Every time I come into Venice, my heart skips a beat. It is my favorite city in the world, and one that I personally love to visit in the off season and here is why: From December through February, the canals are hauntingly quiet, shrouded in mist and illuminated by soft, hazy winter light—like a scene straight out of a movie. The vision of Italy’s floating city emerging out of the mist is unforgettable. If not for the Carnival, this alone is reason enough to visit Venice in February. Eerie alleyways, blissfully deserted attractions, and decent prices – winter brings out the best in La Serenissima. It may be chilly, but its misty canals lined with majestic palazzi look particularly stunning during this time of year.
Romance fills the air and Venice – dark, quiet, and mysterious – reveals itself in all its faded glamour. Nevertheless, there are endless cozy cafés and trattorias, as well as plenty of galleries to spend a cold afternoon in. And then there’s the magnificent Carnevale, which breathes life into the city’s sleepy piazzas and surreal flooded streets. Here are some things I recommend you do while in Venice during the month of February.
A Night at the Opera
Teatro La Fenice, The Phoenix, is one of “the most famous and renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theatre” and in the history of opera as a whole. One of Italy’s most prestigious opera houses, La Fenice is the place to be for an outstanding operatic spectacle in lavish surroundings. The season is in full swing during February. The theater was built in 1792, and the 326-seat jewel box of an opera house continues to please music fans and socialites more than 200 years later.
Venice reveres Vivaldi, the romantic baroque composer of Four Seasons, who was born in Venice in 1678. He as a revolutionary composer, bolding bringing emotion to the violin and sister string instruments, from heights of joy to depths of melancholy. His music matches the Venetian spirit. This is my favorite in Venice, and I attend when I can, as I find it the most authentic chamber ensemble, an an exuberant group that has received raves since they came onto the scene in 1987. They tour internationally and have a regular concert schedule at the Church of San Vitale. This 17th century setting, between the Accademia Bridge and San Stefano, immerses you in Vivaldi’s world. The concert is not miked, so you experience the music just as Venetians did centuries ago, and in the intimate setting you get swept up in the joy the players share for the music.
Eat Like a Local
Eating like a local is not always easy, especially in such a touristy city like Venice. However, with your local host, Audrey, together with our local expert guide, we introduce you to delightful regional specialties while providing insight into each stop along the way. You’ll get the chance to visit a couple of wine bars and historic establishments, sample the famous cicchetti (Venetian tapas), indulge in signature seafood dishes, and learn how to recognize the authentic Italian gelato. We will even take you into our favorite pastry shop and show you how to order coffee like an Italian.
Escape the Cold Inside the Gallerie dell’Accademia
The average temperature in Venice in February is 4°C Celsius, which means it’s the perfect time to explore this city’s spectacular art treasures. There’s no shortage of excellent museums in Italy’s capital of romance, but if you only have the time to visit one, make it the Gallerie dell’Accademia, where masterpieces by Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto are on display.
The museum is only a 15-minute walk from Piazza San Marco, on the Grand Canal, and houses one of the finest Venetian art collections in the world, with paintings dating from the 14th to the 18th centuries.
Revel in the Carnival
From 19th February to the 1st of March, 2022, the most anticipated event on the Venetian calendar will once again delight the audience with a fabulous program full of masks, mystery, and mesmerizing shows. This alone is proof enough that February is the best month to visit Venice.
Carnival isn’t just one of Italy’s most popular festivals. It’s a Catholic holiday that takes place 40 days before Easter, just before the start of Lent. Historically, it was the last chance Catholics had to indulge before they gave up (traditionally) meat for Lent, though today people give up all sorts of things for Lent – not just meat. The name for the festival in Italian is “Carnevale” – the word “carne” means meat in Italian.
There are gondola parades, and costume contests held in the Piazza San Marco. The official kick-off is signaled by the Volo dell’Angelo, or “Flight of the Angel,” when a costumed woman “flies” (suspended on a cable) from the top of the Campanile to the square below.
Day Trip to Burano
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by Venice’s flamboyant carnival take the Vaporetto no.12 to Burano. This small fisherman’s island at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon provides a welcome escape from the hordes of tourists flooding the streets of Venice during this time of year.
A cluster of brightly painted cottages intertwined with pretty boat-lined canals, Burano is one of the most colorful places you’ve ever seen, a photography lover’s paradise. Wander across its labyrinthine narrow streets, past tiny picturesque bridges; indulge in heavenly seafood risotto and homemade desserts at the quaint local restaurants; and pop into typical lace shops to admire the island’s most famous export.
Warm Up in a Cioccolateria
Truman Capote once said that “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go”. This is all the more true when the chocolate in question is handmade here, using centuries-old recipes and the highest quality ingredients.
The Italians have come up with a genius solution to keep the winter chill at bay. During the cold months of the year, they indulge in cups of hot chocolate. Known as cioccolata calda in Italian, this is a seriously thick and gooey drink which, if you wish, can be crowned with a mound of freshly whipped cream.
VizioVirtù is the Venetian mecca for all things chocolate. Owned and operated by Mariangela, she has made her passion for chocolate her life’s pursuit, and offers the most interesting varieties of hot chocolate, certainly in the city, and perhaps anywhere in the world. Guided tastings are available daily (10 am to 7.30 pm), and so are chocolate workshops (7.30 pm to 9.30 pm), where you can learn how to make truffles, mousses, and other delicious cocoa concoctions.
Shop and marvel at the mall
Housed in a 16th-century merchants’ trading house on the Grand Canal, Venice’s T Fondaco dei Tedeschi is much more than just a shopping center. As well as housing a wonderfully curated collection of boutiques, the luxurious department store welcomes customers in glorious Renaissance-inspired surroundings, decorated with original archways and classic terrazzo floors.
Its striking old-meets-new interiors along with over 300 designer labels, authentic Venetian crafts, and unique art installations make it the perfect place to enjoy some retail therapy, especially on a crisp cold February afternoon. The center is just off the Rialto Bridge, and its glorious rooftop terrace offers some of the best 360-degree views of Venice.
Weather in Venice in February
February is one of the coldest months of the year with bitter cold nights and a high chance of rainfall. If you’re interested in sightseeing and exploring this beautiful city then it’s a fantastic time for a quiet holiday.
The city is near the Adriatic Sea, separated only by a long strip of land. You’ll need to pack warm clothes like jumpers, hats, and scarves to help deal with the freezing temperatures (average temperature of 8°C and lows of 1°C). Winds blowing in from the sea are quite common at night, which leads to colder weather in the evenings that don’t pick up again until around 12pm.
If you’re traveling to Venice in the wintertime, you might hit acqua alta, which means high water. The city floods and wooden walkways appear. If you’re going to Venice during the acqua alta period, consider bringing rain boots.
Acqua alta occurs most often in autumn or winter (usually in November and December) and is generally nothing more than a minor inconvenience. The high tide only lasts a few hours and affects a small portion of Venice, so it’s easy to avoid the low-lying portions of the city until the water levels return to normal. If you have to pass through St. Mark’s Square, you can walk along the elevated wooden walkways (passarelle) the city sets up or wade through with rubber boots (which can be packed from home, purchased in Venice, or borrowed from many hotels).