This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with Aperol to celebrate 100 years of one of my favorite summer aperitifs in its birthplace of Padova, Italy - just about an hour from Venice. And if you have never been to this oh-so-unique city, it is in one word: magical. Did you know that Venice is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea? This means you won't find any cars in the city. You either travel on foot, gondolas or water taxis. It's absolutely surreal and one of the best cities to get lost in. Here is a brief and much belated guide to some of my favorite places to visit, shop and eat in Venice. It's never too early to start planning next summer's getaway!
WHAT TO DO
In addition to all the ancient churches, piazzas, bridges, architecture that makes Venice so attractive, it is also one of the great art cities of Italy. You can find Venetian paintings dating from the 14th to 19th centuries, including works by Italian masters Bellini, Canaletto and Tintoretto. It's also home to the Venice Biennale, an organization founded in 1895 to establish a new market for contemporary art. Today, it's become one of most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. We were fortunate enough to be there during the Biennale, which allowed us to explore several incredible galleries and museums.
EXPLORE . . .
- St. Mark's Basilica: Venice's most visited landmark is one of the most important religious buildings in Northern Italy and was created in 1092. The best time to see it is early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
- St. Mark's Square: St. Mark's Basilica is the most famous building in Venice and St. Mark's Square is the most famous piazza. It's definitely overrun by tourists so I love waking up really early in the morning to talk it all in.
- Ponte di Rialto: The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. Not only is it beautiful, it's a great meeting spot or point of reference when strolling through the city.
- Bridge of Sighs: This is one my favorite bridges. It was the last point where condemned prisoners could see the city of Venice before being brought to their executioner - hence, the name. It's hauntingly beautiful.
- Gallerie dell'Accademia: Spread out over 24 rooms, this iconic and beautiful gallery hosts a collection of art by Bellini, Carpaccio, Canaletto, and Tintoretto.
- Ca' d'Oro: The Ca'd'Oro Palazzo, an exceptional example of Venetian Gothic, houses various artworks and exhibits art from the Venice Biennale.
- Museum of Palazzo Grimani: The Grimani Sculpture Collection is a return to the horror vacui of the mid 16th century. This massive collection of Greek, Roman and Renaissance statues was only recently reunited, as it was in 1586 when Cardinal Grimani donated it to the Venetian state upon his death.
WHERE TO SHOP:
I didn't come home with much but I had a fabulous time window shopping in Venice. It's just what you do here - stroll, get lost and discover. Venice is obviously known for its Murano glass but I really on a quest to take home some velvet Venetian slippers.
SHOPPING . . .
- Acrobaleno Pigmenti: Even a non-painter can appreciate the beauty of this store, which sells pure pigments in hues such as Veronese rose, Bellini peach, Tintoretto teal, and Tiepolo sky blue.
- Piedáterre: If you were to bring back a single souvenir from Venice, might I suggest furlane slippers. They're also known as Gondolier slippers, and made of velvet uppers and a flexible sold made of recycled rubber tires. Piedáterre is one of the few remaining places you can find authentic furlane slippers - and they come in nearly every color imaginable.
- La Bottega dei Mascareri: Located under the Rialto Bridge is a family-run store selling hand-painted & gilt masks used in film, plays & fashion open since 1984.
- Giobagnara: This luxury home store sells leather furnishings and accessories from coasters and trays to baskets and desk accessories. Very chic!
- Libraria Acqua Alta: You won't want to miss this little gem of a bookstore where used and rare books are stacked high to the ceiling in parts of gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs. Quirky and charming!
- Rialto Market: This outdoor produce and fish market is worth strolling through, even if you don't intend on buying anything. It's open every day except Sunday, only until 1pm.
- Attilio Codognato: This 4th generation Venice based jewelry was a favorite haunt of Coco Chanel and Elizabeth Taylor. Expect to find gothic inspired skulls and snakes set in precious metals and adorned with beautiful gemstones.
WHERE TO EAT:
Venice is one of the places where you have to find food based on recommendations and referrals. There are tons of touristy restaurants that are mediocre at best. But wow, there are also some gems. Prices can be surprisingly high at some and surprisingly low at others. And there's definitely no shortage of lunch spots on the water with magnificent views of the Grand Canal. My absolute favorite was La Zucca. I was dreaming about our meal weeks after we had already returned home.
EATS . . .
- La Zucca: This was hands down one of my favorite restaurants in Italy. The menu consists mostly of seasonal vegetarian creations, with just a few classic meat dishes. Don't miss the pumpkin flan!
- Ristorante Da Ivo: George Clooney famously likes to dine in this dark and cozy canalside eatery. They have great seafood dishes and you must try the truffle pasta and berries with balsamic vinaigrette. A water taxi will drop and pick you up right out the back door!
- Taverna al Remer: This vaulted brick taverna by the Grand Canal is a favorite with the locals thanks to it's incredible mediterranean food and nightly live music.
- The Gritti Terrace: This outdoor restaurant, situated on the Grand Canal, is the perfect place for a couple of spritzes and a spectacular lunch view.
- Dal Moro's: You might notice people Venice walking around with white, Chinese take out boxes . . . with pasta! Quick, cheap and good.
- Acqua e Mais: The authentic Venetian street food experience: fried fish bites, arancini, seafood salad.
- Giudecca 10: Make a reservation here for lunch and take Hotel Cipriani's free water taxi service across the canal to this glamorous hotel on the island of Giudecca. Walk the ground and lunch at Giudecca 10 for beautiful views of Venice.
- La Bottiglia: Stop by this adorable little wine shop for a glass, delicious cured meats or any of their reasonably priced sandwiches. Casual and perfect.
- Terrazza Danieli: This opulent rooftop dining room in Hotel Danieli serves classic Venetian cuisine and boasts one of the best view overlooking The Grand Canal.
- Caffé Florian: Expect to spend a pretty penny at this iconic cafe in the heart of St. Mark's Square. But when your dogs are barking, it's actually an idyllic place to rest your legs, caffeinate, people watch and take in views of St. Mark's Square.
images by HonestlyWTF