Italy’s ‘City of Water’ has been fascinating visitors for centuries, making it the subject of countless poems, stories, songs, artworks and fantasies. But aside from Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, Venice doesn’t have many tourist sights that stand out above the rest. It is more a place simply to get lost; to discover your own Venice by immersing yourself in the thousands of tiny alleyways, canals and bridges. Arts and crafts lovers may want to take a boat trip to the island of Murano to watch glass makers practicing a trade that has been handed down through generations, but souvenirs made from the glass can be found at just about any gift shop in Venice, and many others throughout Italy.

Likely the city’s best hotel is also its oldest, dating from the 12th century. The Luna Baglioni is a splurge, but definitely worth it for an experience that is uniquely Venetian. The rooms are outfitted in classic Italian grandeur with locally made furniture and décor wherever possible, including Murano glass chandeliers and light fixtures. But the hotel’s crowning glory is its stately ballroom. Used to serve breakfast and to host Carnival parties, it is truly a sight to behold. For dinner, try the tiny Osteria Oliva Nera (book in advance to ensure a table), where owners Dino and Isabella serve up traditional Venetian fare with a smile. The local seafood in particular warrants recommendation. And for an aperitivo or after dinner drink, stop by Harry’s bar, less than a block from the Luna Hotel. The historic landmark is the birthplace of such iconic cocktails as the Bellini, and has over the years been a favorite of many authors and artists. Don’t expect anything flashy—the interior is small and unassuming—but if it was good enough for Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Orson Welles, then it should be good enough for most visitors.

Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice

The details:

Luna Hotel Baglioni

San Marco 1243

Tel: +39-041-5289840

Osteria Oliva Nera

Castello 3417/18

Tel: +39-041-5222170

Harry’s Bar

San Marco 1323

Tel: +39-041-5285777