Secret guide: Venice

A seemingly impossible, wholly mystifying destination, Venice sits resplendent in a moody lagoon.

The audacious Venetians built palaces of marble, hiding labyrinthine streets and creating a unique culture that still permeates everyday life. From the rich offerings of the lagoon providing a feast of seafood, to the secrecy and opulence of the Baroque Carnivale and the pioneering Renaissance publications of the Ghetto, Venice has always been a hotbed of cultural progression and palatial grandeur. Wander the Grand Canal, stand awestruck in Piazza San Marco and glide around the city on a gondola. To truly unravel the illustrious city and to experience the local Venetian way-of-life, we’ve compiled a guide to the undiscovered Venice – packed with hidden gems and locals’ hangouts.


This small lagoon island, though quite well-known, is oft overlooked – people rarely seem to bring themselves to take the boat ride across. They miss out on bright, technicolour buildings, incredible dining with far less tourist traps, and the charms of Burano’s unique identity.

Mercatino dei Miracoli

This great flea market is on a handful of times throughout the year, offering antiques galore and bargains a-plenty. As most of the traders are Venetian, you’ll find vintage, quality items at good prices. For bargain hunters and antique aficionados, this is not to be missed.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Rome may have the Sistine Chapel, but Venice’s San Rocco features some jaw-dropping frescoes by Tintoretto. His portrayal of the Ascension is gloriously dark, with a tone that befits the zeitgeist of its creation – Venice had lost 500,000 of its citizens to plague.

Malefatte Boutique

Shopping in Venice is expensive. For a more affordable stake in Venice’s fashion scene, head over to this small boutique. All the clothes and accessories are handmade by local prisoners using recycled materials, in a cooperative that allows them to earn a little money for the end of their rehabilitation.

Osteria Al Bacco

One of the oldest osteria’s in town is a favourite amongst locals and a little off the tourist path. With tables set in the garden (a rarity in Venice), stop off for some of the finest seafood in the city, like black squid ink spaghetti or grilled sea bass.

Libreria Acqua Alta

A victim of constant flooding, this quirky bookshop has beaten the tides through the imagination of its eccentric owner. Books are piled high in bathtubs, gondolas and barrels, allowing them to float should the need arise. A Venetian wonder that deserves a look-in.


Alight at this unassuming and hidden backstreet trattoria for the city’s best cicchetti. Cicchetti is a typical Venetian-style tapas, so pull up a chair at one of the few tables, or just stand at the bar, and gorge on traditional plates with an Aperol Spritz in hand.

The Ghetto

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice has contributed greatly to Italy’s history. Initially a place of refuge and then a place of confinement, it was the publishers of the ghetto who distributed the humanist philosophy that sparked the Renaissance, and where its doctors created the concept of quarantine to save Venetians from the bubonic plague. Explore the Museo Ebraico to find out more.

Cantina Azienda Agricola

This typical bacaro, a Venetian inn, is as traditional as it gets. From passionate locals arguing politics and putting the world to rights, you’ll find a vast wine selection for little over a euro per glass plus delicious cichetta made from local produce – cheap, authentic flavours until 9 or 10pm.

Al Timon

This Venetian hangout sees all the young things hanging out sipping on spritz al bitter, jostling for space amongst the tables and narrow walkway of this canalside bar. A small barge also has a permanent mooring to offer more space, and is now the site of impromptu jazz performances. Grab a regional wine, a few cicchetti, and relax.