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The Insider's Guide to Traveling in Venice

— Courtesy of Museo Fortuny

Who

Three Venetian creatives shared their beloved spots with us: Marcantonio Brandolini D’Adda, creative director of Laguna~B, a glassware line handmade in Murano; Viola Arrivabene, co-founder of the shoe brand ViBi Venezia; and Alma Zevi, an art historian, writer, curator and museum consultant.

What

What to Bring

Comfortable shoes are a must, given that the best way to explore the city is on foot. Arrivabene recommends a pair of Vibi Venezia slippers, which are modeled after traditional velvet Friulane shoes that you’ll see lots of locals wearing (these also make for a great gift or souvenir; you can find them at the boutique Al Duca d’Aosta in San Marco).

Vibi Venezia Grosgrain-trimmed velvet Mary Jane slippers

Arrivabene also recommends a sketchpad and a good pencil to take in your surroundings, while Brandolini D’Adda recommends “a refillable water bottle that you can fill in the many fountains in the city, and binoculars to look at birds in the lagoon—they will bring you joy.”

Papier Italian Summer (Personalizable) Hardcover Notebook

Zevi’s advice is to “Bring something glam—you never know where you might end up. At places like Harry’s Bar, people dress up!”

Ferragamo Chain-embellished cotton-blend velvet midi dress

Gucci Signoria embellished patent-leather ballet flats

What to Leave Behind

“High heels and selfie sticks!” declares Arrivabene. Zevi warns to ditch any “expectations of an Uber-style service, via water or otherwise.”

What to Keep in Mind

Everyone agrees that getting lost is part of the experience. While the city is surprisingly small, its streets are winding and haphazardly laid out, which means you’ll often find yourself at a dead end when you thought you were about to turn a corner into a square. (Plus, Google Maps is not necessarily reliable here, so a paper map is a great thing to keep on hand as well).

Zevi and Arrivabene recommend maintaining a flexible itinerary. “It is a spontaneous city, and it’s best to be ready to change plans or add things to the plan as you meet people who recommend things, or you stumble upon things on your way from A to B,” says Zevi. Brandolini D’Adda’s advice is to “walk as much as you can and swim where the water is clear.”

Where

Where to Stay

The Gritti Palace is at the top of many lists for a reason. “It has the best location and great service,” says Zevi. It’s located a short walk from Piazza San Marco, and their terrace overlooks the Grand Canal. Brandolini D’Adda and Zevi also like Il Palazzo Experimental, which has a fun, younger vibe and is located on the Zattere, a promenade that runs along the southern edge of the city. (“It’s the best place for a sunset walk,” Brandolini D’Adda notes.) Arrivabene recommends the Aman Venice, in San Polo, noting the beautiful garden as a prime breakfast spot.

Where to Start the Day

Zevi loves Gelateria Paolin in Campo Santo Stefano. “It’s a super central, classic Venetian meeting spot and excellent for people watching,” she says. “Perfect for a fresh grapefruit spremuta [fresh pressed juice] in the morning, or a cappuccino mid-morning. Also perfect for lunch, ice creams in the afternoon, and drinks as evening sets in. Always great!”

Brandolini D’Adda recommends Caffè Rosso in Campo Santa Margherita. “They will not have avocado toast but you can order a tramezzino which is the equivalent of a sandwich. Or go to have a really early drink and slice of salame at Lele in Piazzale Roma,” he says.

Per Arrivabene, the pastries at Pasticceria Rizzardini in San Polo are a must (“absolutely have a krafen or pizzetta,” she says), as are the ham and cheese toasts at Caffè Florian, an old-school spot in Piazza San Marco.

Where to Eat

Vini da Arturo is a favorite of both Zevi and Brandolini D’Adda. “It looks and feels like being in a glamorous train carriage back in the day,” says Zevi. Highlights from the menu include pork chops with white vinegar and pasta with radicchio.

Harry’s Bar is an institution, but Zevi has a soft spot for it because “it always feels festive. Drink a bellini and eat their delicious carciofini [baby artichokes],” she says. Another classic is Trattoria alla Madonna, just off of the Rialto bridge. “The restaurant hasn’t changed anything since I was a child,” says Arrivabene. “You must have the spaghetti alle vongole, it’s the best in the world for lunch or a cozy dinner.”

Where to Shop

For handmade Murano glassware, Laguna~B’s sleek showroom in Dorsoduro features the full line of Brandolini D’Adda’s colorful tumblers and carafes as well as a library of art and photography books curated by the local publishing house Bruno.

Another high-end Murano outfit, Giberto Venezia, just opened its first boutique on the Rialto Bridge, where you’ll find elegantly subdued designs with contrasting rims.

For more design and homewares, Zevi nods to Chiarastella Cattana and Yali Glass. And whether you’re stocking up for a DIY aperitivo or bringing something special home, Arrivabene recommends stopping by Drogheria da Mascari for wine and chocolate, or the Rialto Fish Market for fresh fish, vegetables, and flowers.

While Venice is known for its glassware, their local jewelers are also world-renowned. Zevi recommends stopping by Palwer, for more contemporary pieces, or Atilio Codognato, for bejeweled snakes, skulls, and coffins. Both Zevi and Brandolini D’Adda love the unconventionally luxurious jewels designed by Antonia Miletto, who works with materials as varied as wood and diamonds.

Where to Look at Art

There is an abundance of art and culture in this city, between the meticulously preserved historical sites (and many, many churches) and the glut of contemporary art that fills the city during the Biennale. More often than not, the spaces are as fascinating as what’s on the walls. Zevi says the Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco are not to be missed. “You really get a feeling for the grandeur of Venice in its historical heyday,” she says. For the Palazzo Ducale, make sure to book tickets in advance and go early in the day to avoid crowds.

To see the best of renaissance art, The Gallerie dell’Accademia is “magic,” says Zevi, and never particularly full. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, housed in the art collector’s former home, offers an intimate look at the history of modern art and the personalities who shaped it.

For cutting-edge exhibitions, Zevi also loves Ocean Space, which is housed in the gorgeous Chiesa di San Lorenzo. Both Brandolini D’Adda and Zevi also recommend a visit to the contemporary art and design gallery Giorgio Mastinu. To learn about the history of glassmaking, add a stop at Le Stanze del Vetro to visit the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where the Palladian church is also a must.

Arrivabene’s favorites are Museo Fortuny, the former home of the artist and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny, and Palazzo Grimani, a formerly private collection in a spectacular space. “I never get bored of going back,” she says. Meanwhile, Brandolini D’Adda recommends the Museo Navale. “It’s the most underrated museum in town,” he notes.

Where to Unwind

Brandolini D’Adda recommends the classes (taught in English) at Ashtanga Yoga Venezia, which is centrally located. For the best massage, Arrivabene says to make an appointment at the Aman Spa.

Where to Get Some Fresh Air

The Lido of Venice, reachable by boat, is a long barrier island that separates the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. It’s lined with old school beach clubs and seafood restaurants, offering a bit of coastal contrast to the rest of the city. “I suggest walking along the murazzi [stone breakwater paths] and try to go until you reach the Alberoni Beach—you can also do it with the bicycle,” says Brandolini D’Adda. “Then, you can get a ferry from Alberoni to Pellestrina, where there is an amazing restaurant called Da Nane. It has the best fish and great view of the lagoon.” Zevi also recommends the Lido for a swim, or a game of tennis at Tennis Club Ca’ del Moro.

If you don’t have time to make the trip over there, there are spots of greenery within the city center. “I love waking up early and walking to the giardini di Sant Elena when the city is still asleep,” says Arrivabene.

Where to Have a Cocktail

While the grande dame hotel terraces offer fabulous aperitivi along with fabulous views, if you’re in the mood for something a bit more low-key, Zevi and Brandolini D’Adda both recommend Cantine del Vino già Schiavi in Dorsoduro. “It’s pretty famous, but it has the best cicchetti, which are little pieces of bread with various toppings,” says Brandolini D’Adda. “The wine is good and the vibe after 6 PM is fun.”

In nice weather, the best thing to do is to load up a paper plate and bring your spread outside where you can watch what’s happening at the gondola workshop across the way. For something a little chicer, Arrivabene recommends Naranzaria, just next to the Rialto Bridge. “I always meet my Venetian friends and family there for a Negroni or an Aperol Spritz,” she says.

Where to Stay Up Late

Unless you’re there during Carnevale or the opening of the Biennale, you won’t find much of a late-night scene in Venice. “You need to be pretty creative,” says Brandolini D’Adda. “Get drunk, get a small portable speaker and dance in front of a church. If you are lucky, you might end up meeting people who will invite you to some after party.”

When

Best Time of Year to Go

“My favorite months are April and May for the Biennale opening, and because May weather is so pleasant,” says Zevi. “In September, you have the Venice Film Festival, glorious weather, and lots going on in terms of cultural offerings. That being said, every month is wonderful and winter is very romantic in Venice, with the mist among clear, crisp days where you can still sit outside and have coffee! The only month I avoid in Venice is February. The weather and mood can be a bit dreary and the carnival creates chaos and litter and an influx of (I think rather ill-informed) tourists who do not respect the city.” Other months to avoid: July and August, when it’s oppressively hot and the cruise ship crowds clog the narrow streets.

— Getty Images

Why

“The intensity of the silence that contrasts with the loud history of the city is unique. Meaning that it’s an absurd city worth visiting at least once in a lifetime,” says Brandolini D’Adda. “Sounds really abstract, but I would not know how to describe how special this place is with facts.” Zevi echoes his sense of fantasy. “It’s like a mirage rising up from the water. It is where East meets West, old meets new,” she says. Arrivabene sums it up perfectly: “There is nothing like it. Even though I grew up there, every time I arrive by plane, train or car I have the same excitement,” she says. “I’m lucky to call such a beautiful and unique city home.”


Source: W Magazine

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