With its ornate palazzi, narrow alleyways and canals, Venice is not unlike a film set. It’s been compared to Disneyland, but it’s all real and has barely changed in appearance since the Italian Renaissance.
However, it’s important to remember that 7 million people visit each year (rather overwhelming the mere 60,000 inhabitants), which means virtually everything is tourist-oriented. And with the Venice Biennale – the world’s biggest, most prestigious art event – pulling crowds until November 26, this will be even more so in 2017.
A leisurely ride down the sinuous Grand Canal from the main city entry Piazzale Roma heading towards Piazza San Marco is a must. Best is the No.1 vaporetto (local ferry), the slow boat calling in at all stops, though rather less crowded is an exclusive water taxi.
Either way you’ll have time to admire the city’s four major bridges – starting with Calatrava’s controversial modern structure – then dozens of ornate palazzi. You’ll glide beneath the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte di Rialto (which has occupied the same spot since Shakespeare) and the timber Accademia bridge, before the canal opens up at the glorious piazza and its glittering gold basilica.
Hottest new venue
Osteria Ca’ del Vento is unpretentious with its simple brick-walled interior and bare-wood tables. The energy goes into the cooking, using locally sourced veg and fish, along with olives, bread and burrata from the southern Italian region of Apulia. Calle del Vento, Dorsoduro 1518/A.
Where the business crowd meets
During the Biennale the easternmost district of Castello is buzzing and can get overcrowded. But a mere 10-minute walk away you’ll find Ristorante Wildner overlooking the lagoon and serving up delicious, traditional, fish-based Venetian food. Riva degli Schiavoni, Castello 4161.
Farther afield, a ferry ride over on the Giudecca canal transports you to laid-back Linea d’Ombra, with its spacious water deck, private light-filled rooms and elegant meals. Ponte dell’Umiltà, Dorsoduro 19.
Eat, Stay, Play
Ca’Sagredo: On the main drag, this top-value, otherworldly palazzo offers majestic rooms looking over the Grand Canal. Campo S Sofia, Cannaregio 4198.
Ai Reali: A quiet hotel for pamper facilities and comfort. Campo della Fava, Castello 5527.
Antiche Carampane: Book ahead and set out with plenty of time up your sleeve to locate this superb trattoria – you won’t regret it. Daily menu changes depending on market produce and seasons.
Rio Terà Carampane, S Polo 1911.
Osteria di Santa Marina: Smart cosy ambience with alfresco summer seating. Homemade pasta, creative seafood, scrumptious desserts. Campo S Marina, Castello 5911.
Mazzorbo: Find time to embark on the 35-minute ferry or water taxi trip to this island-cum-vineyard. Have lunch at innovative Venissa’s osteria, or stay for dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant. Fondamenta S. Caterina 3, Mazzorbo.
About the Curator: A long-time resident of Venice, Australian Gillian Price also spends chunks of time walking around Italy exploring vineyards, volcanoes, alpine hamlets and ancient Etruscan sites.
The original version of this article was published by the Australian Financial Review
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