When friends suggested “getting lost is the best” when in Venice, I was skeptical. I pressed further in my texts asking where should we get lost? when should we get lost? They couldn’t give specifics. They forgot the names of restaurants. Everyone’s testimony was that Venice was just a wonderful place to wander.
After our trip, I’m also walking the fine line of giving the same advice since I’m now a “just get lost” convert 🙂 However, I’m trying to remember how that advice landed when I wanted more direction prior to our trip. Here is my attempt at sharing the details of our journey.
Arriving from Treviso airport, we took a bus to a main dock. We didn’t do any research about this leg of the journey so if there is better transport, we missed that. At the dock, we bought a three-day vaporetto pass and this was a definite plus! While you can walk the city streets, we loved riding these boat-busses at any time.
Day 1: We decided to visit the five sights listed by our Airbnb host. I promise I’m not being contrary by making this suggestion since I mentioned that wandering is ultimately the best bet. I merely rationalized that we needed someplace to start. I should be frank that we didn’t go inside very many of the major sights, but there were queues which suggested these were worth it.
We’d walked past Rialto Market on the way to our accommodation, so we ventured in another direction for lunch. Bacarretto had a very small Sicilian menu with very fairly priced pasta. (Santa Croce neighborhood)
MEMO: Be prepared to pretend I’m a famous photographer for the lot of this post. The tiny lanes and picturesque bridges made me feel like I couldn’t take a bad picture! Sheepishly, I can’t recall where I was for most of these shots since the city is filled with small twists and turns that brought a smile to my face.
Stop 1) After lunch, we walked to Chiesa del Frari in San Polo. I found a shop nearby that also sold bags, shirts, and lotions made by inmates in a local prison. I picked up a bag made from reused city banners.
Bonus stop in Dorsoduro) I wanted to visit Campo Santa Margherita as this was one place that my girl, Addie, said was her favorite. It didn’t disappoint. The plaza hosted laid-back cafes and bars, and outdoor benches for reading the morning paper or one’s textbook. I loved the Libreria Marco Polo bookstore. For me, this was one of the top neighborhoods in Venice because it gives the feeling that you are a tourist amongst Venetian neighbors.
Stop 2) We walked along the Dorsoduro waterfront to check out suggested restaurants, but we weren’t hungry enough to eat again (listed below). We continued all the way to Basilica Santa Maria della Salute. Our Airbnb host said that every year, on the 21st November, Venetians make a trek to this Basilica to ask for good health in the upcoming year.
Stop 3) Ponte Accademia was under construction (it’s a bridge that crosses the Canal Grande towards Piazza San Marco). We didn’t visit the Accademia Gallery or the Peggy Guggenheim museum, two of the biggest attractions in this area. I was getting hungry at this point. Yet Corey couldn’t understand why I’d be wandering further away from the very touristic food stalls in this area. I was on a mission to find a cicchetti spot that wasn’t overwhelmed with walking groups. I’m pretty excited about this gem: a wine shop/ liquor facade, but cicchetti and 1 euro glasses of local wine from extra large bottles! It’s been in the family for three generations and was clearly a spot on the local line. (FYI cicchetti are similar to tapas).
Stop 4) We opted for a vaporetto over to Piazza San Marco, or St Marks Square. This is the most touristic area of the entire city. Odds are that you’ll end up here at some point. It’s really gorgeous architecture and easy to see why you can’t miss it, but my druthers wasn’t to stay here for long periods of time.
Stop 5) Ponte Rialto was the last stop on the circuit, and my advice would be to marvel at this big ticket landmark from a vaporetto boat rather than atop the arc with swarms of visitors. Maybe it was just a bit too warm at this point on the journey, but I was ready to retire for a quick rest before heading out for dinner and a drink.
Dinner at Osteria Antico Giardinetto was around the corner from our flat! We were hosted by a wife and husband tag team – he was the chef of homemade pastas and seafood dishes, and she was the front of the house and the sommelier. Corey shared his thoughts about starting a new job in the coming week while I mused about upcoming family visits this fall.
We found gelato closer to Rialto bridge, and a bar showing the Liverpool match. While I sipped my aperol spriz, I noticed a young man trying to slyly take pictures of Corey’s Dapper Dan jacket! He folded when he forgot to turn off the flash!
Day 2: Today was Liberation Day (April 25), a national Italian holiday commemorating the end of Nazi occupation. We weren’t sure if things were going to be closed for the day, so we started with a morning trip to the Cannaregio canals and the historic Jewish ghetto, as both destinations didn’t require admission. I also opted for a cafe coretto to start the morning 🙂 read more here.
At the Campo San Marcuola vaporetto stop, we found ourselves wrapped up in a small parade on the way to the Campo Ghetto Nuovo. As this was our first destination as well, we walked and talked with them. Then, I tried to emulate my dad by capturing the faces of rally.
Cannaregio easily became the other favorite neighborhood of mine on this trip. If you like sweet neighborhood strolls, you’ll love the walk along Fondamenta delle Cappuccine. It’s north west, away from the main areas of the casino and the Ghetto.
There’s nothing lively in this part of town, but the canal-side osterias are on point. With fresh dishes calling to us from the windows, we stopped at Osteria Bea Vita for a snack.
We made our way back to the busier parts of Cannaregio. Vino Vero was one last snack stop before our next boat trip, but it was trendier and pricier. We were spoiled by the local wines and cheaper bites!
We caught the vaporetto to San Marco to transfer to the line that landed us at Giudecca. Here is where Corey got the best shot of Ponte Rialto.
The Tre Oci photography museum is directly off of Giudecca’s port. Fulvio Roiter’s ‘fotografie’ reminded me of my dad again, capturing every day moments between neighbors and cousins, and always with an eye for nature.
Though we only strolled for about 25 minutes back and forth to the main port, it was clear that the island of Giudecca wasn’t as built up as the main areas of Venice. However, the waterfront view towards San Marco was wonderful.
The vaporetto from Giudecca to Murano was about 45 minutes. We missed the museum opening hours so we opted to get off at a random point in Murano, not the main museum stop. It was definitely the road less traveled as we were the only tourists we saw for the first twenty minutes on this island famous for glass blowing.
I took lots of photos for my mom, and her friend Charlotte, because of the curious glass works, and the vibrant colours.
One shop owner I met shared how sad she was that many of the shops are selling imported glass from China, and that it’s hard to get real Murano glass made from Murano artists. Her son has taken over the glass-blowing art from his dad, and she proudly displays the “Last Symphony” glass figurines in her store window with a sign that says ‘Not for Sale’ as this was the last project of her late husband.
Cannaregio’s Trattoria Bar Pontini did not disappoint. The seafood pasta and the wine were perfect to end the evening! We found gelato on the way home and then rested our feet and packed up for the final day.
Day 3: Just get lost! I could fully embrace this advice on this golden morning. And we were rewarded with charming last-day memories.
We wandered the alleys following the sun, and avoided the signs pointing to touristic Piazzale Roma. I was drawn into Bacareto Da Lele by the bustle of elderly men gathered outside of this corner shop. We ate a breakfast roll with mortadella and chardonnay!
Our path took us to Dorsoduro’s back streets, and we meandered down canals with fruit and veggie boats, arts shops, and bakeries. In true CSpells fashion, we also ran into Zach Noble’s childhood friend, who remembered Corey right away. Only Corey would be able to make the world feel so small 🙂
Quick Shot: In Venice’s six neighborhoods, I’m guilty of not remembering the exact roads we traveled, but here’s a quick shot of some of highlights if you wanted a place to start.
- Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi – cicchetti and delicious local wine. Great for people watching and ask the owner about the yearly flood!
- Campo Santa Margherita plaza- cafes, bars, and locals catching up on life
- Basilica Santa Maria della Salute- beautiful basilica with a waterfront view of the San Marco skyline
- Libreria Marco Polo– find socially conscious authors and artists here
- Other restaurant suggestions: Ca Del Vento and Ae Oche
- Osteria Bea Vita– choose your own adventure based on the snacks that call to you.
- Trattoria Pontini– tripadvisor did not lead us astray on this one! Wine is cheap and the seafood is a specialty! We shared the mixed fried seafood and seafood pasta with a large white wine.
- Ancient Jewish Ghetto- opt in for a Synagogue tour or visit the Jewish museum or cemetery
- Easy neighborhood to walk through to get to the boats that go to Murano and Burano.
Santa Croce: (We stayed on the north east end of this neighborhood, a five minute walk from Rialto market. It was right on the outskirts of Venice nightlife, and souvenir shopping, but the crowds didn’t overflow into the plaza near our flat).
- Osteria Antico Giardinetto– homemade pasta and great seafood (we were too full for dessert but it looked wonderful)
- Rialto Market- fresh local veggies, fruits, and fish
- Santa Giacomo Dell’ Orio
- Gelato shops. Period.
- Bacareto Da Lele– perfect spot for a breakfast sandwich and wine, or a cicchetti stop
- Chiesa del Frari
- Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco and major Venetian highlights
- I think there is a bird’s eye view of the city from Fondaco del Tedeschi