Spending New Year’s Eve in Venice involves a mix of traditions you’ll find throughout Italy and some special Venetian touches. After all, this unique city can’t just celebrate like everyone else, now, can it?
The center of New Year’s activities in Venice is St. Mark’s Square – which makes sense, since the square is also one of Venice’s top attractions. A stage is set up on one side of the piazza for the live music that usually gets underway between 10-10:30pm, and most of the rest of the square is eventually taken up by people dancing and enjoying the music. Of course, this being Venice, New Year’s celebrations often require adding knee- or thigh-high rubber boots to your normal holiday attire – Venice can flood frequently in the winter, and St. Mark’s Square is the city’s low point. That doesn’t stop the party in the piazza, however. Dancing just becomes a bit more like sloshing. Even if it’s not flooded, Venice in winter can get quite cold and wet, so be sure to dress accordingly.
Another venue to hear live music on New Year’s Eve is Venice’s famous opera house La Fenice. That’s a musical evening for those of you who would rather be indoors (and not wearing rubber boots) for a slightly more refined end to the year. Follow up a performance at La Fenice with cocktails and dinner and you’ve got the makings of quite a memorable New Year’s Eve. Keep in mind that although the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are mini-spikes in an otherwise low travel season in Venice, there are many restaurants that close for the winter. Scope out your dining options early on, and make reservations lest you be left without a table. Of the restaurants that do remain open, some offer special holiday menus and get booked quickly.
At midnight, there’s a big fireworks display over St. Mark’s Square, so no matter where you are in Venice or what you’re doing when the clock strikes twelve, try to find a good vantage point from which to watch the display. A couple of good locations are the Punta della Dogana across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s or the waterfront near the public gardens (the same gardens that host the Venice Biennale every other year). Music continues in St. Mark’s Square even after midnight. On New Year’s Day, follow the locals to the Lido Beach where they dive into the cold lagoon waters – a Venetian tradition. Not excited about jumping into cold water to start the new year? Consider a walking tour in Venice on a day when some attractions and shops will be closed for the holiday.