VENICE -- I have been fortunate to spend six full days in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It didn't happen all at once; it was usually before or after a cruise. And some cruise lines are now making that less expensive by overnighting in Venice at the start or end of a cruise. That's one less hotel night in a place where hotel rooms are far from cheap.
I spent all the required time at St. Mark's Square and related iconic venues, like the Rialto Bridge. And I toured all the must-see places including the requisite vaporetto or public water bus trip up and down the Grand Canal.
However, if you have an extra day, a good idea is to leave the crowds behind and go to the Dorsoduro neighbourhood or sestiere, where many Venetians live, where students flourish, and where most of the shops and restaurants are filled with locals.
This is the unflashy part of Venice.
It's not difficult to find. You walk from Piazza San Marco to the Accademia Bridge and almost as soon as you pass over the bridge you're at the Gallerie dell'Accademia -- a one-stop shop for Venetian art. The galleries in this museum certainly make up one of the most complete collections of Venetian paintings available in one location. To appreciate it all takes several hours.
Once you leave the area around the Grand Canal, it's similar to any normal neighbourhood. The shopkeepers are friendlier and take time to make your visit to their area enjoyable.
To get started, not far away from the Accademia Bridge is the central square Campo Santa Margherita, a huge area of conviviality with many wonderful places to drink, eat and people-watch. Advice is offered freely.
However, my day there was a lonely one, with schools closed and Italians on holidays. This massive Campo was laid out before me and I counted maybe 100 people from where I was sitting at an outside bar ... and I was the only customer. I felt the Campo was mine, all mine.
It was time to shop. I wanted to buy some Murano pendants for the girls in my family. They are all different, so how do you choose?
The young store owner came to my rescue asking their ages, shape of their faces and colour of hair. With that information he picked out four (Fast forward: The recipients each were happy with their gifts and, of course, I took full credit).
Then it was time to move on to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of Europe's best modern art museums, located on the Grand Canal.
From there I wound my way down small canals looking for whatever came my way -- including the shop where they make gondolas (with not a soul around), a local gardener selling produce from a boat in the canal, and a myriad of small coffee houses and restaurants where prices were very un-Venice.
From there I headed to The Zattere, a wide waterfront promenade which runs the length of the south side of Dorsoduro along Giudecca Canal. Here, locals come to sit, enjoy food and drink, and look over at Giudecca Island. Perfect.
However, next time I'll come back when those locals are not on holidays.
It's fitting to feature a cruise with an overnight in Venice. This one is a seven-day tour Celebrity Cruises tour departing June 14, 2014. The tour includes Venice; Dubrovnik in Croatia; Corfu, Katakolon and Santorini in Greece; then on to Ephesus and Istanbul in Turkey -- all on board the Celebrity Equinox.
Starting price for a suite is $3,199 Cdn. See an experienced travel agent for more information.
-- Postmedia News