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Venice is Neptune's portico risen from the deep...but for how long?

Venezia, La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, city of canals and palaces...or tawdry sewer alive with crowds and charlatans? Venice's nature is dual: water and land, long history and doubtful future, airy delicacy and dim melancholy. If this precious place does sink, the world will be the poorer.

For a thousand years the city was one of the most enduring mercantile sea powers on the face of the earth. Today the brilliance and influence have long since faded, leaving a town of tarnished glories, out of time and out of place, so achingly beautiful it's hard not to look for the back of the set.


Summer is probably the worst time of year to be in Venice - average daytime temperatures hover around 27°C (81°F) but can go considerably higher. High humidity also makes for rather sticky weather, and the combination of heat haze with air pollution makes it highly unlikely you'll be able to espy the Alps from any point in the city. Prevailing winds (the sirocco) are from the south and hot.

In spring the weather is often crisp and clear and the temperatures pleasant. That said, quite a lot of rain falls in May and into June. In July and August the humidity can bring cracking storms in the evening. The first half of winter sees heavy rainfall, with flooding most likely in November and December. On bad days, the city and lagoon are enveloped in mist (which some find enchanting), but every now and then you get lucky and the sky clears. January and February are the coldest months, with average temperatures hovering between 0°C (32°F) and 7°C (44°F). Because of its position on the lagoon, snow is a rarity.

A Top Day in Venice

The day begins with obligatory coffee and croissants on Campo Santa Maria Formosa. In anticipation of a day's walking, I give myself time to digest while watching the comings and goings on the square. Fed and watered, I wander over in the direction of Rialto, stopping at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to remind myself that even a Post Office in Venice is palatial. Ignoring the uninspiring shops on Rialto Bridge I walk up the outside steps, taking a moment to watch the traffic on the Grand Canal, and over into Rialto Market. Even if I'm not buying, the fresh produce stalls and the splendid fish market are an insight into the Venetian way of life - watching customers lug heavy bags I wonder if they ever wish the city had room for cars.

All that culture's made me thirsty and my watch is chiming ' spritz o'clock' (Italian white wine and soda with Campari or Aperol), so I head to Campo Santa Margarita for a glass of the Venetian aperitif with Aperol rather than Campari (too bitter for my sweet tooth). Kids are playing football, young Venetian studs are checking out glamorous-looking girls and families are meeting up on this lively square. Dinner is a real treat and I make my way to Zattere to get the vaporetto over to Giudecca and Cip's, the Hotel Cipriani's less formal restaurant.

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