Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea is a perennial favourite with many a traveller and its star still continues to rise with spectacular popularity – and with good reason. This almost otherworldly magical place provides some of the most beautiful city scenery in Europe, if not the world. Although the city is more than just bridges, gondolas and the fabled home of Casanova. Look beneath the glossy reflection and find discover some fabulous hidden gems waiting to be explored. Let the countdown begin!
Take a trip to wonderful Burano Island
Dubbed one of the most colourful places in the world and yet still a fairly under-the-radar thing to do in Venice, Burano is an island in Venice that time forgot. The brightly coloured houses whose reflections glimmer in the waters of the Venetian lagoon but it’s is the intricate tradition of lace-making that sets this island apart from the others, like Murano (of glass-making fame!). When you step off the boat on the shore, you will be greeted by elderly ladies drawing you into their shops to show off their beautiful lace goods. As well as wonderful, scenic places to eat or have an espresso, the island also has its own leaning tower to be explored. This little island is like Italy’s own Little Italy.
Unearth a treasure at Libreria Acqua Alta
Bibliophiles rejoice! This unknown Venice hidden gem is a bookshop with a difference, due to the location hazard that comes from setting up shop in the city of canals, the store is resigned to constant flooding has come up with an ingenious solution to stem the tide- they keep the books in bathtubs and boats. The title translates as “Library of High Water” and the store truly is a library of everything a book lover could want, cramped atmosphere, stacks of books ranging from philosophy to pedagogy along with maps, magazines and manuals. Even non-book lovers will find an element of solace here, just like the stray cats who take refuge from the rising tide among the stacks of books.
Go on a secret wine tour
To the Italian gastronomic experience Venice has contributed its own tradition, the ombra and the spritz. Normally consumed at breakfast, the ombra is a tiny glass of wine, either red or white, which is meant to knocked back while, the spritz is a aperitivo of white wine, Campari and a shot of seltzer. To fully appreciate the local tradition, one must immerse themselves like a local, tour specialists Urban Adventures organise tours of local wine cellars for a real Venetian oenophile experience- a word to the wise, engage in a healthy dose of chicchetti (Venetian tapas) to avoid the slump. Bubble aficionados will also be pleased to hear that Prosecco is made in the hills of the Veneto region and flows freely in Venetian glasses.
Listen to Vivaldi
Even if you are not a classical music fiend, experiencing Vivaldi in Venice can be a goosebump inducing moment, the Venice Baroque Orchestra and the orchestra of La Fenice, both perform to exceptional standards. The Teatro Malibran shares the Fenice’s programmes and also has its own chamber music season, with performances by the Societa Veneziana dei Concerti. If you can manage to coordinate your visit with one of the city’s many open air performances it is worth taking the time to attend, you will not regret it.
Take a break at a waterside bar
Water, water everywhere so where to get a drink? The best places to take a load off from all that sight-seeing and enjoy the world slip- float- by are the waterside bars. Al Chioschetto on the Zattere, one of the few straight, wide waterways in Venice, the atmosphere is pretty much unrivalled except for the party boat cruises that leave from the bars docks on summer evenings. Failing that, try Vincent Bar, in all its leafy, lagoony gorgeousness, a perfect place to watch a Venetian sunset with a glass of prosecco. Taverna del Campiello Remer is a tougher spot to find but its worth hunting for this cosy little bacaro, a little red bricked nook, set in the exquisite setting of the tiny square right on the Grand Canal.
Discover Corte del Volto Santo
It is no secret that Venice has awed many a visitor with her open beauty but it is the discerning tourist that discovers the more private corners of her beauty, her corte. Corte del Volto Santo is one such place and fully deserves a place on this secret things to do in Venice list! It’s a hidden square with a rich history which began with the migration of the Lucchesi people to the area in the 14th century. Since then, it has amassed all sorts of attention from being mentioned in Dante’s Inferno to being the site of many pilgrimages over the centuries. All in all, these Venezia Minore have nothing minor about them, they are loaded with charm, whimsy and tranquillity. Visiting the ‘corte’ of Venice is like seeing into her soul.
See the unique Ca’Zappa
This stunning Dutch villa seems out of place among the glossy Venetian buildings but it sits alone, and unique in the south of the lagoon. It was built in the middle of the glorious experimental period of the 20s by a passionate architect from the Netherlands. Although, the villa is currently privately owned, it is possible to visit it and get a tour. You must rent a boat in order to fully explore the expansive gables or colonnaded portico.
Grab some peace on the island of Sant’Andrea
Given Venice’s history as a trade centre of Italy, its glorious wealth needed to be protected, hence the fortification built at Sant’Andrea in the 17th century at the height of Venice’s glory and fame thanks to the Renaissance and voyages of Exploration which brought great wealth to the Italian state. It is possible to visit the fort and explore the area, the rest of the island is unkempt and overgrown but has a beautiful viewing spot that is perfect for a picnic, bring some nibbles and bubbles with you to fully enjoy the serenity of this slice of a glorious past.
Dine at The Supper Club
Having seen all there is to see, it’s time to experience all there is to experience and the supper club will offer you just that. It is a private dining experience with a variety of events and collaborations that all heighten the experience. The space curation, atmosphere and interior design all combine together to form a complete and wholesome dinner experience that is never to be forgotten. It is the brainchild of Leah Forester who has a significant background in fashion and branding, she knows how to offer something different and unique. Dinner is often combined with entertaining arts, music and events so the Venice Supper Club will always be something more than supper like your mother made it.
Notice how this rundown doesn’t mention a gondola once! Don’t be sucked into the traditional tourist route and step off the beaten track for a more elevated experience of Venice!
Where to stay
Although there’s plenty of places to stay in Venice lagoon it can get very crowded during the summer months so it’s also a good idea to look outside the city too. I stayed in Laguna Park Hotel a laid-back four star hotel located near Venice on my trip which was a great way to combine the comfort and relaxation of a four star beachfront hotel and the easy access to visit all the beautiful sights of Venice (which was less than an hour by train from the hotel).
It’s located on a vibrant street filled with shops and eateries, this is a great choice for families and couples alike with two outdoor pools, a children’s pool as well as fabulous spa featuring a sauna, a hot tub and a hammam. Archery, mini-golf and other entertainment activities are available for the days you don’t fancy heading into Venice! A great all rounder!