This post is dedicated to the Shick Family. They gave me the opportunity to visit this amazing city – a thank you is truly not enough. I also dedicate this to Adam Ponsi and Linda Gomes – their honeymoon in 2017 will take them to this magical city. #stayinspired
Venice: The medieval city is postcard-perfect. It flourishes with Gothic, Byzantine, Rococo and Neo-Classical architecture. Its intricate network of canals winding through ancient cobbled alleys and under bridges is sublime. Venice is a window into the Italy of the 5th century. Nestled in a crook in northern Italy on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, it is laced with 170-odd waterways, which are spanned by 400-odd bridges. You can see the gondolas which replace workaday motorboats on the canals – you will not see a single car or even a bike.
Venice is built on top of an unstable lagoon. Read: its sinking, and worsening. Recurring floods have only sped up the structural damage inflicted on Venice’s low-lying brick buildings and the priceless St. Mark’s Basilica. A mere 3.3-foot rise in sea levels would put the city underwater—a reality that focuses not on “if” but “when.”
What does this mean -> Go see it now!
- Currency: Euro
- Tipping: Most restaurants include a service charge, but 10-15% is appreciated
- Hotel Villa Braida: Super cozy hotel outside of the actual city (25 min drive and arrangements can be made with hotel staff)
- Aman Canal Grande: Set beside the Grand Canal – magnificent.
- Metropole Hotel: A walk from St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s also home to the Michelin starred Met Restaurant (pan-friend scallops coated with black bread crumbs!)
A Venetian meal has many courses, and it can take a few hours to work your way through them all—from an antipasto seafood platter (or the classic sarde in saor, Venetian sweet-and-sour sardines) through spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) or risi e bisi (rice and peas) and grilled catch of the day to a cheese platter or tiramisú for dessert. Side note: I loved them ALL!
There are several great places to eat between Piazza San Marco and Ca’ d’Oro. I recommend either the simple yet hearty and authentic fare at Austria La Campana hidden in plain sight on the main drag (or, a bit out of the way, Trattoria Cea), or splashing out on lunch at the excellent Bistrot de Venise, many of its recipes from Renaissance-era Italian and French cookbooks.
If you prefer quick, cheap bites, there are two excellent tavola calda joints selling hot, prepared foods near the Rialto Bridge.
More places to Eat:
- Caffe del Doge: Coffee snobs paradise near the Rialto Bridge.
- Rialto Fish Market: Medieval market is open-sided and offers everything from crabs, octopus, squid, monkfish and more. There is also a horse butcher next door….
- All’Arco: A neighborhood osteria (casual tavern) that serves wine and cicchetti finger food. Armed with ingredients from the nearby Rialto market, this family run tavern is a must stop!
- Osteria di Santa Marina: Local eatery with delicious tuna tartare with shaved truffle and tagliatelle with cuttlefish and pistachio pesto….oh and plenty of wine.
- Antiche Carampane: No fuss, seafood focused trattoria. Sign on the door” No pizza, no lasagna, no menu turistico” Get the soft shell crabs that are deep fried and the tagliolini with baby octopus.
- Quadri: One of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants. 7 courses…. and so utterly romantic.
- 1930’s era Harry’s Bar – 1948 Giuseppe Cipriani christened his signature peach bellini cocktail – must have if visiting Venice.
- Gritti Palace’s Longhi Bar: Decorated with beautiful Venetian art, Murano glass and overlooking the stunning Grand Canal.
- La Birra di Meni: 300 beers on tap
- Caffe Florian: Hot chocolate!
- Hotel Danieli’s Bar Dandolo: Sean Connery drank here during the filming of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You can’t help but feel like James Bond here 🙂
Must See / Excursions:
- Ponte dell’Accademia (at sunrise)
- The Grand Canal
- Piazza San Marco: The famous square is flanked by grand municipal buildings with a triumvirate of tower, church and palace at the end. This was where Venice announced itself to the world. One of the shops bears a statue of St. Theordore, the city’s dragon-slaying patron before St. Mark, and the other a winged lion, the symbol of the city and it’s 1000 year rebuttal of autocratic rule. Prisoners were executed between the columns – yikes!
- Santa Maria della Salute: Built in the 1600’s to celebrate the end of the city’s last great plague.
- Saint Mark’s Basilica: Kill two birds with one stone by being at the Basilica di San Marco before it opens at 9:45am; that way you (a) get to see its treasures and the thousands of square feet of glittering mosaics, and (b) won’t have to wait in a long line, which can stretch the wait to as long as an hour or more later in the day. It consists of onion domes and Gothic spires, statues and gold mosaics. This was an expression of power vs. faith.
- Pala d’Oro: Do pay the small, separate admission fees to see the Pala d’Oro altarpiece and to visit the Marciana Museum upstairs (great close-up view of the mosaics from the balcony level).
- Libreria Acqua Alta: “The most beautiful bookstore in the world”. It’s not, but it’s an experience in itself.
- Doge’s Palace: Be there before 11:35am to take your (pre-booked) “Secret Itineraries” tour, which in 90 minutes gives you an amazing insider’s glimpse into the hidden offices, courtrooms, archives, and prisons from which the true Venetian Republic ruled for 900 years.
- San Marco Campanile: The bell tower which actually opens before the basilica itself. Hit this one first for city panoramas from the top.
- Ca’d’Oro: Venice’s Ca’ d’Oro (Golden House) is a gorgeous 15th century palatial home housing the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti museum. Ca’ d’Oro is one of the best preserved and most impressive of the hundreds of patrician palazzi lining the Grand Canal.
- Rialto Bridge: Cross over the Grand Canal to the bridge. It’s a Renaissance stone span lined by shops…and food! Take a few minutes to wander the stalls of the Rialto Bridge on the far (S. Polo) side, then thread your way south through the S. Polo district to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
- A Cicchetti Crawl: Cicchetti (proucounced “chee-KET-tee”) are Venice’s verison of tapas. These are finger foods from bars called bacari traditionally washed down with an ombra (shadow), a small glass of wine. Cichetti run the gamut of, well, pretty much anything you can stick on a toothpick: calamari (in rings, or just tiny whole octopi), fried olives, cheese, sarde in soar (sweet-and-sour sardines), potato croquettes, polpette (meatballs—of beef or tuna), grilled polenta squares, salami…the list goes on. On the calories I accumulated.
- Casino di Venezia: Since the 1600’s people have been invited to throw their money around in elegant surroundings. With the slot machines juxtaposed with Renaiissance art, it’s quite a decandent experience. Caution, you will most likely walk in with more money than you walk out.
- Take a Gondola Ride
- Other Trips from Venice:
- Murano Glass: There was a time when the trade of glassblowing was an elite pursuit dominated by craftsmen in the Venetian Republic, most notably on the island of Murano in the Venetian Lagoon. It’s a must see. The products are breathtaking and $$$. I totally bought gold glasses. It’s the Italian in me.
- Giudecca: Run down area home to prisoners and exiles (Michaelangelo spent a few years here in the 1520’s) but it feels like Brooklyn.
- Shoreditch: artists and musicials – Elton John has a place here.
There is so much here that seems on the brink of falling apart or melting away. While many buildings have been restored, many are still crumbling. This is part of Venice’s appeal. The city dates back to the 5th Century, and emerged as a major world power in the 10th century. It looks it’s age…and that’s what makes it fabulous.