If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my travels, it’s this:
Holidays should never be hard work!
It’s a mantra that’s served me well, and I repeat it whenever I need to solve a travel dilemma.
“Should I queue for 50 minutes to see this old church? No – because holidays should never be hard work.” Above all, my travel mantra gives me permission to luxuriate in the laziness that holidays should afford.
As you’ve probably guessed, must-see attractions and do-it-before-you-die activities aren’t my thing. I’d rather settle in a bar or a café and watch the world go by – which is kind of what I did in Venice.
Luckily for me, Venice is a place that rewards laziness.
That was particularly so when I was there last summer, because in the high season the heat and crowds make it damn distasteful to do anything at all.
Of course it would have been possible for me to stay at home and do nothing, too. But it was worth the trip, because I discovered that Venice in summer is the ideal setting for a languid afternoon. I can also report that it perfectly suits a slow morning, or an easy-going evening for that matter.
So, in case you ever find yourself in Venice in need of some decadent downtime, here are my tried-and-tested ways to wile away the hours:
The Water Cure
If there’s anything more restorative than staring into middle distance, it’s staring into middle distance over a view that involves water. Thankfully, that describes pretty much every view in Venice. Get canal-side, and let the day go lap lapping away.
The Lingering Lunch
Venice is heaven for the lazy traveller, because the day is easy to fritter away once you factor in one of those three-hour lunches that seem obscene anywhere else but which make perfect sense in Italy.
Breakfast late and lightly, like the locals – just nibble on some biscotti or a roll with your caffè e latte, and then relax into a morning bath followed by some leisurely preening ahead of lunch.
When hunger hits, stroll off in search of a restaurant – you won’t have to go far. But if you want to wring every drop of pleasure out of a slow summer lunch, I highly recommend getting a table in the pergola-covered garden of the Antica Locanda Montin in the Dorsoduro. There, as all over Venice, the midday meal is an unhurried affair.
Relax, chat and stretch out your courses well into the afternoon. When you’re all done, a nap will definitely be in order. And then you’ll have just the evening left to squander.
The After-Lunch Antidote
One day, when I was feeling faintly restless after one of those long Venice lunches, I hit upon this fool-proof formula to relieve itchy holiday feet: find a bar in a sleepy side-street as close to your hotel as possible, take two Bellinis (Venice’s own peach-purée-and-Prosecco cocktail), then get to your room for an afternoon lie-down.
Do this on day one of your holiday. It sets the tone.
The Museum Melt
As soon as I step into a gallery or museum, I’m overcome with lethargy. Now, I don’t mean that I feel a little sleepy. I mean I’m so tired that it’s almost impossible for me to go on.
I guarantee you that I’d feel weary to the bone even before I’d seen even one Titian in the Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice’s treasure trove. I can’t be sure, though, because I didn’t go. Nor did I visit the ‘unmissable’ Palazzo Ducale or the magnificent Museo Correr.
I did, however, make it to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – a museum that ideally suits my holiday frame of mind.
I loved the outpost of American high culture, for its peaceful, shady courtyard – the perfect place to kick back. Peggy’s old palazzo, which houses the Collection, is a light, breezy place with a restful view onto the Grand Canal.
What I saw of the Collection was pretty good too; it includes paintings by 20th-century favorites such as Klee, de Chirico, and Mondrian.
Plan for a quick pre-lunch visit, while you and the day are still fresh. There’s also a trattoria I like around the corner on Fondamenta de l’Ospedaleto.
The Nothing-Doing Night
Nothing special: that’s what I did every evening in Venice.
Nothing special is not so bad in Venice because it can involve sauntering off for gelato at Nico on the Zattere, or hanging around in the nearest piazza to watch people come and go.
My top tip for oozing into an idle Venice evening: Start early with a spritz. That’s Prosecco over ice with perhaps a splash of Campari, topped off with sparkling water. It’s cooling, not excessively alcoholic and it generates a mellow mood.