Venice off the Beaten Path – Hidden Gems, Authentic Restaurants, and Not-So Crowded Places in Venice, Italy
CAMEOS AND CORAL, AN ENCHANTING FOREST, AND 3 GREAT EATERIES
On my third visit to Venice, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time at some lesser-known sites and restaurants before heading on a road trip through Italy. Some were in the maze of canals, bridges, and streets that make up this magical city. On a previous trip to Venice, I had enjoyed seeing San Mark’s Basilica, the Doge Palace, the Grand Canal, and the other iconic landmarks and top things to do in Venice (remember to get your “skip the line” tickets for those ahead of time, so you can make the most of your time in Venice). This time, I focused on some specific places that would offer a deeper and more personal glimpse into Venice off the beaten path. Here are some true treasures of Venice worth the extra effort to find.
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Eredi Jovon Jewelry
Marco, like his father and grandfather before him, takes great pride in beautiful artistry. Some of the famous cameos, coral, and other fine jewelry are at their shop on the Rialto Bridge. Patrons have included Ernest Hemingway, Pope John Paul XXIII, and other celebrities. People love the one of a kind custom made cameos and coral jewelry made by the artisans at Jovon. Marco has even written an eBook to inform people about the history and intricacies of handcrafting the lovely cameos made at Jovon
Jovon is a true family affair. Marco, his brother Alessio, mother Gabriella, Uncle Giorgio, other family members, staff, and customers are intimately involved in the production of each custom made cameo. To start, customers provide a favorite photo, from which the craftsmen at Jovon create a sketch. Emails back and forth ensure the customer and Jovon work hand-in-hand to make that special piece of jewelry that will be a treasured keepsake for years to come. If I was to list some of the hidden gems Venice has, Jovon would definitely top the list.
In addition to their custom cameos, Jovon also has a lovely collection of other cameos, coral, and other fine jewelry.
Directions: From the train station traveling east, climb to the top of the Rialto Bridge. From the top, continue east and Jovon is the fourth store climbing down on the right.
Restaurants in Venice off the beaten path
Venice is full of great restaurants. It also has many mediocre and even some poor restaurants.
Here are three great restaurants in different parts of Venice that are sure to please. Check out their websites for the menu and directions. And remember, leave early, because you may (you probably will) get lost a few times. But that’s part of the fun of exploring Venice off the beaten path.
In my previous two trips to Venice, I had not visited the somewhat secluded southern shore of Dorsoduro. Directly south of the Ferrovia (train station), this area is often bypassed by the throngs of tourists headed to Rialto and San Mark’s Basilica. I thoroughly enjoyed my two and a half hour lunch at an outside table on the waterfront of the Giudecca Canal at Ristorante Riviera. The food was simply outstanding, coupled with the simple pleasures of watching working boats, vaporettos, and a large cruise ship passing by.
The delightful owner, GP Cremonini, was very gracious and friendly, spending much of his time in warm conversation with diners. The staff was wonderful, and Silvia, my waitress, was very informative and accommodating. She explained each dish and the paired wine with intelligence and an inviting sense of humor.
The incredible gnocchi filled with stracchino (a soft cheese) and braised beef cheek with apple mustard was outstanding. This was one of my favorite dishes during my two weeks in Italy. It’s amazing how they can stuff so much flavor in these wonderful round potato dumplings. The three-stroke pigeon was also excellent, beautifully served in a swirling cacophony of colors surrounding the tasty bird.
Other highlights of my seven-course lunch were a fabulous smelling bone marrow and oxtail. The wonderful aroma attracted a nearby puppy, who adorably came to my table, stood on her two back legs, and begged for a taste. I must confess I did not share with my uninvited guest – I kept this savory delicacy all to myself.
Artistically, the star of the show was the very creative, delicious, and unique take on the traditional Venetian tiramisu. The creamy yellow concoction made with mascarpone was topped with a scoop of coffee flavored chocolate decorated with an imaginative tree made of ladyfingers. When I commented to Silvia that it was too pretty to eat, she jokingly removed it from the table. Thankfully, she put it right back and I enjoyed the finale of my wonderful lunch at Ristorante Riviera.
Bistrot de Venise
Halfway between Rialto and San Mark’s, you will pass by, at first glance, the unassuming restaurant of Bistro de Venise. Upon closer inspection, you will find that Bistro de Venise is one of the true jewels of Venice fine dining. Whether you choose the indoor or outdoor seating, the service is impeccable and the food is divine.
Opened in 1993, this inventive place is not only an outstanding restaurant – it also organizes and coordinates artistic and cultural events throughout the year. Their main target is usually poetry, painting, history, and other artistic pursuits. For example, recent programs have included “The Lagoon in Glass – Rediscovered Grape Varieties,” “Vivaldi Rediscovered,” “Global Poems About Love and Crumbling,” and “The Parrot and the Doge.”
Venetians do seafood really well, and Bistro de Venise is no exception. The seared scallops with zucchini and yogurt cream was a great starter. The moist turbo with caramelized tomatoes, eggplant and buffalo mozzarella cream was cooked just right. I also tried the traditional “Sepi in Tecia,” – pasta in squid ink with cuttlefish, which had a deep, slightly salty flavor.
The waiter was very helpful in suggesting a wine pairing with each dish, including a delicious Valpolicella from Verona. The waiters in coat and tie, and the lively, authentic Italian music created the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing dinner. To complete my evening, I had the flavorful orange crème brulee with rosemary sherbet for dessert.
This place gets busy, so reservations are highly recommended. Directions: From the train station area, traveling east, cross the Rialto Bridge. Take an immediate right. You will pass a small canal on your left. Just past the canal, take a left. Follow this alleyway, Calle dei Fabbri, towards San Mark’s for a few minutes and you will see Bistro de Venise on your left.
I couldn’t believe I was sitting in the same chair as Ioan Gruffudd, the actor who played Mr. Fantastic in the action picture Fantastic Four! Excellent reviews and word-of-mouth have brought large numbers of locals and tourists to this outstanding eatery. Not far from the Scuola Grande di San Rocca and the Da Vinci Museum, next to the Chiesa di San Pantalon, Hostaria Osottoosopra takes some navigation skills to locate. But once we got there, we were greeted with friendly smiles and made to feel like family. For sure a visit to Hostaria Osottoosopra should not miss in your “things to do in Venice” list.
Vladimir, one of the new owners, says they are still learning and growing, and are committed to offering the best dining choices in Venice off the beaten path. The deceptively small, intimate dining area on the first floor belies the fact that dozens of patrons can also be accommodated in the attractive upstairs dining room. So, when they ask you, “Top or Bottom,” you have your choice of eating upstairs or in the downstairs area. The place is packed in the evenings, so reservations are recommended.
The fish of the day was sea bass, fresh from the waters of the Adriatic. Served with the perfect blend of cherry tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and olives, this versatile fish was a clear winner. An excellent Caprese Salad and grilled mixed veggies, as well as a very nice Modello Soave, were great complements to the sea bass. For dessert, a light and flavorful tiramisu and a delectable, rich chocolate mousse were a wonderful way to end our outing.
Castello and An Enchanting Forest in Venice off the beaten path
Castello is the largest, but one of the least visited, areas of Venice. It covers a large vibrant area from the eastern edge of St. Mark’s Square to the far eastern shore, including some of the greenest areas of Venice off the beaten path. Parks and large trees cover much of its far southeastern corner. Castello is dotted with luxury hotels, shops, and restaurants, and is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the busier San Mark’s Basilica and Rialto sections of town.
One of my favorite places is Giardini della Biennale, an area in Castello with relaxed gardens. It hosts art exhibitions and features national pavilions built by famous architects. At the entrance, you will find In Paradiso, a great place to have a spritz or a meal, under the trees or overlooking the lagoon. Check out the schedule for dates when Giardini della Biennale Park hosts exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the year.
Other interesting places to visit in Castello include the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello, commonly called San Pietro di Castello, a Roman Catholic minor basilica. Palladio designed plans for the restoration of the façade, but it was only partially completed because of lack of funds. If you are considering some of the things to do in Venice, pay a visit to the museum and library of the Fondazione Queri Stampalia, or the wonderful Scuola di San Marco, now a civil hospital.
Things to Do in Venice: Romantic getaways…
For you romantics, check out the Cuore di Mattoni, or the “little red brick heart” on the back of the Sotoportego dei Preti. According to local legend, if you touch the heart all your dreams of love will come true. Why not give it a try? Dreams of spending time in Venice have already come true – finding your true love will only make it that much better!
Whether this is your first or your fifth trip to Venice, this magical city has so much to offer. Do check out San Mark’s, the Doge Palace, the Grand Canal, and the other famous sites. But also take time to explore other areas to unearth the many treasures that remain hidden to so many tourists. You’ll be glad you did.
Venice off the beaten path was written by Scott Kendall for EuropeUpClose.
Thanks to the hospitality of Eredi Jovon Jewelers, Ristorante Riviera, Bistrot de Venise, and Hostaria Osottoosopra during my stay in Venice.
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