WHEN: Friday, July 20 - Sunday, July 22
HOW: Train ride
WHERE: Venezia; Villa Frari in Campiello
WHO: six friends on a quest for unconventional spots and inexpensive booze
There is plenty of information on Venice out there. Whole lot of guidebooks, whole lot of pictures, whole lot of reviews.
And I am not diminishing any of that. Venice is charming and deserves to be talked about loudly and proudly. However, I believe it is crucial to take a detour. At least once. Even if it is your first time there. Because the true essence of a city does not lie into the touristy spots and attractions: it is found in hidden lanes, far from the centre; it is found in the interaction with locals.
So here is what we experienced during our Venice hit-and-run.
The first mention goes to Villa Frari in Campiello, an Airbnb villa located 10 minutes walk from Santa Lucia train station. Airbnb is to me the best way to fully dive into the local culture: you get to experience day-to-day life (running errands, disposing garbage, going grocery...) and you can also get in touch with locals, especially if you opt for a shared room instead of a whole apartment for yourself. In this case, there were six of us, so we went for the entire apartment for ourselves - regardless, we had the chance to have a super fun chat with the guy who checked us in. He was a Tuscany student of Czech language, struggling a little in getting focused pictures of our documents, but making us feel immediately welcome and at ease. He even suggested we took a look at a local fair just a block away from where we were staying!
Definitely give this place a go, especially if you are traveling with a group of friends, but also if you want to experience a quiet space with your family: check it out here!
Another local experience that you cannot miss is a bacaro tour. Bacaro is a local bar, or a tiny osteria, where you can enjoy pretty inexpensive spritz (here is its homeland!) and a wide choice of cicchetti, i.e. a variegated and delicious assortment of small dishes and bruschette. So bacaro tour literally refers to bar hopping, you can skip your typical lunch and wander from one bar to another and try out as many dishes as you want.
There are so many recommendations on which bacari are worth hopping to, and honestly all of them are probably really good. So check out maps and ratings, or just walk around and see which one looks best to you, and create your own tour! Yes, it is that simple ;)
Here is our own mini bacaro tour, including food & beverage:
Bacaro Risorto: spritz + sarda in saor (sweet and sour pinchard) and baccalà alla vicentina (traditional style cod)
Osteria Sepa: prosecco + sarde in saor and polenta, caramelized onion, meatballwith beef and soppressa veneta (local sausage)
Al Camin Storto: spritz (only... how I wish we tried their cicchetti as well!)
Osteria Dai Zemei: spritz + baccalà mantecato (creamy cod); baccalà mantecato with celery, parsley and cream cheese; chicory, cream cheese and spicy gianchetti (baby fish); artichokes and anchovies cream; sausage and mushrooms
Yes, I know you are salivating right now. But allow me to make it worse.
If you wish to sit down more quietly, for a nice and easy dinner, please - please, make sure to check out Osteria da Gigio. Dishes are real cheap and super huge! Also, the location is nice and cosy, with tranquil light blue walls decorated with old gondola's parts. But let's talk menu, shall we?
Appetizers: go for baccalà mantecato and polenta
If you prefer an entrée: seafood pastas are all amazing
But you just cannot leave without trying either seppie alla veneta with polenta (cuttlefish served with their own edible ink) with polenta, and/or fegato alla veneziana (local style liver)
BUT. Show must go on, so... Moving on with our quest to unusual spots.
One place you just cannot miss is Libreria Acqua Alta: although it is getting more and more popular, it is absolutely worth visiting. First and foremost, because it is a bookstore. Also, because the setting is so peculiar and charming, with a whole gondola stuck in the middle of the store, and second hand books overflowing from every corner. Of course I could not refrain from purchasing something, and I found a 1953 Italian copy of Gösta Berlings saga by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. Fun fact: this place is also inhabited by cats. What more could you possibly ask for?!
Another thing you must experience is a tour of the Venetian Ghetto in Cannaregio: I highly recommend to sign up for a guided tour of the museum including the synagogues tour. The museum staff organizes these tours both in Italian and in English language, and it gives you a more in-depth overview of the ghetto's history; the original Jewish groups that migrated into the city; as well as the synagogues setting up, their outdoor architecture and indoor decoration and detailing. Have a quick look at the museum's website and be inspired to learn about the history of these people.
Did you know? The word "ghetto" comes from this very area of Venice. It originates from the Venetian word getto, or "foundry", as there was one near that site in the XVI century.
Furthermore, the Ghetto's main square is pretty green and quiet, you can enjoy a little walk and rest your body under the trees. You can also find traditional shops and a couple of restaurants as well. I am definitely going to try the Jewish-Italian influenced cuisine someday!
I am sure there are so many hidden gems spilled all over the city, we just did not have a lot of time as a weekend goes by so fast... What are your favourite spots in Venice? Any recommendations for any future visits? Let me know!