That’s the first to mind and most appropriate adjective I can use to describe Venice. I’m convinced that those who say Venice is smelly, horrible and crowded with tourists have only seen it in the height of summer.
Because when I went, as a little pre-31st birthday trip at the end of January just before Carnivale, enchanting is all I experienced. The city itself was amazingly quiet, and I rambled the streets and tiny alleyways in peace the entire weekend.
I think most everyone who has travelled to Venice gives the same advice: allow yourself to get lost and enjoy it while it’s happening. The best parts of the canal are not the broad waterways you enter on filled with boats, water taxis and gondolas like a bizarre super highway, but the tiny aqueous pathways winding and snaking their way through the neighborhoods, carving paths that look entirely different in the day than shrouded in moonlight. One evening after dinner, it took me what felt like hours to find my way back from San Marco to my hotel only just behind the piazza, but there are that many little streets that lead the impatient to confusion. Trust me, just go with it. What’s the hurry? You’re in Italy after all!
I stayed at the lovely little Hotel Becher, and I got an upgrade to a canal view room on my arrival. While my double room was tiny and really only appropriate for one person, it was clean, beautifully decorated with a vintage vibe. Every evening around 4pm I opened my window and listened to gondoliers and musicians serenade tourists as they floated serenely by. Just outside the front door of the hotel is my now favourite shop in Venice, the leather workshop of Davide Desanzuane. Beautiful journals, photo albums, bags and accessories made with hand pressed patterns made from metal stamps. Some of the most beautiful keepsakes you could ever ask for – make sure you find it!
For eating, take a little adventure and try the cicchetti bars. These rustic little spots are Venice’s answer to tapas bars serving wine by the reasonably priced glass (2-3 Euro) and small plates of bruschetta and little panini on crusty bread. My favourite was Al Merca, in a little piazza just steps away from the canal and between the Rialto food market and the bridge. Great for apertivo but it really gets lively in the evening before the locals go out. Dig out your restaurant Italian and give it a try!
The Rialto market itself is a great tourist destination – beautiful colors and fresh food you can gather to have a little picnic. Make sure you explore, take pictures and at least feast your eyes.
It’s fairly common in winter for Venice to flood with the canal water coming up to the piazzas right to the tourists feet. Venice’s answer to this is to put up temporary walkways elevated about 2 feet above the ground, no wider than to allow single file each way. A sight to behold for sure, but don’t get caught out if you visit in winter without boots! 🙂
For a day trip, most tourists take a water taxi out to Murano to explore the eponymous glass on the island. I felt it was cursory to go out to Murano but it was quiet when I was there with the museum closed for renovation and there wasn’t any glass in the shops you couldn’t find in Venice proper. The real treat was to continue on the vaporetto route to Burano, known primarily for handmade lace. Now, lace is all fine and good, but the real reason to head to Burano are the array of colourful houses lined up on the canal. A photographer’s dream and a beautiful sight reflected in the canal waters. Probably my best meal in Venice was in Burano actually at the lovely Il Gato Nero. I had spaghetti with tiny little clams and some red wine to warm up on the sunny but chilly January day. Great service and definitely a favourite among tourists and locals alike.
Osteria Enoteca San Marco just near my hotel was a great standby for dinner. My fresh fish with shaved truffles on top was special but the tiramisu was epic. I went back twice! Another favourite in the center was Trattoria da Mario alla Fava. You need reservations as this little place always seems to be busy but I squeezed in and had a lovely little half portion of orecciette. Yum.
For culture, the Peggy Guggenheim collection was truly wonderful, housed in a beautiful villa right on the canal. If you like modern art, it’s a perfect culture stop on your Venice tour.
Take the vaporetto up and down the canal, drink in the sights, and get lost in Venice!
© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2013.