“Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.” – Henry James
Secret Venice - Dining, Drinking & Exploration
Although Henry James’ musings could be considered a tad inflammatory, for many among us there is truth in his unvarnished opinion. So if the thought of touristic crowds, braying like bison at The Bridge of Sighs fills you with unease, read on for a sample of a more authentic Venice.
Where to eat?
Our first recommendation would be Osteria Anice Stellato, found in the Cannaregio district on a quiet canal it is an intimate but busy restaurant serving traditional Venetian cuisine and exquisite Italian wines. The twenty minute walk from St Mark’s Square ensures that the crowd is comprised primarily of locals and a two course meal for two with wine should cost around €80, a reasonable price given the romantic setting, attentive service and quality fare.
Ristorante Garibaldi can be found on the Southern Island of Sottomarina, an incredibly welcoming staff and possibly the best fish dishes you will ever lay eyes on make this a necessary excursion. It takes roughly an hour by bus from Venice Lido and the food and rustic charm of what is essentially a fishing port contribute to a wonderfully sensuous experience. A two course meal for two with wine will be somewhere in the region of €150, though it will be an occasion not easily forgotten.
Our final recommendation is more on the relaxed side of things, Osteria Alla Ciurma is a miniscule basement bar-cum- restaurant that resembles the inside of a boat. Serving wine and cicheti from a euro apiece and meat platters from €16 it is a delicious, atmospheric bargain that can be found right at the heart of Venice.
Where to drink?
Bacari, Bacari, Bacari. If you want to experience Venice like a local, then head for the wine bars.
Vecia Carbonera is a personal favourite due to the wine barrel tables, low lighting and vast selection of Primitivo (Zinfandel).
Alla Vedova is perhaps the most celebrated Bacari in all of Venice, and with good reason, established in 1891 it has stood the test of time and continues to provide phenomenal food and wine at very reasonable prices.
If you’re looking for something a little more illustrious then we’d suggest Il Mercante, close to the Basilica dei Frari, this cocktail bar is an essay in Venetian luxury, glamour and mixology.
What to do?
Head to the library; The Libreria Acqua Alta has to be amongst the most beautiful bookstores in the world, and the most unusual. Due to regular bouts of flooding all of the books are housed in bathtubs or old boats to ensure they are not damaged when the water cascades through.
Take a ride past a haunted island; Poveglia, initially constructed by the Venetian government as a fortification has had some very sinister uses over the years. For a time it became a plague quarantine station and it is estimated that more than 150,000 people languished there before passing away, in addition to this, from 1922 to 1968 it also housed a mental asylum and as the myth goes, a mad doctor. Unfortunately riding past it is all you’ll be able to do as the tourism board prohibits visitation to the island.
Wander. The best way to experience Venice is to explore it, squeeze down the narrow alleys, take the stairs to that tiny basement bar and strive to scratch beneath the beautiful surface of the city, when in doubt, follow the locals!