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9 travel tips to Venice

Have you dreamed of having coffee in Venice?

Venice in blue and yellow

Venice in blue and yellow.

This is the final part of my triology about Venice. You will get 9 travel tips and a recipe for the cocktail born in the city and named after a painter, bellini.

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1. Sestiere Castello

In a city infamous for its tourists, Castello makes a welcome respite. Sestiere Castello is the largest and most varied district of Venice. It also has many interesting sights, such as Arsenale, once the biggest shipyard in Medieval Europe, the city’s biggest park, Giardini Pubblici, and one of the biggest squares, Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. There are few green patches in Venice and every possible space is utilized for soccer, be it the little square in front of a church or the tiny fenced area around the equestrian statue at the Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo square.

2. The vaporetto

The fact that the indispensable means of transportation is the vaporetto, the bus boat, is something that is bound to amuse both the kid and the most jaded adult. While the gondola and motoscafi (boat taxi) cost a fortune, the vaporetto is a cheaper choice at 7 Euro. Vaporetto no. 1 is the tourist route along the Canal Grande, while no. 4.1 or 4.2 is far less crowded and take you around the whole of Venice with a little detour to the neighbouring islands of Murano and Giudecca.

Jump off at the stop «Redentore» at Giudecca, which is the site of the church Il Redentore (The redeemer) raised in the 16th. century in gratitude for the ending of the last plague.

3. Along the sea

If you want to escape the alleyways, there is the spacious Giardini Pubblici park or you can wander along the fondamente, the promenade along the ocean. The most known harbour promenade is the Riva degli Schiavoni, with a beautiful view of the Venetian skyline around Piazza San Marco, but a quieter option is the Fondamente Nove in Castello-Cannaregio. Instead of hotels and tourists, it is filled with everyday life details, passing the city hospital and its row of ambulance boats parked outside and the city’s second oldest rowing club «Canottieri querini». Rowing is big in Venice. The word regatta is of Venetian origin and today rowing clubs offer lessons in «voga alla veneta», rowing the Venetian way, standing with one oar.

Canal in Giardani Pubblici

Canal in Giardini Pubblici, the biggest park in Venice.

Canal in Canareggio

Canal and footbridge in Cannaregio.

Tomatoes from the Rialto market.

One of many varieties of tomatoes at the Rialto market.

A meeting that only could take place in Venice.

A meeting that only could take place in Venice.

Towards the canal.

Towards the canal.

4. Lost in the alleys

The Norwegian writer Kjell Ola Dahl tells in his book «Venice» about his first encounter with Venice: «I did not find any place where young people gathered, such as the Spanish steps in Rome or the Centre Pompidou in Paris. I only got lost.»

In a city with labyrinth alleys it is easy to get lost, even for the most avid map-lover. Let the small streets guide you and immerse yourself in its surprising ways. Around the next corner awaits a row of cafes along a hidden back canal, an amazing renaissance church, a little square where the locals are celebrating the end of semester.

5. Espresso and cornetto

One of the dreams I had before going to Venice was having coffee the Italian way. Sipping to an espresso at the counter while chitchatting with the barista. Feel Italian for a few minutes. I found my café in the Castello district, but the occasion was rather coincidental. I entered the combined cocktail and coffee shop in the Calle de l’ospedale street enticed by the sign «Spritz take-away». I asked the bartender if buying spritz to go was a tourist thing, upon which she could tell it was not. From that point we had our morning espresso and cornetto at the little coffee shop. We got the coffee first and paid dopo, later.

The Italian coffee ritual is a short affair, a mere kick to your brain while you are on your way to work or after a meal. Hence you drink it standing at the counter.

6. Cicchetti and bacari

If you want to eat cheap and local food in Venice, head to the bacari for cicchetti. Cicchetti is Venetian tapas served at small bars. Try the classics; sarde in saor (sardines with onions), baccalà mantecato (creamy dried cod mousse served on grilled polenta) or marinated squid. Have you noticed all examples are from the sea? Venice is truly a seafood city.

7. At the osterie

Lonely Planet calls them pub restaurants. The osterie are informal bistros serving hearty food. The traditional pasta dish is called bigoli in salsa and is whole-wheat pasta with onion and anchovies. Another typical dish is squid ink risotto (risotto al nero di seppia) or sauted squid with polenta (seppie in nero con polenta). Squid ink is so common in Venice you can buy it in the local store. If you think the squid is a sordid experience resembling rubber, think again. I have never tasted such tender meat as the squid I had at Osteria di Alberto.

Gondols at Piazza San Marco.

Gondols at Piazza San Marco.

Canal Grande at the Rialto mercato.

Canal Grande at the Rialto mercato.

Another old and beautiful church.

Another old and beautiful church.

Dinnertime and time for bellini.

Dinnertime and time for bellini.

Bellini

Bellini.

8. Rialto mercato

The main market in Venice, the Rialto mercato has been situated on the same site for the last 500 years. It sits just along the Canal Grande in the ancient Rialto district and mainly consists of a fruit and vegetable selection and a fish market (pescaria). Be there when it opens at 7 AM, just in time to watch the merchants preparing their day, avoiding the worst crowds. The Italians do like their fish fresh. In the cookbook ”My grandmother’s kitchen” Mariangela di Fiore recounts how her nonna, grandmother, returned the fish to the fishmonger because it was not catch of the day!

9. Bellini

Hemingway did not only sit in Havana, he was also a regular at Harry’s bar in Venice. The most iconic cocktail of Venice, the bellini, was invented at Harry’s bar in the 1930s by its owner, Cipriani. Named after the venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, Cipriani also left behind him the legacy of the carpaccio dish, named after another venetian painter. The bellini is a blend of flat peach puré and the sparkling wine of the Veneto region, prosecco.

Today many bars and bacaris will use juice (succo di pesca) or premade puré (passata), but a traditional bellini is a seasonal cocktail available in the season of flat peaches, from June to September. A good bartender would replace peaches with oranges in the winter and strawberries in early summer. Here I make bellini the traditional way. Do remember to use overripe flat peaches. Also the prosecco, the puré and the glass should be cold.

Makes one glass:
1 overripe flat peach
1 tsp sugar
prosecco

Peel the peach and remove the stone. Strain through a sieve while you press the pulp with a spoon. Add the sugar and stir. The ratio is 1 part puré to 3 parts prosecco. Pour prosecco into the glass. Stir and serve.

Hungry for more Venice?

Venice – the fruit marked and macedonia de frutta
Venice – the fish market and spagetthi vongole
Venice city break (The Telegraph)
10 best budget restaurants in Venice (The Guardian)
Venice – a magical city to devour (Saveur)
Street food in Venice (from the blog Life Love Food)