It is hard to believe that anywhere could compare with Venice for a three to four day holiday combining culture, mystery and sunshine.
Venice has almost anything you could wish for from a holiday, although it is a little short on golf courses and ski slopes.
A friend recommended coming in from the airport on a boat across the lagoon rather than by bus and that proved to be a fantastic introduction to the city, skirting around its shores and giving something of a feel for the geography of the place, which is tiny in any event.
Once in Venice, the only modes of transport are boats and feet. From a sightseeing perspective, the Number 1 water bus is hard to beat and costs about £70 less than your own personal gondola. It travels right along the Grand Canal providing magnificent and unusual views of many of the largest attractions. It comes as a surprise when British landlubbers discover that many of the entrances were originally on the water side of buildings rather than through the streets.
One of the biggest surprises and delights of the city is the ability to wander round tiny little alleys getting an impression of what things must have been like centuries ago, often getting lost or coming to dead ends where the only possibilities are to turn around or go for a swim. While this is a pleasure, it also means that one should allow about twice the time for any journey, as even with a good map it is very easy to get lost and find yourself somewhere fascinating.
For those that love art, almost every tiny church seems to house an old master, with many of the more famous covered from wall to wall and even the ceilings with works by the likes of Carpaccio, Tintoretto and Veronese.
If you prefer your artwork more structured then the Doge’s Palace, which also features scary prison cells is a must, as is the Accademia, which happens to be located right by one of the ubiquitous bridges, which has the best view in town – straight out of Canaletto.
The Doge’s Palace is located in the famous St Mark's Square next to the basilica, a gigantic cathedral that will take the breath away before you even get inside, which will require some queueing.
Modern art is also available at the Peggy Guggenheim and on this visit, the Punta Della Dogana just along the Grand Canal, which was sharing an awesome Damien Hirst exhibition, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable with the Palazzo Grassi.
While there aren’t too many pop concerts in town, Vivaldi seems to be available on tap, while a trip to La Fenice, the relatively recently refurbished opera house that has been going since the mid-18th century is a pleasure, with good quality productions in a relatively intimate atmosphere. It is also worth a visit to see the clock embedded in the ceiling, which is a first for this reviewer.
It would be possible to extol the virtues of this sumptuous city for pages and pages, Jan Morris did so in what may well be the definitive travel guide, but this should at least provide a taste of a location where the temperatures in May are in the mid-20s/mid 70s, a flight from Britain cost around £100 if not less and accommodation is reasonable in city terms, particularly if you go the Airbnb route rather than staying in a hotel.
If anyone wants a tip for a two-bedroom flat in a quiet location, 10 minutes’ walk from the hubbub, do contact me.