Venice: Exploring Its Quiet Corners
Venice: Exploring Its Quiet Corners
Some people say it’s tough to visit Venice, since it can get so busy there. But it doesn’t take much to get away from the hubbub and the tourists. With a good map or GPS in hand, you can easily find plenty of very charming and quiet corners throughout the city. In this post, I’ll share ideas for enjoying some of the most interesting spots in Venice, away from the crowds.
Public Squares – Campo Nazario Sauro
If you want to enjoy a simple pleasure, try hanging out in a public square, or “campo.” Each district of Venice has some lovely ones where you can stroll, people watch at an outdoor cafe, or just “be” any time of day. Here are three of my favorites.
In Santa Croce, the tiny Campo Nazario Sauro features this lovely cafe waiting for its first customers of the day. When you go there in the early morning, you can get a feel for Venice as lived by locals.
Campo di Ghetto Nuovo – Former Jewish Ghetto
In Cannaregio, narrow buildings surround Campo di Ghetto Nuovo. Established by a decree of Doge Leonardo Loredan in 1516, the Venice ghetto was one of the first places where people were forcibly segregated and surveilled because of religious difference. The term itself originated there.
Today, the campo remains at the heart of the city’s small Jewish community and is a major tourist destination. Visit the Jewish Museum in Venice or take one of the hourly guided tours of the old synagogues.
Even if it’s a popular spot, it’s still easy to find peace and quiet there. Plus, you can stop at kosher restaurant Gam Gam for a snack or a meal right on the canal at the entrance to the former ghetto.
Campo Santo Stefano
If you want to do some great people watching, check out Campo Santo Stefano. Located in San Marco, this square is one of the most delightful places to sit and relax in Venice. It’s a large open space ringed by a church, a bell tower, cafes, and ice cream vendors.
Even if there’s lots of foot traffic in the square, it’s often easy to sit back and avoid the crowds. Best of all, it’s also an ideal spot for hearing church bells ring on the hour.
Interpreti Veneziani: Classical Concerts in a Former Church
Just off of Campo Santo Stefano, you’ll find a real treat. In a former church that’s now a concert hall, you can hear top notch performances in a lovely setting. The building, built in 1084, is also known for its artworks.
Of special note, the world famous Interpreti Veneziani plays classical works here on period instruments. If you happen to hear them perform “The Four Seasons,” you’re bound to have a thrilling experience!
St. Mark’s Basilica: Museum and Loggia
Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica, built in the mid-1400s, is an unforgettable sight. Founded in the 9th century, it features Byzantine domes and over 8,000 sq meters of luminous mosaics.
At first, you might think of bracing for crowds here. But, if you get one of the basilica’s Skip the Line tours for 5 euros, you avoid standing in the long ticket line.
After you visit the basilica, be sure to visit the museum and Loggia dei Cavalli as well. Take the first stairway on the right, just after you enter the main doors of the church, and head upstairs. In the museum, you’ll see some of the treasures shipped to Venice during the Crusades and installed in St. Mark’s — including these ancient horse sculptures.
Also, don’t miss the side balcony on the second floor of the church, the Loggia dei Cavalli. From there, you can enjoy one of the best views over St. Mark’s Square Square and down to the lagoon. In many ways, this might be the best viewing spot in town — and most people don’t know about it.
Doge’s Palace – Secret Itineraries Tour
The Doge’s Palace was the residence of the Doge (the ruler of Venice) and housed the political bodies of the state. In fact, it contained law courts, administrative offices, courtyards, grand stairways, and ballrooms, as well as prisons.
For visiting the Doge’s Palace, it’s well worth buying a “Secret Itineraries Tour” (Itinerati Segreti) ticket. With that, you’ll see behind the scenes at the gorgeous palace.
The tour includes fascinating stories about the politics of the day and famous prisoners of the Doge’s Palace, like Casanova. You’ll even see a place for anonymous reporting of wrong doing. When the doges ruled, people could secretly call out others by slipping a piece of paper into this statue’s mouth.
Giudecca: A Quiet Island
If you want a break from St. Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace, visit a nearby island for a change of pace.
I love taking the three-minute “vaporetto” (public water bus) ride from the Doge’s Palace to the Giudecca. Once there, you’re on a quiet island, across the lagoon and away from the city’s more popular sights.
Among other things, you can stroll along the water, enjoy jaw-dropping views, or just cross paths with locals. Whatever you do on the Giudecca, you’ll quickly feel like you’re in a different world.
San Giorgio Maggiore: Another Quiet Island
From the Giudecca, you can take a short vaporetto ride to the neighboring island of San Giorgio Maggiore. In some ways, it’s even more peaceful there than on the Giudecca.
Inside the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, you often can be alone with “The Last Supper,” a masterpiece by Tintoretto. Next door, atop the church bell tower, you can savor one of the grandest views in all of Venice.
Giorgio Cini Foundation
In the large complex of the former Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, you’ll find the Giorgio Cini Foundation.
In 1951, industrialist and art patron Vittorio Cini – a survivor of Dachau – acquired the monastery and restored it in memory of his son, Giorgio Cini.
Come here for exhibitions and to see events and performances in the open-air Teatro Verde. Also, you can take a weekend through the garden labyrinth and the Cypress Cloister, dating back to 1526.
Three Favorite Restaurants
Last but not least: what would Venice be without good food? Here are three fun eateries off the beaten path.
For breakfast or lunch, a great informal spot in the Dorsoduro sestiere is Bar Alla Toletta. Just around the corner from the Accademia, it serves up fresh juices, superb sandwiches, and simple fare, either at the counter or to go. The seeded bread is to die for!
Trattoria Ai Cacciatori
Out on the Giudecca, the charming Trattoria Ai Cacciatori serves rustic food with a modern flair. It tends to draw an urbane crowd that enjoys sophisticated flavors and artful dishes. Inside, the beamed ceilings add an old world touch. Outside, the views across the lagoon are classic.
On a quiet side canal behind the i Frari church in San Polo, you’ll find Ristorante Frary’s, a great place to enjoy Arab and Greek food. What’s more, the restaurant features decor and dishes that evoke the special vibe of the Mediterranean world. In many ways, it’s our favorite dinner spot in all of Venice.