Venice: Canals, bridges and beer...

A must for international tourists, a destination for honeymoons and romantic trips, the city built on the lagoon has preserved its charm and its fragility. All seasons of the year. Any time is good to visit Venice, as well as any time is good or a beer...

How to describe Venice in an original way? It is difficult if not impossible.Even for me, who was born near the city and lived close for many years. In fact, until I was around, I never was really charmed by Venice. I perceived especially its discomfort and slightly decadent atmosphere. I suffered in the “calli” (this is the name of the streets of the city) so narrow that the sky seemed always a thin strip above my head and I was sweating a bridge after another. Also, it looked extremely touristy, an infinite sequence of shops selling Murano glass and carnival masks alternating with bars, restaurants and pizzerias suitable for groups of enthusiastic Japanese or crowds of Americans with shorts and Nepalese sandals. My vision was a youthful and superficial one. Now that I no longer live there, I can admit it. Venice does.

Not have the grandeur of Rome, nor the glittering splendour of the old town of Florence, and its beauty is more subtle, dare I say “intellectual” if I should not run the risk of appearing presumptuous. It’s like a Russian doll, those Russian dolls that contain others of smaller size. Looking at it from above, it appears as a miracle of adaptability of men, if you look at it from the canals you discover the good taste of its ancient inhabitants and, at the end, you discover it walking around and you realize that every corner has a story to tell, every church (and there are hundreds) has its own treasure of art, each building its plaque commemorating some famous person who has lived there for a certain period of time. The best way to see Venice is to get lost in it. After many years in which I had only to follow the flow, almost migratory, of the tourists to emerge in the Piazza San Marco and listen to the “ooohhh” of astonishment of the person I was accompanying, I realized that the most beautiful Venice is hidden, it is where still live the locals, in some ways almost like in a reservation. This is the most authentic lifestyle of Venice, a city that hasunderstandably got used to live in what is called by many the “most beautiful city in the world”, that knows like no on else how to juggle the maze of alleys and learned to drive the “barchino” perhaps even before walking...

Of course, if you’ve never set foot in Venice I would in any case recommend the vision of what Napoleon called “the drawing room of Europe”. Piazza San Marco is a dazzling beauty with its Basilica with the five large domes and the balcony from which the famous bronze horses, arrived from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade, overlook. Just the opposite, the even more famous bell tower rises straight as a ramrod; it was built as a simple lighthouse and rebuilt as it stands today after the collapse of 1902, as a symbol of the city, together with the Rialto Bridge. Next to the Basilica is the Palazzo Ducale, extraordinarily massive and light at the same time, thanks to the delicate lines of its many windows. And yet the Procuratie, the Biblioteca Marciana and the Clock Tower. It is inevitable and necessary to go to the only square in Venice (all the others are called “campi”) and simply and slowly turn 360 degrees to enjoy a breathtaking view, so rich in history and human culture to give a slight dizziness.

Piazza San Marco is not only the monumental centre of the city but it has always been the social epicenter of Venice. Under the arcades of the Procuratie, every day the historic cafés like Florian and Quadri open their doors; they are symbols par excellence of the Venetian lifestyle, intellectual circles, dens of patriots, intimate lounges for meetings of all kinds. How many people have loved Venice? Infinite. From Hemingway to Churchill, artists and movie stars; the city still has an international atmosphere because of this constant attendance, which has lasted for centuries.

The Biennale and the Venice Film Festival are, in my opinion, only the “icing on the cake.” It is easy to perceive this particular and unique atmosphere and you do not need to be in Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, or in front of the Bridge of Sighs. It is enough, in fact, walking aimlessly. Have a drink at the bar of some great hotel overlooking the Grand Canal or at the legendary Harry’s Bar where Ernest Hemingway spent most of his time when he was in Venice. Of course, the Harry’s is an historic and famous place, as well as the Florian and we must consider that their fame will affect the cost of your drink or coffee. But there are a bunch of bars and restaurants where you can breathe the air of Venice, see the uninterrupted passage of tourists and rejuvenate from your own walk. A stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco, in a small street called “calle dei Fabbri” you can for example make a stop at Bar San Marco. Here you will find a beautiful iced column of Heineken Extra Cold, the ideal refreshment if you happen to Venice in the hot summer months, a refreshing break after the many bridges crossed in the march towards the treasure chest of the city.

 

The staff is nice and friendly, international as befits this World Heritage City and a pint of Heineken Extra Cold will get you back on your feet just enough to deal with the sudden visual impact, after passing through a portico, with the large square.

But, as we have convincingly argued that Venice is not only San Marco, once you arrive at the station of Santa Lucia, if you have chosen the train, or in Piazzale Roma, if you have opted for the car or public transport, keep right and reach through “calli and campielli” Campo Santa Margherita, that has always been

one of the most popular and entertaining meeting point of young people, Venetians or not. In the campo you will find a good two places worthy of note. Our suggestion is to choose the Pier Dickens Inn for lunch or dinner, as the pizzeria offer a series of interesting gastronomic options and, in a short time, a small restaurant exclusively devoted to the most authentic Venetian cuisine will be open. In the Pier you will find Heineken, Dreher, Murphy’s Irish Red and Murphy’s Irish Stout on tap, and also some excellent proposals from the rich catalogue Dibevit. Its owner is Paul Friselle, an original Venetian, who has cleverly transformed his pub in a multifunctional environment, able to attract a very diverse public. Open from 10 am to 2 am, the Pier Dickens Inn has the merit of being one of the organizers of the Carnival in Campo Santa Margherita, but also of offering live music and cabaret in the winter evenings. “Beer is drunk all year round – says Paul –. The locals prefer to drink Heineken, while foreigners are focusing on an Italian brand as Dreher. In the kitchen, we do a bit of everything, classic Venetian dishes but, necessarily, some international food. And, above all, our kitchen works almost always and this met the favour of the tourists who

have different habits.” Flexitime is the rule, therefore, like at the Margaret Duchamp, the “neighbor” of the Pier, which also opens for breakfast and closes late at night. You certainly should pay a visit to the Duchamp for the traditional Venetian rite of the “spritz”, but it is not a sin if you opt instead for a good beer. The pub offers a wide selection of lager, amber and dark beers: Blond Fischer, Murphy’s Irish Red, Rouge Affligem, Birra Moretti, Murphy’s Irish Stout and the blanche Wieckse Witte. There is plenty of choice... Just as, in the end, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Venice. The religious Venice of the churches and the artistic Venice of the historic buildings and museums, the “little folk” Venice of the “gondola” and that of the “cicheti”, the classic Venetian bites to savour with a glass of wine, a spritz or, as we did, with a beer.

Because, really, there are a lot of Venice, all gathered in the 118 islands, connected by over 400 bridges crossing 176 canals, and certainly there is also yours...