In this month's Lonely Planet Magazine, Alison Bing, author of Lonely Planet's Venice & The Veneto City shares her insider knowledge, mapping out her perfect day in the European city she has come to know so well.
From the instant the day’s first sunbeam hits the Grand Canal, everything in Venice is sparkling: water, wine, wits and the glorious golden mosaics of Basilica di San Marco. Before morning mists lift from the lagoon, I make my way to the 500-year-old Rialto markets, where fishermen are celebrating the day’s catch with a glass of prosecco, and grocers sing the praises of purple San Erasmo artichokes and white Bassano asparagus.
Yellow signs point directly toward Piazza San Marco: these are best ignored. Instead I meander randomly down winding calli (alleyways) past cobblers and glassblowers to arrive in the square as café orchestras strike up. At 18th-century Caffe Florian, I pause for a hot chocolate, before joining the crowds entering the Basilica di San Marco.
From San Marco it’s a vaporetto (waterbus) hop to Punta della Dogana for provocative contemporary art in the city’s ancient customs houses. The sunny Zattere (canal bank) has me squinting at dazzling white Istrian marble churches built by Andrea Palladio, as I head to Campo Santa Margherita square to see what’s happening – a flea market, a protest, students debating the merits of the latest Venice Biennale, the biennial international art expo. I continue to All’Arco bar for a velvety Valpolicella (red wine) and cicheti (small plates).
Around the corner lies Santa Croce’s ancient red-light district, where temptations are still available on Calle Lunga in the form of silversmiths, paper makers, iron forgers, printmakers and mosaic workers. I window shop westward to another Venetian indulgence: roasted pistachio gelato at Gelateria Alaska.
But this town always saves its best acts for last. Fire meets water at sunset in San Marco, and cocktails and jazz ignite evenings at mosaic-walled B Bar. Venetian days close at La Fenice opera or an Interpreti Veneziani concert, with squid-ink pasta and a toast at Enoteca ai Artisti to this city beyond imagination
Why go now?
A touch of glass
There's no time like the present to pause for reflection in Venice: the city is currently celebrating 1,000 years as the world's centre for master glass artisans. With gleaming art glass on show at different venues right across the city, it's the perfect time to discover this art.
The rich and famous descend upon Venice as artists aim for glory with the 2011 Art Biennale and artworks appear in the streets. Meanwhile, the Venice Film Festival looks to top its 2010 Black Swan première. Celebrity sightings seem inevitable.
Take to the water
It’s best to see Venice's architectural wonders while they're still high and dry. Recent reports indicate the city isn’t sinking, but due to climatic change and dredging of deep shipping channels, Venice's winter high tides have been getting higher. See them while you still can.