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Beyond Venice: How to take a boating holiday on the Venetian Lagoon

How to re-discover the magic of Venice? Explore the lagoon in a boat, says Conor Power. By the time you get to the city, crowds will come as a shock…


Venice (Italy): The Lido, a 11 km long sandbar in the lagoon. Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images

Venice (Italy): The Lido, a 11 km long sandbar in the lagoon. Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images

Venice (Italy): The Lido, a 11 km long sandbar in the lagoon. Photo by: Andia/UIG via Getty Images

Exploring the Venetian lagoon by boat? Get up nice and early to sip a morning coffee on deck for that lovely calm view of lagoon life before the tourists start to arrive.

Watching life come and go in the form of boats of all sizes and types is mesmerising: supermarket deliveries, fishermen, businessmen, flirting teenagers and people just going from A to B, communicating over the water in their loud, musical Italian.

Top Tip

Generally speaking, keep towards the south for beach life with authentic Venetian atmosphere. The Lido di Jesolo at the northern end, for example, is a popular spot but it can get just as crowded as Venice itself in the summer and during school breaks.

Cheap Kick

There are plenty of great choices for eating out, but if you’re on a boat, then there’s no better table in the whole of the Venetian Lagoon than  the one on your own floating home-from-home. After stocking up at the local Aliper hypermarket, make sure you have plenty of the local specialities — prosciutto crudo, tortellini, Moretti beer, prosecco and limoncello.


Take a spin to Pallestrina. This is where you’ll see the lagoon from an ordinary citizen’s perspective, devoid of tourists yet full of uncommon beauty and exotic atmosphere. It also has a beach and friendly, unassuming locals.






Guilty Pleasure

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You can’t visit the Venetian Lagoon properly without visiting La Serenissima herself — Venice. Mooring overnight at the Santa Elena Marina will cost you €85, and it’s down at the “tail” end of Venice (which, in case you haven’t noticed, is shaped like a fish). What this does allow you, however, is the possibility of getting up at dawn — the only way to get a real appreciation of Venice. The city’s magnificence is without equal but it’s overcrowded to the degree that it’s virtually impossible to enjoy otherwise. The location of the marina is in probably the quietest part of Venice, and the 10-minute walk from here to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is rewarding as it’s far enough from St Mark’s to have a normal atmosphere and near enough to still have a mild, touristy buzz.


A normal river cruise is a therapeutic journey of calm and tranquillity, but navigating on the Venice Lagoon involves regular waves created by the huge amount of passing vessels so you need your wits about you, even though the sense of adventure ultimately more than makes up for the lack of serenity.

How to do it

The Venetian Classic and Italian Golfing Cruise with Emerald Star allows you to see Venice and its lagoon as it has been seen over 1,000 years. A seven-night, self-catered stay on an Elegance boat comes in at €2,303, sleeping up to six people in three cabins. For more information, visit emeraldstar.ie or call (071) 962 7633.

Get me there

Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies direct from Dublin to Venice Marco Polo Airport. A taxi to the boat base at Casale-sul-Sile will cost around €70. Allowing about two hours to run through formalities and a brief training course (it’s very easy to drive a boat), you’re off and into the Venice Lagoon like an ancient Venetian trader by the evening, with the colourful island of Burano as your first mooring spot. See also veneziaunica.it.

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