Architect Elisabetta Rizzato was born and raised just outside of Venice, Italy. After 31 years, it might seem safe to assume she’d bore of the sights, spots and surroudings of this great, tourist-rich locale, but rather, the opposite is true. Elisabetta continually discovers amazing new places and hidden gems which she shares on her blog ITALIANBARK, along with plenty of posts on interior design, and her work as an architect.
Today, Elisabetta is tickled to share her “less conventional point of view” of Venice. This 24-hour guide takes us through where to eat, what to see and the best spot to grab a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset — all as experienced through the eyes of a local. —Sabrina
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Venice has an unchallengeable charm that changes each season: in summertime, the evenings are magical. After the daily mugginess, meeting in a campo and walking across calli with a good ice cream in your hand is the best feeling. Venice is at its best during mid-season with its temperate climate and beautiful sunny days when I could walk for hours around the city. But a more unique Venice is experienced in the winter, during the coldest months. It’s less crowded with tourists and the fog dresses the city in a blurry delight. Then there’s also the Venice of the “high water” and, finally, there’s Venice by night, which is incredibly desert but very fascinating (and safe). For this 24-hour guide, I imagine myself on a Saturday in mid-season, following an itinerary that could be like this one:
Wake up with the best coffee in town:
Start your day with the best coffee in Venice. Located close to the railway station, Torrefazione Cannaregio is a must.
Opened in 1930, this is the oldest coffee shop in town and offers many different kinds of coffees, toasted in-house with a big, old coffee machine. I recommend the Remer blend, a coffee you can only drink here as it’s a secret recipe!
Next, visit an artisan workspace:
Take a morning walk in Sestiere Cannaregio and visit the workshop of a marionette maker called L’isola di Pinocchio.
It may be hidden behind an ordinary door, in an ancient mezzanine, but here you will step into a magical place, surrounded by handmade marionettes by an amazing artisan.
Enjoy a book in a quiet corner:
Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop, in Sestiere Castello, is one of the most original bookshops in the world.
Selling vintage and new books, this place is literally filled with books everywhere, displayed in boats, gondolas, bathtubs, etc. It’s also located between two of my favorite corners of Venice: one is Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, situated in front of the stunning Scuola Grande di San Marco (which has since become the city hospital).
The other corner is Campo San Lorenzo. In this spot, you will see one of the three bent bell-towers of the city. The one of San Giorgio dei Greci church is almost as crooked as the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa! But, I digress. After grabbing a book, find a bench and enjoy it.
Go to the market:
Before lunchtime, head to Rialto.
Cross the world-famous bridge and enjoy some fresh fruit and fish in the ancient market of the town, Mercato di Rialto. Despite being a very famous one, it is still a genuine Venetian market where you will find locals buying fresh fish. It has also recently been listed as one of the 10 best markets in the world by The Guardian. If you are wondering where the vegetables and fruit come from, they’re from an island near Venice called “l’orto di Venezia,” Sant’Erasmo, almost entirely covered with fields!
Enjoy sunshine at Le Zattere after an “ombra” (glass of wine) and some “cicchetti” (Venetian fingerfood), then head south for a proper lunch to Sestiere Dorsoduro. Here, you will find many bars and small “bacari” (typical Venice “osterie”) to enjoy something fast. I recommend a deviation to the Bacareto da Lele, a really small corner with amazing small paninis and good wine! It was my favorite bacaro during my university years and is still very popular in town by locals. Alternatively, enjoy lunch at Fondamenta delle zattere, at the southern edge of the city. Facing Giudecca Channel, it is the best place to enjoy the sun and take a long walk afterwards. Its name comes from the zattere, a la the historic rafts that were docked here to store the city’s timber. It is also the best place to enjoy an ice cream, maybe at Gelateria da Nico , loved by Penny Guggenheim and Angelina Jolie, and famous for its Gianduiotto. It’s also the best starting point for an afternoon stroll among the best shops!
Step into a culture-rich area:
Even if it’s crowded with tourists, Accademia area in Sestiere Dorsoduro has always been one of my favorites. It is really filled with culture and art and has recently become a real art-walk, thanks to the Venice Museum Mile project. Here, you can choose between contemporary art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Punta della Dogana, historical paintings at Gallerie dell’Accademia, and many other museums and historical palaces…all within a one-mile radius! Don’t forget to visit Biennale and its collateral events between May and November!
Shopping time, finally:
Here, we are in the best area for some good shopping in Venice. Near Accademia, you will find some of the most original design shops in town, such as the incredible Fiorella Gallery (if you are lucky enough to find it open, as it doesn’t abide by regular hours). Within a few steps you will also find Venetia Studium, a historical shop selling wonderful fabrics, as well as the amazing — and often imitated — Fortuny Lamps. It’s very expensive, I know, but if you are a design-lover you can’t not love them! Next, head to Mercerie area, a trio of streets between Piazza San Marco and Rialto, for the most famous brands. This is the “shopping district” of Venice!
Enjoy the sunset:
For aperitivo (appetizers) and dinner, head far from the tourist traps to Fondamenta della Misericordia, in a northern direction back to Sestiere Cannaregio. Here you will enjoy a gorgeous sunset. It is also one of the city areas where locals can relax, unwind and enjoy dinnertime.
Walk across the Judish Ghetto — one of the most fascinating places in Venice — and enjoy an aperitivo in one of the bars you will find along the Fondamenta, such as Vino Vero, a brand new spot where you can sip your wine outside around a briccole (wooden poles in the water transformed into small tables)!
Eat some good fish for dinner:
In this area, there are also many good, affordable restaurants there are not too crowded. Here in fondamenta della Misericordia, you will find Paradiso Perduto, a typical Venetian restaurant founded by four students with a very spartan mood and fresh food. Five minutes from here, towards Strada Nuova, Osteria alla Vedova is another good spot. With its lovely, retro interior and its delicious polpettas, you will not be disappointed!
Stay up late:
If you are still not tired after this day in Venice, you can head to another area of the city where university students hang out (I sure did as a student)! The spot is called Campo Santa Margherita, and it’s crowded with osterie and bars. On your way there, don’t forget to deviate towards another magical corner in Venice, Squero San Trovaso, where you will see the officina, one of the last gondola craftmakers left in town.
While this is just an overview (and maybe this day could last 48 hours, actually!), there’s plenty more great reasons to spend time in Venice… Just think, we haven’t even gotten to Piazza San Marco!