The weather is starting to warm up in two of Italy’s most popular cities: Venice and Florence, making these magical, historically- and culturally-rich destinations even more desirable to visit in the coming months. While spring and summer mean more sunny days and comfortable temperatures for tourists, it also means more visitors jamming the narrow streets and popular attractions. Don’t let the packs deter you from visiting all of the important sites, but check out these ideas of where to go and what to do to get away from the crowds:
Photo Credit: Alvise Nicoletti/Wikimedia Commons
The Quiet Side of Venice
Musica a Palazzo: Venice is the birthplace of so many musical greats, including Antonio Vivaldi. So no visit is complete without a trip to the opera; and Musica a Palazzo is not your ordinary opera experience. It’s held in a private palazzo (a.k.a. a grandiose home) overlooking the Grand Canal. Each performance is only open to 50-75 audience members, making for a very intimate experience and a true respite from the crowds outside. The audience follows performers from room to room (one space for each act), and have the chance to watch the show sitting in rows of pre-set chairs. Or, the more daring can sit on set furniture and immerse themselves in the action. The powerful voices of the performers and the accompanying quartet drown out every bit of outside noise, allowing visitors to fully disappear into the story and the music. Book before you go, as this unique way to experience opera has a tendency to fill up fast.
Water Taxi at Night: A gondola ride is a relaxing way to see Venice, and is a staple of most people’s visits. While it does manage to get you off the crowded streets, those narrow canals can quickly become the scenes of major traffic jams. Try taking a water taxi ride at night instead. The city quiets down in the evenings, and there are very few gondolas in the water. Plus, seeing Venice all lit up is unforgettable.
Photo Credit: Londra Palace
Eat at Do Leoni Ristorante: This restaurant, located in the Hotel Londra Palace, a stone’s throw from the overcrowded Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, offers a welcome respite from the crowds without being totally off-the-beaten path. Outdoor seating on the veranda guarantees a fabulous view with plenty of people-watching of those at the busy Riva Degli Schiavoni promenade and waterway. Being that the hotel is a Relais & Châteaux property, the food and cocktails do not disappoint.
The Quiet Side of Florence
Piazza Signoria at Night: This is one of Florence's most famous and picturesque squares, and because it’s so close to the Uffizi Gallery, during the day the crowds can become unbearable; robbing this piazza of its beauty. But at night, it's a seemingly different place that’s discreet and beautifully lit. A walk around the Loggia dei Lanzi on the corner of the piazza offers a view of a collection of statues you wouldn't be able to see up close and personal when the crowds swarm. The night guards are friendly and knowledgeable, so feel free to ask anything your heart desires.
Photo Credit: Dorothy Cascerceri
Ponte Santa Trinita: No visit to Florence is complete without seeing the famous Ponte Vecchio on the Arno River, walking the famous bridge and eyeing the many gold stores that occupy it. But it is one of the most touristy places in the city, and elbowing your way through mobs of people can become tiring. Instead, walk just a few minutes west along the river, and spend some time on another gorgeous bridge, the Ponte Santa Trinita. The Ponte Vecchio makes a fabulous backdrop for photos and can be captured even better from the Ponte Santa Trinita than from the bridge itself. If you come prepared there are plenty of places to sit for a picnic lunch or mid-afternoon bottle of vino.
Photo Credit: Relais Santa Croce
Relais Santa Croce: The Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the most breathtaking and historically-rich tourist attractions in all of Florence. Housing the tombs of both Michelangelo and Galileo, there’s generally a lengthy line to enter. After visiting the church, pop into the Relais Santa Croce, a luxury five-star hotel only one block away, where you can hear a pin drop. The Relais & Châteaux property, which is part of the Baglioni Hotel family, offers lunch and aperitivo (Italian happy hour complete with nibbles) in their Sala della Musica. The music room is a grandiose, picture-perfect sitting area with 20-foot high ceilings, candelabras, harps and the perfect setting to help you forget the hustle and bustle happening outside.