With its winding waterways, striking mosaic of architectural styles, and the geometric mazes of its palazzi, Venice is steeped in wonder even at seemingly the most ordinary of times. On New Year’s Eve, as we walk the threshold between the present year and the next, its enchantment knows no bounds.
Prosecco is everything in Venice – made from Glera grapes grown in the Treviso hills, which decorate the Venetian skyline. The sparkling wine is delicious served simply as a refreshing apéritif or combined with fresh peach juice to create the ubiquitous bellini cocktail. Of course, our tour doesn’t focus solely on prosecco…
Venetian viticulture has been justly celebrated since Roman times, and Veneto is Italy’s largest producer of wine. The foothills of the Lessini Mountains, just north of Verona, are home to the potential perfection of red Valpolicella — fresh and approachable, with black cherry notes. Italian cuisine — with its simple ingredients and enticing aromas — is not just delicious, it elevates the wine to untold heights.
As the sun dips below the horizon on December 31st, a carnival atmosphere descends on the city as everyone gets together to see out the year. Toast un anno seren over a gourmet gala dinner, and celebrate into the small hours at a postprandial party — after all, the chance comes but once a year!
We catch our flight to Venice this morning. Once landed, we are chauffered to the city itself by water taxi, a fittingly luxurious — and characteristically Venetian — start to our tour. After checking in at our hotel, we are able to kick off the festivities properly, with a laid-back introduction and wine tasting followed by our first dinner as a group.
Our second day begins, once again, on Venice’s famous waterways, as we catch the ferry to Murano, the series of islands crowning the Venetian Lagoon. On the unspoilt island of Sant’Erasmo we find the Orto di Venezia vineyard, where French TV producer Michel Thoulouze has redeveloped the land around his villa into a vineyard. We enjoy a tasting of mineralistic wines which pair beautifully with the produce of the lagoon and its islands.
We cross to Burano Island for lunch. The island is particularly well-known for its small, brightly painted houses edging right up to the waterways running past. These cheery little dwellings are, unsurprisingly, popular with artists.
Upon returning to the city, we enjoy a light dinner before taking in a special New Year’s concert at the jaw-dropping, gilted Teatro La Fenice di Venezia.
Our first act of New Year’s Eve is to head north to the hills above Treviso – the ‘Garden of Venice’. Our first visit is to the impressive Villa Sandi estate, where we explore tunnels dug by soldiers fighting the Austrian Empire and taste their excellent sparkling wine in their magnificent Palladian Villa.
At lunch, we continue to the big name in Prosecco – Valdobbiadene – where we visit Bartolomiol at their private Parco del Filladetta and enjoy a lunch, tasting and learn about their humanitarian work.
This afternoon, we take some free time in Venice, either to explore the sights or to relax before the festivities this evening. Then, we attend a gala dinner and party, where we enjoy a gourmet meal — with Champagne or Prosecco as you prefer — to ring in the year at midnight.
On the first day of the new year, we enjoy a leisurely morning and brunch at the hotel as a group. We have some free time over lunch to spend as — and where — we wish.
We reunite in the afternoon to embark on a guided tour of Venice, followed by a fun and informal tasting of Italian wines hosted by our Wine Guide. This evening, we have our final dinner as a group at a lovely local restaurant in Venice.
After some free time for last-minute souvenir shopping, we transfer to the airport for our flights home or onward travel.
A freelancer in the world of wine, as well as a published travel and wine writer, she gained a WSET Level 3 with Merit and certification from the Association of Italian Sommeliers. Leonie is the author of Italy Chic, a guide to the hidden gems of Italy. She has also contributed to a number of travel guides for Italy. Fluent in Italian, she both writes and blogs about the wines of the Mediterranean. She is a very popular guide at Arblaster & Clarke, and when not travelling in Italy, she also runs events for the London-based company, Wine Sorted.
For the entirety of our Venice tour, we make our base in the scenic waterfront city itself. We spend four nights in a hand-picked 4* hotel in the heart of this medieval city, which is home to Islamic and Byzantine-inspired architecture, along with local hotspots all within easy reach – all the better for being able to join in with the festivities.
Simple, warming and hearty, Venice’s food is the perfect antidote to winter weather, and a prime example of the enduring attraction of ‘cucina povera’ – think creamy polenta, risotto and gnocci. There’s also local seafood from Venice’s saltwater lagoon, prepared with beautiful simplicity – goby, sardines, cuttlefish and more.
Effervescent prosecco, the sparkling jewel of Italian wine, is rightly our focus on this celebratory tour. Encounter tranquilo for toasting, spumante for sipping, and frizzante for feasting on visits to Veneto-based producers.