This article first appeared in The Sunday times SA on 25 June 2017 *
Venice is gorgeous and can be done in 48 hours if that’s all the time you have…
1. Breakfast and Brunch
Venetians don’t do breakfasts the way the rest of us do. They tend to stop at a cafe en route somewhere, down a shot of espresso at the counter with a bombolone (small doughnut) on the side, then throw a mille grazie over the shoulder and exit into their day. Pop into Café Farini for your caffeine and sugar fix…it’s a small bakery-come-coffee shop near the Rialto Bridge, perfecto for a cappuccino and cannoli, those irresistible tubular shaped pastries that are apparently part of the staple diets of Sicilians the world over. I can believe it! It oozes cream made from ricotta, vanilla and cinnamon and yes, it will make you fat. Remember, if you sit down to eat, everything will cost you more. And if money is no object and you want a bigger and better offering, try the legendary Caffè Florian on Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) – pricey but worth it for the historical setting and people watching.
2. Rialto Market
The Rialto Market and Pescheria, once called the Erbaria, is next to the white Rialto bridge that straddles the Grand Canal and is the oldest in Venice, circa 1181. This is where many Venetians do their daily shopping and being in the thick of it means you get to observe their everyday banter with local fishmongers and farmers who sell the freshest seasonal produce. If you don’t know your fontini (artichoke hearts) from your fagioli (long red and white beans), pick up a bag of ciliegie (cherries) and have a wander through the stalls and acquaint yourself with the delicacies, and when you’re done, have lunch and a glass of vino at one of the many nearby trattorias.
Info: Campo de la Pescaria / www.venice-tourism.com
3. Light Lunch
Alla’ Arco is a popular Venetian bàcari, a backstreet bar where locals gather to socialize. Situated close to the Rialto Bridge, not many tourists know about it (yet) and prices are reasonable. Sit at the window overlooking the narrow alleyways, with a plate of delectable cicchetti (small bruschetta snacks – this is carb country!) and an Aperol Spritz. Eat small and save space to indulge over dinner.
Info: Calle Arco, San Polo 436 / Ph: +39 041 5205666
4. Cocktails with a dash of posh
The Hotel Aman, housed in the former Palazzo Papadopoli in the San Polo district on the Grand Canal, is a breathtaking example of 16th century opulence, a Neo Renaissance building with original frescoes. It’s a high society destination, the regal roccoco venue where George Clooney had his wedding reception. Have a sundowner cocktail at The Bar or enjoy high tea in a grand setting, and while you’re at it, take in Ken Yasuda’s exhibition, ‘Between Sky and Water’, that forms part of the 57th Venice Biennale.
Info: Palazzo Papadopoli, Calle Tiepolo 136 / www.www.aman.com
CoVino is a diminutive contemporary eatery and wine bar in a narrow calle (lane) in the heart of Venice that offers a top notch menu. Owners Cesare Bonello and Andrea Lorenzon give a warm welcome and with its reputation for innovative cuisine, the restaurant has become a magnet for locals and discerning tourists, so booking ahead is essential as it only has six tables.
Info: 3839A Calle Pestrin, Castello / www.covino.com
Cantina Arnaldi is a stylish enoteca (wine bar) in Santa Croce, owner-managed by Andrea Degnato and Katia Resenterra. They source superb wines (including biodynamic, sulphate free options) mostly from Veneto & other regions throughout Italy. A great selection of bolli cine (bubbles) like prosecco, vino blanco frizzante and francia corte awaits as well as delicious fromaggio platters and a killer caprese di bufala (salad with buffalo mozzarella)
Info: Santa Croce 35 / https://www.facebook.com/cantinarnaldi/
7. Do something different – a cooking class
Take a cooking class with Enrica Rocca in her eclectic apartment in Dorsoduro. She meets you at the Rialto Market, and depending on what you feel like eating, selects the finest ingredients and takes you on a journey through real Venice as she leads you away from the tourist hordes over ponti (bridges), though winding lanes, and on the Grand Canal in a water taxi. Once in her spacious cucina (kitchen), you prepare several dishes together, all interesting combinations sans recipes, and the reward is a spread of delicious healthy Italian food with a contemporary twist, all enjoyed over an excellent bottle or two of vino.
8.Jazz and aperitifs
For late night drinks, cool jazz bands and DJ sets, head to the B Bar Lounge at the gorgeous Hotel Bauer.
Info: A.Marco 1549 / www.bauervenezia.com
9. The Biennale – every 2 years
This is a must-see – it happens every two years and this one ends around November ..go and see as much as you can. There are several pavilions heralding uber talent from Prada to little known artists from the smallest countries, and loads of outdoor installation art that will take your breath away. Like these pictured below…“The Venice Biennale is like the Olympics of the Arts. It is the highest level of exhibiting an artist could be honored with,” says Nigerian visual artist Peju Alatise, whose work is pictured below. For the full low down on what’s happening and where, visit the website.
Lascaria andare a Venezia! Let’s go!