Last weekend I was in beautiful Venice for the opening of the architecture biennale. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world – I’ve been a number of times and stayed for five weeks back in 2012, also for the biennale – so returning to the city of water was like coming home. I found myself fitting back in like a local, dusting off some rusty Italian and knocking back the spritz like I had never left…
I wanted to share some tips and places to visit off the beaten track and away from the streams of tourists. There’s so much more than San Marco square and the Grand Canal – there’s old palazzos filled with contemporary art; little cicchetti and bacaro bars hidden down alleyways; sunny squares with shuttered windows; ornate medieval churches tucked away behind doors and narrow streets filled with washing lines and buzzing with local life.
So put down the map. I really think Venice is best seen by following your feet, and noses for the food of course, wherever they will take you. Venice is really quite small, and although you might find yourself suddenly coming to a dead end that drops off unexpectedly into a canal, you can’t get seriously lost, there’s always signs for Rialto or San Marco if you start to feel a bit cut off from it all. This is exactly what I did at the weekend, meandering around the city, looking up and taking in all the details. Hence this is more of a photo essay than a travel guide but I hope it will transport you to the waters of Venice; where light and shadow pick up architectural details, where canalways glisten and sparkle, and where buildings take on a faded grandeur.
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
– A lovely traditional trattoria tucked away off the beaten track, there’s a sunny courtyard out the back, but make sure to book a table. Trattoria Corte Sconta, 3886 Calle del Pestrin, Castello, closed Sundays and Mondays
– Another traditional trattoria packed with quirky knick-knacks and heaps of charm. The seafood spaghetti is superb. Osteria Al Mascaron, 5225 Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 30122, closed Sundays
– A slightly more expensive option but so worth it, fantastic pasta dishes and mouthwateringly delicious tiramisu. Vecio Fritolin, 2262 Calle Regina, 30135, closed Mondays
– Spot by for a spritz at this bar just to the east of San Marco. With seats outside, it’s on just the right side of a small canal for a sunny aperitivo. Wine Bar 5000, 5000 Fondamenta S. Severo, 30122
– Another stop for a classic Venetian spritz, this time a stone’s throw from the Rialto bridge and with views over the Grand Canal. Naranzaria, 130 San Polo, 30125
– A small, popular cicchetti (small snacks) bar also near the Rialto. Al Merca, 213 Campo Bella Vienna, 30125, closed Sundays
THINGS TO DO
– A beautiful cultural institution housed in an old palazzo brought back to life by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa in the mid-20th century. There’s a wonderful garden with intricate water features by the artist. Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Calle Querini, 30122 (see my post here)
– Housed in a Venetian palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal, this art gallery from Italian fashion power house Prada hosts contemporary art shows. Fondazione Prada, 2215 Calle Corner Della Regina, Santa Croce, 30135
– Another contemporary art gallery, home of the Francois Pinault Collection, including works by the likes of Sigmar Polke and Jeff Koons Punta della Dogana gallery, 2 Dorsoduro, 30123 (see my post here)
– A little on the tourist trail but one of my favourite places in Venice. Check out abstract expressionist and surrealist art by over 200 artists including Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Salvador Dali, before strolling around the sculpture garden and stopping for a coffee. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, 701-704 Dorsoduro, 30123
Hope you all enjoyed my mini travel guide around Venice, is anyone planning a trip or have any other tips?
All images my own