In an attempt to continue my disregard of the fact that Christmas is upon us, I’ve been spending a lot of time hiding out in book stores – a welcome refuge from the streets of madness stuffed full of stressed out shoppers juxtaposed with far too cheerful Christmas carollers.
In such safe havens, naturally I gravitate towards the travel section, to breathe in the scent of Italian travel guides or travel memoirs and hope that they will somehow transport me to a Venetian bar with a spritz in hand. Any bar in Venice, I’m not fussy.
In particular I’m always on the lookout for a travel book that will recommend a new activity in Venice or a new sight to see. This Saturday afternoon just passed I happened to pick up one of those small pocket guides to Venice, and one of its chapters was devoted to detailing how to have the perfect day in the city– what sestiere to visit, what bar to drink in, what museum to go to, what lovely lagoon sights to enjoy.
As I read through it, I thought to myself, ‘what’s my perfect day in Venice?’ It’s a real look out the window and stroke your chin moment, as there are so many delightful places and sights that one can go to and see to make the ultimate day in Venice. And so, here it is, my perfect day. But be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted. I like to pack a lot into my time when in Venezia (just ask my long-suffering husband…), and so this day is perhaps more suited to the visitor who is undertaking a whistle stop tour of La Serenissima and wants to see as much possible in as little time.
Start in Campo Santa Margherita and take in the hustle and bustle of children going to school, students sipping espresso in the cafes before heading to lectures, and fishmongers selling their delicacies to local Venetians trailing the quintessentially Venetian shopping trolley.
Head north, towards Campo Pantalon, and take a right on to Calle Campo Pantalon. At the end of the street you’ll find Tonolo, one of Venice’s best (in my opinion) pasticceria. There’s no sitting in Tonolo; instead, the students, workers, and tourists who frequent the pastry shop order at the end bar, eat their delights there, and then jostle at the till to pay before heading off to begin their day. It’s a little frantic if you’ve never been before, but it’s a lively atmosphere and one of the rare places in Venice you’ll find more locals than tourists. Treat yourself to a macchiato and a brioche – I’ve never found a brioche that tastes as sweet and delicious as those of Tonolo.
From Tonolo, head back to Campo Pantalon and take the opposite exit, heading towards the train station. The backstreets here are beautiful, peaceful and serene, a world away from the chaos of San Marco. At the train station take a walk down Lista di Spagna. You’ve now officially entered the tourist strip, with vendors and shops stuffed full of Venetian trinkets, but it’s quietest in the morning but still has a vibe that’s at once compelling and exciting.
After all that walking, you’ll need something to keep your strength up. Pop into Torrefazione coffee shop, just off the Lista di Spagna. It’s one of the last coffee shops in Venice that roasts its own coffee. Coffee-enthusiasts will love the taste and aroma of this little gem, and you can even purchase your own little bag of roasted coffee beans.
Now that you’re fuelled up, continue your walk towards Strada Nuova, another vibrant shopping area. At a relaxed saunter, it will take you about 45 minutes or so until you reach the Rialto Bridge, but it’s an enjoyable walk. Stop at Rialto and take in the lively market and, of course, the Rialto Bridge itself.
Once you’ve taken it all in (and done a little shopping!) , jump on a waterbus and head to San Marco. Your destination is the Museo Correr, in St. Mark’s Square. Even if you’re not a museum buff, the Museo Correr will have something of interest for you. It’s an eclectic mix of art, with everything from ancient artefacts, Romanesque statues, and Renaissance art, and best of all, paintings of La Serenissima itself. Once you’re all art-ed out, take a seat in the museum cafe with views on to St. Mark’s Square. Before leaving, make sure to check out their fantastic gift store.
By now you’ll be ready for lunch! Read on tomorrow for part 2 on the ultimate afternoon in Venice!