The introduction of flights from Emirates to Venice has brought this city closer to the Middle East with a convenient five-and-a-half hour flight, short enough for a long-weekend break to be practical.
First and business class passengers can also avail themselves of a complementary private boat taxi into the centre of Venice – an exciting way to arrive in any city – or anybody else can pay $150 for the privilege. Alternatively the regular ferry service will ensure a relatively speedy arrival, although not in the same style or with the same door-to-door baggage service.
Venice has some admirable old five-star hotels like the Cipriani and Danieli. But this correspondent decided on a different approach, and searched on the Internet for a newly refurbished smaller luxury hotel, finding the Ca San Vio situated near to the famous Academia art gallery.
The refurbishment was finished this February, and the rooms decked out in silk wall-linings and matching fabrics, and locally made chandeliers. Bathrooms are also in pristine condition and although small include a bidet; and the beds are large and comfortable.
The quietness of this hotel – in a back passage off a canal – was a wonderful surprise in a bustling city like Venice. The breakfasts in bed perfect for a city break, and the staff extremely helpful.
Above all, Venice is a city for promenading and looking at the architecture around you. You wonder across small bridges over canals, and each turning is another picture postcard and another small square.
The sites are very crowded indeed, and none more so than the central St Mark’s Square with its onion-topped cathedral. Here you will pay a lot for a drink but it is worth it for the experience of what one observer described as ‘Europe’s finest drawing room’.
However, today your fellow guests will not be European aristocracy on a Grand Tour but more likely bus-loads of mainland Chinese, Americans, Japanese and just about any kind of tourist you can imagine.
Head for the designer fashion shops just off the St Mark’s Square for shopping as good as anywhere in Europe, but if you want to hire a Gondola for a romantic cruise around the canals try finding a location away from this terrible scrum, piled high with tourists.
That would also be a good recommendation to follow when it comes to restaurants. For example, the pedestrian walkway facing on to the Canale della Giudecca has some beautiful romantic restaurants with a full view of this large canal, particularly lovely at sunset. Huge cruise ships will plough past as you tuck into your pasta and gaze across the blue water to the island opposite.
Art lovers should certainly not miss the Accademia with its treasure trove of Venetian art, from Titian to Tintoretto and Veronese, giving a fascinating insight into the past glory of this medieval city state.