My Guide To Once-In-A-Lifetime Experiences In Venice

I really don´t mind how touristy Venice is. Apart from its opulent architecture, sumptuous palazzos and prestigious events, what draws me to La Serenissima Venezia is the irresistible pleasure of simple things like sitting in a piazza, meeting the locals while savoring tempting cichetti (snacks) in a little bacaro (traditional wine bar), dinning al fresco on fresh seafood and pasta…

Always alive with prestigious events, exhibitions and festivities, timeless Venice is definitely a year round destination. Veiled in mist, the floating city is insanely romantic in winter. In autumn, it´s surprisingly calm and tranquil. Even in the arduous summer with soaring temperatures and chaos, Venice is truly worth visiting.

Built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals in a shallow lagoon, Venice is an architectural masterpiece. The Most Serene Venetian Republic is divided into six sestieri (San Marco, Dorsoduro, Castello, Cannaregio, San Polo and Santa Croce), so why limit yourself to the most visited and famous one?

Get Lost

“There is no better way to explore the lovely maze than in a haze of mild confusion” Katherine Lagrave

Exploring everything Venice has to offer in one visit is practically impossible. In fact, it takes a lifetime. Although main atracctions like the Bridge of Sighs, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark Square and the 17th-century domed María della Salute church are certainly worth visiting, there are countless treasures yet to be discovered.

Let the city confuse you, wander through the twisting streets and narrow alleys and you´ll find pleasant surprises and moments of beauty at every turn.

Aperitif

After spending the day exploring the secret Venice, I always like to stop for a Spritz in a quiet backstreet piazza away from the crowds.

In the hidden corners of Cannaregio, the northernmost sestieri, you will find traditional bacari (small, back-street taverns) where creative and tempting cichetti (local specialities often compared to Spanish tapas) are served. La Cantina (Calle San Felice) or Alla Vedova (Calle del Pistor) are two of the city’s best Baccari wine bars. 

Best known for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Galleria Dell`AcademiaDorsoduro is also an ideal place to find peace and tranquility.

 

A real taste of Venice

Venice has such a terrible gastronomic reputation. Having a good meal without breaking the bank is oddly difficult. With countless eateries trying to catch clients with an endless multi-language menu, it can be quiet frustrating to find one that really fulfill your expectations.

Still, there are secret places, hidden gems that can pleasantly surprise you. Deadly delicious seafood pasta dishes await you in the most humble family run restaurants. 

Tip

Taverna del Campiello Remer 

Located in a lovely coutyard near the Rialto Bridge overlooking the grand canal, this rustic taverna offers a daily happy-hour from 5.30pm to 7.30pm where guests can taste wonderful aperitifs at great prices. Once you buy a glass of wine you can help yourself to the free buffet.

There is a pier just in front of the tavern where I love to sit and relax with my glass of ombra while enjoying the beautiful views of the canal.

 

Get a souvenir

Marionettes, elegant masks, precious velvet garments, unique hand crafted dresses and accessories can be found in a hidden boutique or in an ancient mezzanine. Forget about the Made-In-China gifts and visit an authentic workshop. Meeting an artisan and admiring his work up close is a genuine Venetian experience you will never forget.

Once inside Roberto Comin´s studio in Cannaregio, you are immediately drawn to a fantastical little world where his unique marionettes seem to come alive. Roberto´s sister, a dressmaker specializing in Venetian carnival costumes, makes the custom clothes for each marionette with the utmost care and attention. L´Isola Di Pinnochio is located a short distance from the old Ghetto of Venice.

Santa Croce is home to Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua, one of Venice’s oldest and most remarkable weaving factories. The Bevilacqua family uses looms from the 1700s that were salvaged from one of the artisan academies after Napoleon captured and invaded Venice.

Their precious artistic upholstery fabrics have adorned sumptuous palaces like the Kremlin in Moscow or the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm as well as numerous aristocratic homes, theaters and churches. The Bevilacqua family also produces “soprarizzo” (an Italian term for “over-the-curls”) velvet garments for Dolce & Gabbana and collaborates with Prada and Gucci. (Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua. Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, on Saturdays by appointment. S. Croce 1320, Venice).

 

Gondola ride

It may sound cliché but the most truly Venetian moment of all my trips to Venice has been on board a gondola. The ancient water city is even more fascinating from the flat-bottomed boat. I perfectly remember my first gondola ride. Our excellent gondolier unveiled Venice´s mysteries as he gently rowed up the Grand Canal in the glow of sunset. All around us were magnificent palazzos and churches which seemed to rise straight out of the waters.

A legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love if they kiss at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs while the bells of the Campanile toll.

This picture was taken on my first gondola ride at sunset

Piazza San Marco

Described as “the finest drawing room in Europe” by Napoleón, Saint Mark´s Square is one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen. The Piazza looks surreal during the Acqua Alta, when San Marco porticoes and domes are reflected in the sparkling water.

CAFE FLORIAN

Opened on 29th December 1720 by Floriano Francesconi, Café Florián -originally named Alla Venezia Trionfante– is truly a symbol of Venice. The grand old Venetian coffee house had such a distinguished clientele including Carlo Goldoni, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens.

Even Giacomo Casanova used to visit Café Florián in his desperate quest for a new love as it was the only meeting place that admitted women in the 18th century.

In winter, I love to take a comfortable seat and have a capuchino as I gaze out of the window. Its marble tables, impresive Neo-Baroque decor, elegant atmosphere and impeccable service makes the oldest café in Europe utterly irresistible.

During the summer, I visit Café Florián early in the morning when I have the world’s most beautiful square all to myself, take a seat outside under the arches and sip a coffee with some zaletti biscuits.

Campanile

Truly splendid views is what you can expect when you go up Venice‘s famous belltower.

A view of San Giorgio Maggiore from the Campanille

Tip

If you don’t feel like queuing for hours at the Campanile, take a launch to San Giorgio island located in Venice lagoon, opposite the Basin of St. Mark.

The entire city will be laid out in front of you from the top of the campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore church.

ACCOMODATION

Sleeping On A Boat

Labyrinthine Venice vary from the most opulent and lavish hotels like Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Aman Venice or the sumptuously refurbished Gritti Palace to the most discreet ones. However, waking up to the rocking waves as you see the sun rising over the lagoon is an unbeatable experience.

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