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Venice

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Venice may be overcrowded, overpriced and sinking, but it remains so miraculously beautiful that on each visit, I am once again lost in astonishment and admiration. The city’s treasures are innumerable and inexhaustible. And the crowds can often be mitigated by strolling a few ...

Venice may be overcrowded, overpriced and sinking, but it remains so miraculously beautiful that on each visit, I am once again lost in astonishment and admiration. The city’s treasures are innumerable and inexhaustible. And the crowds can often be mitigated by strolling a few hundred yards from St. Mark’s Square. The passport to the city is a ticket for the vaporetti, the charming and relatively inexpensive water taxis that form the principal means of public transportation. The best general introduction to the city is still “Venice” by James Morris. 

I avoid the summer, as the city is overrun and the heat is often oppressive; Venice is one place I enjoy visiting in winter, when swirling mist and a veil of rain make it extremely romantic in a melancholy sort of way. It is seldom too cold, the light is soft and, except for the Carnival period, the crowds are absent.

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Venice

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in Venice

By shrewdly modernizing classic Venetian dishes and adding a few favorites from other Italian regions to the menu, the kitchen here has turned a simple dining room into one of the most popular restaurants in the off-the-beaten-track Cannaregio quarter. The menu will change with the market, but look for the risotto with shellfish, and the superb fritto misto of shrimp, fish and vegetables. Closed all-day Monday and Tuesday lunch.

Fondamenta de la Sensa Cannaregio 3272 Venice US$85. http://www.osterianicestellato.com/

Tucked away in the back streets of the San Polo district, this superb seafood restaurant is a favorite of Venetians and in-the-know visitors alike. Start with the succulent baby clams cooked in white wine and olive oil and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan, and don’t miss the tagliolini with granseola (spider crab), a house specialty. It also serves an outstanding fritto misto of prawns, squid and vegetables, and a hearty dish of cuttlefish cooked in its own ink and served with white polenta. The wine list is excellent. Closed Sunday and Monday.

San Polo 1911 Venice US$95. http://www.antichecarampane.com

Since there are only eight tables at this popular little osteria, book before you travel to Venice. Choose the second service at dinner for more relaxed dining, and from the catch-of-the-day menu, expect dishes such as grilled razor shell clams, spaghetti with clams, and John Dory with sautéed mushrooms. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Calle del Mondo Novo Castello 5801 Venice US$80. http://www.osterialletestiere.it/

Located a half-hour by boat from Venice on Mazzorbo, the twin island to Burano, this charming hotel restaurant is a favorite of Venetians in search of a great meal in a setting far removed from city-center crowds. Chef Paola Budel cooks with local seafood, and produce from an on-site walled vegetable garden; menus run to dishes such as cuttlefish cooked in a broth of baby artichokes and tomatoes, spaghetti with sardines and spring onions, and roast cod in a sauce of beetroot and green apple. Open March through November.

Fondamenta Santa Caterina 3 Isola di Mazzorbo Venice US$120. http://www.venissa.it

Given its location on the tourist-infested Piazza San Marco, this excellent contemporary Italian restaurant is a welcome surprise. The two elegant dining rooms, lit with Murano chandeliers, overlook the great square. It is a deliciously romantic experience to dine here on dishes such as cappuccino di laguna, an imaginative dish with small Venetian shrimp, crab, mantis prawns and clams, all from the local waters; and turbot with Adriatic shellfish and red beets. Gracious service and an outstanding wine list. Closed Monday.

Piazza San Marco 121 Venice US$100. Five-course menu, US$200; seven courses, US $250. http://www.alajmo.it/

At this delightful family-run restaurant, renowned chef Mara Martin serves innovative seafood dishes such as crostini with shrimp in bacon fat with rosemary, and swordfish on a crispy pistachio crust with citrus sauce, chicory and pepper. Begin with one of the superb pastas, such as the ravioli stuffed with whitefish, sweet potato, ginger and lobster sauce. Reservations are a must. Closed Sunday and Monday.

San Polo 2002 Venice US$110. Six-course menu, US$150; seven-courses, US$170. http://www.dafiore.net/restaurant/
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