There is nothing like Venice covered in fog. The cold, damp air and the threat (or excitement, at least for me) of the water-filled streets of acqua alta. It all makes for a good excuse to escape the cold damp air by popping into a warm bar for a hot chocolate (possibly rum-spiked or topped with whipped cream) or an ombre, a little glass of wine, only to emerge shortly after with flushed cheeks, ready to head to the next bar. It’s why Venice should really be visited in the cold months — so you can savour it cloaked in its mysterious beauty and in the quiet season, without the hordes, without the heat.
At the end of October I had a wonderful couple of days revisiting Venice in my favourite season with Skye, Luisa, Annie and Valeria (and this is her stunning Venice food guide). We wandered, we chatted over spritzes and then later, hot chocolates, we wandered some more, finding rosy palazzo exteriors to gush over and reflections on the water to photograph. We had a delicious seafood dinner in the Ghetto at 40 Ladroni, which was finished off with a sgroppino (a sort of slushy cocktail of lemon sorbet and vodka). All over a damp, foggy couple of days. And it reminded me of how much I love Venice when it’s moody.
The Venice List
My favourite things (in the style of the ones I’ve done on Turin and Sicily), that can be counted on two hands, that I’ve loved after many, many visits to Venice (two extended ones, while I was working on restoring artworks on the Monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro, before I started food writing). They’re the things I’d tell my friends to do and see on their first visit and the things I like to go back to every time I visit.
The Rialto Market — a visit to this historic outdoor, partially covered market on the Grand Canal will have you wishing you had a reason to cook up some fresh artichoke bottoms and deep-fry some moeche, soft-shelled crabs (and if you have a kitchen, why not?). The fresh fish market is as fascinating as a visit to any museum, if you ask me. Also a good spot for a bite to eat (see next point).
Classic bacari (Venetian bars) like All’Arco and Do Mori (the most ancient, it dates to the 1400s) are to be found near the Rialto Market, so stop by and get a cicchetto of some baccala mantecato (whipped cod) or a couple of polpette di tonno (tuna balls) with a little glass of wine. (See this post for more recommendations).
Polpette at La Vedova — Worth waiting for them, even when there is a line and it’s so cold outside you can barely feel your hands. You’ll be fine as soon as you hold one of these piping hot, deep fried, crumbed meat balls between your fingers. Trattoria Ca’ D’Oro alla Vedova.
Acqua Alta Bookshop / Libreria Acqua Alta — where else can you find a gondola inside a bookshop filled with books? Or a staircase made of old encyclopaedias? This unique, picturesque bookshop.
Campo Santa Margherita — whether it’s for a stroll, a spritz, a supermarket, or to let your child kick around a soccer ball, this is your piazza. It’s untouristy, even in the height of summer, and the relaxed, local vibe will soon have you reaching for another round of spritzes.
The Peggy Guggenheim Musem — If I have time to visit a museum, this is my favourite. Once Peggy Guggenheim’s home, today you can stroll around the beautiful (unfinished) palazzo and its pretty garden and admire her collection of 20th century art and the view from the windows. Think Picasso and Pollock on the Grand Canal.
A walk on the Zattere — this long esplanade along the lower belly of Venice’s fish (haven’t you noticed when you look at a map of Venice it looks like a fish?) faces the island of Giudecca. It’s made for a passeggiata, or a long walk. Along it, you can also find Gelateria Nico, which is a good place for a gelato or the specialty below, and both Campo Santa Margherita and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum are not far away either, depending on where you start the walk.
Il Gianduiotto — So gelato might not be the first thing on your mind in the cool weather, but these are hard to resist and in terms of flavours, it suits autumn just fine — the Gianduiotto is a block of gianduia (chocolate hazelnut) ice cream drowning in whipped cream. It’s an old-school specialty of Gelateria Nico and it’s a good thing it’s located on the Zattere, so you can take a long, long walk after eating one of these!
Pasticceria Tonolo — My friend Rosa first took me here while she was living in Venice and I kept making to make a trip there every visit after. A small, narrow pastry shop in Dorsoduro on the corner of two tiny Venetian laneways, it’s a great stop for just a coffee (standing) and a pastry (the savoury pastries like puff pastry filled with artichoke cream are particularly delicious), or pick up a whole cake or a tray of little bigne to share with friends.
You’ll find a few other travel guides I’ve written on Venice here on my blog. This one is about bar-hopping your way through Venice for delightful cicchetti. And this is another general guide to favourite spots that happen to work particularly well if you happen to have a little one in tow.
You might also like Valentina’s guide for wandering Venice in winter.