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Secret Venice


With its 500 bridges and hundreds of little calli and fondamenti criss-crossing 117 islands, it’s easy to get away from the crowds in Venice, says Yolanda Zappaterra

The Grand Canal in Venice
A peaceful piazza in Santa Croce

The easternmost of Venice’s six sestieri is a mixed bag, with the bustling Piazzale Roma feeling more like Rome than Venice. But just a few hundred metres from it, you’ll find one the city’s most beautiful little campi, Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. It’s filled with benches under shady trees, little cafés and, occasionally, tango dancers elegantly dodging the central fountain. The unusually squat church from which it takes its name, the Chiesa di San Giacomo dell’Orio, dates from 1225 and has a clutch of works worth seeing, including an altarpiece by Lorenzo Lotto.

A quirky shop in San Polo

Venice has more than 2,000 certified artisans creating everything from masks and jewellery to paper and slippers. The handmade slippers sold at Pied à Terre are particularly special: called furlane, they have their origins in the post-war years when soles, linings and uppers were made from old bike tires, hessian and recycled dresses in cotton, brocades and velvet. The modern versions are mostly still made from these and other recycled materials, but don’t let that put you off – this is footwear at its most gorgeous, covetable and comfortable.

A bike ride on the Lido

To explore the more far-flung beaches of the Lido, hire a bike from Lido on Bike and cycle to the tiny southern-Lido borgo of Malamocco, which has its own little square, church and a little bridge, all threaded through with picture-perfect calli. As the one-time home of the Duke of Venice it has an illustrious past, but is now just a gorgeous and peaceful mini Venice.

A backstreet restaurant in Dorsoduro

A wood-panelled locals’ favourite filled with rustic charm (and football paraphernalia), Osteria Ai Do Farai (Calle del Cappeller) is a bit tricky to find, but worth the effort. Inside, you’ll find a lively fish-themed feast that might include fresh squid ink spaghetti, linguine with shellfish or local and seasonal specialities.

A waterside gem on Giudecca

For a waterside view without the premium, cross from the Zattere promenade to Giudecca, where you’ll find La Palanca (Giudecca 448) right on the quay next to the vaporetto stop. This bar/trattoria has an eminently affordable lunch menu for around €7, including excellent pasta dishes with polenta and delicious desserts.

Shore excursions:
Hidden Venice Walking Tour

To see some more hidden gems, this guided walking tour takes you through narrow streets and bustling piazzas, over tiny footbridges and past beautiful sites that exude Venetian character and charm.

St Mark’s Basilica After Hours

This very special excursion offers a small group of guests the chance to experience the remarkable St Mark’s Basilica after it has closed to the public.

Murano Glass and Burano

Venture further afield to discover two more of the Venetian Lagoon’s charming islands: Murano, which is renowned for its glass making, and the cheerful Burano, with its brightly painted houses and handful of shops.


See all Venice shore excursions


Find and book a cruise to Venice

Yolanda Zappaterra, writer
Yolanda Zappaterra

Yolanda writes for Time Out, Saga magazine and national newspapers. Luckily, early family holidays spent ‘cowering in terror in the car as it torturously climbed the Alps to Italy’ didn’t deter a travel-writing career.

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