If you’re new to collecting, the art world might seem a bit intimidating. You’ve probably read about the Venice Biennale in the weekend papers. It’s one of the most important art events of the year. But what is it? Is it a bit like the Oscars for art? A ticket-only award show that only the super rich can attend?

In one way – yes – the art elite comes into town for opening week to hobnob, stand in endless queues and suss out the art on show.

But, after that, anyone can go. You don’t need a super-yacht or a press pass, tickets are only €25. It’s a brilliant biannual exhibition of the world’s contemporary art on show for seven months (until 22 November), although some exhibits shut down a bit sooner. It spreads all over the city in abandoned warehouses, galleries and old dock buildings.

Once the art world insiders head home, some amazing extravagant installations are left, very much unvisited. So grab a cheap flight to Venice, book a ‘dimora’ (rented apartment) and have the Biennale to yourself. Your ticket will get you into all the main exhibits and with it comes a map of the city–for you to seek out work by some of the world’s most interesting artists in all the hidden alleyways of this magnificent floating city.

The Biennale is not about dealers, it’s conceived as an exhibition with a single overall curator – this year the seasoned Nigerian super curator Okwui Enwezor has come up with the title All the World’s Futures and invited some 136 artists to the main exhibition (which is separate to the national pavilions).

Need to know:

Is the work for sale?
No; at least not officially. This is a chance to view and take stock. If you like an artist, you can easily research them to see more of their work.

Be warned
The Biennale can be seriously exhausting; wear sensible shoes and a suitable sun hat—and don’t attempt to see it all.

Top tip
Make regular pit stops for Prosecco and chicchetti (the wonderful Venetian version of tapas available at all small bars, pictured above). You might just hook up with some other art lovers too…

In short
A huge contemporary art exhibition held every two years in Venice. It’s been going for 120 years. There are now many hundreds of art ‘biennales’ around the world, but Venice is the original. Anyone can attend and tickets are a mere £20/€25.

Don’t forget: this is Italy – it will all be closed on Mondays…