Susan Worner Tours

Secret Gardens of Venice and the Veneto

04 – 09 May 2020

Secret Gardens of Venice  and the Veneto

A magical tour of gardens, staying in the centre of Venice in the superb, historic Hotel Palazzo Stern on the Grand Canal. Delightful gardens are hidden behind high walls on the Canal, on the Giudecca or down small canals on the islands in the extensive lagoon. We discover the special variety of artichoke grown on the island of Sant’Erasmo while enjoying a day on a ‘Bragozzo’ boat in the lagoon.

The history and beauty of the Veneto region are complemented by the elegance of the formal gardens in Venice. We have chosen country gardens that harmonise with their villas and feature interesting structured designs. We discover the Brenta Canal where Venetians built their country houses in the seventeenth century, going on to Padua to visit the exceptionally beautiful University Botanical Garden, the oldest of its kind in Europe.

Our hotel is in the Dorsodoro district of Venice. Overlooking the Grand Canal, the terrace is particularly delightful for breakfast or an aperitivo. The Ca’ Rezzonico Museum, the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery are nearby. We explore the city by boat or on foot along narrow paths and sometimes along canals, often coming across a lovely square or feature of interest; while on the mainland, we travel by minibus. There will be a maximum of nineteen participants, and the tour will be led by Susan together with Martina Boffelli and Martino Rizzi our specialist Venetian guides.




Flight to Venice Marco Polo airport where you will be met and transferred to the Hotel Palazzo Stern on the Grand Canal by private boat – an exciting way to arrive in Venice. We enjoy a buffet lunch on the hotel terrace. Early evening we meet Martina and walk to a private garden on the Grand Canal and enjoy an aperitivo. Continue for dinner together in the Dorsodoro.


With Martina we take the boat to the Giudecca where we visit the extensive garden of the Franciscan monks behind Palladio’s Il Redentore church before going on to view a garden behind high walls. We enjoy lunch in a local restaurant overlooking the canal, with views to the Zattere and to St Mark’s. In the afternoon we discover a delightful garden beside the Grand Canal, beautifully restored by its late owner and featuring wisteria, iris and Rosa banksia. We return on foot across the Accademia bridge to the hotel in Dorsodoro. Evening at leisure.


Full day on the mainland. We visit Villa Emo in the foothills of the Euganean hills. The beautiful Palladian villa and garden are of classical Italian design with parterres, rose-lined fish ponds, arbours and statues. Lunch at a small restaurant in the country. We continue to Villa Barbarigo Pizzoni Ardenani at Valsanzibio. Set in a wooded valley merging with the steep hillsides of the Euganean hills, it has an air of mystery and features a garden laid out in the period of the Venetian Republic. Evening at leisure.


We are joined for the day by Martino Rizzi, our specialist guide. We take a private traditional Venetian boat (‘Bragozzo’) to the little known islands of the lagoon, including Sant’Erasmo, Venice’s market garden where produce is farmed for sale at the Rialto market, and we visit a local farm. Enjoy lunch in a nearby locanda. Continuing our journey we view the construction of the flood defence system before arriving at the island of Torcello to visit an extensive private garden. Our guided visit of the seventh century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is of exceptional interest. We pass the islands of Burano and Murano on our return to Venice. Evening at leisure.


After breakfast we leave by boat to the mainland and take the road along the Brenta Canal, admiring the elegant villas and gardens and arriving at Padua to visit the fascinating Orto Botanico. Founded in 1545 and forming part of the University, it is now a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and notably well laid-out and labelled. Lunchtime is near the Prato della Valle. In the afternoon we visit a superb garden recently created by an inspiring young couple in the countryside near Padua. We return to Venice by boat.
Dinner together in a restaurant in a beautiful Venetian square.


Depart by private boat from the hotel to Venice Marco Polo airport for the return flights.

“There is something so different in Venice from anyother place in the world, that you leave at once all accustomed habits and everyday sights to enter an enchanted garden…”Mary Shelley

Map of Venice

Tour Costs

£3,465 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £990
Upgrade to suites with Grand Canal view available on application.


All flights and transport in boats, modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with en-suite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits and guides.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo), items of a personal nature, tips, comprehensive travel insurance with full cover to be taken out on payment of the deposit.


Palazzo Stern in the Dorsoduro


The climate in May will be warm and spring-like but a rain shower could occur. Lightweight layers of clothing are recommended, with a waterproof jacket in case of a shower, and good shoes. Smart casual for the evening.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Often guests meet for drinks before dinner (optional).

Wifi is available in the hotel.

Activity Level:

Ability to get on and off small boats and some walking along the canals.