Venice Blog


Winter In Venice

venezia inverno

Spires and domes rising from thick fog on misty waters casting atmospheric silhouettes through which slow gondolas travel. Sparsely lit empty cobbled streets; your footsteps the only sound. Huddled in a tiny wine bar beneath your warm coat and hat brushing shoulders with the locals. This is Venice in winter. Whilst Venice will always be a city of tourists, it is in winter you can find yourself walking calmly through the vast and impressive St.Mark’s Square, able to take a clear photo of the Basilica with its breath taking Byzantine exterior. The fresh sea air invigorates you, inspiring you to walk the city searching for an intimate eatery. The various types of light change constantly with the strong winter sun, resulting in thousands of moody canalside photos. Winter really is the most beautiful time to discover this magical city.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection Museum

I tend to visit Venice quite regularly, and it is not just the beauty and tranquillity of this city that inspire me, it is also its relationship to art. Based in Florence I am continuously surrounded by Renaissance masterpieces, from the vast collections of the Uffizi to Michelangelo’s imposing David, and whilst they are stunningly beautiful, my heart has personally always lain more in the world of contemporary art, with which Venice holds a special relationship. At the forefront of this relationship is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and a trip to Venice would not be complete without a visit to this wonderful museum. Hosting regular temporary exhibitions there is also a fabulous permanent exhibition boasting works by Klee, Pollock and Picasso as well as representations from many other contemporary artistic movements such as Abstract Expressionism, Cubism and many more. Housed in Peggy Guggenheim’s old Venetian home it sits amongst the canal-side houses of the Dorsoduro area which are home to an array of boutique shops and restaurants. One of my favourite areas of Venice here it is so easy to turn a corner and find yourself on a desolate street, the only sound being the soft waters of the canal.

Ponte Dell’Accademia at Dawn

Whilst the water taxis of Venice can be handy, this is also a city perfect for walking and from the Guggenheim museum you can cross the Ponte Dell’Accademia, a striking wooden bridge, and quietly meander your way back towards St Mark’s square and the Rialto bridge, the touristic epicentre of Venice, finding hidden corners and beautiful shops along the way. 

Mocenigo Palace
And not just shops, you will find also various art galleries exhibiting work from many contemporary artists and craftsmen, and this year the Venice Biennale returns, featuring throughout the city artistic events including theatre, dance, cinema and art. A major cultural event (first initiated in 1895) promoting and showcasing fresh and innovative contemporary art trends, it is worth researching one of their events to visit. However, if you are starting to tire of fine art, then the small and quite unknown museum of Mocenigo Palace is worth a stop. Here you will find a beautiful old Venetian Palace exhibiting a range of traditional attire from the noblemen of Venice during the 17th and 18th century, many of which are embellished with the beautiful embroidery and lace for which Venice is famous. And of course February is the month of the carnival, a moment when the winter tranquillity takes a break and an annual event famous for its lavish costumes and masks takes over the city and creates an overwhelming chaos of fun, frivolity and colour.

ponte venezia italia

But of course this is not just a city for art galleries and museums. The striking gothic architecture, the labyrinthine streets and array of canals and tiny bridges, dark waterways and tiny narrow streets make you feel like you have stepped onto a film set. Whilst walking is a wonderful way to explore the city, after your seventh attempt to cross a canal only to be thwarted by yet another dead end or a bridge going in the wrong direction, you realise it is time to rest your feet and relax. And whether it be in the daytime with the hazy light reflecting against the narrow passageways, or at night when the opulent merino stained glass lights up the gothic windows of all the various palaces, Venice by boat is a must. Here you can sit back and enjoy the pure romance of Venice, drifting slowly and gently down the canal ways and waters, watching the locals making deliveries by boat or couples enjoying drinks by the canal, you will discover the truly enchanting nature of Venice as well as marvelling at how a whole city can survive on water!

gondola venezia italia

Living in Italy has made me a complete food snob, and I enjoy nothing more than eating out here whether it be in a causal pizzeria, a relaxed trattoria or a more upmarket restaurant. However, being such a touristic country it is important to seek out the more authentic places to eat. In Florence this is easier, it is a touristic city but there is also a long term ex-pat community as well as locals living and working in and around the centre. Whilst there are some tourist traps, in general it is easy to stumble across a small bustling enoteca and enjoy a glass of wine alongside tourists and locals alike, and the areas the such as Santo Spirito and San Lorenzo have a wide variety of high quality touristic eateries as well as some hidden local gems. However, in Venice this is not so much the case; low quality touristic pizzerias line the main streets and authentic restaurants can be tucked down quiet unknown side streets where booking is essential. As a city by the sea, there is a plentiful selection of fish restaurants and eating out can be a heavenly experience, but it is always best to research first and ask for recommendations, and then you will not be disappointed.

La Caravella restaurant venice italy seafood

Photo credit: La Caravella

One seafood recommendation is the intimate and authentic ‘Osteria Alba Nova’, hidden down a side street away from the tourists this cozy restaurant is full of traditional and quirky décor where you can enjoy a simple fish dinner in a relaxed atmosphere. If however you are looking for something more along of the lines of fine dining then I would recommend ‘La Caravella’, an exclusive eatery with an intimate vibe featuring Venetian cuisine such as the classic local special ‘saor’, which is sardines cooked in vinegar with raisins and pine nuts, and the menu features also some beef dishes for the meat eaters. La Caravella is a restaurant perfect for a special occasion and it is beautifully placed near the opera house ‘La Fenice’ in an upmarket neighbourhood filled with high end designer shops with well lit streets, perfect for a bit of late night window shopping followed by a turn at the opera. However, if you finally tire of fish, I love going to ‘La Zucca’, a great little vegetarian restaurant with alpine style décor inside and a small outside area overlooking the canal. There is a vast menu full of delicious vegetables, such as pumpkin flan or tagliatelle with artichokes, and there are also some meat options for the non-vegetarians of the group.

Bancogiro’ restaurant

Photo credit: Bancogiro

But it doesn’t always have to be fine dining. Venice is famous for its cicchetti, small snacks served in cozy wine bars usually accompanied by a glass of Spritz or Prosecco, the more popular drinks local to the area. My favourite is ‘Bancogiro’ a restaurant near the Rialto Bridge that also has a casual bar area with a good selection of cicchetti, and whilst it can get busy it is really atmospheric with people spilling out onto the piazza in the evening, and if you can bag a barstool overlooking the canal then you’re in luck. So the motto is, when your feet are tired and you’ve seen all the art you can take, sit back and enjoy that spritz! 

Written by: Lucy Gaughan 
If you liked this article, read also “10 VENETIANS WHO LEFT THEIR MARK ON THE WORLD

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