Two unconventional guides and a novel to find hidden things to do in Venice.

Things to do in Venice

Riva degli Schiavoni

You’re trying to find the essential things to do in Venice and you bought a city guide. So you will easily discover the origins of this amazing place, its raise as a world commercial superpower, its important churches and museums. You plan your tour: a visit to St. Mark’s cathedral, a walk across Rialto bridge, maybe a ride in gondola on the Grand Canal.  

Than you arrive there and you find yourself running around with other thousand tourists, all queuing in front of the same places. But there’s no escape: if you are a tourist in Venice, no matter where you come from, you are meant to go through this.

But you know Venice is magic. Writers and poets spent thousand of words about this unique city and this charm must be somewhere. Only, you can’t find it, overwhelmed by the crowd.

The only thing you can do is: change plans.

If you have enough time in Venice, there’s much more to discover.

You can even skip the things you “have” to do in Venice and you will anyway find great places. I’m not recommending another Venice travel guide, maybe called “the unconventional Venice”. To help you to find your unconventional path in Venice, have a look to these books.

A “literary” guide.

Venice is a fish by Tiziano Scarpa.

Tiziano Scarpa was born in Venice in 1963. You can really call him a Venetian writer. His book Stabat Mater, winner of the prize Premio Strega in also set in a 17th century Venice. In this novel the orphan violinist Cecilia has a young priest as a teacher: his name is Antonio Vivaldi. But coming back to Venice is a Fish, this is the book you should read if you are looking for something different from the usual city guide. Scarpa talks about a sensorial way to experience Venice: through feet, fingers, ears, heart and mind. You will find here the memories of a boy and then of a teenager growing up in Venice, a place where everything in magic and mysterious, but where you can not hide from your neighbour staring at you (unless you wear a mask). He describes Venice as a huge fish anchored to the mainland by a strip made by a road and a railway. Than to a wood turned upside down, because of the million of poles it’s built on. He explains where the evocative names of the calli (the Venetian streets) come from. He even suggest how to find a corner to hide with your lover.

The author also reports a list of books he used as sources. The bibliography is not only made by essays and history books, but also by literature works which can really inspire your readings before going to Venice. Finally, Venice is a fish ends with some short tales by the three stereotypical Venetian writers: the tourist (Guy de Maupassant), the expat (the Brazilian Diogo Mainardi) and the emigrated Venetian (Scarpa himself).

A guidebook for women.

My pretty Venice. A girls’ guide to true Venice.

In some way, women have always had a prominent role in Venice . Venetian women in the past centuries used to wear high heels, later they introduced the fashion of Persian-style shawl. They invented a method to become blond, the famous Venetian blond (the reddish blond you can see in many Titian’s paintings). Venetian women were able to create beautiful handicrafts with lace and glass beads. Some of them were powerful courtesans. In this nicely illustrated girl’s guide by Isabella Campagnol and Elisabeth Rainer you will find the most exclusive things to do in Venice and also things on budget. You will discover secret gardens, the art nouveau hotels at the Lido, the most charming bookshops, the best places to taste pastries and chocolates, health SPAs and hotel terraces where to drink an aperitivo.

And what to do in Venice when it rains? 

Of course, shopping! The authors disclose their reccomended address list: luxury shoes, vintage style visit cards, design furniture will no more be a secret for you.

An ironic look on a romantic myth: love in Venice.

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer 

The book is divided exactly in two parts. In the first part  a man falls in love in Venice, in the second one a man lost himself in India. The man in Venice is a journalist called Jeff. He’s sent to Venice to follow the Biennale, but his main interest is getting free drinks at parties, as most of the journalists and operators arrived for the exibition. At a party he meets Laura, a beautiful American woman. She accepts to see Jeff again, but only if they meet by chance during their stay. I know this way it looks like a sugary love story, but it’s not a romantic novel at all. I only say that in a scene, Jeff gets high in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, experiencing in a very special way the paints of Tintoretto. Jeff and Laura enjoy the city in many ways: they join the Biennale crowd at Haig’s bar, they have a drink sitting on the steps of a bridge in a hot summer night, they visit the cemetery of San Michele where Igor Stravinskij and Ezra Pound are buried, they wander in search of their hotel (which can easily happen to you). The charachter of Jeff, with his cynical British look, offers a caustic and realistic view of  decadent city hostage of tourist and events. But he can’t escape the perfect commonplace: among the things to do in Venice there’s no better one than falling in love.

Are you ready to find great things to do in Venice?



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