I challenge anyone who arrives in Venice not to be transfixed by their dramatic entry into a foregone world. No cars, just boats and water and stunningly and arrestingly beautiful buildings. All worldly concerns disappear as I take part on this historical stage, and it is always with a wistful heart that I depart.

Words: Adam Jacot, Photography: Courtesy Of The Aman Hotel And Shutterstock

I challenge anyone who arrives in Venice not to be transfixed by their dramatic entry into a foregone world. No cars, just boats and water and stunningly and arrestingly beautiful buildings. All worldly concerns disappear as I take part on this historical stage, and it is always with a wistful heart that I depart.

Words: Adam Jacot, Photography: Courtesy Of The Aman Hotel And Shutterstock

Four nights is a good length. Don’t try and take in everything, as you won’t manage. It’s very rich visually and there is always more to see. It’s a holiday for the eye as it incessantly spots what it can in a neck-straining panorama.

For my own enjoyment of Venice I need lots of room to sustain a true sensual experience. No crowds and ideally I need to combine the central sites with the outer reaches, to contrast the cramped passageways that often result in dead-ends with the wide and walkable expanse of the quaysides and their exposure to the sea. For it’s easy to get claustrophobic and so important to maintain a sense of the expansive lagoon. The joy is in the lack of combustion, save for the busying vaporettos and water taxis allowing for the unique quality of a city without permanent noise. The lapping ripples of the encroaching water, invasive at ‘aqua alta’ (high tide) reminds me of the ultimate fragility of the lagoon while the lulling of a ‘barcarola’ (gondolier’s song) or a piano being played round any domestic corner is romantic to the extreme.

As for my tips, get a city pass (www.veneziaunica.it/en) so that you can then travel freely. If you spot a green church door open seize the moment to look inside as often they are shut. Take the lift at San Giorgio Maggiore for a panoramic view of the lagoon as it’s quicker and cheaper than St. Mark’s campanile. From here I looked down upon the churches evenly spaced along the Giudecca, crowned with statues that seem to converse with one another on an altogether higher plane.

I also recommend attending one of the many touristic evening classical music performances (especially the Pieta where Vivaldi taught). For the true romantic, come for Christmas and attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in St Mark’s Basilica where the ‘smells and bells’ of Catholicism fuse with the Byzantine gilded décor and darkness is alleviated by lanterns and candles.

No one writes about Venice more insightfully than John Ruskin and Jan Morris in their book The Stones of Venice and no guidebook can better that of Mitchell Beazley where I learnt little eyebrow-raising snippets such as Michelangelo spending three years exiled on the Giudecca from 1529 as well as the abandoned island San Giorgio in Alga, once a radical monastery and then a political prison, being a secret Nazi base.

I stayed first at The Londra Palace (www.londrapalace.com), just behind St. Mark’s. How romantic it was to wake up and open the shutters to look out at boating traffic criss-crossing the ‘bacino’ (the central waterway onto which the Grand Canal emerges). Not to mention the view across to the San Giorgio church. Furnished with Murano glass chandeliers and offering al fresco dining, this classic and traditional hotel cleverly blends its blue rooms into the water beyond.

The Venetian empire’s sobriquet is ‘La Serenissima’ and at night I love taking a vaporetto up and down the Grand Canal for only then can I look up at and into the true splendour of the gilded ceilings and expansive rooms of the opulent palazzos. And the church domes and their ‘campanile’ (belltowers) are lit up. Truly serene!

Venice grew to power in the divide between East and West. This unique circumstance overwhelmingly conditioned her art. At first she was drawn naturally towards the East, as the stronger culture. But then, with the decline and eclipse of Byzantium, Venice acquired extensive mainland territory, towards the West. For a thousand years the city kept her independence under an unbroken line of Doges, only to be upended by Napoleon who at least granted that the Piazzo St Marco resembled the grandest drawing room in Europe.

Next I hopped on a vaporetto to stay at the resplendent Aman Venice (www.aman.com/resorts/aman-venice). Where could be more romantic than this venue for George Clooney’s wedding night? I reached this late-Renaissance ‘palazzo’ by opening a discreet gateway tucked away down a ‘calle’.

But the front entrance has its own jetty and a glorious garden overlooking the broadest part of the Grand Canal. The ‘piano nobile’ (main floor) houses the ballroom with its silk wall coverings from the three Italian textile houses Bevilacqua, Fortuny and Rubelli. It’s extremely ornate with gilt corners on its frescoed ceilings.

With only 25 rooms the hotel feels very spacious and a peaceful contrast to the main thoroughfare of Venetian frenzy that is the Grand Canal. The second floor is more contemporary, chic and light with long white silk drapes reflected in impressively large, grand mirrors. The bedrooms blend Venetian ornamentation with fresh tones of grey, cream and white. Everything that happens in Aman Venice is done with immaculate and graceful ease. The service is telepathic, warm and friendly but not intrusive.

I have been coming to Venice dozens of times, whenever possible choosing to spend time on the Giudecca as it is cut off from the two main islands and, with only the Redentore church in the guidebooks, it’s as good as anywhere to be among the Venetians going about their daily lives in garrulous and gesticular fashion.

I often visit the Campo San Polo, the largest of the city’s squares (the St. Marco one is a piazza) and watch children kick a football irreverently against the church wall. I eat with the locals at Trattoria alla Madonna (www.ristoranteallamadonna.com/en). It’s by the Rialto and has fresh crab and is close to the food market where seagulls are shooed away by the fishmongers. Similarly wonderful is the Trattoria Altanella on the Giudecca which is a real find, a lovely family-run fish restaurant.

The Venetians are similar to the Cornish, rugged, seafaring, separatist and mercantile, putting up with tourists if only for their spending. It is easy to forget the harsh ambition and blood spilt to make this city the empire it was and the aesthetic delight it remains. It’s tragic that the population is shrinking as the young look elsewhere for their futures and it’s true that Venice will need the advance of science to defy its impending sinking doom.

Monet and Turner were drawn to the restless light, enhanced by the blues of the water and sky. Lord Byron swam across the Grand Canal with manly intent. Romantics and lovers, escapists all belong and thrive in this unique city. For many the mysticism of the weather and light is intoxicating, for some there’s the sense of foreboding as in the film Don’t Look Now.

I stayed finally at The Bauer Hotel (www.bauervenezia.com). The architectural façade is from the 1960’s while its luxuriant interior is adorned with local Seguso glass (from a Murano foundry belonging to a family now in its 23rd generation and dating back to the 14th century). The hotel also has the ultimate honeymoon ‘room with a view’ looking across the Grand Canal onto the Salute church.

The owner of The Bauers is the dynamic and engaging Francesca Bortolotto Possati who with her family has run the hotel since her grandfather acquired it in the 1930s. Chatting with her over dinner in her De Pisis Restaurant, I learnt more of her vision for the hotel, which comprises of placing guests at the very heart of the arts and culture of the city.

She also has a personal passion for gardening, reflected in the gardens that offer real refuge in the summer months. They belong to the discreet 50-room Palladio hotel, another of the four Bauers complex which all differ in their architecture and style, and a conversion of the original Zitelle on the Giudecca, which as a convent, used to house and protect the wellbeing of unmarried girls. And of course bang next door, told to me by a dickie bird, is Elton John’s own waterside house positioned above the hotel’s state-of-the-art spa.

The staff at the hotel are dapper, attentive and dedicated to doing their utmost for the predominantly short-staying guests. But no matter how long the stay, be sure to request a room overlooking the waterfront.

While steeped in history, Venice is nonetheless visually highly progressive, staging artistic and architectural Biennales that are the envy and forums of the creative world. These are staged in the gardens, again a healthy walk north of St Mark’s.

Many new concepts begun in Venice. The word for a public open-air swimming pool comes from the Italian Lido, the famous Venetian bathing beach. The original arsenal developed in the 11th century and was the heart of the naval industry. The original ghetto was established in 1516 on the site of a foundry (‘getto’). The word quarantine itself originates from the Venetian dialect ‘quaranta giorni’ (forty days).

At last and at least, and how reassuringly, Venice is offering herself not at a price but for what she’s really worth. Mindless mass tourism may well have had its day hopefully without any lasting damage. For recently Italian ministers decided that large cruise and container ships could no longer enter the Giudecca canal which leads to St. Mark’s Square. Also the local police and civic units known as ‘angels of decorum’, installed in 2017 to restore dignity to the city, are finally clamping down on the louts and litterbugs whose bad habits include feeding the pigeons and sunbathing in bikinis by San Stae church, picnicking on the steps of the portico surrounding St. Mark’s Square, whizzing along the Grand Canal on a stand-up paddleboard or past Palazzo Cavalli on an electric scooter.

Officers have also been clamping down on illegal trading, confiscating bracelets, selfie sticks, luminous darts and roses, especially in the area of the train station, the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square: the three main hubs of the mass tourists, the three vital links of the yellow-arrowed route along which they flock. These are critical steps in the right direction. I must return. Whenever but soon!