Insider’s guide to Venice

For Venice, the pandemic became a time of rebirth. As life returns to normal here, this unique city is revealing new stories and sites to visitors.


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The Classics

The iconic Piazza San Marco has always been the heart of Venetian life.

Revered for centuries as the world’s most beautiful drawing room, it’s a global icon – a symbol of the concentration of global energy, wealth, and true beauty.

The square’s perimeter is marked by the grand structures of the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, the Basilica di San Marco decorated with magnificent mosaics, and the Torre dell’Orologio, a jewel of the Renaissance era.

The heart of Venice - the iconic Piazza San Marco square

Photo source: Unsplash

In fact, now is a historic moment: the Procuratie Vecchie opened just last month after five years of challenging restoration work, and for the first time in 500 years, the 16th-century building is open to the public, becoming a centre for public events, exhibitions, and conventions.

The Piazza San Marco is also home to the Caffè Florian (1720), considered the oldest coffee house in Italy and once frequented by Giacomo Casanova and more recently by celebrities such as Clark Gable, Andy Warhol, and Salma Hayek.

Caffe Florian is considered the oldest coffee house in Italy

Photo source: Unsplash

To a backdrop of live music, it serves a fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth tiramisù and the extraordinary Caffè alla Venexiana.

Try elegantly ‘packaged’ cicchetti, which are typical Venetian snacks, at Grancaffè Quadri (1775) on the opposite side of the piazza.

There, star designer Philippe Starck has provided for the restoration concept of the establishment’s historic rooms.

People sitting in one of the cafes in the Piazza San Marco in Venice

Photo source: Unsplash

But where in the historic heart of this city can one take refuge from the crowds and breathe in some tranquillity? The oasis of peace that is the Giardini Reali, of course.

This garden established in 1806 underwent a long renovation a few years ago and has regained its botanical and architectural value.

Its green paradise of plants and flowers typical of the lagoon ecosystem as well as exotic specimens such as bamboo groves is enriched by the architecturally striking Padiglione del Caffè with its large glass volumes and Illy coffee.

Giardini Reali - garden - oasis of peace in Venice

Photo source: Zintec


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The Biennale invites us to dream

This season’s grand event is the 60th Venice Biennale, which until November 24 of this year will celebrate modern art and artists, inviting visitors to the Central Pavilion and national pavilions in the Giardini, the ancient Arsenale shipyards, and many places in the historic centre and beyond.

The exhibition’s artistic director is Adriano Pedrosa, the first curator of Biennale Arte from South America. He is known for his competence and originality in conceiving his exhibitions with a vision open to the contemporary, working from an observation point of the world that cannot disregard the nature of its place of origin.

The Venice Biennale yearly invite visitors to celebrate modern art and artists

Photo source: Biennale Arte (photo by Francesco Galli)

The Biennale brings together 332 artists from over 75 countries; this year, the goal is to extend the achievement of “carbon neutrality” certification. Since 2021, La Biennale di Venezia launched a plan to reconsider all of its activities in light of recognised and consolidated principles of environmental sustainability.

The 2024 Venice Biennale is titled ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere

Photo source: Biennale Arte

This year’s Biennale is titled ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’, is drawn from a series of works started in 2004 by the Paris-born and Palermo-based collective Claire Fontaine.

The works consist of neon sculptures in different colours that render in a growing number of languages the words “Foreigners Everywhere”.

The phrase comes, in turn, from the name of a Turin collective who fought racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s.

One of the places where the Venice Biennale venue is held

Photo source: Biennale Arte (photo by Andrea Avezzù-Courtesy)

Another inspiring event on the arts front has warmed the hearts of history and textile fans, namely, the opening of the landmark Museo Fortuny.

Here, in the Gothic-style Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei in the San Marco quarter, the Spanish fashion designer and intellectual Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo and his wife, Henriette Nigrin (a French clothing designer and textile artist), spent their lives and creative careers.

The museum’s permanent collection consists of Fortuny’s paintings, theatre sets, lighting, garments, and fabrics.

Museo Fortuny - Gothic-style Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei - San Marco quarter


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Other islands

The magic of Venice’s features is revealed in its diverse islands.

First, as we breathe in the salty air of the lagoon, let’s head to San Giorgio Maggiore, also known as the island of cypresses. This important cultural destination lies just a few minutes by vaporetto from the San Zaccaria stop in the direction of Giudecca.

San Giorgio Maggiore - an island in Venice

Photo source: Unsplash

The Fondazione Giorgio Cini cultural organisation is based on San Giorgio Maggiore, from where it develops and implements grand international projects.

Currently, its Stanze del Vetro exhibition spaces are hosting the FontanaArte: House of Glass exhibition curated by Christian Larsen, which focuses on the masterpieces produced by the legendary Milanese company and created under the guidance of legends such as Gio Ponti, Max Ingrand, and Gae Aulenti.

FontanaArte - House of Glass - Christian Larsen

The island also features the Borges Labyrinth with 3200 architecturally shaped boxwood shrubs, a music hall, a terrace café with romantic views of sailing ships and Venice’s iconic skyline, and many more unique experiences.

The Labyrinth Borges on the San Giorgio Maggiore island in Venice

Photo source: Visit Venezia

It’s said that Isola della Certosa, an island located opposite the Arsenale, is Venice’s Central Park. The green public space with meadows, a park, and beehives is the ideal place for picnics, sports, and relaxation.

Here you can moor your boat and cosy up on the café terrace over the water to sip some prosecco or an organic Veneto red wine at sunset with good friends.

Isola della Certosa

Isola delle Rose (Sacca Sessola) is another gem in the Venetian Lagoon and home to the award-winning JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa.

The renowned Italian architect Matteo Thun, who renovated the early-20th-century complex, explained the genius loci of the project: here the core is not the buildings but the environment – the water, the silence, the slow passage of time.

JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa

The restorers respected the area’s culture and nature and made a deliberate decision to use local materials, such as Murano glass and mirrors and locally produced bricks, tiles, and fabrics.

The Michelin-starred Fiola at Dopolavoro restaurant, housed in a structure dating back to 1936, also exudes the same local and historical charm.


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Gems worthy of attention

In between all the grand historical heritage in Venice, many visitors miss the legacy of the famous 20th-century Venetian architect and designer Carlo Scarpa.

Carlo Scarpa - Venetian architect and designer

He worked masterfully with glass and created intelligent restorations without damaging or destroying the city’s authentic code.

If you want to see how harmoniously the old and contemporary coexist in Venice, visit the Querini Stampalia Cultural Centre. Another Scarpa landmark is the Olivetti exhibition space in Piazza San Marco.

Carlo Scarpa - Gems worthy of attention

For more authentic Venetian spirit, stop by the ancient Mercato di Rialto. The bright colours, fragrances, and energetic vendors play a key role here.

This is one of the oldest markets in Italy, having been an internationally influential trading post and economic and financial centre since 1097.

One of the most magnificent buildings in the market quarter is the Pescheria, a fish pavilion built in 1907 with a Venetian Gothic façade opening onto the Grand Canal.

The market in Venice - Mercato di Rialto is located next to the Grand Canal

Photo source: Unsplash

As the epicentre of the city, the market often hosts a variety of events. At such times, lavish tables are set up here and star chefs serve exquisite meals. This honour was also enjoyed by the guests of the luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana at Venice Days last summer.

Mercato di Rialto

After crossing the restored Rialto Bridge, head towards another restored gem, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.

The beautiful 28-metre-high cylindrical tower concealing a spiral staircase (bovolo is Venetian for ‘snail’) was commissioned by the owner of the building, Pietro Contarini.

The Venetian Renaissance and Gothic structure is made of red brick and white Istrian stone.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo

After ascending the 80 steps, the reward is an iconic view of the city and… photo, photo, photo!

View of Venice city from the Scala Contarini del Bovolo

Photo source: Unsplash


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Osterie, bacari, trattorie – a self-respecting Venetian doesn’t pass up the pleasures of eating and drinking.

Similarly, Venice’s identity is unthinkable without its historic cafés, where people pop in for a coffee and piece of cake as they pass by, standing at sculptural marble counters or bar tables.

View of the everyday life in Venice - people in cafe

Photo source: Unsplash

It’s worth enjoying the atmosphere at Pasticceria Tonolo (1886) with its classic porcelain cups, Rosa Salva (1870), Marchini (1966), or Dal Mas (1906).

As a rule, the price of service in Venice can vary considerably depending on whether you choose to sit at a table or stand at the bar.

Pasticceria Dal Mas in Venice

Photo source: Tripadvisor

The transformation of Venetian cuisine has also been underway for some time.

Of course, sarde in saor and baccalá mantecato have not disappeared, but the new trend is to transform centuries-old lagoon traditions into innovative cuisine with unusual combinations of ingredients.

This is also the wave that the Local restaurant, a new project in the Castello neighbourhood, is riding. Here, sophisticated cuisine made from seasonal local ingredients is served in an informal atmosphere with touches of traditional Venetian design.

Local restaurant - Castello neighbourhood - Enjoying trends and local spirit

The Venice Venice Hotel has become one of the brightest stars on the city’s accommodation scene.

This ambitious name is borne by a new luxury property set on the Grand Canal opposite the Rialto Market in the antique Ca’ da Mosto palazzo with its sumptuous Byzantine façade.

Venice Venice Hotel

It is owned by Alessandro Gallo, an innovator and founder of the renowned fashion brand Golden Goose.

He designed the hotel’s scenography, which forms a dialogue between the Biennale’s avantgarde and the city’s history, while the foyer is dedicated to the Venice M’Art concept store for design objects.

With a hotel concept like this, Gallo is, like many owners of newly rediscovered addresses, aiming for the Venice of tomorrow.


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Read more about Venice in Baltic Outlook.

Text by Lana Jūra

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