After the New Year revellers have swept up the ticker tape and left the Piazza St Marco. Before the carnival goers arrive in their masked grandeur. Late January is the perfect time to visit Venice for those who are happy to endure cold temperatures in favour of escaping throngs of tourists.
We enjoyed instant access to the eternally fascinating Palazzo Ducale – a legendary Venetian monument, its walls ooze with historical significance. To top it all, this special place was unspoilt by queuing hoards.
We were able to take our pick of tables at Cafe Florian. Established in 1720, it is one of the oldest cafes in the world and we had time and space to absorb its grand decor.
We could walk peacefully amongst art works within Venice’s famed museums. In the Academia, it was easy to examine up close the perfect folds on a skirt in a Bellini painting. At the Peggy Guggenheim collection, we could we could appreciate the elegant simplicity of an Alexander Calder mobile from all angles.
Most importantly, our apartment was a great price due to our off season jaunt. Booked through AirBnB and in the Cannaregio district, the accommodation was typically Venetian and beautiful. In a one thousand year old building, it featured furniture and doors hand-painted with Italian landscapes, plush marble bathrooms and quaint balconies overlooking sleepy canals. It was well located for exploring Venice’s must see enclaves and yet still felt ‘off the beaten track’ due to its position away from signposted tourist routes between St Mark’s and the Rialto. Moreover, we received a warm welcome and helpful tips for our stay from the apartment’s owner, Alice.
Just around the corner from our apartment, the Antico Gatoleto Ristorante provided an enticing mix of Venetian specialities, such as Cuttlefish and Liver, and reliable Italian favourites, like gnocchi in four cheese sauce. It was as equally frequented by locals, as it was by visitors from afar – popularity with the harshest critics is always a good sign. Again, thanks to our low season cunning, it was unnecessary to wait for a table.
I’ve referred in this blog before to shopping on holiday, as being a means by which one can absorb the local culture. In Venice, I worked hard to acquire knowledge through boutiques. Often, I prefer to explore as many buying options I can before delving into my budget abroad. However, on our first day I was lured into MaxMara by their ingenious ‘Cube’ collections. The idea of personalising their jewel coloured parkas with my own combination of accessories was all too enticing. I was particularly drawn to a beautiful green taffeta piece to which one could add feathered cuffs. Yet, I was pulled towards the beautiful store’s upper floor by an iconic shade of beige. Upstairs, I became surrounded by MaxMara’s signature camel coats in numerous styles, to suit various tastes and satisfy many ages. Instantly, I was drawn to a belted, sleeveless jacket. With a pure silk lining and in a wool and cashmere blend, it was a masterpiece in camel that I couldn’t resist. This was especially because the delightfully attentive sales associate, Chiara, showed me the endless styling possibilities of the piece. Never before have I felt so taken care of, but not fussed over, in a boutique. Chiara made my time in MaxMara memorable and satisfying, which is important when you are about to be parting with a far from insignificant amount. In a truly excellent sales pitch, I learned so much about belt and scarf tying techniques that day too. I am now also the proud owner of a large, square leopard MaxMara print scarf, which is testimony to this.
By the time our final full day of sightseeing arrived, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, having only succumbed to the sartorial delights of MaxMara. However, after viewing the moving and captivating sculpture and tombs in the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frai, we found ourselves winding along the Calle Vallaresso in the fading light and stumbled across Venice’s new Celine store. Unusually (and perhaps this was another pleasantry due to our off-peak visiting) the boutique seemed to have every style and colourway of the brand’s elegant accessories in stock. In most Celine retailers in most major cities, one virtually has to fight just to sniff their iconic pieces. It therefore seemed right to enjoy handling and examining the merchandise. Early last year, I had been tempted by a leather and suede orange ‘Trapeze’ but the time was wrong. Now, in a tranquil setting and being given champagne in honour of a potential first purchase, the time was right. I decided to take the ‘Trapeze’ in a colbolt blue – practical, yet eye-catching. It is a bag that doesn’t shout, but whispers to those who know. Furthermore, it is one of my favourite pieces of contemporary design in my possession – not only because of its prestige, but because it is representative of a memory. Every time I use my Celine, in addition to sighing with satisfaction at my fashion kudos, I’ll remember a happy holiday freely exploring Venice with my parents.
More Venetian highlights:
Venetian Look Book (or a closer look at the vintage costume jewellery I wore):
Day One – Evening
Day Three – Evening