Mysterious Venice! Enjoy scrolling through Venice (courtesy CNN) and contact Ada King to customize your trip of a lifetime.
Insider’s Venice: CNN 27 August 2013
Venetian for gridlock.
In its heyday, the Queen of the Adriatic was the world capital of publishing, banking, jewelry and trade.
Venetians established the first bank at Rialto in 1157, the first written patent law in 1474, the first ghetto in 1516, the first casino in 1638, the first art Biennale in 1895 and the first film festival in 1932.
These days, the local population has dwindled to less than 60,000, while the number of tourists has soared to over 20 million a year. But the best of Venice is tucked away from the eyes of the masses, often hidden in plain sight.
The cultural and luxury market is thriving. In addition to art and cinema, La Biennale has expanded to include dance, theater and music, as well as becoming the most important architecture festival in the world. High fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and Diesel have teamed up with the city to breathe new life into ancient monuments.
You will get lost in Venice. It’s part of the fun. Don’t worry; we’ll guide you through the best of Venice.
Grancaffé Quadri, abcQuadri and Ristorante Quadri
Ristorante Quadri was awarded one Michelin star in 2012.
Ristorante Quadri (upstairs)
In a merger of the Titans, the Alajmo family, of the renowned Le Calandre — the three-star Michelin restaurant in nearby Padua — took over the Quadri in Piazza San Marco back in 2011, transfusing fine dining with an awesome view of one of the most dramatic venues on the planet. Max Alajmo designed the menu, zapping traditional Venetian and Italian classics into the 21st century. The focus is on fish that arrives daily from the Rialto market. The Laguna tasting menu includes Burrata cheese ravioli with mixed seafood, fresh tomatoes and oregano.
Grancaffé Quadri and abcQuadri (downstairs)
In 1725, Giorgio Quadri and his wife, who were from Corfu, bought the coffee house in Piazza San Marco and began serving Turkish coffee, a new delight. Three hundred years later, the show plays on, from breakfast through nightcaps, the famed Quadri orchestra playing in the background.
Now that the Alajmo family operates the Quadri, if you step inside and stand up at the bar, you can actually get a caffé for €1.10 ($1.50) and Venetian appetizers called cicchetti for €2.00 ($2.70). If you don’t feel like getting dressed to go upstairs for dinner, grab a plate of pasta at the abcQuadri, which offers Alajmo-inspired cooking in a relaxed atmosphere. This is where Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Orson Wells drank the night away, and remains a favorite of professional drinkers the world over.
Bartender Giuseppe Cipriani founded Harry’s Bar in 1931 after having a 10,000-lira loan repaid by a young American man named Harry Pickering, who threw in an extra 30,000 lira so Cipriani could open a high-society bar. It was an instant hit, attracting the international elite. The next year Giuseppe’s son was born, and he named him Arrigo, which is Italian for Harry, who runs the show today.
Harry’s Bar is a Venetian rite of passage. The Bellini — puréed white peache and prosecco — was invented here, as well as the Carpaccio, created for an ailing countess ordered by her doctor to eat raw meat. The food is classic Venetian. The chocolate cake is divine.
Ristorante Al Vagon
Celsa Grinzato grew up at Al Vagon, which was bought by her parents in 1951. Her husband and kids work there; now her granddaughter is growing up there, too.
The fresh produce comes from San Erasmo, a local island in the lagoon; the fish comes from the Rialto market. Celsa makes the desserts by hand; the semifreddo alla meringa — ice cream cake — is a specialty. Located on a quiet canal, there is plenty of outdoor seating where you can watch the gondolas go by.
Bar Rialto da Lollo
The best tramezzini and panini — sandwiches — in Venice are in this little cafe under the Sottoportici degli Oresi at the Rialto Bridge. The codfish and artichoke tramezzino is a standout and the coffee is excellent. The place is packed with locals at lunch; eat standing up or try to squish your way onto a stool.
Clubbing as it’s known in the outside world is almost nonexistent in Venice, with noise ordinances kicking in at 11:00 p.m., codes against live music and elderly Venetian women armed with watering cans on patrol in top-floor apartments. However, a few places have managed to wriggle their way around the rules. Remember, there are no cars in Venice, so no worries about driving home.
Campo San Giacomo di Rialto and the Erberia
According to legend, it was here that Venice was born on March 25, 421 A.D. at 12:00 noon, and it is still a major hub in the Venetian wheel. The bars and eateries in and around Campo San Giacomo di Rialto — known locally as San Giacometto — and the adjoining Erberia have evolved into Venice’s main party scene. Think of the campo as a giant, outdoor living room, connected by a bunch of different dining rooms, bars, cafes and kitchens. Some places have live music; some have DJs, some just have a good sound system.
You can segue from spritz hour to dinner to after-dinner drinks to rowdy rocking to weeping in your best friend’s arms without ever having to leave the zone. Campo San Giacomo di Rialto and environs, from morning to late night
Tourists have recently taken up the habit, ignoring protocol and drinking spritzes at all sorts of strange hours.
The spritz was introduced in Venice when it was under Austrian occupation in the early 1900s, and is a mixture of white wine or prosecco, seltzer, and either Aperol, Campari (more bitter) or Select (sweeter), adorned with an olive and an orange slice and usually served on ice. Spritzes are often accompanied by some sort of snack, from potato chips to cichetti (Venetian appetizers). Spritz – Served at every self-respecting bar in Venice; starting at about €2 ($2.70)
There are a couple of terrific girl singers in Venice, and sometimes you will find them at Remer.
Taverna al Remer
Remer is one of the few establishments in Venice (outside of hotels) that knows what happy hour and a cocktail is. It feels like a tavern, with clunky wooden tables, but with a touch of class — discreet antiques are scattered throughout.
There is a piano, and that means there is music, and musicians dropping by. If you want dinner conversation, it’s best to sit in the other room. Outside there is a small square on the Grand Canal, and a little dock with a great view of the Rialto Bridge, where you can wander with your best-of-Venice drinks.
At lunch (noon-3:00 p.m.) there is a substantial all-you-can eat-buffet with local produce, including wine, water and cofee for €20.00 ($27). At Happy Hour (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) there is an all-you-can-eat snack table with cocktail included for €8.00 ($10.70). Dinner starts at 8:00 p.m., serving local Venetian classics, mainly fish.
The music starts cranking at 9:00 p.m. and has been known to last until 1:00 a.m. and beyond, depending on the crowd. As the evening wears on, tables get shoved out of the way and the dancing begins.
Shopping and Attractions
Venice keeps one foot firmly planted in the past. It has been compared to Disneyland, but it is actually the Magic Kingdom, where jobs such as maskmaker, glass blower, gondolier and fish monger still exist, and counts and countesses still live in palazzi.
From Palladio to Titian, the immense amount of art and architecture concentrated in such a small area can dazzle the senses.
Saint Mark’s Basilica. The Doge’s Palace. Teatro La Fenice. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The Prada Foundation. Palazzo Grassi. Punta della Dogana. The Giorgio Cini Foundation. La Biennale. And much, much more.
If you buy a normal time-limited vaporetto (water bus) ticket from 12 hours to a week, and pay €10 euro more at the time you purchase your ticket, you can ride on the Art Vaporetto for as long as your ticket lasts. This is something every sane person should do.
Instead of being stuck on a boat with the sweltering masses, you can ride on a comfy vaporetto with Wi-Fi, put in your earplugs and listen to a guided tour of the Grand Canal as you travel down one of the most spectacular water ways on the planet. The Vaporetto dell’Arte runs from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every 30 minutes, seven days a week, and makes only 10 stops. It highlights the art and culture to be found at each stop, provides a map, and encourages visitors to hop on and off to take it all in.
Venice’s new Luis Vuitton Maison store is the second of its kind in Italy, after Rome.
Louis Vuitton Venezia
A “Maison” offers an exclusive range of services that are not available in regular Louis Vuitton stores, like a nifty VIP shopping salon that disappears behind a wall and Made to Measure shoes. Maisons are also larger and are housed in distinct buildings — in this case, the former Cinema San Marco designed in 1936 by architect Brenno del Giudice, a manifesto for contemporary architecture in its time. On the top floor, the store features a very cool exhibition space. Vuitton has partnered with the Fondazione Musei Civici a Venezia, Venice’s Civic Museums, to sponsor the restoration of classic artworks, which are loaned to this new space. Then, a contemporary artist is invited to exhibit, inspired by the classic work.
The newly-opened store’s opening exhibit is entitled “Where should Othello go?” and features the restored painting The Death of Othello (1879) by Pompeo Molmenti, together with the contemporary video art Strawberry-Ecstasy-Green (2013) by New York-based artist Tony Oursler, and runs through November 24, 2013.
Ground zero, mask.
La Bottega dei Mascareri
Maskmaking in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, when masks were used for a variety of reasons — in the government, on the stage, as a form of dress and as a means of disguise. During Carnival, social and class distinctions were flipped on their heads, with servants dressing up as masters and vice versa. These days there seems to be a mask shop on every corner, but only a handful are the real deal — most are Chinese imitations. Sergio Boldrin and his brother, Massimo, have been a major force in keeping this early art form alive. La Bottega’s creations are completely handmade the traditional way, from papier-mâché, and were featured in the film, Eyes Wide Shut.
Gems of Venice
The Venetian Marco Polo was one of the most famous travelers on the ancient Silk Road, together with his father and uncle. After traveling through the Far East for more than two decades, they returned in rags to Venice in 1295. No one believed they were the Polos, nor any of the amazing tales they had to tell, so they arranged a banquet, ripped open the linings of their ragged coats, and out tumbled a fortune in gems. Centuries later, Gems of Venice continues that tradition, although these days the gems arrive by FedEx.
For more than 30 years, Angela Cook, the British-born founder of the boutique, has traveled to exotic locales on her own quest for treasures to offer her clientele. In her workshop close to the Rialto Bridge, local artisans assemble the jewels into unique, wearable works of art.
Vascellari also sells the usual designer glasses — like these Swarovski specs — and performs an excellent eye exam.
Optician Robert Vascellari became so frustrated with the quality of designer glasses that he decided to create his own line, together with his relatives in the Dolomites. The family had been in the optic business for generations, originating in the 1930s with Roberto’s grandfather, up in Calalzo di Cadore.
The Vascellari fabbrica is in a rural, Alpine area, surrounded by mountains and nature, which is the inspiration for their eyeglasses. The materials they use are derived from cotton. Bees-wax and wood are used in the last steps of production, so the eyeglasses you wear on your face are composed of natural materials. Even though Vascellari eyeglasses are handmade, they actually cost less than the average designer glasses, priced around 100 euro.
Rosanna Corrà’s motto: “We don’t always need to do things by the book.”
Rosanna Corrà creates marbled paper and then, with cardboard, turns that paper into usable or wearable works of art. Diaries and agendas. Paper jewelry: earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches and belts. Purses. Bowls. Furniture. And lots more. Even Rosanna doesn’t know what she’s going to paper-ize next.
Trained in antique book restoration and binding, Rosanna is continually experimenting with paper as a medium. From conception to design to construction of models to the finished product, she is constantly pushing the envelope.
Minds get blown right along with the glass.
Simone Cenedese – Vetro di Murano
Murano has always been a secretive island, only a five-minute vaporetto ride from the center of Venice, yet mysterious enough even to Venetians. Glassmaking traditions pass from father to son. Competition and copying are rampant. Feuds rage between different branches of the same family. The industry is of such importance that, in the past, a traitorous glassblower who revealed his secrets would be punished by exile or even death.
Simone Cenedese was born into a glass-blowing family. As one of the youngest maestros on the island, he has earned international respect. Cenedese specializes in contemporary lighting and sculptures, and has one of the more outstanding showrooms on Murano.
Book on upstairs for Venice’s temple of tome.
Acqua Alta Bookshop
There is a gondola piled high with books inside Acqua Alta Bookshop, the self-proclaimed “Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World.” There are books in the bathtubs. Books on the walls. Out back along the patio is a staircase made of encyclopedias that leads to a view of a quiet canal.
There are thousands and thousands of books inside Libreria Acqua Alta, some new, most used; most are in Italian, but also come in a smattering of languages. The owner, Luigi Frizzo, is saving all the books. Acqua Alta means “high water,” and is a tide which invades Venice with ever-increasing frequency, flooding the streets and shops.The gondola inside the shop is like a Noah’s ark for books, as are the bathtubs. There are also postcards, posters, a small English-language section near the side door, an erotic section complete with Casanova condoms and plenty of cats.
Only in Venice
The cabs here smell a lot better.
The elegant, black gondola is Venice’s most well-known symbol. Designed to maneuver the waters of the canals and the lagoon, a gondola is an ancient method of transportation, hand-crafted down to the smallest detail. These days, a gondola ride is mandatory for many tourists, but pricey. Is it worth it? Yes.
There is another Venice that is only visible at water level, and there is only one Venice. It’s a trip into another dimension. Sunset is a good time to go. Just stroll around town and when you see a gondola that catches your fancy, that’s your ride.
The Rialto Markets
Get a whole squid for just a few quid.
The Fish Market
Venice’s fish market has been around since the year 1097, and is one area where you’ll find many locals actually doing their shopping, especially if you go on Saturday morning. Located near the Rialto Bridge on the San Polo side, the fish market is now in the Pescaria, a “modern” covered pavilion built in 1907. Stalls of unrecognizable squiggly creatures are arranged on crushed ice, as well as more familiar fish like shrimp, squid, tuna and salmon, all with their prices and place of origin clearly labeled. If a fisherman gets lucky, there is sometimes a dismayed swordfish on display.
The Fruit & Vegetable Market
Right next to the Rialto Fish Market is the Fruit & Vegetable Market, with its ever-changing produce, depending on the season. Fresh vegetables and fruit from the local islands of San Erasmo and Vignole are on offer, as well as imports from the exotic Mediterranean and beyond.
Nothing is more exciting than when the castraurearrive, which are tiny “castrated” artichokes grown only on local islands in the spring — it’s gotten to the point where you have to know somebody to get your hands on some. Most stalls close around 1:00 p.m., but some have started staying open until the evening.
And, there is so much more. But, instead of plowing into the 20,000,000. tourists, call Adamarie for the deft touch of her magic wand and customize your Venice experience with her vast experience and inside knowledge.