The low season continues in January, perfect for visiting Venice and wandering its wonderful maze of calli and campi. The days are crystal-clear sunny and rain-free with sometimes a touch of chill courtesy of the North-Eastern Bora. Towards the last days of the month, the experience may even get magical when the city is blanketed in snow.
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Besides the leisurely roaming, museums and temporary exhibitions abound to fill your days. Prefer to remain outdoors? Venice hosts two exciting annual events.
Bravehearts and daredevils will love the opportunity to start the new year on a cool (pun intended) and invigorating swim with the ibernisti on New Year’s Day, while the less inclined can still have fun as spectators.
On the eve of 6th January, the Befana, usually depicted as an old ugly lady, flies over houses on her broomstick carrying gifts for children and marking the end of Christmastide. However, in Venice, she meets a dreadful end by being burned at the stake. Today, bonfires are forbidden in the city, and instead, a regatta takes its place: a cortege starts at 9.30 am in front of the Basilica della Salute and at 11 am, the regatta starts from Rialto. Catch the rowers dressed as old ladies and part of the ritual is their clothing before the procession.
If you can’t make it here in the first week of January, Venice has several smaller islands that are especially nice to visit during this time.
The first of these is San Lazzaro degli Armeni (vaporetto line 20 from San Zaccaria at 3.10 pm only) which has been home to Armenian monks since the early 18th century. A guided tour starts after the waterbus arrives.
Next is the close-by island of San Servolo (same ACTV line 20) which used to be the psychiatric hospital for men until the 1970s. Today, the buildings house various organizations including a museum of the “imprisoned insanity” (only two entrances a day, at 10.45 am and 2 pm from Monday to Friday).
Finally, Sacca Sessola, a man-made island created with the waste material from the construction of the new port. Most of the buildings were erected in the 1920s for the city sanatorium. The hospital shut in 1979 and after a period of decline, the island was granted to an American hotel corporation that carried out an accurate restoration. You can reach it with the devoted motorboat from San Marco and indulge in a relaxing day at the restaurant and the spa.
We recommend this island also to catch excellent sunset views. Other locations are Sacca Fisola, another artificial island attached to Giudecca, and Baia del Re, an area in Western Cannaregio. Even the chimney stacks of the factories in Porto Marghera will appear stunning in the light of the setting sun.