What’s not to like about Venice? It is Italy’s fairyland, an island of masquerade balls, beautiful artwork, lounging cinema stars and alleys that fall into gondola-crowded canals. When the sun shines, Venice is glorious. When it rains, it’s mysterious. And right now, we are more in love with La Serenissima than ever thanks to these three things to do, eat and sleep.
Venice has a lion’s share of art — from ancient to modern, but right now it’s contemporary that wants to roar. Through November, the Francois Pinnault Foundation has rolled up its sleeves to show off a double ticket of blockbuster exhibitions: “Sigmar Polke,” a retrospective of the German artist showcased all over the four floors of historic Palazzo Grassi; and “Accrochage,” 80 pieces at Punta della Dogana that had previously not been shown to the public.
Through November 27, the Biennale Gardens open its gates for the Biennale di Architettura, the biannual architecture festival whose “Reporting From the Front” theme has more than 80 architects from 33 countries sharing work responding to a variety of social, political and economic issues.
One of the best things about Venice on any day is its bacari — no frills, standing-room-only wine bars — serving cicchetti, whimsical apetizers like creamed cod on bread, a slice of cheese, pickled onions or braised artichokes. Cicchetti prices are kept low (approximately $1.72 USD) for a reason — because you’ll want to have a great glass of wine to accompany them.
Baccari are smattered all over Venice sestieri (neighborhoods) and, inevitably, you’ll walk into one. If you can stumble upon them on your own, our two favorite spots are Cantine del Vino già Schiavi (Dorsoduro) and Osteria da Carla (San Marco), which also has table service.
Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, Kempinski, has turned an island into San Clemente Palace Kempinski Venice, a floating, 190-room luxury compound. Its appeal is unquestioned; large rooms and sublime views, lush gardens with a pool, a tennis court, golf green, and six restaurants and bars are just far enough away from the heady congestion of a busy spring afternoon, but close enough that 15 minutes in the complimentary water taxi go by in the blink of an eye.
Changes from its past incarnation include a complete décor upgrade that plays on Venice’s history with period furniture and opulent fabrics, and the addition of the San Clemente and Navigante suites, the latter being a luxury complex styled in a chic, rustic-nautical design.
Another wonderfully preserved address is Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, a trio of palaces that dates back to the 14th, 17th and 19th centuries. Beyond providing a rich backstory, the property also bestows 18th-century Venetian fashions and balconies overlooking the Grand Canal on its visitors.
Though the best way around Venice is by foot, you may want to pick up a vaporetto “turist travel pass” that allows one-, two-, three- and seven-day travel on the city’s water buses, which ferry you across the canal and to islands Murano, Burano, Lido, Giudecca and more.
For a gondola-light experience, gather your coins and drop 1.50 euro on the traghetto, an informal, short-trip gondola that connects Dorsoduro and San Marco at Santa Maria del Giglio.