Venice is set to trial an entry fee this summer in a bid to ease overcrowding in the historic center.
From June 2022, daytrippers will have to pay up to €10 to enter the canal city. This will be tested for a six-month period with a view to bringing the fee in permanently from 2023.
But with Venice currently heaving with tourists who have flocked to see the renowned Biennale art exhibition, here are some alternative spots to enjoy away from the crowds.
Bars and restaurants in Venice to eat and drink like a local
Some of the best places for traditional, inexpensive food and drink are Venice’s bacari. These are bars or informal restaurants serving wine, the ubiquitous spritz and small plates of food.
The Misericordia canal running through the northern Cannaregio neighbourhood has long been a popular aperitivo spot, but it now gets extremely busy in the evenings.
Instead, head to Campo Santa Margherita, a large square where children play after school and the outdoor seating at the bars begins to fill up around 6pm. Alternatively, in the narrow streets around the Rialto Market there are cosy bacari like Cantina do Mori, Cantina do Spade and Bar All’Arco. As an alternative to Aperol, try a spritz with Select, a bitter originating from the city of Venice.
Accompany it with a variety of fried fish or little pieces of bread topped with anything from cold meats to sarde in saor, a traditional dish of fried sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce.
See Venice’s art off the beaten track
Culture lovers are honing in on the pavilions of the Venice Biennale these days, but the city is also peppered with permanent artistic masterpieces that few visitors seek out.
Almost every church in Venice has something noteworthy, so it’s worth popping into even the most unassuming building.
Inside San Pantalon in the Dorsoduro area, visitors can gaze upwards at one of the largest ceiling paintings in the world, while the church of San Sebastiano a few streets away is lined with monumental paintings by Venetian Mannerist master Veronese.
San Zaccaria, just round the corner from St. Mark’s Square, houses a masterpiece by the great Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini, while the Chiesa dei Carmini displays paintings by masters including Tintoretto, Lorenzo Lotto and Cima da Conegliano.
Some of these churches are free to enter while others charge a small fee of a couple of euros.
Escape into the lagoon to avoid the crowds
Although the glass-blowing island of Murano is a tourist hotspot, other further-flung islands are perfect for finding some peace and quiet.
Venetians themselves escape the daily visitor invasion by sailing out into the tranquil waters of the lagoon. Lying about 45 minutes away from Venice by waterbus, Burano’s brightly coloured houses are a draw for Instagrammers.
But most stick to the main canals, so winding off down side streets means you can admire the rainbow-hued homes in solitude.
Sant’Erasmo is the largest island in the lagoon but it is sparsely populated and filled instead with vegetable plots and small farms. It is a peaceful place to walk amongst the greenery and stop to taste locally produced Orto di Venezia wine.
The Lido, usually only on visitor itineraries during the summer for its beaches, can also make for an attractive day out. Hop on a bus that travels down the length of the island passing elegant hotels and ending at the wild sand dunes of the Alberoni natural reserve.
Stay the night to enjoy Venice with its residents
The soon-to-be-introduced booking system, and entry fee to the city aims to combat the unsustainable numbers of daytrippers coming to Venice.
Throughout Easter this year, over 125,000 visitors flocked to the city for just 24 hours, an amount that is more than double the resident population.
One of the easiest ways to avoid the crowds and ease the pressure on the city is to outstay the daytrippers and sleep in the centre for a night or two. In the evenings, the narrow calle fall quiet and St. Mark’s Square is vast and empty.