Venice Off-Season
PASSPORT Magazine|October 2017

One can try to describe Venice, but honestly it deserves to be experienced in person to be understood, to be felt, and to be appreciated.

Arthur Wooten
The city itself is a living, breathing, historical phenomenon. Every time I travel there I have to blink several times to make sure I’m not on a Hollywood movie set. I’ve experienced this floating city made up of 118 islands during all times of the year, but by far my favorite is October through April, the offseason. Why would you consider fall, winter, or early spring in Venice? It’s less crowded, less expensive, less lines for museums and events, less heat, and no mosquitoes! It’s also much easier to get restaurant reservations and tickets to shows and recitals.

My love affair with Venice off-season wasn’t intentional, it happened quite accidentally. I made several trips in the fall and winter traveling to Venice, with my friend Bud, to do research for a new novel I am writing, Acqua Alta. The title in Italian means “high water” and refers to the annual flooding of the city that occurs commonly between September and February. I was hoping there would be an aqua alta while I visited, but that’s like going to Iceland and hoping to see the Northern Lights. It doesn’t always happen. And if it didn’t, that was okay, because I also wanted to explore the city to scout out locations that would appear in the book.

When I fly into Marco Polo Airport I hire a water taxi to get to wherever I’m staying. You can certainly ride the vaporetto, which is Venice’s water bus. It’s inexpensive, but they can be very crowded, and with luggage it can actually be quite anxiety producing. Usually, overnight flights from the United States arrive during Venice’s morning rush hour. So I spend a little more money and hire a "shared" or a “private” water taxi online through Venice Link.

When you touch down at the airport there is a person waiting for you, and they’ll walk you to your boat. Note: As of 2017, the entrance to the new “moving walkways” that whisk you to the water taxis is on the second floor of the airport. Prior to this, it was a long walk along a pathway downstairs next to the parking lot.

Entering Venice via water taxi is so exciting and the boats are the beautiful wood-paneled type you see in the movies. Think The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. Actually, don't. It's a terrible film. The movie you should watch is Summertime with Katharine Hepburn.

Directed by David Lean in 1955, the story is a bit silly, but everything is shot on location and Venice still looks gloriously the same today.

On the first of these off-season trips, I had packed for cold, dampdays and nights, but to my surprise it was warm and sunny.Happy for the beautiful weather, I was a bit worried that we may not have an acqua alta this particular season. Bud and I booked a room at the Hotel Bucintoro located along the San Marco Water Basin. Bucintoros were the elaborate barges that would carry the Doges along the waterways, and appropriately the theme of the hotel was ship-like.

This four-star hotel is beautiful and I highly recommend it, but the subsequent trips I’ve made to Venice since that one, I’ve stayed in rental apartments. I don’t think I could go back to the hotels now.

I have used Airbnb and Home away. The reason I mention both is that I fell in love with an apartment online on one of the sites, and I checked and found the exact same home during the same time period for less on the other site! So do your homework, it could pay off. My trips to Venice are usually seven or more days long, so renting an apartment can cost dramatically less than booking a hotel room. Yes, hotels have concierges who can answer any questions, suggest local restaurants, and supply you with extra towels if need be, but so have all of the homeowners that I have rented from. Plus, these apartments are often located deep in the residential areas, which give you a sense of being a part of the community, but you’re still close to the tourist attractions. Two times my homes had amazing terraces, three bedrooms, and two baths and were still less expensive than a hotel.

If you’re a foodie and wine lover like I am, I suggest you experience Urban Adventures Cicchetti and Wine Tour. On average, you visit five different taverns, each offering food and wine. If this is your first time to Venice, do this toward the beginning of your trip. It offers you a great understanding of how and what to order at these taverns that the locals enjoy, which otherwise can be very intimidating. Plus you can revisit on your own the cantinas that you really liked on the tour.

We met up with Francesca Marucci, our tour guide, and eight other people, some all the way from Australia. She was smart, charming, and entertaining, and took us to five different Bacari wine bars serving excellent red and white wines and melt-in-your-mouth cicchetti: Italy's version of tapas.

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