The city of Venice, whose allure and beauty have been incessantly described, photographed and filmed, is the uncompromising setting for this issue’s Insider’s Guide.
It is one of the most romantic cities in the world, with its intricate web of canals, charming gondoliers, glorious renaissance architecture and narrow cobbled streets.
We asked Albarosa Simonetti, Principal of Brillante Interiors, to share her favourite gems in this magical city.
Where to stay
Cà Maria Adele
A romantic hotel near Chiesa S. Maria della Salute, a masterpiece of 17th-century architecture, with 12 rooms and 5 concept rooms. It offers a terrace, a lounge and a gorgeous living area, 1950s style.
Dorsoduro 111, Rio Terà dei Catecumeni,
Tel. 041 520 3078
Casa de Uscoli
A Renaissance building on the Grand Canal with 3 rooms and 3 apartments. Amazing art from Lucio Fontana and other masters, objects by Castiglioni and more.
Campo Santo Stefano 2818,
Tel. 041 241 0669
Only recently opened, Villa F offers beyond-luxury, long-stay (minimum 4 nights) apartments on the island of Giudecca. Villa F offers a private garden, a swimming pool and beautiful views of the Grand Canal and San Marco.
Where to drink
When in Venice, do what Venetians do. They would rarely sit outside in Piazza San Marco’s Caffe’ Florian or Caffe’ Quadri, paying an exorbitant price. They prefer to stand up at
the counter inside for coffee or drinks.
Traditional Venetian bars, known as bacari, are always the best way to taste wines of the Veneto region and areas nearby. Again, locals rarely sit down, preferring to hang out at the bar for a quick drink and snack.
When you’re walking around Venice, don’t be surprised to see historical pastry shops with many people inside, just before lunch or dinner. The shops sell delicious pastries and traditional Venetian cakes, but there is always a bar at the back, serving aperitivo like spritz al bitter: Campari, white wine and soda water.
Castello 6779, Campo San Giovanni e Paolo,
Castello 4237, Calle degli Albanesi,
Dorsoduro 3764, Calle san Pantalon
For more elegant surroundings
Nestled amidst marble columns on the ground floor of Hotel Danieli’s 14th century Palazzo Dandolo, Bar Dandolo provides a magnificent setting for a perfecty made Bellini.
Riva degli Schiavoni 4196
Tel. 041 522-6480
Skyline Bar is located on the 8th floor of the Hilton Hotel, with an amazing pool and an enchanting view over Venice.
Molino Stucky Hilton, Giudecca, Fondamenta San Biagio 810,
Tel 041 272-3311
Where to eat
Avoid restaurants displaying the menu turistico sign and head to a trattoria with a family-style set lunch for the working crowd.
La Bea Vita
With a canal-side terrace.
Cannaregio 3082, Fondamenta delle Cappuccine, Tel. 041 275-9347
The Rialto Market
Every morning the Rialto market, with its noisy fishmongers and colourful vegetable stalls, attracts locals and tourists. Nearby, there are:
Osteria ai Osti
Cannaregio 3849, Corte dei pali Testori,
Tel. 041 520-7993
Osteria Banco Giro
They will delight you with the fresh catch of the day served on the terrace looking out over the Grand Canal.
Campo San Giacometto, San Polo,
Tel. 041 523-2061
If you have time for an excursion, take line LN from Fondamenta Nuove to Burano Island and have lunch at Gatto Nero restaurant.
Tel. 041 730-120
Osteria da Fiore
For the once-a-year celebratory dinner, most Venetians will reserve at pricey but worth it Osteria da Fiore
San Polo 2202, Calle del Scaleter,
Tel. 041 721-308
Another restaurant where Venetians love to spend hours with their families is Alla Madonna.
San Polo 594, Calle della Madonna,
Tel. 041 522-3824
Typical Venetian dishes and great fish in one of the most appealing areas of Venice.
Cannaregio Fondamenta Della Sensa 3272,
Tel. 041 720 744
Where to shop
Bevilacqua Tessuti d’Arte
One of the oldest tapestry and silk-making operations, it has the most exquisite and elaborate textiles. The utterly beautiful store truly represents the Venetian splendour of the past, the present and the future. From the modern and minimalist, to the most traditional in decoration – sometimes opulent, sometimes subtle. Certainly even a few pieces of these fabrics can create a stunning effect.
San Marco 2520, Campo Santa Maria del Giglio,
Tel. 041 241-0662
Murano Island is famous for its glass factories. One of the best is Seguso. The tradition of the Old Masters, handed down through the generations, fuses with the creativity demonstrated by the younger artists who are always in search of different ways to demonstrate that modern look.
Fondamenta Serenella 3, Murano,
Tel. 041 739-005
The most glamorous collection of jewels in Venice, including antique gold rings with stones, Art Deco jewelry, diamonds and precious stones.
San Marco 1295,
Roberta di Camerino
Set in the historic building Loredan-Falconi, the atelier is still displaying fashions in the same space where bags, scarves and garments were expertly produced in the 1950s. The purse Bagonghi was a favourite of Grace Kelly.
Tel. 041 241-9494
Luxury textile production began in the 16th century at Palazzo Corner-Spinelli. Today in the same location, thousands of historic pieces can be seen. You can even find fragments of velvets dating back to the late 1400s.
Palazzo Corner-Spinelli, San Marco,
Famous for the most beautiful lacework, embroidered sheets, bedspreads and table runners. Muted colours and gorgeous lace detailing.
San Marco, Ponte della Canonica 2310,
Tel. 041 520-6177
Alberto has taken over his father’s business as a doreur and restorer. A grand artisanat d’art for antique lacquered and gold leaf finishes.
San Marco 2863/a,
Tel. 041 5238621
Following the art of the wrought iron, he creates lanterns, sconces and other Venetian lights with forged iron in the same manner as in the 17th century. Secrets of the trade have belonged to the family for generations – secrets Jonathan still practises today.
Castello 6106, Santa Marina Square,
Tel. 041 520-0609
A working space and gallery near the Accademia, with classic Murano glass reinterpreted with a twist of contemporary creativity that gives vases and vessels a sculptural quality.
Dorsoduro 1071, Calle Della Toletta 107,
Tel. 041 528-2190
Famous around the world for its mosaics, founded in 1888, it is the largest of Italy’s last 3 mosaic foundries. They still make glass tiles the old-fashioned way. In the ghetto district, with a number of buildings that house the ovens, the store, the working rooms, offices and gallery.
Cannaregio 1045, Ponte delle Guglie,
Tel. 041 244-0002
Antica Legatoria Piazzesi
Piazzesi bookbindery was opened in 1851 and maintains its unique atmosphere, full of history, elegance and refinement. Beautiful paper and original patterns can be found.
San Marco 2511/c, Campiello de la Feltrina, Santa Maria del Giglio,
Tel. 041 522-1202
Mercatino dei Miracoli
There are no fixed dates for this flea market, but it remains amazing for its treasures that include mid-century and rare books and photography. Don’t forget to visit the magnificent Renaissance church of Miracoli.
Sestiere Cannaregio, Piazza Santa Maria Nova and surrounding streets,
Tel. 041 271-0022 for exact dates.
Where to go
The water bus system is very well organized. But the majority of people travel on foot and Venetians walk quickly, so if you hear someone say permesso, respect their daily lives and let them pass. If possible, avoid the tourist yellow direction signs and wander in back alleyways, which are quicker and often deserted. Forget the guide book for a day and get lost; it will be your best experience.
If you are in Venice in spring and summer, take a boat and cruise along the Brenta Canal to Padua to see the magnificent Ville venete, representing the grandeur of the Serenissima (“the Most Serene Republic”).
Villa Pisani – Stra
The magnificent Villa Pisani in Stra was built starting in the early 18th century in a late baroque style, commissioned by the noble, and then still very wealthy, Pisani family. In its 114 rooms, doges, kings and emperors were welcomed. Today, it has become a national museum with 18th- and 19th- century works of art and furniture and one of Gianbattista Tiepolo’s masterpieces.
The Napoleonic apartment is particularly interesting, with remarkable art treasures such as the imposing canopy bed with the emperor’s initial on it.
Via Doge Pisani 7, Stra,
Tel. 049 502074
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, a long searched-for dream home, is an unfinished palace on the Grand Canal. The name comes from the 8 carved marble lion heads decorating the façade. The palazzo construction began in 1748 for the Venier family (3 of the city’s doges were Veniers). The building remained unfinished for reasons not now known. When Peggy saw it, the palazzo still had only a single finished floor, so she decided to keep it that way. There’s a collection of superb modern and contemporary art inside and in the garden. It’s also a great place for lunch.
Punta della Dogana
A fairly new exhibition space for contemporary art, created by François Pinault, the French tycoon and collector of French art, who has also bought the restored Palazzo Grassi. The project is by famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who restored the Dogana with the highest respect for its history, giving new life to the red bricks of the façade and the wood beams inside. The fascinating place, suspended amidst water, was also given contemporary elements to create that perfect space for art exhibitions.
Churches worth a visit
In Venice and Italy in general churches abound.
Here are a few of those worth a visit:
With the shockingly beautiful gilded chapel.
Fondamenta Nuove, Campo San Zaccaria 4693
Santa Maria dei Miracoli
Built between 1481 and 1489 by Pietro Lombardo and recently restored to its
former glory by the Save Venice Foundation, it is one of the hidden gems of Venetian Renaissance architecture. The façade is a jewel of multi-coloured marble and is also known as the marble church. Usually filled with flowers, since many Venetian weddings take place here.
Campo Santa Maria Nova, Cannaregio
Convento S. Francesco del Deserto
A Franciscan convent on one of the most beautiful lagoon islands. You can wander through the beautiful garden, under old
trees, and possibly have lunch.
Albarosa Simonetti, principal of Brillante Interiors, is a consultant with many years of experience decorating homes and managing home improvement projects.
She works in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Milan, Italy.
“I always favour furniture and accessories with a past. A good designer is a good editor, achieving harmony between past and future and creating an appealing and personal home. Maybe it’s having spent most of my life in Milano, Italy’s centre of design and fashion, and traveling there regularly for business, going there on shopping trips for clients and to be in touch with the latest trends” explains Albarosa “Plus living in Vancouver for many years, whatever the reason, I love combining the classic appeal of the Old World with the contemporary flair of the New”.
Albarosa Simonetti is also the editor of a popular blog on Italian Design –