our first stop. technically for the biennale (more on that later) but also just for fun. for PKS, who’d never been to italy before. for us, to celebrate a project that kept me busy for the past 3 years and that kept us living apart for the past one.
since i couldn’t keep my mouth shut about the trip and neither could our friends or family, we were bombarded with the best, most thorough, most thoughtful advice ahead of our departure. pair that with a couple of chic (wallpaper) and comprehensive (eyewitness and rough guides) books and a few slots already filled w/ commitments (it was a business trip after all) and we were good to go:
day 1: land in rome, arrive in venice (via train), settle in at locanda al leon, a very simple, very small, perfectly nice hotel just behind san marco (aka as central as central can be). dinner at bancogiro, an amazing spot that came recommended 2x. just north of the rialto bridge and situated along the main canal, it was the most pleasant scene - second only to the food (i.e. the outstanding local fish dish sampler). wander around san marco after dark, listen to dueling
banjos classical quartets.
day 2: an early wake up call to beat the crowds (oh my god, the crowds! the cruise ship people! the tour groups!) to gallerie dell’accademia and santa maria della salute. quick lunch at aciugheta and then hustle over to the biennale. see the team, see the bosses. walk back to the hotel, stop at one of my favorite shops - il mercante veneziano (riva s. biagio) - where 5 years ago i found some very cool, now-always-noted leather necklaces. also stopped by san zaccaria to visit the crypt before finally making it home, just in time for an epic rainstorm. team chicago dinner at al covo - another fantastic, tiny place, perfect for a celebration. post-dinner drinks w/ the ‘younger’ crowd at centrale.
day 3: another early start (no hangovers in europe?) for the doge’s palace. back to the biennale afterwards. lunch at a truly terrific place (at the foot of a tiny bridge in dorsoduro) called cantinone gia schiavi for award-winning cichetti. PKS found a fabulous book this spring: cafe life venice and it lead us there. took in vast views from the san giorgio maggiore bell tower and visited a satellite biennale exhibit next door. a stop at fondzione querini stampalia, a snack at the pastry shop across from our hotel and some major primping for a party at the peggy guggenheim collection (more on that later). between parties, dinner at trattoria all madonna (another perfect rec from a family friend) - a place that didn’t look like much but the otherworldly seafood risotto changed my mind. afterparty at bauers.
day 4: a late (late) start for the frari and the scuola grande di san rocco (titian, tintoretto, oh my!) some shopping around san polo for 2 noteworthy stops: la scialuppa for an elegantly drawn plan of a venetian boat for PKS and for me? legatoria polliero venezia, the most beautiful paper outfit in venice. they have the typical stuff, of course, but this 3rd generation shop has more modern patterns, too, in an array of pitch perfect colors. their picture frames were my only purchases on the entire trip. for lunch, a stop at all’ arco, a tiny (sensing a theme here?) bacaro with tasty cichetti for me and a panini for PKS. a long walk and 2 vaporetto (waterbus) rides later, underwhelming visits to san michele cemetry (skip it, wait until david chipperfield’s extension is finished) and murano (skip it, no matter what). next, gelato for the 5th birthday of aubs, my bosses’ daughter, at venchi followed by dinner at osteria san marco (fantastic! a bit more modern than the rest) followed by drinks at harry’s bar (crowded w/ film festival a-listers) followed by more drinks (and music) at florian (cheesy but necessary).
day 5: a final early wake up to get to the front of the line at saint mark’s basilica (some grapes and cappuccinos to-go kept us company). then time for the rest of the biennale - so much to take in, by evening we couldn’t see straight. surprise group dinner at rossopomodoro. some planning for rome over dessert. early turn in for an early train.
… that’s all to say:
venice: go during a biennale (august thru november - art on odd years, architecture on evens). cover as much ground as you can. walk and walk and get lost. eat cichetti and drink soave (wine from the region). wake early, beat the crowds. skip murano and masks. listen for the water lapping against its walls and its musicians playing under the moon.