Venice: City of hidden gems
Discover one of the most romantic places in the world.
The romance of Venice rises from every little cobbled alley, every terra-cotta colored building, and every intricate wrought iron railing. As you walk through the tiny alleyways, and cross over hundreds of bridges, you feel the history of this magical place. You soak it up from the stones beneath your feet, the sea air, and the heavenly taste of all the fresh seafood.
The magic of Venice is revealed as you wander the streets, coming across tiny cafes and restaurants, jewelry stores, and art galleries tucked away in hidden corners and quiet squares. The mystery winds through every twist and turn of the old city, slowly engulfing you in its embrace.
In this post, I’m not going to discuss places like San Marco Square, the cathedral, or the Murano Glass Factory. You should visit these beautiful places on your trip, but there is an abundance of information about them elsewhere. Here, I’m going to tell you about places that are off the beaten track.
First, Venice is all about seafood. It’s fresh and absolutely delicious, but you have to know where to go. Otherwise you will pay inflated prices for mediocre food.
So let’s begin with the classic Venetian snack: cicheti, if you are in Venice, or cicchetti if you are in the rest of Italy. These can be any pre-prepared snack that is kept behind glass at most bars, called Bacari, and served in single servings. The most sublime of these is often some sort of delicacy, salt cod with a garlic sauce or a walnut pesto, served on top of a slice of toasted bread. My absolute favorite place for this is All’Arco. It’s on a back alley near the Ponte Rialto and whenever I’ve been there, we’ve been the only tourists. You order at the counter, pick up your cicheti and a glass of wine, stand or find a seat at one of the few tables, and dig in. This is also a great place to get to know real Venetians. There are several other lovely bacari to try and you’ll find them listed at the end of this article.
There are also a few restaurants that I highly recommend. The Grilled Seafood Platter at Paradiso Perduto is a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. This is an informal eatery on a quiet canal away from the crowds. There are several restaurants along this street, but I definitely would go to this one. Accompany the platter with a cold beer and you’ve got the makings of a perfect afternoon lunch. Also try a steaming plate of spaghetti with local clams! There are many other hidden restaurants throughout the city that you have to try to believe. A few are listed below. Please contact me for more.
Another Italian tradition is of course the aperitivo. Each city in Italy does this a little differently, but the idea is the same. You stop in a bar for a drink and some snacks before dinner. Locals never have more than one glass of the drink of their choosing, usually standing up at the bar, gossiping or passing the news with the bartender or other patrons, and often accompanied by their dog or child. The classic aperitivo in Italy is the Aperol Spritz. It’s light, festive, and a perfect accompaniment to a light savory snack. This is my go-to drink before dinner in Italy. Do not miss this!
Venetian is of course famous for the art of mask making. Now every street in Venice will have a shop selling hundreds of typical Venetian masks, however, there is one shop that is the place to go, Ca’Macana. These beautiful hand-made masks will transport you to the land of Venetian balls and intrigue in an instant. There are many more gorgeous things to see and buy in Venice, like leather gloves and handbags, beautiful handmade stationary, intricate lace, custom shoes, and more — but that will have to wait for another trip, when I have time to do all the shops justice.
For now, just a note for all the fashionistas out there (of which I am one). Now this is important — Do not wear heels in Venice! If you must, wear wedges, or better yet, do as the locals do and carry a pair in your bag, changing into them when you arrive at your destination. Also note that when I say flats, I do not mean athletic shoes! I mean a pretty pair of sandals or ballet flats in the summer and boots or loafers in the winter. Trust me on this one. Also, do take public transportation, which is the Vaporetti. Tickets can be purchased from machines at most stops and it’s the best way to get around. For special occasions, reserve a water taxi and arrive in style.
Are you planning a trip to Venice soon? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.
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Bacari (bars) and Restaurants:
All’Arco. San Polo 436, Calle dell’Occhialer — Vaporetto Rialto Mercato
Paradiso Perduto. Cannaregio 2540, Fondamenta della Misericordia — Vaporetto San Marcuola
Al Merca. San Polo 213, Campo Bella Vienna — Vaporetto Rialto Mercato (look for the wonderful cheese shop next door, Casa del Parmigiano)
Corte Sconta. Castello 3886, Calle de Pestrin — Vaporetto Arsenale
Books to Read to get you in the Venetian Mood: