I think the secret is out. When I was in Venice last week two magazines published articles describing the wonders of visiting Venice in January. They are not wrong. The watery city which just about every other month of the year is crammed with long lines and people with selfie sticks is gloriously empty. If you are worried about the weather, don't. We had great weather. A moment of drizzle, with a side of Aqua Alta, evocative misty nights and a ridiculously sunny day. Wear comfortable winter boots and a warm coat and you will be just fine. Here are five things I recommend for a winter trip to Venice.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
San Polo, 3052
open every day
Don't be Afraid to Get Wet
On our first day in town the Aqua Alta sirens sounded and the water rose. Over where we were staying near Castello had a few patches of ankle deep water and the entire piazza San Marco was flooded. It was kind of amazing. We walked along the passarelle (elevated walkways) and watched the spectacle of tourists in hastily purchased waders (which are for sale everywhere and cost about 10 euro) jumping in the piazza and snapped 100's of pictures of our own. The Aqua Alta lasted for just a few hours, just long enough to be entertaining.
Piazza San Marco
I always tell people who are visiting Venice to have a drink in the Piazza San Marco. Yes it is expensive. Yes it is worth every cent. Now here is what might be the very best part of Venice in January. A drink in the Piazza San Marco is NOT expensive. The orchestra's are not playing, it is a little chilly to sit outside after dark so there are no added extra fees! The three of us sat inside the downstairs cozy room and nursed our Spritzes for a few hours and the bill was less than 50 euro.
Have a Late Lunch
San Marco 5424A
One thing to know about visiting Venice in winter is that some things will be closed. This few weeks after Christmas and before Carnival are pretty much the only time of the that Venetians can either take a vacation or do renovations. This year two of my favorite spots, Caffe Florian and Baccaro di Fiore were closed for renovations. I advise having a plan B to avoid a hungry search.
Rosticceria Bartolomeo is near the Rialto Bridge and it is always open. I just love the mid century diner vibe. There is a long counter filled with trays of Venetian comfort food; bacala mantecato, octopus and celery salad, grilled radicchio, scallops, fried seafood are just the start of what is served here. Just pint at what looks good and have the gruff server make you a plate. Locals love the mozzarella in carrozza (a fried mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich.)
Stay on an Island
Biennale Apartment - Isola San Pietro
Last summer when Noah and I were doing our death march of art at the Biennale we went to a subversive mini golf installation on the isola San Pietro at the far reaches of the Sestiere Castello. I fell in love with this quiet place. In November I dragged Mark out there and we walked every single street (there are less than 10) making a plan to spend a winter there some day. Fate intervened and I discovered that my best Venetian pal Monica has a pal who rents an apartment on the island.
If you really want to live like a Venetian, rent this apartment. You can shop from the market boat on the nearby via Garibaldi and cook dinner in the very well appointed kitchen. If you are traveling with bored tweens or teenagers, the internet is fast and there is Netflix. Trust me on this. After a long day of exploring Venice these two amenities are everything you need.