The sixth in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to Venice, Italy, features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
Venice may be overcrowded, overpriced and sinking, but it remains so miraculously beautiful that on each visit, I am once again lost in astonishment and admiration. The city’s treasures are innumerable and inexhaustible. And the crowds can often be mitigated by strolling a few hundred yards from St. Mark’s Square. The passport to the city is a ticket for the vaporetti, the charming and relatively inexpensive water taxis that form the principal means of public transportation. The best general introduction to the city is still “Venice” by James Morris.
Avoid the summer, as the city will be overrun and the heat is often oppressive. The ideal times for a visit are late spring (May-June) and fall (September-October). Venice can also be enjoyed in winter, when swirling mist and gauze rain make it extremely romantic in a melancholy sort of way. It is seldom too cold; the light is soft; and, except for the Carnival period, the crowds are gone.
Want to experience Venice like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industries.
Editor-in-chief of the Hideaway Report
On a sunny day, keen to escape the crowds, I occasionally buy the ingredients of a simple picnic and take the No. 13 ferry from the Fondamente Nuove out to the agricultural island of Sant’Erasmo, which is especially famous for its artichokes. There, I find a place to spread a blanket, and read peacefully, occasionally looking up to gaze at the towers of Venice on the horizon.
Olivia Richli, General Manager of Aman Canal Grande
San Polo is a lovely district...There are wonderful churches, restaurants, coffee shops and great shopping right on our doorstep. In the summer months we avoid the other side of the canal and wander around the hidden corners, getting lost, discovering new things. The summer is the time for the islands — cycling on the Lido is dreamy, heading out to some of the little-known islands with jungles for gardens and cool hidden pools for swimming.
One can pass many happy hours on the terrace at The Gritti Palace and beside the incomparable pool at the Hotel Cipriani. But of late, we have greatly enjoyed the city’s smaller properties, such as the Aman Canal Grande.
Since Venice is surrounded by a vast lagoon, it is no surprise that seafood, including prawns, squid and clams, takes pride of place on the menus of its more distinguished restaurants. (Keep in mind when ordering seafood that the price will refer to the cost per 100 grams — letto — and don’t expect fresh fish on Monday, when the market is closed.)
Since there are only eight tables at this popular little osteria, book before you travel to Venice. Choose the second service at dinner for more relaxed dining, and expect dishes such as grilled razor shell clams, spaghetti alle vongole and John Dory with sautéed mushrooms.
By shrewdly modernizing classic Venetian dishes and adding a few favorites from other Italian regions to the menu, the kitchen here has turned a simple dining room into one of the most popular restaurants in the off-the-beaten track Cannaregio quarter. Try the risotto with shellfish, and the superb fritto misto of shrimp, fish and vegetables.
At this delightful family-run restaurant, renowned chef Mara Martin serves innovative seafood dishes such as steamed sea bass with stewed apples and aged balsamic vinegar, and turbot baked in a potato crust. Begin with the celebrated pumpkin gnocchi with sage, Parmesan and white truffles. Reservations are a must.
Given its location on the tourist-infested Piazza San Marco, this excellent contemporary Italian restaurant is a welcome surprise. The two elegant dining rooms, lit with Murano chandeliers, overlook the great square. It is a deliciously romantic experience to dine here on dishes such as seafood ravioli with baby clams, risotto topped with caviar, and steamed lobster on crushed potatoes with fresh herbs. Gracious service and an outstanding wine list.
Tucked away in the back streets of the San Polo district, this superb seafood restaurant is a favorite of Venetians and in-the-know visitors alike. Start with the succulent baby clams cooked in white wine and olive oil and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan, and don’t miss the tagliolini with granseola (spider crab), a house speciality. It also serves an outstanding fritto misto of prawns, squid and vegetables, and a hearty dish of cuttlefish cooked in its own ink and served with white polenta. The wine list is excellent.
Located a half-hour by boat from Venice on Mazzorbo, the twin island to Burano, this charming hotel restaurant is a favorite of Venetians in search of a great meal in a setting far removed from city-center crowds. Chef Paola Budel cooks with local seafood, and produce from an on-site walled vegetable garden; menus run to dishes such as cuttlefish cooked in a broth of baby artichokes and tomatoes, spaghetti with sardines and spring onions, and roast cod in a sauce of beetroot and green apple. Open March through November.
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