A destination for the culturally impoverished who are looking for a dose of Italian ethos, Venice is known for its gondolas and celebrated for its beauty.

There is something regal about arriving to a town by boat. Even by Venetian water-taxi, the experience of entering a floating city is heightened by being on the water. The adrenalin builds as the pool of blue ahead of you dissipates and you see the approaching red bricks. Entering through the mouth of one of the many canals, the ripened buildings greet you; they are adorned with arch windows and wooden turquoise shutters, and most of them draped with hanging clothes. You are encased by hovering vessels of every conceivable kind, and in that moment your childhood affection for boats is restored.

Home to Casanova, the 18th century womanizer, Venice is synonymous with stories of love, romance and idealism.

Nestled in the Venetian Lagoon, between the orifice of northern Italy’s Po and Piave Rivers and the Mediterranean Sea, is Venice: a city built on a cluster of over a hundred tiny islands, divided by canals and connected by bridges. The quintessence of beauty, this striking city has inspired the work of painters for centuries (including Guardi), and artists of today continue to flock here. Home to Casanova, the 18th century womanizer, Venice is synonymous with stories of love, romance and idealism.

I have been a charmed guest of Venice twice. At the risk of subjecting you to an advertorial on Topdeck’s intoxicated adventures throughout Europe – I will muse mostly on the second visit…

On my first morning in Venice, I wake at the Westin Europa & Regina to the stately sound of church bells. Curious to learn the maker of such a fluent sound, I find out the chimes are coming from a dome-shaped church on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. The exquisite Santa Maria della Salute is a Roman Catholic Church built in 1631, and was traditionally known as an offering of the city’s deliverance from a plague outbreak. It has since become a significant addition to the Venice skyline, and is often considered emblematic of the city.

What the Opera House is to Sydney, the Piazza San Marco is to Venice: you don’t visit without seeing it. Crowned by Napoleon as “The finest drawing room in Europe”, the square itself is full of 9th century history and enveloped in a rich tapestry of old buildings. Like many of its foreign counterparts, the square was spilling over with tourists (and pigeons) and had been ambushed by a plethora of harlequin masks; this said, it somehow manages to absorb the stir while retaining its poise. I particularly loved standing there and imagining what it had looked like in the 1700’s as merchants set up their daily stalls. An obvious pearl for this square is the centerpiece of the piazza, St. Mark’s Basilica. Commissioned in 1071, the church is one of the best-known examples of Byzantine architecture, with golden mosaics covering the walls, vaults and cupolas and all depicting stories from the Bible.

A visit to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride. It may sound cliché, but it’s the best way to see the city and will transport you through all the tricky parts of the Venetian Lagoons. For centuries, the gondola has carried passengers along Venice’s waterways, and while they were once the leading form of transportation, today they are generally used as sightseeing vessels for tourists. Believed to have originated in Venice around 1100, being a gondolier is considered a noble profession that has been passed down through generations; it’s a prestigious credential and only a limited number of licenses are issued, requiring a sound knowledge of the city, its history and its waterways. As I embarked upon my first ever gondala ride (with an incredibly good-looking Italian gondolier), my mind was transported back to a bygone era.

Best of Venice


/ Ca’sagredo Hotel

I was on a work event at the esteemed Ca’Sagredo Hotel, so I can bear witness with all certainty that this landmarked XV century palazzo takes Venetian opulence to esteemed new heights. The moment you step off the boat from the Grand Canal, it’s clear you are somewhere special. Named in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 “Gold List”, the faithfully converted residence is now a 42-room hotel, museum, and event space. Walk up the grand staircase, laden with red velvet carpet, and you will reach the wide gothic windows of the Portego, a huge high-beamed hall filled with sculptures, books, paintings and a piano. The sheer magnitude of its main Ballroom would swing toward the outer trajectory of the ‘grandiose’ pendulum. The walls and superbly tall ceilings are adorned in 18th century frescos and bronze chandeliers hang from the roof. The rooms are decadent and filled with works of art by Renaissance and Baroque masters. I urge you to experience L’Alcova, their utterly authentic restaurant that overlooks the canal; they serve fresh produce from land and sea and switch-out their menu every two weeks to share a range of seasonal Venetian specialties.  The food is delicious.

/ Where

Campo Santa Sofia, 4198/4199, Venezia

/ Phone

+39 041 241 3111

/ Online


/ Teatro La Fenice

I’m rarely happier than when I am at the theatre. I love having my senses pampered and disordered, from the exquisite sounds to the decedent sets or costumes. The Teatro La Fenice was designed in 1790, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that this theatre emerged as one of Europe’s leading contenders. Burned down by fires twice, the theatre as it now stands was rebuilt in 19th century style to recreate the plushy extravagance and ambience of the former structure, including lavish red seats, plentiful gold detailing and a prominent chandelier. From opera and orchestral works to ballet and dance, it has brought some of the most prominent composers including Stravinsky and Britten, Bussotti and Berio. As a side, the people watching is superlative – turn up early to catch the stylishly dressed Venetians as they arrive.

/ Where

La Fenice Opera House, Campo St Fantin, 1965 St Mark, 30124 Venezia

/ Phone

+39 041 786511

/ Online


/ Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest, and most famous, of the four bridges that span the ancient waterway Grand Canal. With an eclectic mix of Venetian-Byzantine architecture and Baroque-style buildings on either side of the passage, the Grand Canal is host to the majority of Venice’s boat traffic. As far as foot traffic goes, the Rialto Bridge is a gathering place for many of the 15 million tourists Venice greets every year. The current structure was built in 1591 and replaced the various wooden bridges that had spanned the space since the 12th century. If you can brave the crowds, the bridge itself is beautiful to visit and close-by to the Rialto markets which are fabulous. It is believed that Venetians have savored in the local vegetable, fruit and fish delicacies of the Rialto markets since the 11th century. The bona fide experience will deliver generous cultural commentary: Men unloading crates from barges; vendors eyeing their wares; chefs contemplating their daily supply of seafood; or old Italian delivery men pushing handcarts of fruit and vegetables. To see it in full throttle, arrive early – they usually start packing up at noon.