We came to La Serenissima for the Biennale, the incredible festival that showcases the world’s best artists in 2015 and 2013. We loved the art – but we fell in love with the city on the water, a city that has a rep for being dirty, smelly, crap at food (in Italy?) and packed full of tourists. Not a good place to go, in truth, we were told. Not a place to stay or enjoy.
I’m Afraid Of Americans - David Bowie.
Bigoli in salsa
Enoteca Rio Marin
Except… bollocks. Venice, if you can be arsed to walk away from St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal, get away from the tourist-trap restaurants flogging soggy tiramisu and the selfie-stick sellers on the Rialto Bridge, is so much more than just gondolas, Just One Cornetto and tacky carnival masks. It’s dirty and grubby, sure, but when you’re walking in the tiny streets and mysterious back alleys, you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Don’t Look Now; all mist and water and secrets and hushed footsteps. Walk up to the Arsenale area or take the ferry across to the Lido and you’re back in Italy proper, all noise and food and glam people drinking and laughing in cosy bars. It’s a city of contrasts, of dark and light and it’s probably the most beautiful place created by man.
So get yourself an Aperol spritz, the Venetian drink (forget about bellinis, that’s US nonsense), find a tiny ‘rio’ (canal) where you can people watch and prepare for a city like no other. Mysterious, dangerous, tragic. Lovely. That’s the Venice we know and adore.
Enoteca Rio Marin
This was just down the canal from where we stayed the last time we were there, and it became our go-to pitstop for drinks after a hard day stomping the pavements. Great food and the Aperol spritzes are huge and very alcoholic. Take your glass outside and sit on the bridge over the canal. You’ll never feel more Venetian.
Oh my God, this was hilarious. The guy who runs this tiny little bar looked askance when we came in and took the piss out of my Italian. But then we drank loads of cheap wine (‘ombra’) and ate the cicchetti he prepared for us and it was suddenly a proper Venetian experience. One of those ‘remember that time in the tiny bar?’ stories you can talk about for years afterwards.
Just a canal-side pizza and pasta place, but woah – it was good. I had bigoli in salsa here for the first time and it was just perfect. Basically that’s spaghetti in an anchovy sauce; not for the faint hearted. Or those who don’t like anchovies. I do. Yum.
Oh man, this was really good food, cooked by some enthusiastic young guys, who liked to chat about wine and their amazing seafood dishes. I had scallops and sea bass and it was heaven on a plate. Really busy so book in advance; it’s worth it.
Pasticceria Rio Marin
This is the spot for breakfast. As far as we were concerned. Coffee and cake and pastries and these little buttery things filled with apricot jam. Set us up good and proper for a day sightseeing. Eat at the counter and it’s about £8 cheaper than sitting down at the tables outside.
Mercati di Rialto
Not really a shop… but better than a shop. The Rialto Market is where Venetians go for their fresh seafood and everything else that’s in season and is good to eat. Just brilliant to wander around, looking at the piles of fresh fish, veggies, fruit… or stop off to buy picnic bits. Lots of fun. Go there early.
Hmm, we missed out on these. Saw a lot of junk bookshops and vintage places that sold records but an actual honest-to-goodness record shop of the kind we like – no. They must exist. Next time.
I’m Afraid Of Americans - David Bowie
The friend we went with sang this loads. So we did too. Quite fitting, given the amount of US tourists in the city during the daytime (they all fucked off back to their cruise ships at 6pm, meaning the city emptied out and became a much nicer place for it).
What we did:
Modern art. A lot. The Biennale is the reason we go to Venice, so we spent a lot of time looking and studying and chatting about what we liked and what we’d seen. It’s an amazing experience and repays your attention in spades.
Plus, of course, we visited a lot of churches for the paintings and the big candles. Took the ferry out to the Lido, hired bikes, cycled to the beach and swam in the Adriatic. It was hot even in September.
Got lost. You will get lost. Just relax and enjoy it.
What we bought:
Not a lot, in truth. Apart from a candle with St Francis on the front, and a bag from the Venice Film Festival. We were there for higher things (art).
Where we stayed:
House Of The Dead / Crazy Golf?:
In Venice? God, no. We did play a sneaky game of babyfuss in a bar, though. Brad won, as per usual.