Lulls in conversation in Venice are easily resolved with one innocent question: what is Venetian architecture? Venice`s cosmopolitan flair defines its architecture, from the 7th- and 9th-century Byzantine Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello to Tadao Ando`s 2008 reinvention of the Punta della Dogana customs houses. An East - West landmark that defies any single genere, the Basilica di San Marco covers every style from Byzantine Constantinopole to 19th-century Renaissance revival. In contrast, Venice`s Gothic I Frari, Zanipolo and Chiesa della Maria dell`Orto are actually more austere than their French cousins.

                            Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

The Venetian Renaissance revived clssical ideas under Jacopo Sansovino (1486 - 1570) and Andrea Palladio (1508 - 1580), who combined classical geometry with a generous baroque sense of interior space in Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore.
But just when Venetian architecture began to seem set in its classicising ways, Baldassare Longhena (1598 - 1682) redefined 17th-century baroque with his Roman-and-cabbala-inspired Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute.

                                 Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute

Everyone has a pet period in Venice`s chequered architectural history. Ruskin waxed rhapsodic about Byzantine Gothic Basilica di San Marco, and detested Palladio and his Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore; Palladians rebuffed rococo; fans of the regal rococo of Ca`Rezzonico were scandalised by the Lido`s bohemian Liberty style; and pretty much everyone was horrified by the inclinations of industry to strip Venice of its ornamentation.

                                Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore

After Giudecca`s baroque buildings were torn down for factories, the city took decades to recover from the shock. Architects reverted to venezianita, a tendency to tack on to buildings exaggerated Venetian elements from a range of periods - a Gothic trefoil arch here, a baroque cupola there. Rather than using the interiors of the buildings to harmonise these disparate architectural elements, Venetians swagged them in silk damask and lit them with Murano chandeliers. The resulting hotchpotch seemed to signal the end of Venice˙s architectural glory days.

Then came the flood of 1966, and it seemed all of Venice`s architectural patrimony would be lost. Architecture aficionados around the globe put aside their differences, and aided Venetians to bail out palazzi and reinforce foundations across the city. With preservation efforts and postmodernism came a fresh approach to Venice`s composite architecture; rather than tearing down one style or wallpapering over differences, architects chose spare modern treatments to creatively repurpose the past. With this approach, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini converted a naval academy into a gallery, while Tadao Ando has turned the Punta della Dogana customs houses into a contemporary-art showplace. ALISON BING


  1. Basilica di San Marco
  2. Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore
  3. Ducal Palace
  4. Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli
  5. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute


  1. Palazzo Grassi
  2. Biennale pavilions
  3. Fondazione Querini Stampalia
  4. Fondazione Giorgio Cini
  5. Punta della Dogana
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Snapshots - Arhitecture. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 156. - 157.pg.



When pop seems overplayed and jazz standards a little too standard, Venice offers an alternative: baroque. Venetian baroque was the rebel music of its day, openly defying edicts from Rome that set down which instruments could accompany sermons, and what kinds of rhythms and melodies were suitable for uplifting morals. But Venetians kept on playing stringed instruments in churches, singing along to bawdy opera buffa (comic opera), and capturing the full range of human experience in sensual, explosive compositions. Modern misconceptions that baroque is simply a nice accompaniment to wedding ceremonies are smashed by baroque `early music` ensembles such as Venice Baroque Opera, which commands international followings with its original 18th-century instruments and shockingly contemporary interpretations of baroque pieces. 

Venice`s best-loved composer is Vivaldi, and though his Four Seasons may be instantly recognisable from hotel-lobby muzak and mobile-phone ringtones, you haven`t really heard summer lightning strike and spring threaten to flood the room until you`ve heard Vivaldi played by Interpreti Veneziani. Also look for programs featuring Venetian baroque composer Tomaso Albinioni.
Finally, make sure you consider the venue - any baroque performance in the Casa di Goldoni, the Ca` Rezzonico or the Ospedaletto will transport you to the 18th-century in one movement, and catapult you into the 21st in the next. ALISON BING

                                      INTERPRETI VENEZIANI
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Highlights - Going for baroque. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 23.pg.



Pity the cruise-ship crowds dropped off at San Marco with a mere two hours to take in Venice. That`s about enough time for one long gasp at the show-stopper that is Piazza San Marco, but not nearly enough to see what else Venice is hiding behind its Moorish Gothic portals. For those who stray off the tourist trail, yellow signs helpfully point the way back to San Marco from the obvious landmarks of the Rialto, Gallerie dell`Accademia and train station, bypassing a maze of calli (streets), sotoportegi (passageways) and canals. But here`s the secret to any great Venetian adventure: ignore those signs.


With an adventurous spirit and a decent map, you can plunge into Venice`s labyrinth, discovering the city behind the Grand Canal facades. Dine like a local in hidden cortili (courtyards), stay overnight in a palazzo (palace or mansion) and wake up to the sound of gondolieri calling `Ooooooeeeeeee!` as they manoeuvre long boats around blind corners. From where you stand at a local bacaro (bar), you can watch the day trippers thunder past to their trains, planes and buses, and simply drink in Venice. ALISON BING 
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Highlights - Behind the scenes. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 21.pg.


Local Food! may be the latest foodie motto, but it`s nothing new in Venice. Surrounded by garden islands and a lagoon`s worth of seafood, Venice offers local specialities that never make it to the mainland, because the produce is all served fresh the same day in Venetian bacari (bars) and osterie. But Venice`s cosmopolitan outlook must also be credited with keeping the city ahead of the foodie curve. 

                                               VENICE FOOD

After making an art of traditional Venetian recipes like sarde in saor (sardines in an onion marinade) and baccala mantecato (mashed cod prepared in garlic and parsley), Venetian cooks are reinventing them with spice-route flavours from Venice`s trading past. The occasional exceptional ingredient from another part of Italy sneaks in, such as Tuscan beef fillets and Sicilian blood oranges - but only in moderation.

                                        VENICE RESTAURANT

Luckily for you, there`s still room at the bar to score the best cicheti (Venetian tapas), and reservations are still readily available for phenomenal eateries. Stories about how it`s impossible to eat well and economically in Venice have circulated for decades, misinforming day trippers clinging defensively to their pizza slices in San Marco. Little do they realize that for the same price they could be dining on crostini topped with scampi and grilled baby artichoke, or tuna tartare with wild strawberries and a balsamic reduction.

                                            VENICE RESTAURANT

Once you know what to look for, Venice becomes a foodie treasure hunt. Beware any menu dotted with asterisks indicating that items are surgelati (frozen). Lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese and pizza are not Venetian specialities, so avoid any tourist trap where all three appear on the menu. Look for places where there`s no menu at all, or one hastily scrawled on a chalkboard or laser-printed in Italian only. This is a sign your chef reinvents the menu daily according to what`s on offer at the market. 

                                           VENICE RESTAURANT

Your favourite meals may be eaten standing up at 6:30 pm, the moment cicheti are put out at many bacari. However, you should  treat yourself to leisurely sit-down meal while you`re in Venice, whether it`s a backalley osteria or a canalside restaurant. You`ll win over your waiter and the chef by doing the following:
Ignore the menu. Solicit your server`s advice about seasonal treats and house specials, pick two options that sound interesting, and ask your server to recommend one over the other. When that`s done, snap the menu shut and say, `Allora, facciamo cosi, per favore!` (Well then, let`s do that, please!) You have just made your waiter`s day and flattered the chef.

                                           VENICE RESTAURANT

Drink well. Bottled water is optional (local acqua al rubinetto, tap water, is perfectly drinkable) but fine meals call for wine, which is often available; the best small-production local wineries don`t advertise or export, because their entire yield is snapped up by Venetian osterie.
Try primi (first courses) without condiments. Your waiter`s relief and delight will be obvious - Venetian seafood pastas are rich and flavourful enough without being smothered in Parmesan or hot sauce.
Go with local seafood. No one expects you to order an appetiser or secondo piatto (second course), but if you do, the tests of any Venetian chef are fish antipasti and frittura (fried seafood). Try yours senza limone (without lemon) first; Venetians belive the delicate flavours of their seafood are best complimented by salt and pepper. ALISON BING

  1. All`Arco
  2. Osteria I Rusteghi
  3. Alla Vedova
  4. Un Mondo di Vino
  5. Pronto Pesce Pronto 
  1. Al Covo
  2. Ristorante Cantinone Storico
  3. Ristoteca Oniga
  4. Trattoria al Gatto Nero
  5. Vini da Giglio 

  1. Anice Stellato
  2. Osteria di Santa Marina
  3. Al Fontego dei Pescatori
  4. Vecio Fritolin
  5. I Figli delle Stelle

  1. Alaska Gelateria (for gelato)
  2. La Bitta (for meat)
  3. Osteria La Zucca (for veggie dishes)
  4. Pasticceria Gobbetti (for chocolate treats)
  5. Vini da Arturo (for steaks)

                                           VENICE GELATO
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Snapshots - Arhitecture. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 154. - 155.pg.


It may be hard to describe your Venice souvenirs without sounding like you`re bragging. `It`s an original, `and I met the artisan.` While artisanal traditions across the rest of the industrialised world have disappeared or been fossilised into relics of bygone eras, Venetians have kept their craft tradition alive, innovative and surprisingly accessible.

                                VENICE ARTISAN (Mask making)

From clever carta marmorizzata (marbled-paper) travel journals (€ 12) to custom-made red-carpet shoes (€ 200), Venice`s handcrafted goods are reasonably priced for the labour involved; costs are competitive with mass-produced merchandise that has logos in lieu of individual personality. Paris` latest It bags seem uninspired compared to Venetian purses made from marbled paper or silk-screened velvet, and Tiffany jewellery seems ho-hum once you`ve glimpsed the glass-ring selection in Murano.

                                             VENICE ARTISAN

So how did you come by that Venetian heirloom piece, you crafty shopper? First you had to know where to look: down the back alleys of San Polo, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, San Marco, Castello and Murano, and inside the studios and showrooms of local artisans. Studios tend to cluster together, so getting lost in an artisans` area is a great way to find unique pieces. Showrooms filled with glass and shelves of fragile handicrafts may be labelled Non Toccare (Don`t Touch) - instead of risking breakage, just ask the staff to show you the pieces. The person who shows it to you may be the very person who made it, so don`t be shy about saying `Complimenti` (My compliments!) for impressive pieces. In a world of knock offs and cookie-cutter culture, your support for these handicrafts is a vote for Venice`s enduring originality. ALISON BING

  1. Book-bound handbags at Carte
  2. Enamelled skull earrings at Sigfrido Cipolato
  3. Hand-stamped recipe books at Il Pavone
  4. Forcole at Pastor
  5. Sea-anemone bracelets at Gualti

                                          MURANO ARTISANS

  1. Glass-studded necklaces at Marina e Susanna Sent
  2. Liquid-crystal vases at NasonMoretti
  3. Glass mosquitoes at I Vetri a Lume di Amadi
  4. Bullseye glass plates at Ragazzi & Co
  5. Glass rings at CriDi 
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Snapshots - Artisans. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 158.pg.

Paper artisan and designer of book-bound handbags at Carte:

Cosmopolitan paper. I started out as a book restorer, and I had access to private collections of ancient books with incredible marbled end papers. The tradition of carta marmorizzata (marbled paper) was brought to Venice from Japan via Turkey and Florence, and it evolved every step of the way. When I studied these ancient methods, I saw new possibilities too, things I could bring to the tradition as a Brazilian and Venetian with a modern sensibility. 
Cannaregio calm. There`s design inspiration right at my doorstep: ancient walls with peeling plaster, the reflection of light on the water, Madonna dell`Orto. The ratio is about five Venetians for every three tourists, and it`s peaceful and sunny along the fondamente (canal banks). 
Capturing Venice`s mood. No two sheets turn out the same, because each depends on the temperature of the water, the humidity, the mood of that day. If I can capture that moment on paper, I`m happy. ALISON BING
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Sestieri - Cannaregio. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 76.pg.


No rules seem to apply to drinking in Venice. Happy hour from 6pm to 7pm? More like twice daily, from 11am to 3pm and 6:30pm to 8:30pm. No mixing spirits and wine?  Venice`s classic cocktails, such as spritz (made with prosecco, plus Aperol or Campari), suggest otherwise. No girly drinks? Tell that to burly boat builders enjoying a frothy prosecco.
This makes knowing what to order where a little tricky. Price is not an indicator of quality - you can pay € 2 for a respectable spritz, or live to regret that € 15 Bellini (ouch). If you`re not pleased with your drink, leave it and move on to the next bacaro. Venice is too small and life too short to make do with ho-hum hooch.

                                    OSTERIA DI SANTA MARINA

In the rest of Italy, the DOC (denominazione d`origine controllata) and elite DOCG (denominazione d`origine controllata e garantita) designations are usually assurances of top-notch vino, but Veneto bucks the system. Several small-production Veneto wineries can`t be bothered with such external validation, because they already sell out to Venetian osterie and enoteche. Even ordinary varietals take on extraordinary characteristics in the unusual Veneto growing regions, so a merlot or soave could be the most adventurous choice on the menu.

                                      ENOITECA MASCARETA

Happily, osterie and enoteche sell good stuff by the glass or half bottle, so you can discover new favourites without committing to a whole bottle. Even budding oenologists should solicit suggestions from osterie hosts, who`ll accept the challenge of finding your new favourite Venetian tipple as a point of local pride. Cin-cin - bottoms up. ALISON BING 

  1. Prosecco - the sparkling white that`s the life of any Venetian party
  2. Refosco dal peduncolo rosso - intense and brooding
  3. Tocai - a dazzling, well-structured white worthy of Palladio
  4. Raboso del Piave - brash when young, brilliant with age
  5. Amarone - a profound, voluptuous red

                                      ENOITECA MASCARETA

  1. Spritz at Aurora Caffe
  2. Rialto at B Bar
  3. Morgana beer at La Cantina
  4. Bellini at Harry`s Dolci
  5. Water bottles filled with wine from the barrel at Nave d`Oro 
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Snapshots - Cin cin. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 164.pg.



The quintessential Venetian giro di ombra (happy hour) starts at Cantinone `Gia Schiavi` with an ombra (glass) of wine or pallottoline (small bottle of beer). Make a pit stop for a mixed plate of cold cuts, marinated veggies and cheese with a glass of house wine at Osteria alla Bifora, or head straight onto a spritz (prosecco-based cocktail) at Caffe Rosso or Imagina Cafe. By the time you arrive at ImprontaCafe, you`ll be ready for grilled polenta with mushrooms - and maybe a bracing espresso.

                                    OSTERIA VECIO FRITOLIN


This is the perfect giro di ombra for lazy drinkers, since all your hooch options are within a couple of blocks. Start at Osteria I Rusteghi for small bar bites served on low courtyard tables with big, full-bodied reds (don`teven think about asking for a spritz here). Drift over the bridge to Ai Merca for an ombra of house wine, then pull up a seat in the piazza to linger over your next glass at Muro Vino a Cucina. Finally, roll into Sacro e Profano before the last of the night` speciality pasta is dished out.

                                          LA CUCINA VENETA


Bar-hop along the waterfront, starting with meatballs and a glass of the good stuff at the bar at Alla Vedova. Head onwards and upwards along Rio Tera della Maddalena, through the Ghetto and across the next bridge to Al Timon for some well-earned crostini and a sit-down ombra along the canal. Your next move is tough choice: beer at nearby Osteria agli Ormesini, or risotto and reasonable wines at handy Bea Vita. Experienced pub crawlers (you know who you are) already know their answer: both. ALISON BING 
  • literature: Bing Alison. Venice Encounter: Sestieri - Cannaregio. ISBN 9781741049978. London: Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd ABN36005607983, 2009., 80.pg.  

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