Like the tide that laps knee-high against its fine palazzos, Venice is ever-changing. Since its bog-like beginnings as a collection of mini islands in swampy marshland, the city has been forced to use its initiative. It continues to rely on innovative ideas today. Whether it’s a museum with ground-floor channels to cope with high water levels or a theatre in a warehouse once used for stretching sails, it capitalises on its lagoon location and spouts ingenuity.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Water cycle: Acqua alta (high water) is caused by high tides, low atmospheric pressure and the sirocco: a warm wind blowing water from the Adriatic Sea into the lagoon. It only lasts for a few hours; dive into a bar and wait it out.
  2. All in the details: Knowing the name of the street you’re looking for isn’t enough. You’ll also need the name of the sestiere, as well as the house number.
  3. Time sensitive: The best restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays as the markets aren’t open. Museums often close on either Mondays or Tuesdays.
  4. At your service: All restaurants charge a coperto (cover charge), usually €2 or €3 a head, for sitting down and using the dishes and tablecloth; eat or drink standing at the bar and this doesn’t apply.
  5. Talk of the town: The Venetian dialect is a powerful reminder of the city’s independence and distinct identity. About two thirds of its 50,000 inhabitants continue to speak it today.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. Aman Venice, San Polo

    Home comforts

    There are only 24 rooms within this sprawling property; the rest of the hotel is made up of common areas, including two gardens and a library. Guests can order food anywhere they like.

  2. Casa Flora, San Marco

    Perennial pad

    Casa Flora is filled with greenery, giving the space a lived-in feel. Each of the three large bedrooms comes with its own bath and steam room, all featuring the mosaic-like palladiana terrazzo tiles.

  3. Cima Rosa, Santa Croce

    Laidback lodgings

    Exposed beams and calm hues feature throughout this b&b. With just five rooms – two of which are suites – spread over two floors, Cima Rosa provides a tranquil respite.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Ostregheta!: Goodness!
  2. Bàcaro: Wine bar
  3. Ombra: Glass of wine
  4. Ciapàr: To take
  5. Varda: Look
  6. Cichèti: Small snacks
  7. Pantegana: Big rat found in Venice’s canals
  8. Schei: Money
  9. Cagnàra: Din
  10. Ciò: Of course

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. All’Arco, San Polo

    Tasty tidbits

    This flag-bearer of Venetian cichèti culture is a standing-only bàcaro with friendly lunchtime vibes and archetypal snacks such as folpetti (baby octopus), sarde in saor (sweet-and-sour sardines) and crostini aplenty.

  2. Antiche Carampane, San Polo

    Hidden treasure

    This tiny trattoria serves some of the finest fish in Venice. It’s hard to find – the only way you’ll stumble upon it is if you’re lost in the twists and turns of San Polo – but the food will compensate for your quest.

  3. Local, Castello

    All in the name

    Opened in 2015 by Luca and Benedetta Fullin, whose family has run the nearby Hotel Wildner since the 1960s, Local’s focus is on – naturally – local, seasonal ingredients.

  4. Pasticceria Tonolo, Dorsoduro

    Worth the wait

    Nestled in Dorsoduro’s gastronomic hub, Tonolo is Venice’s hotspot for pastries of all shapes and sizes. Don’t be discouraged by the crowds that gather around this tiny shop: the queue moves fast.

  5. La Zucca, San Polo

    Vegetarian choices

    Although not a meat-free restaurant, La Zucca is famous for its vegetarian leanings (a rarity in Venice). It affords some respite from fish with its vast array of vegetable-based options, from seasonal appetisers to heart-warming pasta.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. L’Altra Ottica, Castello and San Polo

    Specs-tacular range

    All the glasses that make up L’Altra Ottica’s in-house line begin life courtesy of artisans in the mountainous Cadore area.The shop’s founder often travels to the mainland factory to make sure production is running smoothly.

  2. Barena Venezia, San Marco

    Lagoon inspiration

    This wood-clad shop is an intimate affair and while it only features a tight selection from Barena’s line, it includes all of the signature pieces. The typical tabarro – a heavy wool cape – is perhaps the brand’s most Venetian design.

  3. Bruno with Motto, Dorsoduro

    Small press titles

    Art and design titles lie alongside obscure fanzines and architecture books produced and printed in the backroom office of this shop run by Andrea Codolo and Giacomo Covacich, who also operate as a graphic-design studio.

  4. Gianni Basso Stampatore, Cannaregio

    Press gang

    Printer Gianni Basso and his son Stefano operate pre-industrial printing presses from the 1800s to make business cards, thank-you notes and books. They use manual typesetting and source Italy’s highest-quality paper from Fabriano.

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