Venice in Winter
To avoid crowds and enjoy Venice at its best, put on your jacket and visit during the city's relatively mild winter months.
Travelers who hate crowds, take heed: The most pleasant time for a trip to Venice is in the , when tour groups are mostly absent and daytrippers are at home.
Just look at these official visitor statistics for a typical year:
You can see that the number of visitors in the quietest month (January) was less than 38 percent of the visitor count during the busiest month (July). For the five-month period from November through March, visitor traffic was about about one-third of tourist visits from May through September.
The contrast is even more extreme if you study the numbers for foreign tourists alone. In January, there were about 337,000 foreign tourists; in July, there were 1,065,000. In other words, there were only 31.6 percent as many foreign visitors in January as there were in July.
We suggest coming any time from November through March except for holiday periods (e.g., Christmas through New Year's or Easter) and Carnival, unless you're willing to endure crowds and pay a premium for your hotel or vacation apartment.
January is especially nice, once you get past New Year's Day. Very few tourists are in town, and you can enjoy Venice as it was before the era of mass tourism.
If you're a native of Phoenix or Bangkok, you may find Venice too chilly for comfort during winter, but if you come from a more northerly climate, you may be pleasantly surprised. Even in January, Cheryl is quite warm in a wool coat (such as a Loden coat), and Durant is comfortable in a shell parka with a fleece sweater underneath.
Snow occurs now and then (see photos of a March snowstorm below), but rain and the occasional fog are seen more often than snowflakes. Fun fact: January, February, and March have less precipitation than July, August, and September do.
Acqua alta, or tidal flooding, is a uniquely Venetian phenomenon that you might encounter between November and April, although it can occur at any time of the year. It affects low-lying areas of the city, especially around the the Piazza San Marco, but the flooding recedes with the tide.
Fifteen or 20 years ago, it wasn't uncommon for hotels and other tourist businesses to shut down in late December or early January. That still happens occasionally, but for the most part, anything that's open in summer is likely to be open in winter, except for outdoor restaurant terraces. Often, you can even sit at outdoor café tables in good weather.
To learn more about Venice in winter, see the photos below:
Winter photos: January-February
Venice's Christmas lights are often left up until well into the new year. These lights are just beyond the Rialto Bridge (where the couple is standing), on the San Marco side of the Grand Canal.
The winter may be mild in Venice, but from November through March, no self-respecting Venetian dog would be seen without a coat or sweater.
The Frito-Inn is on the Campo San Leonardo, along the main route from Venice's railroad station to the Piazza San Marco. Even in January and February, it attracts locals and visitors who are happy to eat its fish, pommes frites, and other fried goodies outdoors.
In Venice, there's no off-season for gelato.
The citrus tree in the top photo was on display outside a shop in January, while the flowers below were on the pavement in February. (This may be intriguing if you're from Moscow or Minneapolis but old hat if you live in a warmer clime.)
Acqua alta, or temporary flooding caused by higher-than-normal tides and winds blowing up the Adriatic, is most common between October and April, although it can occur in low-lying areas such as the Piazza San Marco at any time of the year. It lasts a few hours and recedes with the tide.
here.The dog in the upper photo is our late Maggie, a Bearded Collie who loved Venice in the winter. You can read her "Maggie in Venice" blog
Venice does get snow from time to time, but the local seagulls take it in stride.
The Lido di Venezia's beaches are quiet in January and February, but they do attract locals (especially joggers) and intrepid visitors even in the dead of winter.
Maggie goes for a winter walk past the Spirito Santo vaporetto stop with the co-publisher of Venice for Visitors and later enjoys a snuggle with schoolgirls in the Campiello Albrizzi (San Polo).
On foggy days, it can be hard to see. Ships and even the local water buses rely on radar to avoid collisions. (Both of these photos were taken on the Zattere, the pedestrian promenade alongside Venice's Giudecca Canal.)
Some hotels, B&Bs, and other businesses close in late December and early January, but gondoliers ply their trade year-round.
Venice is surprisingly close to the Italian Alps, but at sea level, temperatures are mild enough for water fountains to flow without freezing even in January and February. (That's convenient for Venice's many pigeons, who enjoy the free--and excellent--drinking water.)
At the Rialto Markets, the fish is fresh (not frozen) in the semi-open air.
Winter photos: Carnival
If you're tempted to visit during Carnival, book a hotel room far in advance, and be prepared for crowds (especially in the Piazza San Marco area, and on weekends).
Carnival participants often spend thousands of euros on their costumes. Many are from France (which may be a reason why they seldom speak but communicate through mime-like gestures).
The performers are proud of their costumes and are usually willing to stop and pose for photographers. If you're a cute dog like Maggie, a child, or a fetching adult, they may even ask you to pose with them.
Speaking of children, the most devoted Carnevale participants bring their kids and fit them out in costumes.
Children in Venice's neighborhoods also get into the Carnival mood, even though the city's modern Carnevale is primarily a tourist event. (Carnival had nearly died out until promoters resuscitated it in the 1970s.)
If the crowds around the Piazza San Marco are too much for you, you might prefer alternative events such as the "Flight of the Rat" (a play on the Carnival's signature "Flight of the Angel" opening act).
These photos were taken along the Cannaregio Canal, where the audience consisted mostly of Venetians.
In this photo from Saturday festivities in the Campo Santa Margherita, university students pose with their homemade interpretations of Carnival costumes.
Will Brexit deter the UK's Carnival fans from colonizing Venice?
On the Internet, nobody knows you're a cat.
Frittelle may be the nicest aspect of Carnevale, at least to those of who prefer fritters to crowds. These fried (and frequently filled) doughnuts are a traditional Carnival food, and they're often available from mid- or late January until just after Lent.
Winter photos: March
As in many other cities, March can be a transitional month in Venice. During the winter when these photos were taken, the city's biggest snowfall came in March.
In the Campo Santa Margherita, locals who normally contended with acqua alta trudged through snow instead of canal water.
Other residents and tourists used umbrellas to fend off the falling snow.
City workers shoveled snow and scattered salt on Venice's bridges and pavements.
After the snow stopped, this boat owner knocked the snow from his gunwales before setting out on his daily rounds.
Rain is a more common form of precipitation than snow in Venice, although it occurs an average of only 6.6 days in March.
As the month progresses, the days get warmer and spring feels imminent.
Gondolas are out in force, barge owners switch from jackets to vests or shirtsleeves, and pilots of water taxis open their roofs so passengers can enjoy the views and fresh air.
As Easter approaches, supermarkets feature colored eggs in their display cases, and candy shops gear up for Pasqua.
Copyright © 1996-2021 Durant & Cheryl Imboden.