The other half and I decided to take some time off, and went to Venice for 4 days, mobiles off, no computers, and no work. I was a bit uncertain about it when the idea was mooted because aside from it being old and wet, I'd no idea what to expect.
So, if you're thinking about going to Venice for a long weekend, here's the skinny on our trip and things to see and do.
Flights were cheap; Stanstead to Treviso (1hr45) cost Â£88.00 return for the two of us. You then have to get a coach from Treviso to Venice itself, which stops once to let more folk on board - this costs 8 euros (Â£6.00) per person and is a return ticket valid for what appeared to be a month. The coach trip takes about another hour or so and drops you right into Venice at the last place vehicles are allowed.
Hotels are expensive generally and don't believe their star rating system. Many are so called 4 star, but given what I know about how these stars are earned (24hr bar, concierge, room service etc) I don't believe they mean anything outside Venice itself. Our hotel was a 2 star job on the island of Lido which is reached by boat; a 20 minute journey by double decker bus (6 euro (Â£4.60) return per person to Lido from Per San Marco, the big ass main square) or 15 minutes by single decker - same price - or 45 euros (Â£34 for 2 people) by taxi; James Bond-a-like hugely powerful boats which will do the journey in 5 minutes.
Our hotel, booked through expedia was clean and simple - TV (Italian TV is fucking atrocious so don't even bother), ensuite bathroom (excellent water pressure and loads of hot water), and clean and simple. Â£33.00 a night (for both of us) including taxes and VAT, but no breakfast or anything; as a place to lay your head, it was excellent.
So that was getting there and crash space sorted; we slept for a few hours and hit Venice.
The experience was massively underwhelming. Bearing in mind we went in January, the weather was freezing (much colder than London) and a ridiculous fog bank sits over the city until about noon/1pm most days. 30ft visibility, and the taxis/buses don't slow down at all. It's at once quite the most awesome and scary thing I've done in a while!
The transport system is first class, with timetables for public transport stuck to like glue. Don't expect to find the bus there +20 seconds after it's claimed to have left, it will have gone bang on time. Talking of transport there are of course the gondoliers everywhere - these are hugely expensive tourist traps, and at 80 euros (Â£61) for 2 people for a 30 minute trip, it's just not worth it.
Venice is we discovered a summer city. Nothing is open except bars, hotels and shops selling carnival masks and glass trinkets. It means therefore that our time was spent walking (putting in at least 5 miles a day) and exploring, and of course going to a lot of cafes and restaurants; a coffee will set you back 4-6 euros (roughly Â£3.50) and beer about 7 euros (Â£5.30) a pint. Spirits are in the order of 5-8 euros a shot (Â£4.20), but they don't measure per se, and more often than not you'll walk off with a quad JD & coke.
Food is expensive too; a meal for two, with two courses and wine cost 117 euros (Â£90) and they usually throw in a cover charge of approx 3 euros (Â£2.30) per person *in addition* to a service charge of between 10 and 15%. It should be pointed out that whilst the food is great - seafood lovers will adore the eateries - it's not huge portions and I must confess we ended up in McDonalds a couple of times.
Exploring Venice leads you over all sorts of tiny alleys and bridges; whilst Venetians bustle past (don't dawdle and always stick to the right, the locals walk like locomotives) in huge Russian style furs. It's steeped in history obviously, and it's extremely pretty, but it's really targeted at the older (45+) generation since there is nothing to do in terms of clubbing, loudness, or entertainment outside of the Carnivale / summer season.
However that said, it was 4 days away from the UK with my fella and it rocked; just don't go there expecting to be continuously serenaded by genuine Venetian folk unless it's high summer - and here's another important bit of info; the whole city practically shuts down at 10.30pm; nightlife just doesn't exist when it's not 38 degrees C.
Pros: Staggering history, great food, and yes romantic! Cons: Pricey and activity limited out of season - absolutely not the place to take kids, as you walk everywhere.