Venice, renowned for incomparable Gothic architecture and placid canals plied by gondolas, make it one of the most recognizable cities in Italy, let alone the world. Asked to join Cosentino in Milan for Design Week and EuroCucina, we chose to extend our stay a couple days to take in the historic city.
Vaporetto: Venice is the world’s only pedestrian city, is easily walkable, and the absence of cars makes this a particularly pleasant experience. However, walking and standing all day can also be exhausting, so it is best to pace yourself. If you want to get around a bit more quickly (and save your tootsies, too!) there are numerous vaporetti and water taxis. The vaporetti are generally the best way to get around. Passes can be purchased for unlimited use in 24- and 48-hour time segments. If you want to have a romantic ride along the canals, take a gondola ride, although they tend to exist for more scenic purposes, rather than getting people from point A to point B.
Gondola: Take a gondola if you are in the mood for relaxation or even a little romance. There are 433-gondoliers—the same number of bridges as are in Venice—and they all take their work very seriously while having fun with their clientele. Gondoliers hold 900-years of tradition—all gondoliers must be male and most are born locals. Because of this, their stories and history of Venice is even more interesting.
Saint Mark’s: Saint Mark’s Basilica is on the Piazza San Marco and is one of the highlights of a visit to Venice. Blending the architectural styles of East and West, Venice’s magnificent basilica was consecrated in 832 AD as an ecclesiastical building to house the remains of Saint Mark. As with most churches in Italy, you must be dressed appropriately to be allowed in; this means no short skirts or bare shoulders. The visit within the basilica lasts ten minutes. Waiting for entry into the basilica can last up to five hours and it may be wise to buy a ticket from the official site.
Rialto Bridge: Considered the true heart of Venice, this landmark bridge, characterized by its 24-foot arch, is built on approximately 12,000 wooden pilings that still support the bridge more than 400 years after it was built. Being one of Venice’s most iconic structures, it’s no surprise that the producers of Daniel Craig’s first Bond outing, Casino Royale, found a way to work the bridge into the dramatic scenes that take place towards the end of the movie.
Peggy Guggenheim Museum: A welcome break from the mixture of Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, Empire, Rococo, glass work and other more traditional styles of Venetian art is afforded by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Peggy was an American married to modern artist Max Ernst, and funded a number of his contemporaries. The gallery includes a serene sculpture garden and works by my favorites including Picasso, Kandinsky, Magritte, Pollock, Dali, and Mondrian.
While Venice is certainly a lovely international destination, it is also a shopping destination for many local crafts, Murano glass and international brands. A mix of low-end trinket stores and middle-market-to-upscale boutiques line the narrow zigzagging Mercerie running north between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. More expensive clothing and gift boutiques make for great window-shopping on Calle Larga XXII Marzo, the wide street that begins west of Piazza San Marco and wends its way to the expansive Campo Santo Stefano near the Accademia.
EAT + DRINK
Harry’s Bar: Since 1931, Harry’s has been a popular watering hole and elegant eatery for writers, artists, celebrities and aristocrats including Ernest Hemingway. Harry’s Bar is the anchor to a global brand, positioned around the Cipriani name. Be sure to order a Bellini cocktail—a refreshing mix of white peach purée and sparking Prosecco—this is its birthplace, after all. Alternatively, true to its “retro” atmosphere, Harry’s makes one of the best Martini cocktails in town.
Florian Caffe: Due to the prices and the tourist scene, Venetians tend to avoid caffè in the Piazza San Marco. However when they want to indulge, they go to Florian. Founded in 1720, it’s not only the city’s oldest caffè, but with its glittering neo-Baroque decor and attractive 19th-century wall panels, it’s undisputedly the most beautiful. Florian is steeped in local history as it was the only caffè to serve women during the 18th century and it was the caffè of choice for artistic notables such as Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens. The coffee, drinks, and snacks are quite good, but you really come here for the atmosphere and to be part of Venetian history. As with other caffés in the Piazza, there’s a surcharge for music—of which Florian has a four piece mini-orchestra.
Ristorante Ribot: With set menus at Restaurant Ribot you can show up, order some vino and know that you are in trustworthy hands. The chefs at Ribot prepare three dishes each more delectable than the last. Dishes like gnocchi with vegetables, sea bass with cream of shrimps and sliced beef with herbs and potatoes rosti come one after another in perfect harmony when paired wine selections. With live music as your culinary backdrop, it is the perfect place to end your Italian visit.