With some delay, but here’s our final post (see also the previous ones) about this year’s Biennale – for all of you who haven’t been yet. Tips about where to go and what to do when not gazing at art. You can also download our Best of Venice list on Foursquare, featuring selection of HFA-researched and approved bars, wineries and restaurants. And Venice has plenty of them :-).
Arrive to Venice in style
Take a water taxi from Marco Polo airport to your hotel. It ain’t cheap but it’s the best city entrance and a holiday starter ever (unless you are sailing with your own yacht). You can book your ticket online or just walk out of the airport, down the sidewalk to the water and chose from the ones waiting there. You won’t regret it, guaranteed.
Visit the islands of Murano and San Michele
Murano can be reached by vaporettos 4.1/4.2 from Fondamenta Nuove in Cannaregio. The island, famous for its glass industry (Murano Collezioni showroom has some beautiful antique and contemporary glass design pieces), is a kind of miniature Venice minus the tourists. Great place for a walk, with splendid views and some architectural masterpieces, such as the Byzantine cathedral Santa Maria e San Donato or the church of San Pietro Martire.
The first stop on the same journey is the island of San Michele. Surrounded by red brick wall, you’ve probably seen it from the northern banks of Castello and wondered what’s behind? Today the entire island is a cemetery, but once its monastery served as prison. Best time to visit is early in the morning, when you’ll be alone with some locals. Walk through the park and pay tribute to past generations of Venetians – short sense of mortality in contrast to the immortal feeling of the rest of the city is gripping.
Visit the island of San Giorgio Maggiore
Another nice short trip is to San Giorgio Maggiore that lies just across the lagoon from the Arsenale. It has amazing views of Venice and calm, peaceful atmosphere. The San Giorgio monastery (HQ of Fondazione Cini) is currently showing Marc Quinn, with as highlights his monumental bronze shells at the waterfront and his white marble embryos in the inner courtyard. To get to the island, take line 2 from San Marco/Zaccaria and get off at the first stop. Afterwards you can either return to San Marco or continue towards the island of La Giudecca.
Take a vaporetto tour around the Grand Ganal
Do this just before the sunset – you’re in Venice after all! Take vaporetto 1 or 2 at Giardini in the direction of the Santa Lucia Station (Ferrovia). Grab one of the front deck seats and have your camera ready as you’re in for some proper sightseeing: Punta della Dogana, Peggy Guggenheim, Accademia, Palazzo Grassi, Rialto bridge, the fish markets etc. Upon arriving at the station, either walk back through San Polo or take a detour through the Jewish Ghetto. Alternatively you can switch to line 5.1/5.2 (direction Lido), which passes through Cannaregio and through the northern lagoon. Get off at Ospedale and walk along the canal towards Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo for an evening espresso. Ecco!
Eat & drink like a local
We recommend buying Russell Norman’s book Polpo about Venetian cuisine that lists some of his favorite food spots in Venice and serves as a great culinary guide. The traditional Venetian bars are called bàcari and the typical small snacks they serve are chichèti. They come in many forms: meatballs, cheese-balls, seafood and various other ingredients pinned to small toasts with a toothpick. They cost around 1,50€/piece, should be eaten in one bite and followed by “ombra” (house wine) or Spritz (white wine and Aperol). Great places to do that are (listed by neighborhood):
Cannaregio: Timon is a nice place to go in the evening. It’s filled with the local youth, serves great chichèti as well as some more elaborate dishes, and has friendly staff. You can eat inside or join the crowd by the canal. La Cantina is not ideal if you want to be served quickly (meaning in less than an hour), but if time’s not an issue, their meat and seafood plates are heavenly. Alla Vedova (Ca’ d’Oro) is known for its meatballs (polpette). It gets pretty crowded in the evenings, so reserve in advance.
Dorsoduro: behind Accademia is one of the best squares of Venice, Campo Santa Margherita, with plenty of bàcari to chose from. Apart from the famous Caffè Rosso, there’s Imagina Café and bit further by the canal Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, with good selection of wines, chichèti and local folks.
San Marco: just one, but a great one: Osteria San Marco. Superb wine list and great food. And not too touristy despite its location!
San Polo: All’ Arco, Do Mori and Al Mercà are all tucked behind the Rialto market and hard to find at first. Al Mercà is just a recess in a wall with a counter. Order your chichèti (and Spritz) and eat them right on the square. Do Mori is the oldest and the most atmospheric one, with barrels, kettles and other paraphernalia. And All’ Arco is where you go for the best baccalà mantecato (creamed salt cod).
Eat & drink like a VIP
Venice also has many superb restaurants an famous local chefs – and of course its trademarked Bellini cocktails. Here’s where you should go for some haute cuisine and grand designs (unfortunately also with with grand price tags):
Bellini is the ultimate Venetian cocktail, so make sure you taste it in proper settings, such as on the terrace of the Bauer Hotel, with a view on the canal and the yachts parked behind Punta della Dogana.
Il Ridotto is a boutique, beautifully designed restaurant, run by chef and wine expert Gianni Bonaccorsi. The food is prepared according to season, with fresh ingredients sourced from the market and an innovative approach. You can’t go wrong.
Osteria di Santa Marina (conveniently located just in front of our hotel) is a classy, hospitable restaurant with a creative take on traditional Venetian cuisine. You can eat alla carta or opt for their seafood and/or meat tasting menus, both are superb.
Corte Sconta is just 5 minutes away from the Arsenale. Hidden in a narrow side street and looking very inconspicuous, it’s nevertheless widely known amongst foodies and international gourmands for the skills of its chef/owner Rita Proietto. Her seafood platters are to die for – and advanced reservations are a must.
Alle Testiere, run by chef Bruno Gavagnin and sommelier Luca di Vita, is by account of many experts the best seafood restaurant in Venice. It serves simple but truly unforgettable dishes prepared from fresh local ingredients and served in relaxed, friendly settings. It needs to be experienced, but make sure to book several days in advance, as tables are few and their popularity is legendary.