The streets around Campo San Polo are a perfect base to discover the Serenissima.
Are you wandering where to stay in Venice?
Consider the area around San Polo, one of Venice’s sextiers. Venice is divided in six districts, they are called sextiers indeed. The streets around Campo San Polo are good place where to stay in Venice. The area is a little less crowded than St. Mark sextier and Campo San Polo is no more than five- ten minutes walking far away from Rialto. Rialto is in San polo district indeed, but of course is one of the most crowded and expensive areas where to stay in Venice. Moreover, being in a central position you can easily reach the sextiers like Cannaregio and Dorsoduro to find less touristic and expensive bars and restaurants. Well, provided that in Venice prices are relatively high everywhere.
Some preliminary hints.
Venice,as most of the touristic cities, has a lot of restaurants of variable quality.
In general, keep away from the Rialto and St. Mark area. As soon as you walk away from that area you find cheaper and less crowded places. Most cheaper and quality restaurants are in Cannaregio and Castello sextiers. Unless you are in a hurry, skip also places with big colour photos of pasta-pizza-sandwich-and so on. I know, you are in Italy and you want spaghetti and pizza. But it’s easier to find higher quality if you search for local food, which in Venice is mainly based on fish (codfish, sardines, squid) and poor ingredients like rice, onions and polenta. You’ll find here and there the so-called bacari, bars where you can accompany a glass of wine with small portions of food, similar to tapas.
Venice is not a place you can really go on budget. But a glass of prosecco or a spritz are considered things in the area of primary needs. Again keep away from the centre and go to Castello, Cannaregio or San Polo. In doubt follow people who look like University students and they will bring you in the right place.
Be aware that Venice is always very crowded and other thousands of tourists, like you, want to enter the same church or climbing on the same clock tower. Try to book ticket in advance as much as you can. I’m sure you’ll have your own city guide for the most important monuments. A nice website to download a city guideline, other than restaurants, events and recommendation on where to stay in Venice is www.venezia.net. Click on “itinerary” and you’ll be guided to the download a pdf city guide. Different languages are available and you can subscribe to the newsletter to be updated about the events ongoing during your stay. For more readings, see my post here.
And now, let’s start discovering Venice.
From the mainland you’ll arrive at the rail station or to Piazzale Roma. From there, campo San Polo is about 1 kilometre away. Depending on where you are located, you can normally walk to your hotel or apartment.
If you have time, you can wander around and maybe enter the awesome monuments you find in San Polo Sextier. Not to be missed Scuola Grande di San Rocco, all decorated by Tintoretto like a Venetian Sixtin Chapel.
Have your first aperitivo in the surroundings and walk about ten minutes from San Polo to restaurant Antica Besseta. You’ll have a sophisticated but simple dinner. I had a pea soup with scallop that I loved.
There are some “must do” you don’t want to miss in Venice and most of these places in St. Mark’s square.
You can walk there in 10-12 minutes from Campo San Polo. In the meantime have breakfast on the way, for example at Pasticceria Rizzardini. It looks like a very basic bakery: you can’t sit down, but you drink your coffee of cappuccino standing at the counter. Despite this it became my place of choice for breakfast. There are typical Venetian biscuits and delicious cakes. In St. Mark square you want to visit St. Mark basilica, Doge’s palace or climb on the clock tower campanile di San Marco.
Like all the other people. So keep calm and wake up early, or consider in your schedule you have to queue for a long time. In some periods it’s possible to book a ticket to enter the church and skip the line. You can also buy the ticket in advance to enter Palazzo Ducale, actually it’s an open cumulative ticket for five museums (other than Doge palace, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana).
Probably you are not going to see everything and anyway you don’t save time: you have to queue to enter, because you cannot book the time slot. An alternative is to book a guided tour like “secret itineraries tour“. You’ll have the chance to see hidden places, like Casanova jail cell and the secret passages within the palace. After the guided tour you have anyway access to the normal itinerary.
If you are sick of the crowd, here’s a tip for you.
In St. Mark square there’s a peaceful place you don’t have to miss. In the Procurazie Vecchie, St. Mark square 101, you’ll spot some shop windows displaying old calculators and typewriters. It’s not an antiques shop. It’s actually one of the most important examples of Italian architecture of XX century, the showrooom of the company Olivetti (the famous Italian typewriter producing company). The showroom was an innovative idea of the entrepreneur Olivetti, who decided to open it in one of the most wonderful Italian squares. It was designed by architect Carlo Scarpa in 1957 and closed down in1997. Later it was occupied by a souvenir vendor. Finally it was restored and opened to the public by FAI- Fondoambiente Italiano, an association which aim is to preserve and protect the monuments they have in concession and which I’m proud to support.
If you want to see all the St. Mark’s square monuments, considering the lines, will takes all day long.
My recommendation is to skip something and move away from the square or you’ll miss the real beauty of Venice, the beauty you see walking through the calli and campielli.
Then you can walk to Teatro Malibran in which area the house of Marco Polo was built. Reach the Fondamenta Nove and have a walk on the sea. Pass the city Hospital and notice that in Venice ambulances are also speedboats. Turn into Barbaria delle Tole street , where you can discover nice shops like fabricharte.org, a lovely bookbinder and at number 6657 an antiques shop specialized in Japanese art. Venice is traditionally a city of printmakers and merchants dealing with Eastern countries, something of this soul is still there. Continue on Barbaria delle Tole and you reach Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, another church in Venice not to be missed.
While going back to San Polo, stop for a drink at H2NO in campo San Silvestro, a nice bar with a selection of small-portion traditional food. And as the name suggest, not a lot of people is drinking water there. You might be tired now. Searching for the nearest place to dinner you’ll find a bunch of restaurants in Rio Terrà Secondo. You can try Taverna da Baffo, which offers Venetian food, but also more traditional pizza and pasta. It’s not the best choice if you’re loking for less touristic places or sophisticated food, but it’s a good quality restaurant suitable for families with children.
Second day, second breakfast. I’m not recommending another place. Just wander and find a district bar. They are quieter and you can always find a cappuccino and some typical Venetian biscuits like zaeti.
It’s time to see Venice from the right side: the sea. Venice’s most beautiful palaces have been built to be seen by water. When you walk in Venice streets you literally see their back. You have to navigate on the canals to see the real beauty of Venice. And what you learned to be the Venetian vessel? Of course, gondola. But. Do you really need to take a gondola ride?
Gondola tours are really a tourist thing. I don’t want to lessen the importance of this ancient and unique vessel: it’s a jewel of naval industry. Look at it: it’s slightly asymmetric so it goes straight and doesn’t turn left even though the gondolier gives strokes only on the right side, as in the Venetian rowing style. A ride on it is like a jump in the past and you will feel like a noble Venetian going to a ball. So if you really, really want to take ride on a gondola, just be aware that you will pay about 80 euro for forty minutes.
To see Venice from the canals what you can do is simply take the public waterbus, the Vaporetto.
Obviously they don’t enter in the smallest channels, but you can navigate with the Vaporetti all along the Grand Canal, having the best view of the most beautiful buildings as Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Venier (the Peggy Guggenheim museum), Santa Maria della Salute. The ticket is 7,50 Ꞓ for one run. I recommend to buy the daily ticket (20 Ꞓ) so you can jump on and off all day long and also reach the islands.
Since you have a daily ticket, it’s worth reaching the islands.
Most tourists visit Burano, which with its multicolor houses is the most picturesque. (I dislike so much this word. It’s so Britons on Grand Tour. Can a place exists only to be beautiful to an artist’s eye?) Actually, islands were places where Venetian segregated what they did not want to have in town. Glass furnaces were moved to Murano in 1295 because they caused fires in the city. In 1468 the leper hospital was established on the island Lazzaretto. In 1837 San Michele became the official cemetery of Venice. By the way, another great place where to stay in Venice, which I’ll consider the next time, is one of the islands. They are crowded in the day when you’re not there, but quiter in the night.
For sure you want to visit Murano.
To reach Murano take Vaporetto line 4.1 or 4.2 at Fondamenta Nove. In Murano you can have a light lunch at the bar of La Gare hotel. If you are interested in the glass workcraft, most of the glass furnaces offer visits. This is a great experience especially for kids. Glass melted and then re-shaped in artistic forms is certainly fascinating for them. Murano basically features a plethora of shops selling glass artcrafts: vases, chandeliers, jewellery and every kind of ornaments. I think a there’s no Italian grandma without a horse-shaped Murano glass ornament on the shelf. It may be the reason I’m not an enthusiast of Murano glass, I find the traditional objects too elaborate and old-style. Nevertheless there are some shops where you can find clean and stylish glass objects, like fashion jewellery. I bought this ring with a lovely green (glass!) bead.
Being in Venice for a short time, you must sometimes choose your destination on the base of opportunity.
The line to embark for Burano was really to long, so I decided to change plans and I get back, landing on Giudecca island.
You can have a nice walk there from the Chiesa del Redentore, the Palladio’s church erected after the pestilence of 1576 and the Molino Stucky, an astonishing big neo-gothic mill now transformed in Hilton Hotel.
Time to head back to San Polo. Take the vaporetto to San Tomà and search a nice place for dinner. You can choose La Patatina (San Giacomo 1587). I found it a little bit too pretentious, but in general very good cuisine and wines. I had the typical baccalà mantecato served in a more fashionable form.
Time for modern art. Don’t miss Peggy Guggenheim collection.
To get there, you should walk to the ponte dell’Accademia. To get there faster from San Polo, here’s a top for you, that involves a gondola ride.
I know, I told you to avoid gondola, but if you really,really, reallywant to try a gondola, there’s another way.
If you look at Venice’s map, you’ll notice there are only four bridges across the Grand Canal: Ponte degli Scalzi and Calatrava’s Ponte della Costituzione near the train station, ponte dell’Accademia and the ancient Ponte di Rialto. Ponte dell’Accademia is the one you want to cross to Guggenheim. It could be long to go from A to B on two opposite sides of the channel, because you have to cross one of these bridges.
For this reason along the Grand Canal there are some stations where gondolas take people back and forth across the channel for 2 euros for tourists (it’s 0,70 cents for residents). These boats are actually bigger that the traditional gondola and can transport up to fourteen people. Well, the whole thing lasts less than two minutes, but it’s fun and “real”: it’s a mean of transport still used and handy. The only issue is that it’s not easy to find them, follow the writings “traghetto”. One of the stations is really close to St. Polo, it’s just behind Campo San Tomà. Another reason why San Polo is a grat place where to stay in Venice. Using this kinf of gondola, you cross the Grand Canal and reach the Accademia bridge without taking vaporetto or walking for too long.
Palazzo Venier was the Peggy Guggenheim house in Venice.
After Peggy’s death, her collection went to the Solomon Guggenheim foundation, also owner of New York and Bilbao museums. Despite it has been transformed in a museum you can still feel it like someone’s home: quite eccentric, but still home. Actually If you were a rich heiress and were looking for a place where to stay in Venice, Palazzo Venier would be the perfect choice. Its view on Grand Canal is almost touching. You can wander in the different rooms and in the garden to discover the artworks, find here and there Peggy’s photographs.
Time in Venice is never enough, there’s so much to see. Find a nice place where to stay in Venice, choose a few things to visit and then just wander around. This might be the right match between sightseeing and trying to live the Venetian atmosphere. The perfect holiday.
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