Although there are days when tourists outnumber locals by two to one, Venice never loses its capacity to enchant. Summer brings some of the most daunting crowds, but there’s a reason why they come: the sheer loveliness of an exquisite city that seems miraculously built on water. It’s important to remember that, even at peak visitor times, you are never more than a bridge and an alley away from a more secluded city, full of secret campi (squares), handsome Gothic palazzi and lively neighbourhood wine bars. In any season, Venice’s churches and museums offer antique glories aplenty, but there is also a vibrant contemporary art scene, even away from the Art Biennale.
As summer draws on, the place gets quieter: maybe the thought of clouds or mosquitoes and odorous canals deters visitors in August. It shouldn’t: Venice shimmering in its summer haze like the most ‘impressionist’ work by Tintoretto is a sight to behold…the heat, humidity and some slightly pungent backwaters are a small price to pay.
At summer’s end, the Venice Film Festival turns the sleepy Lido into a mini Hollywood: in 2015 the festival runs from September 2-12.
Venice is a unique, magical place 365 days a year. But much of the time you’ll be sharing that magic with thousands of other visitors. Numbers peak in summer, despite the heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitoes. Spring and autumn are much more pleasant months. I especially like late autumn (mid-October to mid-November) when, if you’re lucky with the weather, it can still be warm enough to eat outside. But my favourite season of all is winter, a time of misty vistas when tourists are few and far between, rooms are cheap and the city is reclaimed by Venetians.
An exception is Carnevale, in the two weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday (Feb/Mar), which brings in hordes of revellers and sends accommodation prices through the roof. Other regular annual events include the June-November Art Biennale (odd years) and Architecture Biennale (even years), the Film Festival (10 days end of August to early September) and local festivities like the Festa del Redentore on the third weekend in July, when the city and lagoon are lit up by fireworks.