Off the beaten track

If you only have time to visit one other lagoon island


BuranoWith its distinctive brightly painted houses lining small canals, Burano is smaller and much prettier than the island of Murano (but Murano with its glass-making foundries and showrooms is certainly also worth a visit). Burano is still the home of fishermen, but the lacemaking for which the island was equally famous is dying out.

Nevertheless, it gives the impression of a strong working community which effortlessly survives the daily influx of tourists. There are several excellent restaurants here (see reviews). Nearby historic Torcello (one vaporetto stop away) with its ancient Cathedral, with enormous mosaics, is also well worth visiting. This is where the first inhabitants of the lagoon settled before Venice was founded.
Vaporetto no 41 or 42 to Murano Faro and then change for Burano. Allow 1hr 30mins for the overall journey one way.
Or catch a double-decker steamer (also covered by your vaporetto travelcard) to Burano by a different route which passes by the new Moses flood barrier currently under construction, line LN from San Zaccaria, opposite the Pieta church.

Shopping and window shopping

Rio Tera San Leonardo and the Strada Nova

Window ShoppingThe main drag which runs between the Railway Station and the Rialto Bridge, the longest part of which is the Strada Nova, is full of small shops selling just about everything. Join the throng strolling and window-shopping with plenty of bars, cafes and pasticceria to stop at along the way. Parallel to this in northern Cannaregio, a lived-in and untouristy area of Venice, are a series of peaceful canals well worth exploring.
Vaporetto no 42 to Ferrovia or Guglie

From the Accademia Bridge to St Mark's Square

HandbagsThis route, signposted to your right as you enter Campo San Stefano, passes many of the most expensive hotels and, not surprisingly, most of the leading Italian designer clothes shops are to be found here, along with several commercial art galleries and various other shops. On the other hand, serious seekers of clothes bargains may prefer a day trip to Treviso, by bus or train, to visit the Benetton mother-ship. One stop  across to the Zattere on a No. 2 vaporetto and then 5 minutes walk to the Accademia Museum and Bridge.

Empire building

The Arsenale

Entrance to the ArsenaleA short walk east from San Zaccaria along the Riva degli Schiavoni brings you to the former great shipyard, centre of Venice's naval power for centuries, where the fleets that conquered most of the eastern mediterranean, including Constantinople, were built. The Arsenale employed 16.000 men in the 15th Century, said to be by far the most employed in any one place in Europe before the 19th Century. The splendid turreted entrance is guarded by two of the mildest and goofiest looking stone lions imaginable, originally captured during a naval campaign from an island near Corfu. Until recently a military zone, the Arsenale is now being opened up as Venice's exciting new artistic quarter. Access is especially good during the art and architecture Biennales which alternate every summer. Every year more of the wonderful 15th century warehouses with their brick columns are being refurbished and opened as exhibition spaces.  
Vaporetto no 41 to Arsenale or 5 minutes walk from San Zaccaria.

Another side of Venice

The Ghetto

The GhettoSignposted from the Ponte della Guglie, and surrounded on three sides by canals, the original Jewish ghetto, and the origin of the now ubiquitous word, was built around a central square on the site of a former iron foundry in the early 16th century. By day many of Venice's leading physicians would don their compulsory yellow hats and venture forth to the palazzi of the Venetian aristocracy, to whom they ministered. By dusk they were charged by decree to return to this small area of the city. As a consequence of this 'ghettoisation' the buildings grew upwards rather than outwards as the population grew, creating some of Venice's tallest structures. There are regular guided tours, which include some of the four synagogues, and a small museum. The souvenir shop sells little glass rabbis and other figurines.
Vaporetto no 42 to Guglie, then 2 minutes walk (signposted).

Two lively squares and one sunny Fondamenta to hang out on

Campo Santa Margherita

Greengrocer's bargeA large, lively and bohemian-flavoured square, and the social heart of Dorsoduro, with fresh fish and vegetable stalls, a herbalist, a ceramic shop, and a number of restaurants, bars and pizza joints to sit out at, much frequented by residents and students from the nearby university buildings. Watch out for the shop of Loris Marazzi with his life-size leather jackets, satchels, and other household items all carved out of wood. Spot the picturesque greengrocer's barge next to the Ponte dei Pugni on your way there.
Vaporetto no 2 across to the Zattere and then ten minutes walk.

Campo Santo Stefano

This large square, just beyond the Accademia bridge, houses several cafes with plenty of outside seating, including Paolin, a highly-regarded gelateria (ice cream parlour) that is something of a venetian institution. Spot the bizarre male window mannequins in drag on your way into the square, each one representing a different Doge of Venice. Until the beginning of the 19th Century this square was used for bullfighting. The church of San Vidal, which you pass en route to or from the Accademia Bridge, hosts atmospheric concerts of venetian music, mainly by Vivaldi, all the year round.

The Zattere

Nico's GelateriaThis south-facing waterside promenade runs the entire length of Dorsoduro and is one of the best places to catch the sun. Here you will find several restaurants, with their own decked areas on the canal to sit out on, all with views across the Giudecca Canal to the Giudecca waterfront. Nico's, another of Venice's most famous gelateria, is located here.

The walk along to the eastern end of the Zattere, and around the Customs House at the end, to the front of the Salute church on the other side is one of the best in Venice - uncrowded and full of great views - especially of the island and church of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Three churches well worth visiting

Madonna dell'Orto

Madonna dell'OrtoThe beautiful ‘Tintoretto church' in the north of Cannaregio is well off the beaten track, but well worth visiting. The spacious interior houses a number of Tintoretto's finest paintings, including the enormous Last Judgement to one side of the main altar. It was the artist's local church, and also houses his tomb as well as those of his two painter children. If you're not an art historian the cassette guide is recommended - it slows you down, helps you focus, and points out details and meanings that you might otherwise miss.
Vaporetto no 42 to Madonna dell'Orto

The Cathedral of San Pietro in Castello

Venice's cathedral church until 1807 was deliberately kept at arm's length from the centre of secular power by the Republic, at the eastern tip of Venice. Today it stands facing its own large and peaceful green in a charming quiet backwater, with its separate tilting campanile nearby. The Bishop's Palace next door, where you can peep into the run-down cloistered courtyard, was turned into barracks by Napoleon. Altogether a much more pleasant and inspiring ambience than Castello's more famous gothic San Giovanni e Paulo church, with its twenty-five Doge's tombs, where the emphasis is definitely on power.
Vaporetto no 41 to Giardini or S. Elena and then walk.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli

Pretty as a picture and known simply as the Miracoli, this recently restored and exquisite early-Renaissance jewel box of a church is made of different coloured marbles and set alongside a canal in a charming square. Built in 1481-1489 by Pietro Lombardo and his sons, this is the favourite church of many Venetians, and consequently a lot of weddings take place here.The church was originally built to house the supposedly miraculous painting of the Madonna and Child, by Di Pietro. This is still in situ, on the high altar.

Even if churches are not your thing you may be pleased that you sought out this one. Tucked away on the eastern side of Cannaregio, and not that far from the Rialto, it is probably best to use a guidebook or map to find it.