Throw out that guidebook! Our travel expert Susan delivers “insider” knowledge of “the other” Venice that you definitely should not miss …
After touring the “must-see” sights around St. Marks Square, discover another (less touristy) Venice by crossing to the “other side” of the Grand Canal – to explore Dorsoduro. The Accademia Bridge will get you there, as will the vaporetto (Venice’s water bus). You’ll find a wealth of riches – below is a sampling to get you started. Note that addresses are noted where possible, but it is absolutely best to have your hotel mark locations on Google Map or a regular map before you go!
What to See/Do:
• Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Peggy had it right, settling in a house on the Grand Canal, in Dorsoduro. There you can see her modern art collection, special themed exhibits, enjoy lunch in the café, and spend time on her “front porch” – a terrace right on the Canal, great for watching the world go by. (www.guggenheim-venice.it)
• Punta Della Dogana: French art collector Francois Pinault edged out the Guggenheim for development of the old Customs House at the tip of Dorsoduro. Renovated by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, it houses an edgy art collection in a fabulous space, with great views back to San Marco and to the Guidecca Canal on the opposite side. Includes a café and bookstore/shop. NOTE: a short walk back over the Accademia Bridge will bring you to the sister property – the Palazzo Grassi – also renovated by Ando, and housing more contemporary art. (www.palazzograssi.it for both venues)
• Gallerie dell’Accademia: At the foot of the bridge is the Accademia, housing a treasure trove of Italian Art from previous centuries. (www.gallerieaccademia.org)
• Scuola Grande de San Rocco: Do not miss this gem from 1517 with artwork by Tintoretto and by all means use the audio wand that is included in the admission price as it will give you a wealth of background on the Scuola. The paintings and woodcarvings on the upper floor are amazing (trust me on this one). Find it at the Campo de San Rocco not far from the Campo de Frari. (www.scuolagrandesanrocco.it)
• Scuola Grande de Carmini: Smaller than San Rocco, but charming and equally gorgeous, is this Scuola with artwork by Tiepolo. Not too far from Campo Santa Margherita (see below). For more information on the Scuola see: www.invenicetoday.com.
• Fortuny Museum: I am cheating here, as this is back in San Marco area – not far from the aforementioned Palazzo Grassi, and also a relatively short walk from the Accademia Bridge. In fabric/fashion designer Fortuny’s home (and housing much of his ephemera) are rotating art and fashion exhibits that are usually worth a visit – if for nothing else than to see the space. (www.museiciviciveneziani.it)
• Currently On: The Venice Biennale alternates each year – art for architecture — occuring during the summer/fall months. This year it’s art’s turn – the Arsenale, where the Venetian Empire built their boats, contains a huge exhibit of contemporary art from around the world. The show continues in the nearby Giardini with international pavilions filled with more edgy art. These venues are located in the Castello area (yes, San Marco side, but deserving of a mention), but note that many buildings throughout the city are used for temporary exhibits during the Biennale including several in Dorsoduro. Check out the map provided by the Biennale, which locates all exhibit spaces connected to the exposition. (www.labiennale.org)
Places to Hang Out:
• Campo Santa Margherita: Locals come to shop in the open-air market and hang out in the cafes; you can enjoy, too! Several casual pizza places to chose from for lunch let you watch life unfold as you dine al fresco. At the entry to the Campo is a hip hangout – Café Margaret Duchamp – and great gelato can be had at Gelateria Il Doge.
• Zattere: This long waterfront promenade is found on the side of Dorsoduro opposite from the Grand Canal and fronts the Guidecca Canal and the island of Guidecca (which has real neighborhoods also worth a stroll). Here you’ll find numerous cafes and restaurants (some noted below). The best gelato in town is at Gelateria Nico with a terrace on the canal.
Where to Eat: (Note that hotels are more than happy to make reservations for you, but you can try making reservations via the restaurant websites.)
• Linea d’Ombra: Contemporary food served on a terrace fronting the Guidecca Canal as well as in a nicely done interior. Higher price range is reflected in the food presentation and quality. Reservations recommended. You’ll find the place just around the corner from the Salute vaporetto stop and very close to the Punta del Dogana. (www.ristorantelineadombra.com)
• Ristorante Riviera: Sit at the water’s edge, on the Zattere again facing the Guidecca Canal, with great food from a caring chef, whose husband runs the front of the house. Interior options for inclement weather, but outside is the charm. Closest vaporetto stop is San Basilio – opposite end from Linea d’Ombra. Reservations essential. (www.ristoranteriviera.it)
• Avogaria: Trendy, contemporary interior with equally hip food. Small place, so reservations are a good idea for dinner. Also open for lunch. Strictly an inside dining affair, but a very nice space. On Calle dell’Avogaria, not far from the Scuolas noted above. Street is an extension of Lungo San Barnaba. (www.avogaria.com)
• Harry’s Dolci: Take the vaporetto from the Zattere one stop to Parlance on Guidecca to dine waterside at Harry’s Bar’s less expensive (but still pricey) sibling looking back to Venice proper. Lunch and dinner are both fun options. (www.cipriani.com)
• Acqua Pazza: In Campo Sant’ Angelo, once again on the San Marco side, but very close to the Accademia Bridge, and a great stop if you’re at Palazzo Grassi or the Fortuny Museum. Sit under umbrellas in the square and sample fabulous pizza or fish and pasta done in the style of Southern Italy. Frequented by both locals and tourists – reservations at dinner essential, but also a great lunch option. (www.venicemasaniello.com)
• Al Covo: In Castello on Calle della Pescaria, not far from the Biennale, is this restaurant that is worth mentioning regardless of location. Texas born host Diane and Italian chef husband Cesare Benelli will give you the warmest of welcomes and serve you the freshest seafood and most carefully prepared dishes possible. Worth a detour – reservations essential for dinner, but also a pleasant place for lunch. Only caveat is that this place is discovered – count on dining with many tourists – but don’t let that stop you! NOTE: the website has a good location map with directions and great info about the restaurant. (www.ristorantealcovo.com)
Where to Shop:
• Sent: Marina and Susanna Sent’s contemporary glass jewelry (www.marinaesusannasent.com) can be found at their shop close to Peggy Guggenheim (669 Campo San Vio) and also in a very compact shop (open the drawers below the display for more stuff) near San Marco (Ponte San Moise). You’ll also see their work in museum shops around town. Amazing stuff – don’t miss it!
• Madera: Handmade designs in wood and contemporary tabletop items can be found in this compact shop at the edge of the Campo San Barnaba (Avogaria is just up the street). (www.maderavenezia.it)
• Other Galleries/Shops: As you stroll Dorsoduro’s streets you will find numerous galleries and shops to explore.
Where to Stay:
• Ca Pisani: My top, top, top recommendation. Just around the corner from the Accademia is this wonderful 30-room gem – the original “design hotel” in town with an Art Deco/Italian Modernist interior. Offering a wide range of room types, with breakfast, wi-fi, tax and service included – a mid-priced hotel offering great value. Lovely roof top terrace too. The highlight is the great, warm and welcoming service from the captivating front desk staff. You have to give up on a canal view, but the perks more than compensate. (www.capisanihotel.it) or www.designhotels.com. Please tell them I sent you (I do not get a commission – I just want them to know I am recommending them!).
• Other Options: On the high end is Ca Maria Adele – very traditional, but very high style – near the Salute (www.camariaadele.it). A new mid-price entry (also traditional and with a location that is a bit more isolated, but still in Dorsoduro) is the Hotel Palazzo Stern (www.palazzostern.com). La Calcina is an old fashioned hotel on the Zattere with its own restaurant (www.lacalcina.com), front rooms with canal views. Another old-fashioned hotel in a renovated palazzo is Locanda San Barnaba. Last we checked, their website (www.locanda-sanbarnaba.com) was down, so here’s a Fodor’s review of the hotel. Both of these are lower priced, more traditional choices. Similarly well priced, but very hard to get into (very advance reservations essential) is the Accademia Villa Maravege in a 17th century villa with a private garden – it was the former Russian embassy (www.pensioneaccademia.it). ALERT: these lower priced properties may not have elevators! ALSO NOTE: I have not personally tested any of these hotels.
Walk, walk, walk! But when that gets too much, do what the locals do and use the vaporetto system. It’s best to buy a pass for unlimited rides available in 24, 48 and 72-hour increments. Don’t try and cheat the system – you will be fined if caught. Traghettos – small boats at marked locations – provide fast and easy crossing of the Grand Canal for .50 Euro – most locals stand but you can sit or perch too. TIP: Before you go, understand (using guidebook and/or hotel concierge) your transportation options from airport or train station relative to your hotel’s location (toting luggage up and over too many canal bridges is not a fun way to begin your visit).
Maps & Guidebooks: Always useful is a good map of Venice such as “Streetwise Venice” – and many hotels also have good paper maps. Frommer’s “Venice Day by Day” is pocket sized with good walking tours, and DK’s “Top Ten Venice” is also a good small guidebook. Both guidebooks come with maps.
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