As you may already know from this post, Venice is one of my favourite cities and I’m always amazed by its scenery and the incredible architecture which still survives the cosmopolitanism and modernism of today’s century. There is no other city like Venice and never will be. Everywhere you go is open air art, every building is a historical building, every house where the Venetians live has been there for centuries, the palaces have been home to balls, masquerades and parties. Venice is like a postcard at 360 degrees.
Nevertheless, just like any other major tourist destinations, Venice has its up and downs and you as a tourist should be very careful not to fall into the ‘tourist trap’. Let me take you to an unconventional trip around the laguna and discover the real Venice, along with some nice eating spots 😉
Where to stay and when to go
I have already suggested quite briefly the whens and wheres in my previous post, however I’d like to go more into details. Venice is the second most visited city in Italy, but at the same time it just doesn’t have the same capacity in terms of hotels like Rome, Florence or Milan. This means that from mid February until the end of October the laguna is packed, and I really mean it, which makes it impossible to visit and to enjoy. Not to mention that you either have to wait 20 minutes before getting a nice pic that doesn’t involve you and other 10 people around or you have to become a master in using Photoshop 😉 Since neither option is appealing, my suggestion is to go during the low / dead season, e.g. November, December and January. Are you worried about the weather? Well, it’s Italy, you have more than a 70% of chances of having a sunny day …which means, sunny day, St Marco square almost empty, perfect picture!
Hotels are, well, expensive. Bare in mind that every hotel is a historic building, 80% are protected by the Italian Fine Arts, being part of the Venetian cultural heritage, so don’t be surprised by the high prices. You are staying in a building that might date back the XIV century after all! Venice is very small, so at the end of the day it doesn’t really make any difference where your hotel will be located. Even if you stay near Santa Lucia station, you are still only 10 to 15 minutes away on foot from St. Marco 😉 Pretty cool. See below a list of my hotel suggestions (tried them all, so I can easily guarantee that they are the very best of):
- Bauer Hotel
- Belmond Hotel Cipriani
- Boscolo Venezia (the honeymoon suite is just to-die-for)
- Hotel Danieli
- San Clemente Palace Kempinski Venice (on a privatly owned island)
Luxury for All Budgets
Truly Venetian Style
Modern Design Twist
Where to eat
This is a tricky one, because Venice is packed with Italian restaurants of course. Why is it tricky then? The main problem is that most of these are specifically thought for tourists and foreigners, hence they seem to lack that Italian atmosphere and feeling. Not to mention that the prices sometimes are outrageous. On one of my first trips I spent 7€ (!!!) for an espresso in St. Marco square (not at the bar, I was sitting at the table, but still, quite expensive). Don’t get me wrong, the food in Venice is very good wherever you go, but I prefer to look for places where the locals go everyday. That’s why I would recommend to go to:
This cozy and small restaurant is located in a less visited part of Venice, San Polo and that’s one of the reasons I so wanted to go there. It serves a mixture of Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, excellent choice of mezze and both vegan and vegetarian dishes are served along with gluten free option – something for everyone. The wine selection is also quite good and it includes wines from Greece, Lebanon and Armenia and if you haven’t tried them yet, go to your favourite winery immediately! Prices are average and you should spend around 20€ / 25€ per person. I went for lunch and it was really quite, however for dinner it is recommended to make a booking. See more here.
I had the ‘menù degustazione’ of the day, which included tzatziki, feta cheese, veggies with coconut and curry sauce, chicken with pomegranate and cardamom. Pita flatbread and Lebanese wine.
Bacari and Cicchetti
You can’t leave Venice without having tried its typical aperitivo, namely Aperol spritz and cicchetti, which are very similar to the Scandinavian open sandwiches, just a smaller version of it. You can find them everywhere at the famous Venetian bacari (the local name for bars where cicchetti are served). The most common one is made with salted codfish, cooked in several ways, so that one is a must on your platter! My favourite bacaro is Magna Bevi Tasi, 5 minutes from St. Marco square and they really have the very best. It’s family owned, as most places in Venice, and when I was there in mid-February they were serving spritz with Aperol made of Trevisano radicchio, which has a much more bitter taste and a burgund-ish colour.
From top left: ham with olives tapenade, turkey with rocket and mushrooms, salted cod fish with tomato, spicy tuna with chili, salami with tartare sauce and eggs with black truffle
Venetian Street Food
If you feel hungry on the way, why don’t indulge in some Venetian street food? The options are plenty, for all budgets and they are everywhere.
Little bar along the Fondamenta Zattere al Ponto Longo facing Giudecca
Around San Polo
Acqua & Mais
I spotted this little space, which is 8 minutes’ walk from Rialto Bridge going towards the University, only after having a massive lunch and I was so full that I really couldn’t have anything else. However, the food was so yummy and appealing, that I gave in and went for potato wedges with sea salt and rosmarin. Aqua & Mais specialise in fried sea food and vegetables on the go and they also have meat bites and gluten free options. Prices from 2€!
Pasta & Sugo
This new street food concept in Venice embraces the Italian dish per excellence – pasta! The concept is very easy and straightforward: first you choose your pasta, which will be cooked on the spot, and second you choose the sauce and that is pretty much it! The atmosphere is extremely cosy and modern and the brand has massively expanded its presence in many key cities and a London branch is set to be open this coming summer! Click here for more info. Meal deal with a drink is around 6€ and since it’s pasta and we are in Italy portions are huge and will keep you satisfyingly full for hours.