All’Arco – Brian D. Luster
Resembling a fish hooked by a fishing line, Venice is a mosaic of 118 small islands linked by hundreds of bridges. It’s so different from anywhere else in the world that it takes a lot longer than a few days to explore all its maze-like neighborhoods. However, the charm of this unique city can still be appreciated during a short visit provided you do your research and avoid tourist traps. Here are some suggestions for making the most of Venice in one weekend.
Marco Polo airport is on the mainland overlooking Venice (handy tip: for a sweeping view of the city during the final approach make sure you reserve a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane). The most scenic route into town is the Alilaguna water bus which leaves from the pier outside the main terminal (15€ one way). If you want to feel like a VIP or a Hollywood celebrity you can splash out on a water taxi that will take you directly to your destination for around 100€. Those on a more limited budget should head toward the airport car park and catch the AeroBus number 5 to the city’s Piazzale Roma (8€ one way). Trains from elsewhere in Italy arrive at Santa Lucia railway station.
Although the city is best visited on foot – provided you remembered to pack comfortable shoes – it’s worth investing in the Venezia Unica Citypass if you plan to take waterbus trips to the neighboring islands and visit museums. The pass combines transport, museum and church entries as well as wi-fi access in a single card.
Lorenzo Quinn, ‘Support’, Biennale di Venezia – Ali Postma
A feast for the eyes
Hurry up if you want to catch the tail end of the 57th Venice Art Biennale – a must for contemporary art buffs – which closes on November 26. Until January 7, 2018, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is hosting an exhibition of Pablo Picasso works in cooperation with Musée Picasso in Paris and the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon. Architecture and art lovers shouldn’t miss the Pinault collections housed at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, two outstanding Venetian landmarks.
James Lee Byars, ‘The Golden Tower’, Biennale di Venezia – Ali Postma
Head to Pasticceria Tonolo, a mecca for delectable pastries. Don’t expect a luxurious experience, especially at breakfast time: point out the pastry of your choice, find a spot at the counter for your coffee cup and slurp it quickly amid locals on their way to work or school. Remember that in Italy coffee break means quickly sipping an espresso at the counter, so seating is rarely provided at neighborhood cafés.
For a more leisurely experience try Caffè del Doge in a quiet alleyway near Rialto Bridge. This historical coffee roaster offers a large choice of single-origin coffees in addition to the two signature house blends, as well as pastries, sandwiches and salads at lunchtime.
Caffè del Doge – Wonsun
Lunch on the go
Cicchetti are the local version of tapas and perfect for a quick lunch. A plate of these delectable tidbits and a glass of house wine will set you back 8 -10€. Try the deep-fried mozzarella cheese, calamari, artichoke hearts, meat or seafood croquettes, and baccalà mantecato (creamed cod) on a bite-size square of grilled polenta. Cantina Do Mori near Rialto Bridge has been open since 1462 and legend has it that Casanova used to hang out here between conquests. Ask for the francobollo (postage stamp)—a tiny sandwich with various fillings, which is also the house specialty.
All’Arco is another one of Venice’s most-loved spots near the fish market. It goes without saying that seafood cicchetti are the signature dish here, but in winter don’t miss the hot sandwich with boiled beef sausage served with mustard, it’s the ultimate comfort food.
Chicchetti – Michela Simoncini
Shops with a soul
The increase of mass tourism has seen traditional shops being replaced by garish souvenir emporia that peddle plastic masks and glass gondolas made in China. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot pick up a tasteful memento of your visit to Venice.
Founded in 1851, Legatoria Piazzesi is the oldest paper shop in Venice. Craft lovers swoon over the hand printed marble paper sold by the sheet, but the shop is also a treasure trove of paper-covered boxes, picture frames, scrapbooks, diaries, address books, memo pads and pencil holders.
Legatoria Piazzesi – Joseph Hunkins
Near Campo San Polo, on the thoroughfare that leads to Rialto, Biasin is a tiny gallery run by an a brother-and-sister artisan duo who specialize in tasteful Venetian prints and pottery objects made in their own workshop. The prices are surprisingly low given the quality and beauty of what’s on offer. Find this gem at Salizada S. Polo 2094 Venezia. Tel + 39 041 5289396 (no website).
Spritz, the typical Venetian prosecco-based aperitif, can be ordered for as little as 2,50€ at just any café in town, where it’s regularly served with a complimentary bowl of chips. For a spritz with a majestic view of the Grand Canal we recommend Naranzaria, an upmarket wine bar with a great outdoor terrace that is just perfect in summer.
Spritz – Wine Dharma
For glorious seafood in the company of locals head to Osteria La Perla Ai Bisatei on the island of Murano. It’s a simple trattoria that serves traditional Venetian fare for lunch only, but it’s so popular you need to reserve or come early for the chance to grab a table. Go for spaghetti alle vongole, bigoli in salsa (whole-wheat spaghetti with sautéed onions and anchovies), or the catch of the day, served grilled or fried.
For more formal dining or special occasions you can’t beat Riviera, a classy spot with tables that overlook the Giudecca canal. Despite the strict rules (groups of more than five people are not allowed, a 50€ deposit is required for bookings to discourage no shows) it attracts a steady flow of diners that come here for its contemporary take on Venetian cuisine. The seven-course seafood-tasting menu (105€ without wine) is the ultimate epicurean experience.
One last thing
As the city struggles to handle the huge influx of tourists, visitors should keep in mind that Venice is a place where people live. There are just around 54,000 residents left to cope with a yearly flux of 15 million visitors, who sometimes fail to understand they are not in a resort. As a result, wearing beachwear, swimming in the canals, attaching “love locks” to bridges and monuments, picnicking in public places and riding bikes through the city have now unfortunately become common behavior among a rising number of visitors.
To promote responsible tourism, the city of Venice this year launched a #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign. Suggestions include visiting artisan workshops and choosing only original products, while avoiding illegal vendors. Tourists are asked not to linger on bridges and not to picnic on the steps of churches, bridges, monuments or other public places. You can respect Venezia by carefully choosing your picnic spots (I suggest the Giardini park and the beaches of the Lido island) and observing and imitating local behaviour as much as possible. Adapting to life in one of Italy’s most beautiful cities shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, it may turn out to be so much fun that you’ll want to extend your trip another 48 hours!
- For the 10 best restaurants in Venice, head over to The Culture Trip.
- The Telegraph rounds up the top attractions in Venice.
- Dreaming of buying a property in Italy? Read our advice here.