Venice is a tourist magnet throughout the year. When you’re in Venice, you usually follow the famous paths. There’s no way of not doing it. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s a beautiful city and you’ve got to visit all the sites Venice is so famous for. But are you craving for some insider tips? Some things not every single tourist does? Then I’ve got you covered on this. Here are the hidden gems of Venice, the Venice off the beaten paths:
One thing Venice is very famous for is the mask. Did you know that women in the 18th century wore the mask more than half of the year? The original moretta mask, a black velvet mask, was a prop which was worn to openly play the game of seduction.
#1 Create your own mask and decorate it (and play your own game of seduction)
Combining a city trip to the world’s most famous cities and discovering your own artistic potential. Does this sound like your kind of fun? Then you should book a workshop at Ca’Macana, one of the oldest and most traditional mask making studios in Venice. Davide, the owner in the second generation of the family, is very proud of his business of handmade masks. He is among very few businesses left in Venice which produce by hand.
Davide and his team help you to leverage your creativity and they make sure that you’re happy with your result and you don’t get frustrated. The mask making workshops are for everyone – talented or not, children of adults. The team speaks Italian, English, French and Russian.
You’ve got 4 options:
Decorate a mask: This one hour workshop is all about decorating a mask. You choose one blank mask out of 50 different models and paint and decorate it the way you want it to look. The workshop team provides 12 different techniques you can choose from and will make sure you will get the result you want to achieve. The course can be taken spontaneously every day (except Sunday) between 10 am and 5.30 pm without prior booking. In high season, however, I suggest you give them a call before you go there. The price of 49 Euro for 1 person (2 people 44 Euro per person, 3 and more 39 Euro per person) includes the mask, all the decoration features and a book.
A private mask decorating workshop: This in-depth private workshop lasts two hours and includes a 30-minute historical introduction on the use of the masks in the past and the traditional costumes. You can choose two plain masks and decorate them. Again, the team of Davide will guide you through the decoration techniques. Booking in advance is required.
Mask making workshop: In this workshop, you have the chance of not only decorate your mask but also create it by paper-mâché. The creation takes about 2 hours, however, the mask needs drying for about 24 hours and can only be decorated once it’s completely dry. Booking in advance is required.
If you’d rather buy a real Venice mask as a souvenir instead of creating it yourself, you can choose between hundreds of different wonderfully handcrafted masks in Davide’s shop. Prices start at 19 Euro. The way better choice than buying a 10 Euro plastic Chinese thing from the souvenir stall, right?
Ca’ Macana, Dorsoduro 3172, phone: +39 041 5203229
Did you know that Venice has always been a city playing a major role in the perfumery tradition?
#2 The Merchant of Venice
It is the official product line of the Perfume Museum in Venice and offers different perfume lines inspired by the tradition of the Venetian Republic and its centuries-old trade with the Orient. The beautiful flacons show the fine craftsmanship and love of the detail.
When I entered the wonderful store Spezieria all’ercole d’oro I felt I was thrown back in time. And indeed, the room was restored and brought back to its original 18th-century style when it was a pharmacy. Wood and sculptures dominate the interior with ceramic bowls, vases and carafes displayed on the shelves. You can not only smell the beauty when you enter this store but see the gorgeous perfume flacons in all the glory lined up and ready for you to taste. The shop lets you dive into a different world where you see and smell beauty all around you at the time of your visit.
The Museum Collection is a collection of 40 Eau de Toilettes covering the most popular perfumery raw materials. Each can be worn solo or combined with another one. A 50 ml size is available at 50 Euro. Luxury at a very affordable price. My favorite combination is Bergamotte with Lemon.
The luxurious Venetian blue and gold colored glass bottles of the Murano Exclusive collection will catch your eye as soon as you enter the store. The fragrances are unique with floral and oriental heart notes at 250 Euro for 100 ml.
The wonderful pharmacy fragrance shop of The Merchant of Venice can be found in Strada Nova, Santa Fosca, Cannaregio in Venice, the Perfume Museum is in Mocenigo Palace in Santa Croce 1992.
#3 Artisanal design at its best
I gazed into the shop window with my mouth open and wished to buy all the things I saw at once. Beautiful ceramic vases, cups, bowls, carafes and pots with a unique style in wonderful colors with gold and platinum layers sit in the little boutique inviting the visitors to prettify their homes. Danghyra, the designer, is using different handcraft techniques to make every piece a real masterpiece.
There was not one single piece in the shop I didn’t like but my absolute favorites were the 4 espresso cups in different colors with the gold layer on the inside and on top of the saucer. Espresso slurping deluxe.
The boutique can be found in a lovely area in Venice, in Dorsoduro 3220, a true hidden gem of Venice. The good news for everyone who has no plans to visit Venice shortly: Danghyra has an online shop.
#4 Watch a gondola builder
There is one spot in Venice, where you can watch a Venetian gondola built and repaired. Squero San Trovaso is one of the last remaining squeri (= boat builder’s yard). You can sneak a peek from the opposite side of the canal onto the yard with its old building which reminds of a mountain hut. The gondolas are completely built by hand from some of the few Maestri that are still in the business. For groups of 25 people, there is the possibility to book a visit to the site.
Address: Dorsoduro 1097. Remember, the viewing point on the yard is on the opposite side of the canal.
#5 Stroll through Cannaregio
The streets and alleys in San Polo and San Marco are crowded, no matter what time of the year you visit Venice. I recommend you to walk off the beaten paths and make your way to the beautiful canals of Cannaregio. Start at Ponte delle Guglie and walk north, cross the little canals and walk along Fondamenta Misericordia or Fondamenta de la Sensa or switch between those. Have a rest in Sullaluna, a bookshop with a café or have lunch in one of the small osterias.
#6 Escape to Giudecca
Giudecca is the island in the south of Venice and can easily be reached with the Vaporetto. Giudecca is a residential area mixed with an industrial flair. Escape the busy city and visit the Casa Dei Tre Oci gallery, a gallery offering some great photography exhibitions such as Robert Capa, Helmut Newton, David Lachapelle in the past. From Giudecca, you have a wonderful view of Venice. I wasn’t super lucky with the weather as you can see…
Visit my comprehensive guide to Venice to plan your perfect stay in this lovely city. Do you have any insider tips of Venice for me you want to share? I’d love to read your hidden gems of Venice in the comments.