DAVE FLETT takes his family on a holiday to Venice - before it sinks completely beneath the waves...

VENICE is reportedly sinking at a rate of between one and two millimetres per year.

Perhaps no real cause for alarm just yet then, but as good an excuse as any to pay a visit before 2100 when, according to some experts, the uniquely beautiful Italian city could become uninhabitable.

Should that be the case, though, 22nd-century holiday-makers could turn to Locaboat who, since 1977, have been offering European water-based breaks, which now cover destinations in France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy and Poland.

For modern-day tourists, the self-drive boating vacation company certainly represents an exciting option to explore Venice, its lagoon, surrounding islands and neighbouring towns.

At the start of a seven-day break during the school summer holidays, my family boarded our Penichette three-bedroomed vessel in Sottomarina – a lively and trendy island town that belongs to the commune of Chioggia and is intersected by canals, as well as serving as the Venetian base for Locoboat and their Italian partners Charterboat.it

Taking the short stroll into town on our first night – Saturday - we found a vibrant main street where locals socialised in road-side bars and dined out at a vast selection of restaurants.

Like many of our fellow arrivals, we took advantage of the shopping trollies left by Locoboat to stock up on provisions that would help us cater for the coming days’ idyllic on-deck lunches and evening meals.

With decent wines available for three Euros and large bottles of Peroni lager on sale for less than 75p at the nearby Coop supermarket, we were also covered for liquid refreshment and, surprisingly, not an eyelid was batted as we wheeled our purchases back to the boat, which had a good-sized fridge-freezer and gas cooker on board.

We went on to enjoy our first evening docked at Sottomarina eating and drinking, while watching people come and go – mainly by foot or bicycle – before the town gradually quietened.

The next morning, having given the boat a brief supervised try-out the night before, we set off solo on the three-hour cruise to Venice.

While manning a 12-metre long boat might appear daunting, it only really requires a little courage. Navigating the lagoon is made simple by staying in between a series of logs to your left and right with junctions branching off very much like a road network for car users.

Travelling past the small fishing towns en-route, the journey was a wonderful way in which to approach the breath-taking sight of the world-famous St Mark’s Square when it appeared on the horizon.

Our destination, meanwhile, was St Elena Sailing Club where, for the price of 70 Euros, you can rock up in your boat and spend the night at a location which is only a 20-minute walk from the centre of Venice, whilst also enjoying the on-site facilities such as showers.

After freshening up, we excitedly headed off for a gondola ride that we had booked through the excellent British-Italian company VeniceEvents.

We enjoyed a 60-minute cruise and, after starting off on the Grand Canal which can resemble the mayhem of the M25 at rush hour, we were thrilled and surprised to be taken to quieter sections of water, where there were no tourists and we could watch Venetians go about their daily routines in stunningly peaceful surroundings.

Another highlight was watching the gondolas being crafted by hand at a hidden-away workshop, while the Venice Events package also included a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy during our cruise.

On our way back to the Grand Canal, we were then shown all the famous landmarks, taking in the majesty of the Rialto Bridge and Casanova’s House.

Our oarsman, meanwhile, was informative without being intrusive, allowing for us to enjoy the serenity of our cruise at the appropriate moments.

Back on land, we spent the afternoon exploring Venice and its myriad of historic winding streets, 400-plus bridges, houses and shops.

Depending on your bank balance, there are bargains to be found but, during a spot of window-shopping, we also found a Cartier watch priced at 6,100 Euros and a 2,500-Euro Gucci handbag.

More reasonably-priced are the many mask shops which pay homage to the city’s carnival tradition and can be hand-made to suit your individual taste.

The best way of negotiating your way in and out of the maze in 2018 is seemingly by satellite-navigation, so make sure your mobile phone is well-charged and data roaming costs are covered.

Venice’s best-value dining options are to be found the further you venture from the splendour of St Mark’s Square and a visit to Pizzeria Ristorante Al Profeta is certainly worth the 20-minute stroll.

It is situated in a pretty courtyard, unseen from the front of house, where people were waiting to be seated before the restaurant opened at 7pm.

My daughter, at the age of nine, is arguably the biggest pizza aficionado in our family and, while waiting for our meal, she described how the best combine a crispy base with “stretchy” cheese.

She wasn’t disappointed on both counts, whilst it would be no exaggeration to suggest that my salami, frankfurter and spicy sausage choice represented the best pizza I’d ever tasted.

My wife, meanwhile, opted for a spectacular option, which saw a mountain of shellfish piled on top of a tomato base.

The meal was also washed down with 100cl of good-quality Cabernet red wine which, at 10 Euros for what amounted to six glasses, represented unbelievable value.

When a brief storm threatened to disturb the Al Fresco ambience, a canopy was pulled over our heads that proved perfect shelter from the elements.

Following the bustle of Venice, the following morning we headed for the calm beauty of Burano – one of the many surrounding islands.

The village is a must-visit with its streets of assorted, brightly-coloured, canal-side fisherman cottages offering genuine picturesque perfection.

With Locaboat holidaymakers benefitting from free overnight mooring, there was also a unique opportunity to enjoy all Burano’s charm in the morning before the legions of tourists started to arrive.

The island is famous for its silk industry and old ladies can be seen making a variety of garments outside their houses.

Tourist shops then sell the items at varying prices depending on the detail of the workmanship, while Murano Glass products, made on the neighbouring island, are also available.

In fact, at one typically family-owned business, the father created glass gifts, the mother silk and the daughter painted, carrying on the traditions of countless generations.

Heading out of the lagoon, we then set off for a river cruise with woods and vineyards lining the banks.

Deciding to moor outside the small commune of Casale sul Sile’s church tower, again at no cost, we witnessed old men playing cards and well-behaved teenagers congregating in the town’s hub before everything quietened in the late evening for a peaceful night’s rest.

The next day, we visited a great ice cream parlour on the town’s main street - Gelateria Il Semifreddo di Gobbo – where the variety of flavoured coffees was also a marvel.

At little more than £7.50 for four ice creams, including one three-scoop bowl, it was good value too.

A weekly market is held, meanwhile, every Wednesday.

Heading back to Venice, we stayed overnight at Le Vignole – a small island boasting two restaurants and a series of working farms that are inaccessible to visitors.

Charterboat.it again have free mooring points and, at 15 Euros per person for a return, you can be dropped just outside St Mark’s Square in 20 minutes by the Vaperetto boat taxi service that runs regular cruises.

Paying a visit to the majestic 11th century St Mark’s Basilica, where there is no charge for admission, we were awe-struck by the grand mosaics that cover the entire interior of the upper levels, as well as the church’s unique design.

For an added 5 Euro cost, meanwhile, you can visit the museum and enjoy a spectacular view over the square.

There is also a small charge to view the Treasure of St Mark’s, which gives you a real indication of the opulence and power of Venice through the ages.

Returning to our Sottomarina base, we then spent our final day on the nearby beach, which was large, clean and sandy while boasting waves good enough for our daughter to spend hours body-boarding.

Visit www.locoboat.com for full details of boating holidays in Venice and other destinations.

Details of VeniceEvents gondola rides, as well as walking and city tours, can be found at veniceevents.com