Go to the Accademia
At the Accademia di Belle Arti, you’ll be transported back in time to Renaissance Venice. It was a city that was the New York of its day, full of high culture, high power, and incredible contrasts between rich and poor, all of which will be right there in the paintings of Veronese. You’ll see colors that are the visual equivalent of ripe summer peaches in the Bellini paintings. All in all, a stop not to be missed for art lovers.
Go up the tower of San Giorgio Maggiore
This is a panoramic view of Venice unlike any other, from the tallest tower in the city. You’ll zoom right up in the elevator, making this a relaxing trip as well. Try to go early in the morning, when the lagoon is incredibly picturesque and the crowds are thin.
Soak up the sun with a coffee
Sit for a few hours in Campo Santa Margherita and sip a coffee at the iconic bohemian coffee shop with the red sign that says quite simply, “coffee.” Watch life pass by in a part of Venice that’s mostly home to students and residents and get a sense of the rhythms of every day life in the city.
Caffe Rosso, Dorsoduro 2963, Venezia 30123, Italy, +39 041 528 7998
Have a gelato like no other
Gelateria Alaska serves ice cream that is totally unique. Every flavor is made right there in the shop by the owner Carlo, who delights in concocting special flavors like turmeric and orange-arugula. The ice cream itself is light and not too sweet – a truly refreshing mid-afternoon snack.
Gelateria Alaska, Santa Croce 1159, 30135 Venice, Italy, +39 041 715211
Browse the stacks at Acqua Alta
A bookstore can’t be more Venetian than Acqua Alta, named presumably for the floods that come in calf-deep during the high tide season. The books are piled abundantly high in bathtubs and gondolas and there are lovely furry cats that wander through the store. This delightfully eccentric place is always worth a visit.
Acqua Alta, Castello 5176/B, 30122 Venice, Italy, +39 041 296 0841
Eat cicchetti at Al Bottegon
This bar is situated on one of the most picturesque canals in Dorsoduro and it’s owned and operated by three generations of one family. The matriarch at its head, Luisa, is a master of inventive cicchetti-making. These bite-size savory snacks are tiny slices of bread with a variety of toppings that get washed down with a drink in the evening. You can choose between thinly sliced wisps of lard spread with honey, soft cheese topped with nettle pesto or tuna with mayonnaise and cacao. This is a delicious slice of Venice as it was.
Visit artist and artisan workshops
Artisan workshops are a part of a vibrant local culture in Venice that is being slowly smothered by mass tourism, with its promises of cheaply made objects at low prices. If you’re visiting Venice, be sure to support local artists and artisans who are practicing their craft. Check out the glass jewelry made by Moulaye Niang, an Afro-Venetian glass master at Muranero, where no two pieces are ever the same. Peruse the hand-bound books at Paolo Olbi, who uses high-quality leather and marbled paper. These places sell things that are truly unique and authentically Venetian.
Muranero, 3545, Castello, 30122 Venice, Italy, +39 347 503 1279
Paolo Olbi, 3253/A, Dorsoduro, 30123 Venice, Italy, +39 041 523 7655
Shop at the fish and produce markets
The market is a central part of local culture and at Rialto, you’ll get to see all the delicious seafood brought in fresh every day by fishermen. There is also a vegetable and fruit barge located at the southern edge of Campo Santa Margherita and they sell locally grown produce right on the canal. They operate every day but Sunday, with a break during lunch time. Try to go early in the morning for prime people-watching.