Buongiorno, Bella Venezia!
Crack your piggy banks and polish your walking shoes people because it’s Biennale year and words can’t even begin to describe how much of a must this is. There’s nothing like it. The Venice Biennale is an institution in itself, an international stage where world events have played out; it’s the most important art exhibition; a nucleus where Art History is constantly taking place and it’s on for 6 months so there is no excuse for missing it. Plus – Italy, summer, risotto frutti di mare and pasta alle vongole, Aperol Spritz – shall I go on?
After a series of failed attempts to capture in words the Biennale’s history, it’s importance, meaning and relevance to the world of art in a few sentences, I had to give up. Luckily this fabulous man, Oscar Boyson, didn’t and he made this ultra-fantastic video.
4 full days of your life are needed to absorb the Venice Biennale
San Marco, Dorsoduro and Castello are the areas where you want to stay because they are central. There are all sorts of hotels, just dig a little. Taxis cost between 60€ and 120€ for a trip so opt for the vaporetto (water bus), it takes longer but it’s the best option. Time is money and whatever you’re not spending on where you stay, you’ll spend waiting more and seeing less.
Corte Sconta – Delicious, ultra-local and ultra-Venetian restaurant located in Castello. Great for lunch or dinner as it has a patio in the back. Make sure you order Bacaalà Mantecato as a starter, it’s a signature Venetian dish and it’s served over polenta, my favorite.
Ca D’oro alla Vedova – This small, cozy, crowded place is located close to Ponte Rialto and it doesn’t get more local than this. You’ll be the only tourist there and that’s a good sign. You’ll remember their pasta alle vongole forever. Make sure you reserve before.
Trattoria Alla Madonna – This little gem is hidden in an alley and I recommended going for dinner as that’s when the ambiance is buzzing. This is seafood heaven especially during summer so make sure you order the granseola (crab) with a little olive oil and lime. Then try risotto frutti di mare and ask for Lucio, the owner, he’s the nicest man ever.
Osteria da Franz – Don’t be thrown off by the decor of the place, you’re here for the food. This is where I had my last meal on a sleepy Sunday night. It’s a mix of home cooking meets minimalist Venetian cuisine. I walked out of there on a cloud still savoring my little crabs and pasta with squid ink.
Florian – This is the oldest and most beautiful café on Piazza San Marco. Go for a morning coffee or better yet, go in the afternoon when your feet are aching, the band is playing, the sun is setting and only an Aperol Spritz will bring you back to life.
L’Ombra del Leone – Tiny, local spot for a sunset drink by the canal.
Atilio Codognato – Very close to San Marco is this jewelry store. Even if you’re a man and have absolutely no interest – go see it. I think very few people can afford to buy anything here but it’s like falling down a tunnel and waking up in Marie Antoinette’s Versailles. It’s tiny and exquisite.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco – In all the times I’ve gone to Venice, I had never ever heard of this place and now I know I’ll make sure to go back to it every time. San Rocco is an austere building on the outside but inside, on the second floor, it is covered in the great Tintoretto’s frescos. People spend so much time there staring at the mirrors that the Scuola even gives you mirrors to look into so that you can give your neck a rest.
Mercato di Rialto – You’re in Italy! Go feast your eyes on this fruit and fish market. Everything is so fresh and ripe, I promise you you’ve never seen as many kinds of tomatoes as there are here. As its name states, this market is located by the Ponte Rialto and it’s only open until noon except on Sundays. Then…
Walk over (2 minutes) to the Cichetteria – it literally means ‘little bites’. Have a million little bites of Venetian tapas and another million little sips of all kinds of wine by the Canal.
Art – In Order of Priorities
Giardini – This is the historic park where the first 30 country’s permanent pavilions were built in the late 1800’s. It is located just beyond Castello, by the water.
Arsenale – These amazing warehouses made of exposed brick and concrete and very high ceilings used to be Venice’s shipyard. Today they are part of Biennale where other countries have their pavilions. Everything is larger than life.
Palazzo Fortuny – This was once the home of the great Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish dress maker and fabric designer who died in 1949. His palazzo is lined with his fabrics and all the group exhibitions held here are integrated into the decoration of the house. It’s also full of interacted objects that he collected through out his life. The best group modern and contemporary exhibitions are held here and every year they get better. A little bird told me that the palazzo’s curator, Axel Vervoordt, will be leaving after this show so don’t miss it!
Palazzo Grassi & Punta Della Dogana – both located on the Grand Canal at different points, these two contemporary art museums were inaugurated in 2006 and 2009 to house Francoise Pinault’s art collections. This year both buildings are hosting Damien Hirst’s infamous Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable and it really is unbelievable (mostly because of the sheer scale of the works). This exhibition has critics on the edge of their seats.