A couple of years ago, I was showing a couple of 20 year old guys, friends of a friend, around Venice. It was July, a big holiday weekend, and the city was very crowded. One of the guys, I could tell, was getting a little freaked out by the number of people we were surrounded by. Reading his face, I got them on a vaporetto and we headed down to the Arsenale stop, that dividing line between two sections of the Castello sestiere – the busy part, and the quiet, un-touristy part.
I showed them the marble facade of the Arsenale, the shipyard where thousands of ships were built for centuries. While plenty of people do come down to see this important structure, there are not too many that venture east of it.
There is an exception – the Biennale. For several months of each year, this part of the city is host to the exhibits of Venice’s art and architecture exposition. Alternating between art and architecture, there are numerous exhibits scattered here and there throughout the entire city – but many of them are in Eastern Castello, as is the official pavilion area.
Plenty of people attend the Biennale. But the pavilion area is very large, and the pavilions themselves are something to see. It is so spread out that it never really seems that crowded (except, maybe the first weekend.)
After the Arsenale, I took the young men to the little island where the church of San Pietro di Castello, a very important church during the days of the republic, dominates the landscape. I love this little island. It is rare to see anyone there. When we got there, one of the guys laid down on the grass and said “now this I love. I don’t want to leave this spot.”
I always bring my groups to this little island, and to explore the quiet canals, gardens and lagoon views of the area. People are always so surprised, that there is an area of Venice with hardly any tourists in it.
It is like another world. Hard to believe, that a 20 minute walk away, there are literally thousands of people milling around.
A walk down to the lagoon, affords stunning views without all those cruise ship folks getting in the way.
I was happy I could show the young friends of a friend this quiet part of Venice. They can go home and tell their friends and family “you can get out of the touristy part.” Come with me on GrapeHops A Taste of Venice tour and I will show you, too!
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.