Lonely Planet Local Jo-Ann Titmarsh has been living in Venice for over 20 years. Although she originally came to the city as a student for a three-month stay, she soon decided to make Venice her home. Despite how long she’s been here, she never tires of the city's beauty and its wealth of art exhibitions, cosy restaurants, interesting walks and fabulous places for cocktails with a view.

San Giorgio Maggiore church
San Giorgio Maggiore's bell tower gives excellent views over St Mark's Square © Peter Ptschelinzew / Getty Images

When friends come to stay… I always recommend a midnight walk to St Mark’s Square. With the piazza emptied of tourists, it’s a magical place to be. I’m also a big fan of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The island's eponymous church is a must-see, containing two massive Tintoretto paintings, and its bell tower offers stunning views of the city. Just don’t go up there at midday, or you’ll be deafened by the bells! Long walks all over town and lazy boat trips down the Grand Canal are always on the agenda too.

People cycling beside the lagoon © Aldo Pavan / Getty Images
Cycling is popular in Pellestrina © Aldo Pavan / Getty Images

When I want to get out of the city… I often stay right here! If you want to avoid the hordes then the best and easiest option is to hop on a boat and head to one of the many islands. You can rent bikes on the Lido, for example from Venice Rental Services, and from there you can hop on a ferry to the nearby quiet fishermen’s island of Pellestrina. This slender strip of land is ideal for the occasional cyclist, as there are no hills. And usually there's nary a tourist in sight!

The author, Jo-Ann Titmarsh, grabbing a sneaky coffee at Il Mercante © Jo-Ann Titmarsh / Lonely Planet
Grabbing a sneaky coffee at Il Mercante © Jo-Ann Titmarsh / Lonely Planet

A typical weekend means… taking in an exhibition somewhere around town. There are so many gallery spaces that there is almost always something new to see. The Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi, a relatively new favourite of mine, always has an interesting array of artists’ talks, performances and films on offer. Il Mercante is the perfect place if my friends and I fancy a cocktail before heading out for dinner, or a digestivo to round off the evening. It’s where we go for a treat rather than our regular haunt and it always feels special. A walk on the Lido, even in winter when the beaches are deserted and the sea is wild, or simply a wander around the backstreets in different parts of the city is a Sunday ritual.

Owner and chef Paola preparing lunch at La Zucca © Jo-Ann Titmarsh / Lonely Planet
Co-owner and chef Paola prepares lunch at La Zucca © Jo-Ann Titmarsh / Lonely Planet

A mid-week evening treat… means heading to one of my favourite local restaurants. I’ve been going to La Zucca for almost 25 years and it’s been consistently excellent. The atmosphere is cosy and it feels like a home from home. Although it's not a vegetarian restaurant, vegetarians are well catered for. Dinner is usually preceded by a drink at Osteria Bancogiro, the Rialto being the perfect central spot to meet up with friends coming from different parts of town. The bar has an excellent selection of wines and the restaurant is pretty great too.

A colourful vegetable stall at Rialto Market © Richard I'Anson / Getty Images
A colourful vegetable stall at Rialto Market © Richard I'Anson / Getty Images

For cheap eats… head to the Rialto Market and make yourself a fabulous Venetian meal using the freshest, tastiest ingredients! You could try your hand at spaghetti alla busara, a typical Venetian dish. You'll need four fresh tomatoes, an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, as well as a 12-15 large prawns, a glass of white wine, a handful of parsley and a generous pinch of chilli. It's a simple, tasty dish and you can wash it down with that white wine you've just opened! Pizza is another cheap option and popular with all my family. Refolo and Muro San Stae are two of my favourite pizzerias. Refolo is particularly lovely in the summer months, when the pretty square outside becomes an alfresco dining room. Both places serve up tasty alternatives to pizza if you want something different. Muro focuses more on meat dishes, while Refolo has some great fish options.

A recent birthday treat… was for my sister, not me! She had no idea where we were going, and got a bit worried when I took her on a bus over the causeway to Mestre, Venice's less-glamorous mainland suburb. The walk past a giant McDonald’s and through a semi-deserted car park did nothing to assuage her fears. However, cocktails with a stunning view at Blind Spot, followed by an amazing dinner of sushi at Aki couldn't fail to delight. My London-dwelling, sushi-loving sis gave Aki a rave review and a great night out was had by all.

Talented bartenders creating cocktails at Blind Spot © Michael Faggiani / Blind Spot
Talented bartenders creating cocktails at Blind Spot © Michael Faggiani / Blind Spot

Shopaholics beware… there are plenty of great places to spend your money here! For unusual and fun shoes and clothes, head to Mori & Bozzi on Strada Nuova. It’s a little pricier than the usual high street fare, but not too much. Ottico Fabbricatore has some of the quirkiest and most beautiful shoes in town and a select range of exquisite Italian fashion.

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