Some Suggestions and Secrets
to slip inside your Guide Book
Several friends have asked us to provide them with a few tips for their visit to Venice and so we have jotted down some notes which we hope will be helpful. We have also added some photos to whet your appetite for this most wondrous of cities.
Everyone has their very own private Venice, with their favourite special corners that they want to share with other admirers of the city. This is my guide to the Venice that Mike and I enjoy and want to share with you, and even if you’ve visited before, it may reveal aspects of La Serenissima which you haven’t yet discovered. Fredo
BEFORE YOU GO:
You will need -
EHIC (previously E111) - your European Health Insurance Card (Do you have one? You should.)
A good map of Venice - Remember Location Location Location - it is essential to find the location of your hotel on a map before you leave home.
THINGS TO TAKE:
After-sun cream (obviously, you won’t need these in winter...though you might!)
Comfortable walking shoes
Insect repellent (there may be mosquitoes although we have not been troubled)
Remember the golden PMT rule
WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN VENICE
In Venice you either walk or you take a water bus (a vaporetto). Water taxis are hugely expensive and so are single tickets for a vaporetto ride, but a good option at Marco Polo airport is to buy a combined vaporetto pass and return ticket for the road bus from airport to city..
You will need to use the vaporetti (water buses) to get around the city, and a single journey costs 7 euros (January 2015). However, look out for the "VeneziaUnica” (Venice Connected) office or self-service ticket machines at Marco Polo airport where you can buy a vaporetto pass to save money. You may also buy a pass before you leave home - See more info at http://www.veneziaunica.it/en/node/623)
The passes or Travel Cards (similar to the Oyster Cards we use on London's transport system) are offered in time periods ranging from 24 hours to 7 days. Use them as often as you like. The costs of the Travel Cards (Jan 2015) are:
1 day card (24 hours) - 20 euros
2 day card (48 hours) - 30 euros
3 day card (72 hours) - 40 euros
7 day card (1 week) - 60 euros
The timing begins from the moment you first validate the pass at the vaporetto stop.
At Marco Polo airport, you can catch a local bus or an Airport Express Bus to Piazzale Roma (the boarding-point for the Grand Canal and all vaporetti destinations). The bus fare for the No.5 stopping bus (€4 one-way or €8 return) can be added to the cost of whichever vaporetto pass you choose. This bus is cheaper (but often more crowded) than the non-stop Airport Express. Buses leave frequently and it takes about 15-20 minutes to arrive at Piazzale Roma (see below) depending on traffic.
You can buy your bus ticket from a machine outside the terminal (the instructions are in English). Or ask the driver. Both local and Express buses leave from directly in front of the terminal exit, the local No. 5 stop being to the left of the Express bus stop. It's worth checking which bus leaves first but of course the cheaper local bus takes a little longer.
There are also road taxis to Piazzale Roma, and there is the Alilaguna water bus, a sign-posted 'eight minute' walk away (they say) on the waterfront. There are now several Alilaguna routes to Venice so check for the one to take you nearest to your hotel. You will need to know your hotel's nearest Alilaguna waterbus stop. The single fare is about €15. The journey time will vary depending on the route - it will take much longer than the bus to Piazzale Roma but it will save taking a vaporetto in addition to the bus ride.
Water taxis from the waterfront to your Venice hotel are very expensive (a flat €100+ fare) but may be worth it if there is a group of you all with suitcases.
If you arrive by train you can buy your pass outside the station and board a vaporetto immediately on the Grand Canal. Leaving the station with the Grand Canal right there in front of you is one of life's 'wow' experiences!
If you fly to Treviso airport, there is a dedicated bus service, which goes to Piazzale Roma.
AT PIAZZALE ROMA
This is the bus terminus for Venice. Here you will leave transport with wheels behind. Look for the ACTV office where you can buy your ticket for the water-bus, which you must get used to calling the vaporetto. Of course you may already have bought your vaporetto pass at the airport but otherwise it can be purchased here. Single journeys are expensive, as we said above, so we recommend you buying a pass, depending on the length of your visit. The ticket sellers are generally helpful and speak English.
The vaporetti stops are on the Grand Canal, down the steps by the ticket office, beside a new bridge. The new indicator signs are efficient at telling you which vaporetti go where, and where to board them. Make sure you know which stop you need to disembark at for your hotel. You must validate your ticket/pass before you board the boat and EACH TIME you use it - hold it against the small machine similar to London’s card scanners (like you would an Oyster card). There's no need to remove it from your wallet.
It is important to have a valid ticket or pass when you board the vaporetto. Yes, ticket inspections are frequent, and yes, you do have to pay a hefty fine if you don’t buy a ticket. But if you don't have a ticket when you board, tell a member of the vaporetto staff and they will issue you with a single journey ticket.
If this is your first visit, remember that you only get one chance to arrive in Venice for the first time - it's like arriving nowhere else so savour your first ride up the Grand Canal. Board Line 1, which stops at (almost) all stops on the Grand Canal; Line 2 is faster, as it doesn’t stop between Ferrovia (the railway station, also known as Venezia Santa Lucia) and the Rialto. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one of the older vaporetti with outside seats at the bow or stern. Sit back, and start to enjoy the unique Venice views.
Of course not all vaporetti take the main picturesque Grand Canal route.The ones for the Giudecca, the Zattere, the Fondamenti Nuove or the Riva degli Schiavoni and other parts of Venice may head away from the Grand Canal, through other parts of Venice around the docks or towards the lagoon. But the indicator signs at P'le Roma (that's how they abbreviate it) will tell you which route to take.
The vaporetti get very crowded. Don’t forget, this is the Venetian equivalent of the Circle Line, and Venice is a working city. Even so, the vaporetti are an efficient form of transport once you get used to the slow pace.
Make sure you have your map to hand as you don't want to get lost before you've arrived! Whether making your way to a hotel or an apartment, it's best to check your route on a map from the nearest vaporetti stop to your destination before you even leave home! It's fun to get lost in Venice on a sunny day, but not such fun at night when you are tired and dragging luggage.
(From May 2015, we understand it becomes an offence to drag suitcases with noisy wheels after 11.00pm. The sound is amplified in narrow alleyways, disturbs the locals, and you could be fined €80! Use suitcases with rubber wheels, arrive earlier, or carry them, please.)
Your guide-book will tell you all about the places you really have to visit in Venice -
St Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace and the Accademia to name but three. However, here are our top recommendations, that you shouldn’t overlook (but check your guide for opening times and prices, as these may change).
1. When our friend Margaret returned from her first visit to Venice, we quizzed her about the places she’d visited. She had to admit that she actually hadn’t gone in anywhere; she was so fascinated by the city, she had simply wandered round looking at it. And you know, I think Margaret got it right. There is nowhere like Venice, and no two parts of it are alike (as you will discover when you inevitably get lost).
Venice is divided in two by the Grand Canal. On the north side are the districts of San Marco, Cannaregio and Castello; on the south side are the Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce districts. The districts (or sestieri) have their individual characteristics, some being busier than others, more or less touristy, some with designer shops but others catering for local people. All have charm, and surprises around every corner. Set yourself the task of finding a particular destination on your map, then set off, be side-tracked, find an unexpected shop or gallery, take a break for a Cappuccino, step onto a vaporetto...oh, where was that place you wanted to find?
Our favourite district is the Dorsoduro on the south side which is where we usually stay. It is less of a tourist magnet than the expensive area surrounding St Mark's Square, and it is a delight to wander around. Here is one leisurely walk we think you may enjoy -
A Stroll Around San Barnaba
Take the vaporetto to the Ca’ Rezzonico stop, and walk straight ahead to the Campo San Barnaba.The campo looks ordinary, but there are a few things here worth a second glance. You will see the restaurant Oniga in front of you. To the right of the Oniga, there is a small grocery store, which has very exclusive produce. Try to pass by Grom's gelateria (but why should you? Go on, spoil yourself!) and have a look at Madera, which sells elegant ornaments and bags. If you carry on down the Calle Lunga, you will find Madera's other shop, with beautiful and expensive tableware.
Don't go any further than the Pasticceria Colusso on the right hand side of the Calle, but in the Carnival season, pop in there and treat yourself to some Fritelle filled with zabaione. These are small doughnuts that only appear for the carnevale. Why not gobble one while standing at the counter, and ask them to wrap some up for later?
Time for tea at the Fujiama tea room, on the opposite side of the Calle. And do you have a friend who likes jigsaw puzzles? Drive them mad with a puzzle of the map of Venice, from the small printer's near the top of the street.
Retrace your steps back to Campo San Barnaba (and I hope you are still following your map carefully) then you can...
Either turn right (beneath the arch) for a detour past another favourite restaurant, Cassin dei Nobili, to a small shopping area...
Or turn left, past the Oniga and the grocery store. On the corner you'll find Signor Blum, and his colourful wooden toys. Turn left again at the canal (this is where Katherine Hepburn fell into the canal in the movie Summertime), and admire the splendidly colourful and fresh produce on the vegetable barge. Just slightly further along, there's a fine-art photographer. In the window he will probably have a picture taken from the spot where you are standing of the bridge in the snow. The jeweller next door has some attractive pieces.
Now cross the bridge, the Ponte del Pugni. Halfway down the Rio Terra is a branch of Maier, another delicatessan (I'm obsessive about these). Slightly further along, you'll find the Gualti shop - a tiny outlet for this amazing designer. (Click HERE)
You can now turn the corner to your left and carry on into Campo Santa Margarita, and stop at the cafe on the corner for a cappucino or a Spritz Aperol - yes, I know the classic Venetian drink is a Bellini, but believe me, they all drink Spritz Aperol all the time. Try it.
At this point, retrace your steps to the Ponte Del Pugni, but don't cross the bridge. Turn left (along Hepburn's canal) and left again into Calle degli Botteghe. There is some fabulous antique glass in the shops on your right. Follow the Calle as it turns right, and take first left. On the right hand side, there is a lovely glass shop of modern design - Mike has several pieces from this young designer. Ahead is a shop window, with yet more glass, a mixture of antique and new work. The door is in the square, the Capiello Squellini, and the woman who runs the shop will be pleased to tell you all about her glassware, antique and modern.
If you continue along this route you will come to Campo di Frari and Scuola Grande di San Rocco...see below
2. Scuola Grande di San Rocco: Rome has the Sistine Chapel - Venice has San Rocco. Tintoretto spent 23 years working on this guild hall. The ground floor has scenes from the Life of Mary, with a blood-curdling Slaughter of the Innocents included. However, the magnificence begins as you mount the grand staircase, and enter the great hall - your jaw will drop. Take time to absorb your surroundings, and then go to the side room which contains the greatest of all Cruxifixions. It’s the Ben-Hur of Cruxifixions, and perhaps Tintoretto’s greatest achievement.
3. Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni: This is a smaller guildhall, and it’s like stepping into a jewel-box. The ground-floor was decorated by Carpaccio - you'll see Saint George and the Dragon, but look out for all the background details where a whole world is at work and play.
4. Palazzo Querini Stampalia: The ground-floor and garden of this 16th century palazzo was redesigned by Carlo Scarpa into an interesting modern design. Take time to explore this transformation, and realise that the building now incorporates a research library as well as a museum. There is a surprisingly cheap cafe and a not very cheap shop. The museum is on the second floor, concentrating on periods of Venetian history. One of its treasures is a remarkable Bellini painting of The Presentation of Christ.
5. The Ghetto. Many people think they’ve been here, but they may have missed it, as it’s actually a very small area with low-ceilinged seven storey buildings. On the Fondamente di Cannaregio, look for the kosher restaurant Gam Gam — the entrance to the Ghetto is just there, where the Calle del Ghetto Vecchio leads under a sotoportego. It’s a fascinating little area, and a welcome relief from the nearby busy Strada Nova.
A. An open-air ride up the Grand Canal - Everyone should do this. Find a vaporetto that’s going to the Lido. Lines 1 & 2 have open-air seating at the back or front but if you can't get to those seats, don't worry - everyone has to get off at the Lido and re-embark, so make sure you are at the front of the queue when coming back so you can find seats outside and return to Venice enjoying the full open-air ride up the Grand Canal.
(Sometimes those with a vaporetto pass are permitted to stay on the boat at the Lido, but the journey back otherwise counts as a second ride.)
Note: The Dorling-Kindersley guide is useful for identifying the buildings on either side of the Grand Canal.
B. The best way to see St Mark’s is to go to Mass on Sunday morning. This is what the basilica was built for, and as the lights will be on, you will see it in all its glory.
But you may be able to pop in at other times for a limited free glimpse, with or without the lights. We think this may happen 'off peak', otherwise an entrance fee may be charged at High Season and queues can be long. The mosaics are amazing.
C. Coffee in St Mark’s Square? You pay a fortune at Florian’s or Quadri’s (and if you do, it’s bad form to complain about it afterwards!) - instead you could climb the grand staircase in the Museo Correr (directly opposite San Marco) turn left past the ticket office, and left again to the cafeteria. Take a table by the window, order your coffee and gaze down on life in the piazza while you enjoy it.
D. You have to see St Mark’s Square at night - magical!
E. Why stand in line to get into the Accademia (well ok, there are thousands of reasons) when all the artists in there are represented in the churches around Venice? Some churches have entrance fees, but others are free to see and you can give a donation.
Another option is to buy a Venice Chorus ticket at any church in that programme. This will give you admission to 16 churches in the city, including the Frari. You don’t have to visit them all right away, as the ticket is valid for 1 year. But it only allows you to visit each church once, of course.
F. Al Bottegon (Cantina di Vini Gia Schiavi) Fondamenta Maravegie 992 Tel: 041 523 0034 Closed on Sunday. It’s hardly a secret, as it’s mentioned in all the guide books. But it isn’t here because of the amazing selection of wines and brandies (Carolyn recommends the Vecchia Romagna) and the very cheap prosecco, or for the mouth-watering cichetti (like tapas). No, Signor Schiavi has a special secret - a dessert wine made from strawberry-shaped grapes called “vino fragolini”. He keeps it under the counter, so ask for it, and tell him if you want the rosso or the more rare bianco. Or take home a bottle of Reccioto to impress your friends at the end of dinner.
Competition! Another bar has opened (2012) further along the fondamenta towards the Zattere....choose whichever is less crowded.
G. Fior de Latte flavour ice-cream. It’s heaven! And the best gelateria is Nico Gelati on the Zattere which has tables on its own quayside terrace where you can sit in the sun and watch the world pass by. There are so many flavours to choose - which is your favourite?
But if you are not near the Zattere, delicious ice-creams can be found all over Venice.
H. Your hotel may have an altana, one of those little sun-terraces perched precariously on the roof, but it probably won’t afford much of a view of the city. You could join the queue in Piazza San Marco to climb to the top of the Campanile, but why not jump on a vaporetto and zoom over to the church of San Giorgio Maggiore instead? Have a look at this Palladian church, and the heart-rending Crucifixion on the left-hand side of the nave before heading for the bell-tower. The elevator will carry you up to another level where you can view Venice, the Giudecca and other islands in the lagoon from sky-high. And what a view! St. Mark's Square and all of Venice is spread out before you - you will be amazed by how extensive it really is, by the height of the Gianipoli church and by the width of the Giudecca canal. Count the leaning towers! You can even peep into the grounds of the Cipriani Hotel from here! Mike thinks this is the best view in Venice; if you can find a better one, let us know.
It’s a good idea to get here reasonably early, as the lift (thank goodness there is one!) only holds about 6 at a time and queues quickly form.
When you come back down, do take time to look at Tintoretto’s two paintings on the altar: The Gift of Manna in the Desert, and a Last Supper that will make you wonder why there’s such a fuss about Leonardo’s.
I Pensione La Calcina: I wasn’t going to reveal this secret, but Mike said I should. This is the hotel we stay at. It’s small (29 rooms, including some singles), cosy, comfortable, clean and totally delightful, with friendly and helpful staff. It’s conveniently located on the Zattere, and has a terrace right on the water where you can have a very good buffet breakfast. This doubles as a cafe/restaurant in the afternoon and evening. So why did I not want to tell you? Well, it’s already very difficult to get a booking (Italian cousin Lisa at last managed to book a room in January 2015), because everybody wants to go back to it. We usually book a year in advance! However, it’s always worth trying, just in case they have a cancellation.
Don’t tell anyone else - Shhh! See HOTELS below.
HERE is a list (with websites) of Venice hotels in the Dorsoduro district which is the area where we like to stay -
(This is an annex to the Belle Arti and is cheaper.)
Friends have stayed at the top sixon the list and have been satisfied.
We also recommend you check
to cross-check prices for special offers and availability.
Two useful apartment websites are -
Italian menus can pose a problem, with the Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Contorni and Dolci. How much do you order? What do they expect you to have?
The answer is simple: have what you like - just be careful not to order too much. For most people, an antipasto and a primo, or an antipasto and a secondo, are more than enough. Or drop the antipasto, and add a dolce. Or have two antipasti, if that’s what you really want. You’re either ravenous or greedy if you have a primo and a secondo.
The Antipasti can be quite substantial, and often consist of cured meats, or a fish or sea-food salad, or a thick soup. The Primi are usually pastas or rice, and the secondi will have meat or fish as the main feature, occasionally with potatoes or polenta, or nothing at all. That’s where you chose contorni, or side-dishes: it’s a good idea to share these. By the way, most restaurants will only do risotto for a minimum of two people, so check if the price shown on the menu is for one or two. Your waiter or waitress will help you out.
A note on the waiters: they should know their stuff, so ask them to recommend dishes, tell them what you like and how hungry you are. Ask them their name. Let them recommend the wine - but tell them how much you want to pay. If you treat them well and in a friendly manner, you’ll be welcomed back the next time you appear at the restaurant.
All the restaurants we recommend are of a good standard, and affordable. Prices are comparable to London, and in 2015 we paid on average €40/50 per person, with wine. There are plenty of pizzerias where you can eat much more cheaply, but beware of “menu turistico” - these vary in quality and quantity and can be really boring.
Where it’s essential to book, the concierge at your hotel will help - or go along in person and check it out.
Most of the restaurants we recommend below are in the Dorsoduro district which we prefer, but there are a few in other parts of the city. We try to avoid obvious tourist restaurants in the busier areas which can be more expensive than they are worth.
CASIN DEI NOBILI Calle Tolletta (near Campo San Barnaba) Dorsoduro 2765 Vaporetto stop: Ca’ Rezzonico Tel: 041 241 1841 Booking recommended for early evening. Closed Monday
One of our favourites. There’s an indoor room, and a room that’s open to the stars (don’t worry, they have a canopy that completely encloses it if it rains) which is very pleasant. It opens for lunch, and in the evening, it’s a combined restaurant and pizzeria. It has an interesting menu which is worth studying. For instance, under Contorni, you’ll find Olive Ascolane, and Caprese. The olives are covered in a thin layer of sausage-meat and deep-fried, and we usually share a portion of these as a nibble to whet our appetite. The Caprese makes a refreshing starter, but don’t order anything too heavy to follow. The fish is special and the pizzas extraordinarily cheap. Do make sure that your menu folder contains the menu of the day with its 'specials'. It may give your appetite an edge to know that you’re eating in a former brothel.
TERRAZZA DEL CASIN DEI NOBILI Zattere, Dorsoduro 924/25 Tel: 041 520 6895 Closed Thursday. It’s right by the Zattere vaporetto stop, so it’s very easy to find.
This elegant restaurant is a slightly upmarket version of the Casin dei Nobili. It has a terrace on the Giudecca Canal, perfect for warm summer evenings and it adjoins the Gelateria Nico, Venice’s top ice cream emporium.
This is an old favourite, but we haven’t visited since it recently changed ownership. First reports are good! However, we must not enthuse about dishes we have enjoyed in the past, but we look forward to visiting it again.
SAN TROVASO Fondamente Maravegie, Dorsoduro 1016 Tel: 041 520 3703 Closed Monday If you’re at the Terrazza del Casin Dei Nobili, don’t cross the bridge, but take a sharp right up the Fondamente Nani, which becomes the Fondamente Maravegie. You’ll see the gondola yard across the canal, and you pass the famous wine shop before you come to the San Trovaso. Everyone finds their way here, and though it’s vast (and they’ve opened an annex nearby) it’s still necessary to book. The standard is good, and it’s exceptionally good value. It’s also one of the few places in Venice which still offers Sgroppino.
Campo San Barnaba, Dorsoduro
2852 Tel: 041 099 4410 Closed Tuesday Vaporetto stop: Ca’ Rezzonico www.oniga.it
This restaurant is opposite the chuch in this lively square, with tables outside and in. It offers a vegetarian option, but beware: order all three courses, and you’ll have far too much to eat. The mixed vegetarian starter was so generous that I couldn’t eat all of the delicious lasagne that followed. Mike so much enjoyed his sardines in soar starter, and the beef in balsamic vinegar that he had it again on our second visit, but he too had to admit defeat at the huge portions. It’s a very friendly atmosphere.
LA BITTA Calle Lunga San Barnaba 2753a, Dorsoduro 30123 Tel: 041 523 0531 Closed Sunday
La Bitta is a short way down the calle Lunga from Campo San Barnaba. There are two sittings, at 7 and 9, and it’s necessary to book. There is a small garden with tables as well. Unusually for Venice, it doesn’t serve fish. Your waiter will explain the menu, mounted on a small easel, and you can ask for advice on portion size as often the first and second courses are interchangeable. Also unusual, if you only drink half your bottle of wine, that’s all you’ll be charged for. Very pleasant.
PANE VINO SAN DANIELE Campo Angelo Raffaele, Dorsoduro 1722, Venice 30123
Tel: 041 523 7456 Nearest vaporetto stop: San Basilio Closed for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s a bit off the beaten track, behind the church of San Sebastiano, but it’s really not that far, and is worth seeking out. A small interior, but lots of tables in a large quiet square. Very friendly service, and excellent food. The woman in charge speaks English (she's Canadian!) and will explain the dishes and give advice. You may pay a little extra here but you will want to return.
VINARIA, Fondamenta del Vin, San Polo 1097 Tel: 041 241 0665 www.vinariarestaurante.it
This is relatively easy to find, as it’s on the Grand Canal, just south of the Rialto, in the San Polo district. The nearest vaporetto stop is Rialto Mercato; it’s a short walk from there. From the canal side, you go into a small bar, and that leads through to the restaurant. The decor is so modern and elegant that we thought it would be expensive, especially with its Grand Canal view, but the menu was enticing and very reasonable, the food delicios and beautifully served. It also serves pizzas.
MISTRA Giudecca 212a Giudecca Tel: 041 522 0743 Closed Monday evenings, and all day Tuesday
Vaporetto stop: It’s beween Redentore and Giudecca Palanca
You’ll notice a large entry in the houses with signs for Mistra. This will direct you through the boatyard to the other side of the island, and the restaurant is up a metal staircase. In the evening, I’ve heard the menu described as “budget threatening” but at lunch-time it caters for the workers from the boatyard. Ask for the Menu del Giorno, and you’ll be offered a small pasta, a meat course with chips or salad, and a small dessert for the non-threatening price of 13 euros. We haven’t been in the evening, but it’s a place Venetians go to eat.
AL MASCARON Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa, Castello 5225 Tel: 041 522 5995 Closed Sunday
It’s just off Campo Santa Maria Formosa, and handy if you visit the Querini Stampalia.
This is an Osteria, so the menu is slightly more limited — but what they do, they do very well. We went for lunch and were a bit non-plussed to start off with when the menu seemed to indicate that everything was for 2 people, and when the waiter placed a full carafe of white wine on the table. However, once we clarified that we wanted red wine, and only half-a-flask, and chose our food, things looked up. I was able to order my bowl of spaghetti (for 1) with no problem. Rose enjoyed her mixed fish, John liked his octopus salad, Mike thought the Sarde in Saor (a Venetian speciality - sardines in sweet vinegar with onions and raisins) was excellent, and my pasta came with a fresh tomato sauce. The Mascaron is a gargoyle that you will find on the other side of the church of Santa Maria in the square. Recommended by Judith and Julian.
IMPRONTA CAFÉ Calle dei Preti/Crosera, 3815 Dorsoduro, 30123 Venezia
It’s not easy to find, but it’s worth tracking down. Small, elegant and very busy, with an interesting modern menu with the finest ingredients – and at moderate prices.The presentation is spectacular, and the food usually tastes as good as it looks!
ANTICHE CARAMPANE San Polo 1911 (near Ponte delle Tette) 3125 Venezia
Tel: 041 524 0165
It’s reputed to be one of the very best restaurants in Venice and naturally tries to discourage tourists by not serving pizzas or ‘tourist menus’. Do go, and tell us what you think (and if you can find it, you win a prize!)
LA ZUCCA Calle del Tentor, Santa Croce 1762 Tel: 041 524 1570 Closed Sunday,Vaporetto Stop San Stae, and follow your map towards Campo San Giacomo del Orio Booking essential
There are two sittings, at 7pm and 9pm, and it’s very unusual to get in by booking on the day. Make your booking at least 1 day ahead. It’s small and the menu changes daily, and they take it very seriously. However, the rich imagination in the cooking and interesting combinations of flavours it produces are worth the effort. I had tagliatelle with gorgonzola sauce - the pasta was properly al dente and the sauce piquant. (I also had the mixed vegetable plate, which was far more than I needed). Recommended by Howard & Michael
If you can’t get in here, we recommend the restaurant across the bridge on Calle Larga by the canalside as a convenient alternative, not fancy but nice
VILLA 600 Fondamenta Borgognoni 12, Torcello Tel: 041 527 2254
First you have to make your way to Torcello, one of the furthest islands, but worth the visit for the ancient basilica. Villa 600 is at the top of the canal, opposite the Locanda Cipriani. The Villa is a converted farmhouse, and it’s pleasant to eat in the garden. They use a lot of local produce, and it’s a total delight, especially for a relaxed summer lunch in the garden. It is popular for weddings and other special occasions because of its combination of idyllic setting and attention to detail.
HARRY’S BAR Calle Vallaresso 1323 San Marco Tel: 041 528 5777 Open daily
Conveniently, it’s just by the San Marco/Vallaresso vaporetto stop. It’s in the “ruinously expensive” category. We haven’t been there, but a friend lied to her husband and said I’d recommended it. He hasn’t spoken to me since. However, for some people, it’s the top of their “wants” list. Maria and Paul recommend the Bellinis.
HARRY’S DOLCI Fondamente San Biagio 773, Giudecca Tel: 041 522 4844 Vaporetto stop Palanca Closed Tuesday, and November — March
Also in the “ruinously expensive” category. The menu is the same as the menu at the Locanda Cipriani on Torcello. We had a cappucino there, and the desserts and pastries are said to be out of this world. Maurizio at the Terrazza del Casin dei Nobili used to work there, and he said that in the early evening, the atmosphere is magical - the light, the breeze, the sunset. Experience all of that over an aperitive, then whizz over the Giudecca canal and have dinner with Maurizio at his new address.
LINEA D’OMBRA Ponte dell’ Umilita, Dorsoduro 19 Tel: 041 241 1881 Vaporetto stop Zattere or Salute (which is nearer).
It’s on the Giudecca side of the Dorsoduro, going towards the Dogana point, and it has a terrace on the canal. There’s elegance and then there’s drop-dead elegance. No, of course we haven’t eaten here: the menu is more expensive than any of the Cipriani restaurants. But I’m longing for someone to go there and tell me about it!
OSTERIA ALLA VEDOVA Calle del Pistor, Canareggio 3912 Tel: 041 528 5324 Closed Tuesday and Sunday morning.
Very close to the Ca d’Oro - just across the Strada Nova, in fact, this traditional osteria will provide a welcome break from the bustle of the busy street.
Our friend Nicholas wrote to say -
The place we liked so much in Venice is:
OSTERIA DA ALBERTO, Calle Giacinto Gallina, Cannaregio 5401, 30121 Venezia. Tel & fax: 041 5238153
We were introduced to it by an Italian friend who came to visit us from his home in Auronzo in the Dolomites and we really liked the informality. You can stand or sit just inside the door to have a pre-lunch prosecco and admire all the lovely antipasti laid out on a marble table. They have two rooms, looking onto a small canal, furnished with comfortable rustic tables and chairs. It’s unpretentious but with efficient, friendly service. They recognised us the second time we went even though our Italian friend was no longer with us. We liked the fact that the two brothers who run it have two or three specials each day – all fish and seafood – and they will offer you a half portion of two of them on the same plate so that you don’t have to decide which might be the nicer.
We went along to sample it, and found that Nicholas was right on every point.
TO GIVE YOU AN APPETITE...
You should definitely visit the Vegetable Market and the Fish Market, next to each other near to the Rialto bridge. If it's not the variety of colours at the Vegetable Market which first catches your attention, it will be the smell of the fresh vegetables which we miss at home where everything is clingfilm-wrapped. Here you will find the basics and the exotics together in abundant display as if waiting for the judges at a Harvest Festival competition. Every day is a Farmers' Market day, but visit early before the restaurants and the locals buy up all the prize items. You must be early too for the Fish Market (but it's closed Sundays and Mondays) if you want to see the pick of the catch - they will be bought and cooking by lunchtime leaving only bare stalls to be hosed down and a smell of fish in the air.
THE CAPPUCINO HABIT
All bars in Italy are required by law to display their tariff outside their premises, so you should always check how much you’re going to be charged before you order your much-needed cappuccino. If you choose to sit outside and enjoy people-watching in the sun, then you will be charged more than if you stand at the bar. And if you’re in a busy tourist area, the prices rise as well – you pay half the price around the corner in the next street!
A useful addition on the busy tourist track near the Frari and the San Rocco is BOTTEGA DEL CAFFE DERSU which sells extraordinarily cheap refreshments in a bright modern setting!
Also, look out for branches of Rosa Alba near the Gianipoli and on the island of San Giorgio. In winter, the hot chocolate is irresistible - no, you really don’t need it con panna (with cream)!
There is no shortage of shops in Venice where you can buy glass, and many people like to visit Murano, the traditional home of glass-making. A lot of the glass is not of good quality, and it’s a great shame that Venetian glass is judged on the basis of this mass-produced rubbish. Beware pseudo imports from China that will not have an authentic Murano label. A number of talented craftsmen and women are working in the Dorsoduro, and you will find them if you stroll from the salute to Campo Santa Margarita. You will find very high quality at reasonable prices (though some can be very dear!) and much better value than you will find in some other areas.
Also worth a vist is the Stanze del Vetro on the island of San Giorgio. Walk down beside the marina at the side of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, past the Rosa Alba café, and it’s on the right. There are changing exhibitions of craftsmen in glass, and the work is often breath-taking. Admission free. Check for current exhibitions. Open 10 -7, closed on Wednesdays.
THE VENICE CARNIVAL
Everywhere in Venice you will see Carnival masks for sale, a reminder that Venice's most famous festival is the Carnevale di Venezia, held each year for ten days or so in mid February. This may not be the sunniest month to see Venice in all its glory but the Carnival adds an extra colourful flourish and excitement to the city, turning an off-season period into a popular choice. We have not visited Venice at that time but friends have put on their costumes and masks and had a ball, literally. It's an excuse to dress up in Venetian finery, hide yourself behind a flamboyant mask and go to one of the many Balls held in the palaces of Venice. Or just enjoy the fun as revellers show off their costumes in the squares.
If we gloomily think of death in Venice, of course we must blame Mann and Visconti for the book and the film. And then there was Don't Look Now to add an extra chill to our associations with the city. But don't forget that Katharine Hepburn gave us Venetian sunshine, laughter and romance in Summertime, and more recently even James Bond made our pulses quicken when he demolished a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Casino Royale. Yes, there's a lot of life in Venice, and far from being a dying city, it keeps reinventing itself in order to stay alive. For centuries Venice crumbled away and that is part of its charm, but we want Venice and all its ornate flourishes to continue to cast their magic spell on us for more centuries to come and that is why a new urgency is being given to restoration. Today you can't look at Venice's skyline without seeing cranes towering over domes; scaffolding is covering many palazzos, canals are being dredged and their walls repaired to keep dampness out of foundations; new drainage is being installed; and most importantly a barrier is being built to keep the high tides out of the lagoon. All this is hugely expensive and so every effort is made to raise extra cash. Large adverts promoting designer goods are placed on the hoardings covering scaffolding - in July 2010, the Bridge of Sighs was surrounded by ads for designer watches and the Accadamia Gallery was shrouded in huge Burbury ads as expensive restoration takes place out of sight. By summer 2012 the restorers had moved on elsewhere. Big summer concerts bring big spenders to St Mark's Square where a large stage and banks of seating sometimes compete for attention against the backdrop of St Mark's Cathedral. I can hear you groan with dismay at the thought of such monstrous intrusions into the historical and picturesque ambience of this unique city. But we must be realistic - all this work is vital to Venice's continued existence. We may regret the dwindling population and the disappearance of small local shops, but the city will flourish as long as visitors continue to come, and they surely will. As scaffolding comes down and delapidated buildings are returned to their former glory, Venice proves it is a city with life in it yet, a unique city which still retains all the romance and the magic we expect from it.
VENICE'S FAMOUS THEATRE
We haven't forgotten this is a website for theatregoers, and so -
TEATRO LA FENICE, Campo San Fantin 1965. Tel: 041 528 3780,
reservations 04102424; www.teatrolafenice.it Vaporetto stop Santa Maria del Giglio
It's almost impossible to get tickets for a performance at La Fenice, one of the world's great opera-houses; you have a better chance for tickets for a concert or a recital. On one occasion that we managed to see an opera there, we waited for hours, and finally tickets for the Royal box were sold. This is booked for the Commune di Venezia, to entertain visiting dignitaries, and if it is not in use, tickets are sold on the evening of the performance (so you may be lucky).
Sometimes there are cheap (€30) tickets available which they don't offer unless you ask, because they want to sell the high priced tickets first. These bargains may be in the upper galleries with restricted views, but still worth it for the price
One way of seeing inside the theatre is to join a guided tour of the building, and it's well worth it. In 2003 the Phoenix rose once again, beautifully restored, from the ashes of the fire in 1996 that destroyed 80% of the building. Tours are offered daily, but tours in English seem to be at different times each day - and it's essential to book in advance. Following the fire and restoration, you will now see firemen in attendance at all times, keeping watch.
Note that the loading-bay for the scenery is at the back of the theatre, on a canal. Yes, everything arrives by water; this is Venice, after all. And notice that this is the Calle Maria Callas, as far as I can make out, the most up-to-date person and the only woman who isn't a saint (though she was a diva) to have a street in Venice named after her.
And finally -
On entering a shop, always say Buon giorno. Admire the goods - Che bello! means “how lovely”, and Quanto costa? is “How much does it cost?”
Dove le toilette? is a life-saver. Incidentally, the public toilets in Venice are very well-maintained, and quite well sign-posted although you won't find many of them, just in the popular tourist areas. The toilets in small bars and cafes are not always so well maintained although the facilities in better restaurants should be up to standard.
Always say Grazie (Thank you) and Prego means You’re Welcome. Another useful phrase is Va Bene which means OK. You'll be very OK in Venice!
Arrivederci, Buon Vacanze
Fredo & Mike