The things to do during a vacation in Venice are very numerous, from the purely artistic and cultural aspects to the most beautiful experiences, you’ll be spoiled for choice. My intention is certainly not to give an exhaustive list of all the possibilities, but I will try to indicate some of the activities that I find most interesting, ranging from the more classics, for those with limited time available, to the more specials, for those who will stay a few more days or for those who return.
Sometimes someone asks me what is the most significant attraction of the whole city, which, for absurd, if you were to come to Venice and you should do just one thing, it would, in my opinion, to be chosen. Without hesitation, I always answer: the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). There is the full history of Venice, the sense of his success, political, commercial and social, the perfect summation of its original architecture, a mix of inestimable value of its highest artistic expression. In particular I would suggest you to do, in addition to visiting the “normal”part, the so-called “secret itineraries”. I do not want to reveal what it is, but I can guarantee that you will be amazed. Are you still sitting there?
Church of Frari.
I will seem for heretical, but in my opinion, the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa Assunta of the Franciscan Friars Minor (in Venetian: “Frari”) is the most beautiful church in Venice, more of the Basilica of San Marco. They should probably remove my Venetian residence for my statement, but probably because there is never too many people (unlike the other one), or for that sense of Franciscan austerities (against the oppressive opulence of that other one), or for the absolute masterpiece of Titian which screams its violent red from the main apse and hypnotizes you making you levitate not less the top of the Virgin depicted therein, but personally I can not walk to its side without a thrill of pleasure.
The real name of this Palace is Ca’ Pesaro Orfei, but since it was converted into a laboratory and then inhabited by the genius that came from Granada by the name of Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, is known by everyone as “Palazzo Fortuny”. Entering there is like to get into a dreamlike journey into spirals of unbridled creativity, a kaleidoscope of lights and colours, fabrics and paintings, lamps and furniture that even Gasparo Gozzi in its boldest expression fairytale could have not imagined. And if all the charm of the palace itself wasn’t sufficient, the shows that they organized cyclically are always of great interest. Got curious? In case, be sure to visit the Fortuny factory at the Giudecca island, as well.
Craftsmanship in Venice
When you think of the economic structure of the Serenissima, you inevitably think of the trade. But you must not forget that beside the merchants, the backbone of everyday life in the city were the craftsmen. Venice without craftsmen would never become herself. Even today, with little trouble, they try to survive. I point out three of them, in my opinion particularly interesting: Dall’Era Laboratory, heirs of the ancient craft of stone-masonry, they create real works of art of stone and marble (Cannaregio, Strada Nuova 2292/E), Saverio Pastor “remer“, he builds oars and “forcole” (the oarlocks of Venetian boats) (Dorsoduro, Fondamenta Soranzo 341), L’Atelier, handmade clothing and glass processing (Dorsoduro, Calle lunga San Barnaba 2864).
The casinos were, in spite of the image evoked today, simply “small houses”, secluded places where they met friends for a chat, eat something and play cards. Often they were literary salons, and just as often, places for love. The one located at the side of the bridge Bareteri is a small gem that should not miss in the list of things to see of the visitor lover of the curiosities. Why? So do this: go to street number 4939 San Marco, ring the bell at the Alliance Française (yes, the Casino Venier is ironically now occupied by compatriots of the man who put the word “end” to the ancient Venetian Republic, but do not worry, these descendants are immeasurably more gentle and nice then the famous Emperor!) and ask them to tell you the story of the Casino. You have to pay a small donation for the maintenance of the site, but I assure you it’s worth it.
San Lazzaro degli Armeni.
Everybody wants to go to Murano and Burano, but I tell you: take the boat line 20 (at San Zaccaria), get off at San Lazzaro and be guided by a Mekhitarist monk visiting the Armenian monastery. You will discover that Venice has never been only of the Venetians, but also of all foreign communities that have understood and loved, and participated in its history, from the Dalmatians to the Greeks, the Albanians and the Jews, until precisely the Armenians, which in Venice led and guarded their finest culture. And, not least, the Vartanush jam, made with rose petals picked at dawn.
Venice tour off the beaten path.
There is a Venice that the whole world knows, and has the face of San Marco, the Rialto Bridge and the gondoliers in striped shirt. There is also a Venice of which few have any idea, made of the truest essence of daily living of the people of yesterday and today, its hidden courtyards, its secret gardens, its trades unchanged. But it’s a face you can see and understand only if you are accompanied by someone who knows that Venice very well. Someone who is not jealous of his love and is willing to share his “Other Venice“.
Music in Venice.
One of the most common stereotypes believes that in Venice during the night there is nothing to be done and that the city is deserted. Let’s try going one evening in Campo Santa Margherita or near Rialto, then you’ll say … There’s actually a good range of cultural offers, theater and music in the city, I’ll point out some of the muse Euterpe: “Music at the Palace” to enjoy the Opera in a Venetian Palace, “Venice Jazz Club” with high quality live jazz music, “Palazzetto Bru-Zane” nineteenth-century romantic music in the beautiful setting of a nobleman’s Palace, “Teatro Fondamenta Nuove” contemporary music, theatre and dance for those who believe that true art knows no boundaries whatsoever.
Venetian rowing lessons.
The whole world thinks that the only Venetian boat is the gondola, but the gondola is just one of many traditional boats, each with its own characteristics, size and destination of use, what they all have in common is the way you row. This is a unique technique that allows you to conduct a boat while standing, face forward and with only one oar. What’s therefore better to experience the emotion of rowing a boat along the canals of Venice?
Boat tour in Venice.
No one can say that he really understood Venice without ever having lived it by the water. Here then I suggest you try at least one of these experiences: sailing the lagoon discovering its islands, eco-tour with electric motor boat, fishing-tourism on a fishing boat and a tour of the vineyards.
Photo Archive La Gondola.
Do not let the name fool you. This Photography Club, founded in 1948, has nothing maudlin, nothing to do with the myriad of Venice photos, looking all the same, you can find on the web… no, here it is made part of the history of Italian photography, from Neorealism trough the Formalism, to the more modern trends. Among its members: Gianni Gardin, Mario Giacomelli, Fulvio Roiter, Luigi Ghirri and Nino Migliori. At the Giudecca island.
Buried by the tide of frozen food and the taste globalized (because of which you eat the same things if you are in New York rather than in Cairo or Hong Kong …), the Venetian cuisine survives mostly in the inner dimension of home. Well, but then, how we can enjoy it? There are some who organizes dinners at home in a private house in Venice. Do not miss the Venetian cooking classes: shopping at the Rialto market, then cooking (and learning the recipes) and feasting!
Here is some practical information on how to reach and to get around Venice.