WHY WE LOVE IT
- Venezia, La Serenissima: arguably the most beautiful city in the world
- A heady mixture of glittering water and 1,000-plus years of history
- Gondola rides: If not now, when?
- Cradle and apogee of art, both then (Gallerie dell' Accademia) and now (Venice Biennale).
- Drink it all in: White Peach Bellinis at the Cip; a ristretto on Quadri's terrace
- Good buys: Murano glass, marbled stationery, torrone, and grappa
OSTERIA DA FIORE
Calle del Scaleter, 2202
This Michelin-rated seafood temple is surprisingly unpretentious, though predictably pricey. The misto crudo (raw, marinated fish) and various risotti are perennials. Reservations required.
Piazza San Marco, 120
Of course the ristorante, established in 1638, is a tourist magnet, but ordering an alfresco aperitif in Europe's most famous piazza remains a vacation essential nonetheless.
AL GATTO NERO DA RUGGERO
Fondamenda della Giudecca, 88
This relaxed eatery on the island of Burano is a choice spot to enjoy a plate of fritto misto, or seafood pasta on a summer's day; don't pass up the sweetmeats made in-house.
Campo Sant'Angelo, 3803
This is the place to go for thin-crust brick-oven pizza made with mozzarella di bufala and extra-virgin olive oil. Star chef Marcella Hazan has dubbed Acqua Pazza the best pizzeria in town.
Santa Croce, 1459
Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio
Don't be fooled by Il Refolo's ultracasual facade. This pizzeria is owned by Damiano Matin, the son of Da Fiore's owners, Maria and Maurizio Martin. A Venetian must, except during the winter months (when it's closed).
Lista di Spagna
Venice's first and premier sushi restaurant is popular with urban dwellers jonesing for a fix of fresh fish. The romantic outdoor garden is the perfect setting to enjoy the omakase special.
Laid-back but bustling, this superior osteria has a great wine selection and a menu with a few surprises up its sleeves. Try the fine seafood, or sample from the large selection of tasty cheeses.
Campo Santa Maria del Giglio San Marco, 2467
Go all out. Get an antique-laden double deluxe room in Andrea Gritti's 16th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal—one of the most famous hotels in the world. Rates range from 423 to 2,616 Euros.
Fondamenta San Giovanni
The "Cip" was made for love, and the memories you make here are sure to last a lifetime. The hotel offers a free motor launch that zips across the lagoon to Piazza San Marco. Plus, there's a pool! Rates range from 499 to 8,330 Euros.
This anomalous temple of modern minimalism will appeal to couples who dare to be different. Its seven rooms all come with cool art and A/C, but not much space: Secure the solitary suite. Rates range from 200 to 360 Euros.
Lista di Spagna, 227
The 63-room Hotel Amadeus makes the most of its central locale. The decor is traditional, but not staid, and the veranda overlooking an adorable garden is just right for dinner à deux. Average room rate is 227 Euros.
Strangely enough, this 16th-century palazzo houses the city's first and premier modernist hotel. It's perfect for fans of Art Deco interiors. The average room rate is 296 Euros.
HOTEL AL PONTE MOCENIGO
Santa Croce, 2063
This new kid on the canal is so 17th century: Couples can pick from ten pristine rooms situated in a former Doge's palace. Mocenigo is friendly, reasonably priced, and centrally located. There's only one catch: no views. The average room rate is 170 Euros.
SAN CLEMENTE PALACE
Isola di San Clemente, 1
This 17th-century monastery on its own 17-acre lagoon island is just 15 minutes away from Piazza San Marco. Its 200 rooms come outfitted in the finest velvets, damasks, marbles, and Murano glass. Bonus: four restaurants, a pool, and a spa. The average room rate is 386 Euros.
To explore Venice, all you really need is a good pair of sensible shoes. Check out the six sestieri (districts) without a guidebook, and hop on a vaporetto to the islands. Remember, it's a radically seasonal city. November is misty and atmospheric; February is Carnevale; August is to be avoided.
PIAZZA SAN MARCO, BASILICA, CAMPANILE, THE DOGE'S PALACE
These are the great sights that define the city. The huge Piazza, dominated by the Basilica and Campanile, is the center of everything; it's nothing less than the greatest public space in Europe. The Doge's Palace was the seat of power during the centuries La Serenissima ruled the Continent. Everybody should see these places at least once: What better circumstances can you imagine?
Venetian painting alone is reason enough to visit: Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Tiepolo, et al. The Galleria dell'Accademia (Campo della Carità, Dorsoduro 1050, Tel: 39-041-522-2247) is your first stop.
THE VENICE BIENNALE
The 52nd Venice Biennale will take place in 2007—but this festival is more than a months-long international art exhibition that takes place every two years. It also encompasses the September Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica (Film Festival) on the Lido, the International Architecture Exhibition (9/10–11/19, 2006; urban-age.net), the International Festival of Contemporary Music (9/28–10/7, 2006), a new Dance section (6/8–25, 2006), and an even newer Theater section that was attached to the 2006 Carnevale.
Campo San Fantin
This jewel box of an 18th-century theater makes for a thrilling night out even if opera isn't your bag. If anything, we can all take great comfort in the Rossini-to-Wagner continuum. Read John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels for more about the Great Fire of 1996. For last minute tickets, call 041-2424.
Hire charterage gondole from a stazi (rank) to be sure you're getting a real one, identifiable by its seven-pronged ferro (prow). You can also take a traghetto, a cheap, swift, non-tourist shared trip in the gondole da parada that cross the Grand Canal in seven spots.
The Pescaria (fish market, Campo delle Beccarie, 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday) and Erbaria (fruit and vegetables, Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Saturday) are just ordinary markets to Venetians. For the rest of us, they are delightful must-see landmarks. Finish by taking a traghetto to the Ca' d'Oro.
February 13 to 20, 2007
Only revived in 1979, this bacchanal—featuring masks, tricornes, crazy costumes, balls, and fireworks—has really taken off in recent years. One for the fiercest party animals, with deep pockets.