Venice has been on my ‘to visit’ list for ages. I remember my grandmother telling stories about the city– she went with my grandfather and some of their friends– and wanting to see the places she described. Growing up my family went to Italy nearly every year, typically to Southern Italy, but never made it up north to Venice.
Last summer when Cameron and I were trying to see as many of our friends as possible before the move, we went to dinner with a friend of ours who mentioned she would be in Venice this spring. Her dad is an architect and would be there for the architecture biennale, and did we want to meet her there and maybe visit the biennale as well? Needless to say the answer was a definitive yes! The promise of seeing a good friend, visiting a gorgeous city, and getting to see the architecture biennale was a no-brainer. Our friend has numerous family members in town, and we were lucky enough to tag along with them to the Biennale, and to dinner. Her family lived there for a long time, so directed us to some very cool places, which really made the trip feel even more special, as they are incredibly nice and have some amazing stories.
Fast forward a few months and it’s finally here! We had a bit of a difficult time getting there after we missed our first flight because of London traffic, but managed to reschedule and made it there the next day. The whole thing was doubly stressful and we booked just a few weeks out and almost every flight was totally full. We also got really lucky and found a hotel in a great location fairly last minute for a surprisingly reasonable rate given the Biennale was opening this past weekend. We stayed at the Hotel Tivoli— a pretty nice, yet inexpensive place in Dorsoduro for our first two nights, and moved to the Hotel Rialto, which was right next to the Rialto bridge, for our third.
We managed to pack an impressive amount of sightseeing into our short few days, and had so much fun. On Thursday we went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, followed by a lunch recommendation to Cantina Do Mori. It’s a smaller wine bar, but has amazing food, and dates all the way back to 1462– it’s down a quiet alley, and is a lovely break from the regular crowds in some of the more popular spots. In the afternoon we pent some time going through St. Mark’s before grabbing an Aperol spritz in the Piazza San Marco and doing some wandering through the city. Our friend invited us to the party for the American pavilion in the evening, which meant returning to the Guggenheim. It was much more crowded than the morning, but was a lot of fun.
Friday we spent the first part of the day looking at some of the different pavilions of the Biennale. There was definitely a strong theme of housing refugees and migrants, with Germany presenting a particularly through and interesting example. The US example was really interesting as well– it was more traditional in presentation, but proposed some decidedly thought provoking strategies to rebuild and repurpose parts of the city. One of my absolute favourite’s though, was the Swiss pavilion. It was a gorgeous, organic structure a bit like a cloud, and a bit like a cave. After removing our shoes we could climb inside and explore the interior– it felt both incredibly futuristic, and like some sort of prehistoric cave.
We spent the afternoon at the Galleria dell’Accademia, which I was particularly excited about. One of the first paintings I remember learning about from my first Art History survey class is The Tempest by Giorgione, and seeing it in person was fantastic. It’s currently in a temporary exhibit on Aldo Manuzio and the modern book, which I think was a bit of a tenuous connection, but was well worth the search. The temporary exhibit was really interesting, featuring some gorgeous books with amazing illustrations, and lovely text design. I could have spent a full day there, but we had plans to meet our friend and her family at Bar Arsenale, so had to leave to meet them and head to dinner
Our flight out on Saturday was in the late afternoon, so we had some time to do a bit more exploring. We stayed up far too late Friday night wandering around the city, which was absolutely gorgeous in the evening empty of people and full of light, but managed to get up early enough on Saturday morning to grab a coffee before heading to one last place on my list I was really excited about. The Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is known for it’s amazing Assumption altarpiece by Titian, as well as Canova’s and Titian’s tombs, and generally incredible artwork. I’m so glad we made it here, even if we woke up a bit early.
Before heading out, our last stop was at a small cicchetti place to meet our friend and her family, Cantine del Vino Gia Schiavi, in Dorsoduro, which had some incredible food. We’d walked by it a few times, and when we first arrived there was a tour group, so we decided to walk around for a few minutes and come back. It was definitely a great last place to stop before leaving, and if you find yourself there, definitely worth seeking out.
Overall it was an absolutely fantastic trip! Not only is the city of Venice gorgeous, but seeing an old friend made the whole thing one hundred times better! Here’s to hoping our next adventure is just as, if not even more fun!