What to do in Venice? I received an email asking this question. The girl said she would be spending 1 1/2 days in Venice. Her plan was to take a vaporetto ride, go to the Accademia Gallery and spend an evening in Saint Mark's Square. Then she wrote, "Am I missing anything?" Uhmm, yes, you are missing something........Venice.
The email brought back memories of my first few trips to Italy where I had a list of 20 cities to see and an uncountable number of "sites" to check off my list. Yes, I've been THAT tourist that rushed through cities and trampled through the streets, guidebook, checklist and camera in hand, determined that no one, not even a native out strolling with the family, would get in the way of my checklist. How sad and frustrated I became on those days that I couldn't check off some items because of long lines, slow trains, no buses, or just the normal disorganization that is Italy.
Now, I have a completely different approach to travel. I see fewer cities and spend more time in each. I have no guidebook and rarely a firm plan; I talk to as many locals as possible for advice on things to do, and I relax. If I don't see EVERYTHING, that just gives me an excuse to return.
My best advice to anyone traveling to Italy is to go to fewer cities, see one or two "sites" a day, and then RELAX and savor the city like you would your favorite chocolate--lingering over each bite and taking all the flavor in before its all gone. Find the rhythm of the city and become a part of it. Below are my favorite ways to savor Venice.
Eat the Traditional Dishes of Venice
1. Sardine in Saor and other cicheti
2. Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti and clams)
3. Calamari Griglia or Fritti (grilled or fried calamari)
4. Bacala mantecato (Cod made into a creamy mousse and served with polenta)
5. Bigoli in Salsa (spaghetti-like pasta in a sauce of onions and anchovies)
6. Spaghetti in Nero di Seppie
7. Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare (also served in other coastal cities in Italy; it's spaghetti with all the shellfish of the sea in a light tomato sauce)
and Lo Spritz (Yes, Spritz isn't a dish, it's a drink, but it is the spirit and rhythm of Venice in a glass.)
Best Places for Gelato in Venice
1. Il Doge Gelato in Campo Santa Margherita
The chocolate and chocolate chip (stracciatella)--my "go-to" gelato during days I had class.
3. Gelateria Millevoglie in Campo San Rocco
The cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) is a chocolate-lover's dream.
4. Gelato Nico on the Fondamenta Zattere, 922
While eating gelato, you can sit along the bank and watch the cruise ships leave Venice.
4. Gelateria San Stefano in Campo San Stefano
The fruit flavors are very good, especially the limone (lemon). The pistacchio is also good.
Best Campos to sit, enjoy a Spritz, and watch Venice and its people
I know you're thinking, "Why on earth would I waste my time sitting in a Campo when I'm in Venice?" Here you not only have the opportunity to relax but this is where you can become a part of the city. Have a spritz, ombre, cicheti or just sit on a park bench. You can strike up a conversation with the person next to you or just people watch.
1. Campo Santa Margherita -- popular with the college students and Istituto Venezia language students
2. Campo di San Giacomo dell' Orio--one of the prettiest campos in all of Venice
3. Campo del Santi Giovanni e Paolo
4. Campo San Polo -- in the summer you can watch a movie "sotto le stelle" (under the stars)
5. Campo di Santi Apostoli -- Sit under the bell tower at the end of Strada Nuova and watch the gondoliere
"Out of the Ordinary" but Worth the Time
2. Island of Burano
3. Lido di Venezia (Spend a Sunday at the beach with the Venetians)
4. Walk in the Canareggio Quartiere on a Friday evening (The old Jewish Ghetto comes alive as the Seder begins)
5. Isola di San Pietro and the Church of San Pierto (Venice started on this island which might be the most tranquil place on earth---while sitting on a bench here, you would never think Venice was a city for tourists.)
6. Go grocery shopping at any of the grocery stores---COOP or Billa are most popular (At least once in your life, you must get run over by the rolling shopping bag of a little-old Venetian grandma.)
7. Sit along the banks of the Erberia (near the Rialto Market) and watch the vaporetti and gondole go by
8. Walk the Viale Garibaldi on a Saturday afternoon (Wash day is Saturday and the side streets are filled with clothing and bed linens hanging above.)
9. Walk over many of the 416 bridges in Venice and get lost in the maze of calles and see some of 176 little canals
10. Sit along the banks of Giudecca at night and gaze at Venice ---the view of the city, its lights, and the reflection from the water will make you want to stay forever.
Best Views of Venice at Night (and also during the day)
1. Punta della Dogana (next to the church of Santa Maria della Salute)
2. Island of Giudecca
3. Fondamenta Zattere (On Saturdays, even Venetians like to watch the cruise ships leave through the Giudecca Canal)
4. From the Vaperetto along the Grand Canal and along the Giudecca Canal
5. Island of San Giorgio Maggiore (View Saint Marks Square from afar)
6. Atop the Rialto Bridge
7. Atop the Accademia Bridge
My time in Venice is over and this is my last post from the city. I feel like I've just settled in and started to feel like a citizen instead of a short-term visitor. I was able to see a lot of the city, but I didn't see everything. So....I'll be coming back.
Ciao Venezia!!! Ci vediamo ancora presto! (We'll see each other again soon)
What are your favorite memories of Venice---best meals, gelato, favorite spot(s)? Please share them in the comments section below.