22 September 2010

Venice - there is an App for that

Guest writer Alison Chambers gets the inside track on where to go - and how not to get lost - in the maze of Venice streets.

Alison discovers that although Venice is one of the most visited tourist hotspots, it is a joy to discover that there are still hidden gems to be unearthed.

The Venice architecture biennale may not be as established as the art biennale with which is alternates annually, but it is a huge cultural event for the Italian city. This year marks the 12th architecture biennale, founded in 1975, and next year will be the 54th artistic installment.



People from every corner of the globe descend on Venice to exhibit the latest in art and architectural trends, promoting cultural champions through their own national pavilions. With so many countries and so many artists thrown into the mix, the biennale is rightly recognised as a major global arts event.

Everyone who has attended such events will know that much of one’s time is spent wandering the back streets of Venezia, wondering where on earth you are and how can you get to the Rwandan pavilion in minus ten minutes.

It was this experience that motivated us to create the Biennale App, having attended many of the events and having spoken to a wide range of Biennalistas.

Biennale App is based simply on an interactive Google map that shows where you are, where the pavilions are, what events are happening and where. It shows you where the nearest bars and restaurants are and can even save the location of your hotel, so that those at the biennale Vernissage parties can stumble their way home without getting lost.

In researching the best bars and restaurants that ultimately made their way on to the app, we came across a good number of insider tips that we’d like to share with you:

For the perfect introduction to the splendour of living in the 18th century in Venice, check out Palazzo Ca Rezzonicohttp. The Tiepolo frescoes are breathtaking.

A top top tip for great food near the Arsenale is Corte Sconta. Despite the fact that it’s off the beaten track, you have to book because it has become extremely popular with fish-loving Italians – it’s at Casa del Pestrin 3886, Venice. The best spot is a table under the vines in the secluded courtyard.

Any trip to Venice should also include a trip to Do Forni, a Venetian institution. It’s a traditional, noisy trattoria just off San Marco with ragu like one’s mother would make, if only she was Italian.

Locanda Montin comes recommended by the deeply talented stylist Lucy Berridge. As their marvellous website says: “The Locanda Montin is not a restaurant, not a place to sleep, not a bar: it’s something dear to the heart of the Venetian and foreigner alike who know the real city, feel the fascination of its waters, understand the real Venetian”. This sums up the mood of the place brilliantly.

Osteria Al Portego Venice is firmly on the beaten track, yet the kind of place that you might easily walk past because it is just on the corner of one of the many nameless warrens of streets between the Rialto and San Marco. It is a little bacaro where you stand and eat wonderful, freshly prepared tapas, using the wooden ledge that runs round the wall to balance little plates of deiciousness. Favourites include bacalao, huge envelopes of ricotta stuffed pasta, seafood salad and zucchini flowers. Wash it down with glasses of the excellent house rose.

Biennale afficionado Nicolo Scialanga, now at MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, has this recipe for the perfect evening in Venice: “Start with an aperitivo at the Skyline BAR, on the 8th floor of the Molino Stucky Hilton – this has to be one of the most extraordinary views of Venice. Then move on to dinner at Taverna del Campiello Remer, a real little find, tucked away down a side street.

“From the Campiello (the little square outside the restaurant) there is a beautiful view of Ponte di Rialto. Finally, nothing beats a nightcap at the Red Bar Canale of the Bauer Hotel, possibly the most beautiful hotel in Venice with its modernist fa├žade and plush interior. The outdoor terrace has glorious views over the twinkling lights of the Canal Grande and the Chiesa della Salute. And the Bauer is actually open till 1am, unlike the rest of the city.”

Venetian writer Andrea di Robilant likes to hang out at Bar Palanca on the Giudecca (the hot spot in Venice, artist colony, ex industrial part of Venice, and now booming). Pietro, the owner, serves lunch from his tiny kitchen, to a mixed crowd -- workmen come at the early shift (noon) , writers and artists working on the Giudecca come later.

The pastas are great. Try linguini with shrimp, saffron and zucchini, and Andrea is an amiable host. Customers gather again at Spritz time in the evening (a local aperitif). The view of the Zattere across the Giudecca Canal is dazzling. Worth the one stop vaporetto journey just for the view of Venice.

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