Venice is wonderful and Venice is unique, yes, but it is expensive and, especially in summer, can be very hot and smelly.
One way round these disadvantages is to follow the old example of Venice’s aristocrats, who had grand pads on the mainland and would ride into town by barge.
Today the Veneto’s excellent road and rail networks mean that you can travel rather faster, popping in for the day to see the sights and ride on a traghetto (the poor people’s gondola) and then retire to the cool comfort of your holiday home.
There are a number of historical towns nearby to choose from, each with plenty of attractions of its own to entertain you if you want to give the Venice crowds a miss.
This top ten covers a range of accommodation, from reasonably priced hotels to self-catering flats – for families and groups larger than two renting a flat can prove a big saving. Cooking your own meals bypasses the costs of eating out, and brings the bonus of shopping in local markets.
It’s a half-hour train ride from here into Venice, with trains going every 10-20 minutes. where sights include the famous Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel and the Basilica of St Antony.
1) The Catai B&B is in a comfortable and modern apartment full of fascinating artefacts from the owner’s travels in the Far East: she speaks good English and can offer useful guidance on Padua and the region. The apartment has a large terrace and a spacious living/dining room. It lies in a quiet part of town ten minutes’ walk north of the station and 15 minutes’ walk from the old centre of Padua.
Details 0039 049 8643394 www.bbtibetanhouse.it. Rooms for two to four people. From €70 a night, €400 a week for a double room, and €110 a night for a family room.
2) The San Bonifacio self-catering apartment has three en-suite bedrooms spread over two floors, with a well-equipped kitchen, air-conditioning, wifi, a terrace and private parking. Bicycles are provided to speed you round the city – the apartment is very centrally positioned, just north of the Basilica of St Antony and a seven-minute tram ride from the station.
Details Via Gaspara Stampa 23, Padua. Sleeps five. www.holiday-rentals.co.uk. From €650 a week.
3) If you have a large group how about renting the whole wing of an old mansion? The San Bonifacios also rent out a wing of the Villa Mandriola, their family mansion on the southern edge of town. With six magnificent bedrooms, this is the ‘modern’ wing of the villa – built in the 18th century.
You feel like you are on a film set, lounging around on the gargantuan sofas in the sitting room, which has more than enough room for the whole party – like many of the other rooms, the walls are covered in elaborate pastoral frescoes. The dining room and kitchen are equally imposing. The 12 acres of grounds include a summertime swimming pool, a small lake and swans, and you wake to the sound of the neighbouring peacocks. The friendly owners can arrange tours to their vineyard and the medieval towns of the nearby Euganean hills.
Details Via Sebastiano Caboto 10, Albignasego. www.holiday-rentals.co.uk. Sleeps ten, extra rooms available. The Villa Mandriola is 4km from the centre, 6km – a half-hour bus ride – from the station, car handy for access. From €400 a night or €2000 a week.
4) The Al Fagiano Hotel is a wackily decorated and friendly two-star next to the basilica of St Antony. It has forty rooms over four floors, each floor having a different colour scheme. The rooms are on the small side, but have air-conditioning, TV and hair dryers. The hotel is a five-minute tram ride from the railway station.
Details Via Locatelli 45, Padua, 0039 049 8750073, www.alfagiano.com. Double rooms from €70.