Doing Venice like a Venetian

By Rebecca Lee

Venice is a stunner, no doubt about that.

It’s hosted hordes of tourists. It’s been home to countless artists, poets, opera singers and lovers. And all keep coming, in their droves.

But there’s more to this magical city than meets the eye. Here are six ways to experience the ‘City of Bridges’ like a Venetian.

  1. Stay overnight!

You’d be surprised how many people arrive and depart from Venice within a day (daylight sees narrow streets crammed with tourists and walking tours). But the best way to experience Venice is by staying overnight.

To give yourself a breather, it’s worth splashing out on a hotel or B&B so you can explore the city at its calmest and coolest. For the real deal, rent an apartment or palazzo by The Grand Canal at a competitive price. The city is just as pretty and romantic by night and you’re more likely to get chatting to locals who seem to pop out of the woodwork much later in the day. I stayed in a beautiful newly renovated B&B called Ca’Cantorini which is situated in the Accademia area. Although basic, it proved excellent value for money as our room was more like an apartment and was located a mere 10 minutes’ walk from the landmark Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square. See http://www.booking.com/hotel/it/b-amp-b-ca-contarini.en-gb.html for more.

By staying overnight
Venice is even more beautiful by night

2. Walk… everywhere

Although Venice is mobbed by waterbuses, water taxis and private boats, the city is easily accessible by foot. Make like a Venetian and walk to famous attractions such as Piazza San Marco or the 16th century stone Rialto Bridge which towers over the ginormous Grand Canal. While getting lost is unavoidable, it’s actually a rather enjoyable too. If you’re in a rush to get somewhere however, get your hands on a decent map and oh, don’t forget to bring your comfiest flat shoes.

3. Visit a traditional Hostaria

If you’re a fond foodie like myself and you want to eat like a local, then check out one of many of the Hostarias dotted around this fabulous floating city.

Hostarias are small, casual Italian eateries that offer a wide range of delicious Venetian tapas dishes… otherwise known as ‘Cicchetti’. Venetians live on these tiny, tasty meals which can be composed of everything and anything from Pan Seared Tilefish over Pancetta, to pumpkin and meat sausage or Gorgonzola on rustic Italian bread. I sampled a range of dishes in the ‘Hostaria Vecio Biavarol’ (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hostaria-VECIO-Biavarol/1411938682435595) a family run business not far from Piazzale Roma. Authentic and tasty, most Italian tapas dishes started at just  1.50, with house wine just 90 cent a glass and Venetian spritz at 2.75! Talk about bargain

4. Get off the beaten track

One of the most common complaints about Venice is that it’s rather pricey. The good news is it doesn’t have to be, provided you do the research. Indeed the further you venture from the heart of the tourist havens such as San Marco Square, the cheaper and more authentic your Venetian experience will be. Recommended to me by a group of locals, a trip to Campo Santa Margherita is a must if you’re looking to drink and dine affordably among Italians. Situated in the student quarter of Venice, the piazza is simply buzzing in the evenings offering visitors the very best of Venetian nightlife. I parked myself outside Orange restaurant (http://www.orangebar.it/main_en.htm) and bar. It offered cheap eats (most main courses were only 7 euro!) and was simply thronging with students. Located at the side of Campo Santa Margherita square, it has a large outdoor seating area which is perfect for people watching.

By walking everywhere
Rachael maps the secret city streets

5. Do the Rialto Market

To shop like a local and get a taster of some tantalisingly fresh Mediterranean produce, pop a visit to the Rialto Market on your ‘to do’ list. The medieval market sees Venetians of all shapes and sizes pile in to buy meats, fruit and vegetables from stalls and boats. A tip: watch what elder Venetians purchase, as they’re in the know when it comes to what’s hot and what’s not in seasonal produce. It may also help you bag a bargain!

6. Watch the sun go down by the Grand Canal

By stationing yourself at a table in a bar or restaurant with a bottle of house wine alongside the Grand Canal in the evening, you are guaranteed some jaw-dropping photo opportunities. By visiting a lesser known bar on the outskirts of the city, you can watch billionaires bomb up and down the canal in their speedboats, talk to locals and gasp as the sun sinks behind the beautiful bridges and historical houses that line the winding city streets. For a bellissimo sunset experience that won’t break your budget, a visit to Bar al Parlamento, located in the Cannaregio area is a must (see https://www.facebook.com/alParlamento for more). Bursting with locals, you can wash down a litre of local wine while nibbling on some artisan Italian breads for just 20 euro. It also offers affordable pizzas and pastas with each dish costing 15 euro on average.

By watching the sun go down by the canal2
The sunset by the canal outside al Parlamento, Venice

As featured on Independent.ie