My favourite way of passing time in Venice was discovered by chance on my first visit – a limited budget meant that expensive palazzi and furiously priced gondolas were ruled out. We were grateful for it. Instead of traipsing around predictable sights and jumping on and off ceaselessly crowded vaporetti, we walked all over the city and spent hours absorbing the feel of each small street, square, canal. We ate finger food standing up in bars, accompanied by €1 glasses of wine… That first trip has become a holiday standard, the one against which I compare all others. There was nothing fancy about it, our only luxury being the time we gained in place of the money we didn’t have. We used that time to do what we are so rarely able to in this busy world – to wander, to think, to dream.
HERE IS HOW WE LIKE TO APPROACH VENICE:
Go in winter, but take a pair of wellington boots. Venice is always full of visitors, but in winter the flow eases slightly and the city feels more magical – it becomes even more water than land. It is often shrouded in mist or rain and when he lagoon waters rise and flood it is hard to differentiate between pathway or canal or lagoon.
Walk. Particularly, walk north-west through the ghetto and into Cannaregio. Here Venetians who live on the island all year round go quietly about their business and the three long, straight canals that run from east to west provide a perfect frame for sunset over the lagoon.
Eat and drink at the bacari spread across the city. Many serve cichetti, a kind of Venetian tapas served in tiny portions: salt-cod on bruschetta; roasted veg on grilled polenta; a pickled onion, an anchovy, an artichoke heart on a cocktail stick… All will serve prosecco and spritz. Here are some places to eat and drink that we have enjoyed, but wander the narrow streets and we’re sure you’ll find more of your own…
DO MORI. San Polo 429, calle dei Do Mori.
Supposedly Venice’s oldest bacaro and by no means a secret. But this tiny bar with copper pots hanging from the ceiling is still frequented by market traders as much as it is by excited visitors. Drink prosecco here, it is served in sturdy but elegant dish glasses.
CANTINE DEL VINO GIÀ SCHIAVI. Dorsoduro 992, ponte San Trovaso.
A family-run enoteca next to a canal in Dorsoduro. When we went it was busy with people drinking wine and eating cichetti. They spilled out onto the street and perched themselves on the canal wall to enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine.
OSTERIA ALLA BIFORA. Dorsoduro 2930. Campo Santa Margherita.
In the large, work-a-day square of Campo Santa Margherita this spacious osteria is good for a sit down meal: a spread of cichetti and antipasti.
CAFFE ROSSO. Dorsoduro 2693. Campo Santa Margherita.
Head here for coffee after a meal at Osteria alla Bifora. The bar itself is tiny, but the coffee is potent and it is a pleasure to stand outside drinking it and watching life pass by in the square.
THE BARS OF THE RIALTO MARKET. San Polo, Campo San Giacomo di Rialto.
Cross over the Rialto bridge at night and turn right to find a line of bars on one side of the Campo, each as busy as the next. They open out on their opposite sides onto Campo dell’Erbaria, giving onto the Grand Canal. We spent much of our time here, drinking spritz at Naranzaria (San Polo 130, Campo dell’Erbaria) late into the night.