Secret Gardens of Venice and the Veneto

16 – 21 May 2022

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. During a day out on a ‘Bragozzo’ boat in the lagoon we discover a superb garden on a private island, and the special variety of artichoke grown in the market gardens and farms on the island of Sant’Erasmo.

The history and beauty of the Veneto region and the lagoon complement 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 Padua and visit the exceptionally beautiful University Botanical Garden, the oldest of its kind in Europe.

Our hotel is in the Dorsoduro 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 fourteen 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 – a memorable 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 where we enjoy an aperitivo. Continue for dinner together in the Dorsoduro.


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 followed by a guided visit of the church interiors. 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 banksiae. We return on foot across the Accademia bridge to the hotel in Dorsoduro. Evening at leisure.


We are joined for the day by Martino Rizzi, our specialist guide. Taking a private traditional Venetian boat or ‘Bragozzo’, we visit the little-known islands of the lagoon, including Sant’Erasmo, Venice’s market garden where produce is grown for sale at the Rialto fruit and vegetable market. On one farm we see fields of local artichokes, hear about their cultivation and enjoy some tastings before lunch.
Continuing our boat journey, we view the construction of the Mose flood defence system at the entrance from the Adriatic Sea. Returning to Venice, we pass the island of the Lido to visit the historic Arsenale shipyards. Return through small canals to our hotel. Evening at leisure.


Full day on the mainland. We take the train to Padua to visit the fascinating Orto Botanico. Founded in 1545 and forming part of the University, this notably well laid-out and labelled walled botanical garden is now a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is free time to visit the historic town centre and the recently restored Cappella degli Scrovegni with its superb frescoes by Giotto. Afternoon visit to the gardens surrounding the Villa Barbarigo at Valsanzibio in the foothills of the Euganean hills. The beautiful Palladian villa and garden are of classical Italian design with parterres, fishponds, arbours and statues. Return by train to Venice. Evening at leisure.


After breakfast we meet our guide Martino to take the ‘Bragozzo’ boat, passing the island of Murano as we head to to the remote north of the lagoon for a visit to a private island with a beautiful, extensive garden, orchards and vineyard. We enjoy wine tasting and refreshments before leaving for Torcello, the first island to be inhabited by the Venetians as they fled the Barbarians in the fifth century CE. We visit the superb seventh century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, where Martino explains its fascinating history. Continuing on foot along a canal path we visit a privately owned garden with views across the lagoon. We return to Venice by boat passing the fishermen’s island of Burano, with its brightly painted houses. 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

£3,570 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £1150
Upgrade to suites with Grand Canal view available on application.


All flights and transport in boats, train journey between Venice and Padua, modern comfortable minibus on the mainland. 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.