself back to the time when it all came about, to picture the  frantic desperation than drove its founders to  annex what was little more than a marshy swamp, daring their attackers to come after them and risk a watery defeat.

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In such a watery city, what surprises many people is how much walking there is to do. I imagined I would be in a boat all day, but you can walk for hours and hours through tiny back streets and lanes, and always, always there is another arched bridge over yet another canal, so in a day of sightseeing you also climb hundreds of steps.

And this is the best way. Off the main trail, in the areas where the locals live and eat, you will find superb, inexpensive restaurants and shops. Here the menus feature more rice than pasta, plus the freshest seafood from the lagoon. One day I enjoyed a simple dish of huge scampi that stretched across my plate like crusty pink kebabs.

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But wherever you go there are gondolas too, hundreds of them, and the gondoliers really do wear jaunty straw hats with bright bands, but most keep silent and don't sing, as they stand and pole their way through the city. At least ours didn't. We kept waiting for him to clip his head as we passed under some of the lower bridges, but I guess he had done it all a thousand times and he just bent enough sideways to miss them by a whisker. Luckily a following gondolier had a cassette player with Santa Lucia booming out on it, so we tapped into some of their mood.

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Yet not all Venice is gleaming and perfect. Any gondola or vaporetto (waterbus) ride through the canals puts you at eye-level with crumbling stucco and rotting woodwork. The houses, knee-deep in water are painted in fading pinks and yellows and a brightly striped mooring post might be the only remaining indicator that this was once a proud palazzo. The conditions are not easy on buildings here, and many show the stresses of time.

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Everyone knows about Venetian glass, and yet to find the best you need to catch a boat for a ten-minute ride to the nearby island of Murano. Here you can watch an artisan twirl a molten glob into a handkerchief shaped bowl, thin as toffee. Then you can wander through expansive showrooms crammed with the most delicate and avant garde items. Watch your step though as these knick-knacks are not cheap. Film stars and royalty shop here, many ordering one-of-a-kind sets, with massive pricetags, and most of us could not afford to replace even the smallest knick-nack.

And if you want to arrive in luxurious style, then of course you must travel to Venice via the Venice-Simplon Orient Express from London.

SUGGESTION FOR A PLACE TO EAT

Many frequent travellers to Venice recommend Ristorante Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin is the best fish restaurant in Venice.

L'Alcova Restaurant on the Grand Canal, Ca' Sagredo Hotel e Palazzo, Ca' D'Oro.

 

SUGGESTION FOR A PLACE TO STAY

Hotel Daniele, near San Marco Piazza.

Ca'Sagredo Hotel and Palazzo, overlooking the Grand Canal at Ca' D'Oro.

 

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