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Italy Travel

Seven Secret Travel Gems of Venice

I love Venice, but hate the crowds, so after three or four visits, I discovered some special things to see and do. You can still visit the main attractions, or not, but when you need a break, consider the following hidden gems of Venice.

Spectacular Secret Sanctuary

The most glorious sanctuary in Venice is Santa Maria Assunta ai Gesuiti.  Most of the interior surfaces of this Baroque Jesuit church are covered in an intricately carved pattern of green and white marble. This stunning feat of craftsmanship will make you overlook the Tintoretto and Titian paintings on the walls. Risk a trip to Hell by snapping a forbidden photo then drop a few euros in the collection box to assuage your guilt.

Magnificent Basilica in Murano

Dodge the aggressive shop keepers and head straight for Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.  This church may be older than San Marco though its elaborate mosaic floors have been spared the damage caused by constant visitors and the heaving high waters of St. Marks Square.  The odd opening hours may also have something to do with its wonderful state of preservation.

Shop for a Venetian Lamp in the Cannareigo District

On Strada Nuova,  buy a lantern with glass the pale pink of Venetian street lights. The selection is fabulous and don’t worry about getting it home. You’ll leave the shop carrying what looks like a wasp’s nest on steroids.  Your lamp will be swathed in enough bubble wrap to be sent by catapult and still arrive intact.

Laid-back Culture at Peggy’s House

Browse through rooms of Abstraction, Futurism and Cubism in The Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It’s like first aid for modern art lovers suffering from an overdose of Baroque and Renaissance talent.  This one storey palazzo looks like a modest bungalow amidst its splendid multi-storied neighbours along the Grand Canal.

Champagne Italian Style

Live the high life, or at least appear to by quaffing copious quantities of Prosecco, the Italian version of champagne. It’s dry and crisp, and the bubbles are so festive. For another treat, order the house wine when dining out.  More often than not it’s delicious and budget-friendly.

Spritz Like a Local

If you really want to look like a local, sit by the canal and order a glass of “spritz,” a popular cocktail made with prosecco or still white wine, a dash of soda water and an apertivo, either Aperol (orange-flavoured, less alcohol) or Campari (more bitter, more alcohol.) Your bartender will ask if you want Aperol or Campari, so be prepared. Your drink may come served in a low-ball glass, with a slice of lemon and an olive on a stick, and a dish of potato chips. Totally addictive and the perfect combination for an hour or so of people-watching.

Far From the Madding Crowds

St. Mark’s Square and The Grand Canal aren’t the only shows in town.  Skip the tourist hoards and join the locals on the promenade Zattere al Ponte Lungo facing the Giudecca Canal.  Order a Venetian Spritz (see above) at a quay-side café or meander off the beaten path and enjoy the dreamlike beauty in the maze of smaller canals.

For more travel secrets, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!