This week’s travel dream: Venice for the holidays

Peter Weller and his wife have made a tradition of visiting Venice at Christmastime.

“Venice at Christmas is the city as it exists for locals,” said the actor Peter Weller in Travel + Leisure. The first time I visited Italy’s city of canals, I encountered a different place. I had had visions of myself “sitting in a white suit in the Piazza San Marco listening to violins while pigeons flew.” But even though I bought the suit and wore it among the pigeons, I was put off by the summer hordes and fled before ever discovering the city’s blessings. Finally, one Christmas, I returned, expecting little “but finding rapture”: The canals twinkled with holiday lights by night, and the city’s famous daytime light was “even more hypnotic,” as moisture created a haze that variously appeared pink or gold. For me, a holiday tradition was born—a tradition that was still going strong last December.

My wife and I arrived by boat on the 22nd to meet our assembled friends. After lunching on crab ravioli, we headed immediately to the Church of San Pietro Martire to admire one of my favorite Giovanni Bellini paintings. The point of Venice is to wander, which is what our group did the next day, before afternoon espressos in my favorite square—San Giacomo dell’Orio. On the night of the 24th, we feasted, just as we’d done every Christmas Eve for 20 years, “beginning with the jewel of Alba—the white truffle.” Faith-wise, we were a hodgepodge group, but after dinner we strolled around the corner for a midnight mass, highlighted by a children’s choir.

We slept late on Christmas morning before stepping out for prosecco and cappuccini. Afterward, we commandeered a group of gondolas near the Bridge of Sighs. My wife passed around the lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which we “gaily” butchered while drifting through backwater canals. Christmas night was celebrated at “the one and only” Harry’s Bar, with baccalà (dried salt cod) and more truffles. Around the time midnight struck, Sheri and I strolled over to the basilica at San Marco. Ducking inside, we were dazzled—“the fitting finale to Christmas Day.”

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Doubles at Peter Weller’s preferred spot—the Hotel Danieli—start at $348 (luxury​

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