Venice Recommendations for When You Need a Break From It All

Photo by Lisette May Monroe 

Venice is hard and frenzied. I’ve worked a few, I’ve visited a few, and in both of these scenarios, I have encountered a desperate need to disappear every now and again. Here are some suggestions for when you want to check out of the gang, trade some gossip away from the Giardini’s ears, or simply want to escape the Via Garibaldi energy of people walking slightly too fast while shouting the names of countries at each other like they are giving the results on the Eurovision Song Contest. We love to hate it, we love to love it, but sometimes we need some places to go that aren’t ‘it’ in order to remember who we are!


A few minutes walk from Campo Santa Margherita is my top Venice church, not something I ever thought I would have, but this one has a special place in my heart. San Pantalon’s ceiling painting, by Giovanni Antonio Fumiana, is staggering and was at one point thought to be the largest painting of its kind in the world. A masterpiece of dizzying, immersive perspective, the painting extends the architectural structure of the building, it can only be experienced properly by sitting on a pew and tilting your head right back at 90 degrees. For a few years now, I’ve tried to wrangle a theory that the painting was the first step towards AI, but it doesn’t even need that validation. Situated at the opposite end of the island from the Biennale, this is the perfect place to transcend the art world and enter back into the heavens of your own mind for half an hour. 

Also on Santa Margarita is the independent book shop Libreria Marco Polo, next door to this is a great thrift shop, while on the streets running behind, there are lots of independent shops, including icons Bruno Books

Across the Campo, you will find tucked away Palazzo Zenobio, a lesser-known Palazzo originally owned by Armenian monks. Madonna used the ballroom to film the video for Like A Virgin; it’s stunning up there! Post-Madonna, rumour has it, the ballroom was the setting for many porn videos, and when the monks found out, they took the Palazzo out of public circulation. It has only recently reopened, and it has a rarely used garden in the back, which can be used for secret meetings or any hangover naps you might need. 

Photo by Lisette May Monroe

If you’re looking for something religious, sexy and scary (and you’re not getting enough of that from the Biennale), the church from Nic Roeg’s Venice-set terror Don’t Look Now, San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, is nearby. I haven’t seen the film, but the church still gives off a vibe.

After all that, you will undoubtedly crave cicchetti. Cicchetti is something many didn’t know was missing from their lives but after a few days in Venice, its part of your staple diet and Al Bottegon on Fondamenta Nani is the best in the area! Soft and hard cheese, fish, pickles. The seagulls out here are savage, and their violence is not a myth, so be careful! They also have a great selection of wine. Bring an empty water bottle and get it filled up, chuck it in a tote (we will all inevitably be carrying one even though I do maintain tote bags are over) and drink as you stroll about town. 


I’m sure no one (apart from me) expected a supermarket to be on this list. But Despar Teatro Italia  is my favourite supermarket in the world. It is in an old theatre and has beautiful frescoes, and the deli counter lasagna is restaurant quality. Plus, they sell fizzy red wine, and even though tote bags are over (as previously noted), they also have their own tote bags, so you can take all your bits across town in a non-art-related branded bag.

Photo by Lisette May Monroe

Just round the corner from the infamous Spar, there is the Orient Express on Rio Terà Farsetti. If you’re a vegan or have been hanging out with a vegan in Venice you will know, it’s tough out there. Orient Express is a restaurant founded by Hamed Ahmadi, a filmmaker from Afghanistan who first visited the island to present a work at the Venice Film Festival. Due to the political content of his work, Ahmadi had to seek political asylum in Italy, and now has 4 restaurants staffed by political refugees and asylum seekers, each menu reflecting their lives and experience. The food folds in many vegan and vegetarian recipes with flavours from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Greece.

If you’re looking to bar crawl without leaving one street five minutes away is Fondamenta de la Misericordia. Here there is  Al Timon which has steaks if you’re hungry or cicchetti if you’re just passing through. Al Timon is super popular, and for good reason: the drinks and the food are stellar. To make more room, they have created additional seating with two large boats that are moored up outside. I once gave myself mild vertigo after enjoying one of these boats for too long and had to lie down in a (spinning) room for 2 days after, missing some very important engagements. But if you have a stronger constitution than me, then this is for you, and If you’re worried, you can sit canalside on solid ground.

Photo by Lisette May Monroe

Further along is Vino Vero. If you are part of the set that loves natural wine, this is your spot. They have the Nats, the Pet Nats, and will happily chat away to you about them all. Because I grew up in the countryside, I think natural wine smells like a greenhouse (this is a scientific fact explained to me at a wine tasting), but this place is highly recommended by those that don’t have that issue!

Lastly, although there are many places to stop on this street is Paradiso Perduto, which sporadically and mainly on a Saturday this place has a late license, it also often has live music. It gets hectic and can be a good last spot to ring out some energy after spending the day tightly wound. 


Rialto is usually where things get tricky – tourist traps serving curled-at-the-edge pizza and gangs of teenagers on school trips whose sexual tensions could sink the island. There are two spots around here, one on either side of the bridge, that provide solace. The first is Al Merca, a small hole-in-the-wall set on a square serving small sandwiches and big Prosecco. The second is Ostaria Al Milion. This is slightly more difficult to find, but it’s a small restaurant with a simple menu, the wine is reasonable, and even though it’s minutes away from the chaos, it really feels hidden – you will probably see a secret art world meeting or two taking place in one of its corners! 

Photo by Lisette May Monroe

San Marco

Passing through San Marco is pretty inevitable. If you find yourself in desperate need of a coffee and want to scratch the tourist itch (and you’re not quite ready to hit Harrys’ Bar), dip into Caffe FlorrianSitting out on the square is really expensive and dominated by a lot of influencer shoots. But if you walk in past the queue waiting to be seated in the tea rooms and ask to sit at the bar, the prices are much lower. I mean, it’s still one of the more expensive espresso’s in town, but the price pales in comparison to what you will pay to sit outside, and you get to know in your heart you have ‘experienced’ old Venice. 

Photo by Lisette May Monroe

If you’re looking for a cocktail round here, then head to Baccaro Da Me Pare. Its a couple of streets back from the Square, and with its dark red leather seats and mirrored ceiling, it feels like the kind of place you could loose hours of your life (I have). Go with your most trusted art confidant to debrief the day. Sit back, ask Big Mike behind the bar to fix you a cocktail and turn off the group chat. 

Some more general advice for Spritz lovers (and this applies across the board) – if you’re spending more than 3.5 euro it’s a rip. Sometimes you take the tax on this because you don’t want to walk anymore and there’s no shame in that! If you want to look less like a tourist, try a Select spritz over an Aperol. It’s bright red, which is chic.

My last ‘getaway from it all’ tip is this: Venice is built to be seen from the water. My favourite thing to do is get the Vaporetto 1 and stay on for the full loop, usually at about 2 am with my tote bag full of ‘plastic bottles of water’ wine, sit outside at the back and swig away. Usually with someone you might have just fallen in love with, even if only for the night, the same someone that you will definitely swerve to avoid while doing the Arsenale Slalom the next day, but now is not the time to think about that. You can also smoke out there if that’s your thing.  

Ciao, buona fortuna!

Written by Lisette May Monroe 

Photo by Lisette May Monroe