Conventional wisdom stands that in order get the most out of your trip to Venice, you have to let yourself get lost on its narrow streets. Come marvel at the dazzling contrast of its blue-green waters and the fading multicolored edifices whose foundations plunge directly into the Venetian Lagoon. You’ll find that there’s really no other place in Europe like this city with the sea pumping through its veins. Yes, almost every metropolitan area on the continent is steeped in a rich past, but in Venice this legacy is preserved most pristinely. Its buildings have aged elegantly, and not much else has been constructed in their place.
It’s as if the spirit of Venice’s past is its present. Due to a dramatic push towards gentrification in the 80s, the historic areas of Venice only contain about 60,000 inhabitants. Since its real estate has become much too expensive for most of us, lots of buildings remain uninhabited.
The result is that when you meander through Venice’s small side streets, linger over stone bridges, and take in its romantic ambiance you’ll be doing so essentially in solitude. I loved this because I’ve found that some of the most iconic destinations in Europe have become overrun with tourists. Their attractions have subsequently turned gimmicky and insincere. This is a wonderful place to explore with a significant other or on a reflective solo trip.
If you flew to Venice, consider taking the Orange Line boat to your hotel. This option costs as much as other more conventional forms of public transportation, but it offers the perfect means for embarking upon your visit to this picturesque city. I stayed at Hotel San Samuele. It’s a small place with lovely staff and a rustic interior. Plus, it’s only a fifteen-minute walk from any major attraction.
If you’re up to it, I’d even recommend waking at sunrise and beholding an empty Plaza San Marco on a foggy morning. Venice is filled with smaller squares whose atmospheres hold unknown histories. The Ponte Academia is an ideal spot to catch a view of the city over the water. Additionally, gazing at the scenery atop the bridge crossing the Grande Canal won’t disappoint.
Be sure to check out the Peggy Guggenheim collection too as it is one of the most comprehensive repertoires of modern art in Europe. The museum itself is also quite lovely. Its wrought iron windows create a beautiful screen in front of the water directly outside.
Just as important as taking in the scenery whilst in Venice is sampling the decadent Italian cuisine. Venice in particular specializes in seafood. Something worth tasting at least once is the cuttlefish—also known as squid—cooked in its own ink. The pasta in this dish is stained black. It’s both tasty and comical to eat because it’ll turn the area in and around your mouth equally black. Also, eat all the tiramisu you can. That’s just a general rule of thumb, but Venice makes it easy.
Here are my top picks for restaurants in Venice:
PG’s Restaurant and Bar: best atmosphere
PG’s is the restaurant at the Palazzina G hotel. It’s quite ritzy. There are leather-upholstered chairs and sofas, fur throw blankets, two large bars and a cozy fireplace inside. The food is equally extravagant. They offer a grand multi-course tastings menu, complementary olive oil sampling, and serve food with beautiful presentation.
Osteria al Bacareto: best squid pasta
To me, Bacareto was the most traditionally Italian of all the restaurants we tried. Its robust interior is simple with cream colored walls and wooden accents. Lots of older Italian people seem to frequent this establishment, and you can find true classic Venetian cuisine here. We loved their squid pasta. Bacareto is right around the corner from Hotel San Samuele. Tell the wait staff if you stay there, and they will provide you with breakfast in the morning as well.
all’Amarone: best wines
There are lots of little bars for stopping to have a drink, but I felt most of them were a bit crowded and touristy. We found solace off the beaten path at all’Amarone. It has a familial ambiance and a great selection of regional Italian wines. My favorite was the local chianti on offer, but really I don’t think you could go wrong.
Ristorante a Beccafico Arte: best tiramisu.
Beccafico is more modern and upscale than most restaurants in this historic city. The chefs here create revived versions of classic Italian dishes. Their pizzas make a great casual lunch, and in the evenings things get a bit swankier. As for the tiramisu, the ladyfingers are perfectly saturated with coffee liqueur, and the crème is light and fresh. They serve it in large glass jars. We are voracious eaters and were satisfied sharing one.
Porta d’Aqua: best all around dining experience.
The dining experience at Porta d’Aqua will make you feel at home. The owner is likely to be the one to wait on you. He is effervescent and friendly. We went here twice, and both times everything we got was outstanding. Order the burrata starter if they have it. The interior is rustic and romantic.