#TatlerTips: The Globetrotter's 10 in Venice
Venice's storied history dates back to the 400 A.D. as a city born from the hands of fishermen and refugees, built upon a lagoon that made it impregnable when the barbarians set out to conquer Italy after the Fall of the Roman Empire.
Today, it is a centre of art, music, literature, and architecture. Tourists from all over come in droves—numbering a staggering 30 million last year—to take a ride in one of the famous gondolas, visit museums that house art by Italian masters, or indulge in a scoop of some of the world’s best-tasting gelato.
The peak season runs from May to October. Summers tend to be hot and humid and the city tends to be more populated due to an influx of tourists. This year, Venice plays host to the Biennale Architettura, which runs throughout the high season, less frequented than the one dedicated to modern art, but is becoming increasingly popular. Autumn and winter can be cold and dreary, but walking around the city in these seasons can be a different experience; you might even find yourself alone in the usually crowded Piazza San Marco on a foggy morning! February is especially festive because of the annual Carnevale di Venezia. A native Venetian, insider expert Chiara Peluso gives an exclusive tour of its lesser known hidden gems.
1/10 Know your way around on foot
The best way to get to know Venice is to explore it on foot, even with no destination in mind. Lose yourself in the maze of streets and look up to see the chimneys: about 10 different types, once made to cool down ashes and avoid fires! You will also see the pinnacles (architectural ornaments originally forming the crown of a buttress) that were once used to point out a sea captain’s palace.
2/10 Stay at a place where the old meets the new
The brand new Heureka Hotel is a boutique residence in the Cannaregio area where tradition meets modernity. Its 10 rooms have a charming character, all with views overlooking a secret garden. If you're not able to book a room at Heureka, you can choose from The Gritti Palace, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, and a hidden gem called Ca Maria Adele, located in the tranquil area of Dorsoduro that overlooks the magnificent baroque Church of Santa Maria della Salute.
3/10 Tour the lagoon
It is always worth it to keep one day of your stay for a daily excursion to explore the islands of the lagoon. Rent a private boat and start from Murano, famous for its famous glass masters; move to Burano, the fishing village with its colourful homes and lace artisans; and have lunch in Torcello, the cradle of Venetian civilisation. Once here, choose the fashionable Locanda Cipriani, a restaurant with a garden where famous people who visited Venice like Princess Diana, Elton John, and Ernest Hemingway have left a signed photograph. Take time to visit the island of San Francesco del Deserto, an old, secluded Franciscan monastery, or San Lazzaro degli Armeni, the old Armenian monastery island. Feel like a movie star while sipping cocktails at the Excelsior Hotel at the Lido, where the Venice Film festival is held every year in September, or play golf at the club overlooking the sea. To those seeking to explore from the sky, Heliair gives helicopter tours over the lagoon.
4/10 Explore Doge's Palace
Built in Venetian Gothic style, this was the former residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. Choose the Secret Itineraries visit, which is available to a limited number of people and only at certain times of the day. You will find yourself walking in the narrow passages behind the official rooms—a restricted area once used by officers to visit the secret prisons—and the torture rooms, following in the footsteps of the author Giacomo Casanova on the night he fled.
5/10 Find God and marvel at art
The Basilica of Saint Mark is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, and the most famous of the city’s churches. Choose the side door entrance during the scheduled masses; there are no lines, giving you the luxury of time to look at the stunning mosaics. On the other hand, the San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the most photographed basilicas designed by the architect Andrea Palladio. Its bell tower is less crowded than the one in Saint Mark’s square and offers an amazing 360-degree view of the lagoon and the city.
6/10 Sail down the Grand Canal
What's a trip to Venice without the gondola experience? Various palaces on the Grand Canal can be visited. As a museum, the Cà Rezzonico is an extraordinary example of an 18th-century baroque rococo family palace. Or Ca’ Venier dei Leoni, an unfinished palace that is now the Guggenheim Museum. Interested in spending some hours of your day living like a noble of Venice? The countess Elisabetta Lucheschi may welcome you at the Palazzo Nani Bernardo. This is by private appointment only.
7/10 Go on a scenic food trip
Feast at Quadri, a Michelin-starred establishment that serves traditional and contemporary Italian dishes. It was restored in early 2018 by Philippe Starck and selected Venetian artisans. The seafood, fruit, and vegetables used in the dishes arrive fresh from the Rialto market each day. For an even more romantic setting, go to Cip's Club located in the Belmond Hotel Cipriani to enjoy Italian specialities and the fantastic views of Saint Mark’s square. Another al fresco option is Riviera, located along Zattere. Here, traditional dishes are given modern twists.
8/10 Shop for luxurious and unique finds
Le Mercerie is one of the most famous shopping areas in Venice, where a plethora of famous Italian and international brands can be found. This is not a single street, but a series of narrow ones. For more luxury shopping, there is also Calle Larga XII Marzo, which houses art galleries. A new stylish address and a haven for fashion lovers is the DFS Mall by the Rialto Bridge, stored inside a beautiful 16th-century palace.
9/10 Soak in the arts
You can head to San Zaccaria, to admire Bellini’s San Zaccaria Altarpiece and the crypt that is often flooded. Visit The Frari for artworks such as Bellini’s Frari Triptych and Giambattista Pittoni’s Hagar in the Desert, among others. You can also arrange a tour of fashion designer Mariano Fortuny’s original factory on Giudecca Island to see his showrooms and gardens.
10/10 Don't miss the Regata Storica
If you find yourself in Venice in September, make sure to catch this rowing competition that has taken place along the Grand Canal since 1274. Consisting of two phases (the historical parade and the competitive regatta proper), it is an exciting historical event that many tourists look forward to.