I’ve bought into the scaremongering about giving Venice a miss during Agosto for twenty years. Now here I am on a family trip through Italy with two children who’ve never seen it and a husband I haven’t been with since we had our very first holiday here. Missing out on Venice during our trip from Treviso to San Marino was not an option.
In all honesty, the Venice decision was hugely enhanced by a stay at the BHR Treviso Hotel
. It’s been a long time since I stayed at a Best Western, but despite a long and deep acquaintance with Italy, I’d never seen the town of Treviso and the hotel looked like a useful bolthole. The rooms are absolutely huge and really smart, with walk-in dressing rooms and immense separate showers and baths.
As I’m toiling training for the Great North Run
, the stunning fitness centre was also very welcome. Slightly annoyingly, though, the Turkish bath and Jacuzzi weren’t working. Why is the Turkish bath never
working in so many places? Genuine question. These annoyances were forgiven when I spotted an entire fridge full of free mineral water, and a sensory shower complete with “tropical rainforest” and “snow mist” settings. The grind of the treadmill was alleviated by the lovely views of the Veneto afforded from the sixth floor windows. I liked the fact that the gym wasn’t staffed too: there were just piles of fluffy towels everywhere and no-room-key access.
Maybe it was an August thing, but the staff headcount seemed wonderfully low in general, with no-one grabbing our luggage, hassling us away from breakfast or hovering for turndowns. Our only frequent staff interaction was with the fabulous Mauro at the front desk. Full of humour and energy, he ensured that our journey into Venice was a dream, as well as seamlessly sorting lots of other things out for us (including Booking.com’s usual sly amnesia about us booking a quadruple room, not one double bed and floorspace). Shout out to the brilliant German-themed restaurant Helmut
in Treviso too - sensational gourmet burgers and witty design features.
As I’ve always done, we got the train into Santa Lucia
, which was busy but not as crazy as you might imagine. Driving anywhere near Venice in August sounds nightmarish, and then you have to work out what to do next anyway, obviously, so it was good to find that the train was do-able and not painfully cramped. The Intercity to Trieste we picked up on the way back was even better – super fast and half-empty.
In general, the crowds weren’t as unbearable as we’d feared. There were some rubbish management issues...
Granted, the Rialto Bridge with a pushchair was a bit tight and toasty.
We wandered straight into the inspiring Manet exhibition
in Piazza San Marco, though. Given the queues snaking miles away for the Palazzo Ducale, the Manet
is a smart way to get inside the same buildings and admire them from a different angle, once your vision has stopped blurring from the eye-watering cost of admission.
The Manet has been put together with real intelligence and we had most of the rooms to ourselves, a huge privilege after the exasperating crush I’ve experienced on every London gallery or museum visit in the last three months.
Sure, Venice isn’t cheap but we still grabbed perfectly OK pizzas and ice creams for about the same as we’re paying anywhere else, with lovely view thrown in. The truth is, Italy has never been a cheap destination and even less so since the introduction of the Euro.
The €60 quoted to us for a short water taxi journey from San Marco to Museo Peggy Guggenheim
was absurd, so we eventually took a heaving commuter boat back to the station instead. The views were just as fabulous, although I was distracted by my sulk at not getting back to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
The bigger picture is that I’m so glad we braved it. I’m sure it’s infinitely more wonderful in April or early September but if you’re shackled by school holidays don’t be frightened off a summer visit. We’re planning at least one more trip back in to Murano and Torcello.
The children’s minds were blown by it and - sorry for the irritating cliché - it is a wonder of the world, one of those rare places, like New York, that accelerates your heart rate and lifts your spirits from the first glimpse of it on the horizon.