Venice at Christmas
I am traveling with my husband and daughter (just completing her semester of study-abroad in Milan) to tour northern Italy in December. We are scheduled to be in Venice on December 24, 25, and 26 (leaving the 27th). I hear that many restaurants will be closed for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day---understandably. But what's a weary traveler to do? Please advise reasonably-priced restaurants you know will be open on those days so we can make reservations for at least one sit=down meal each day. We are prepared to provision ourselves at a grocery as soon as we get off the train on Christmas Eve to stash away for additional calories. But we would like to enjoy a taste of restaurant-Venice on those two dubious days if at all possible. And I don't want to make a hundred International calls to restaurants that won't even be open, so your insight is valuable to me (I would go with email if they had that option, but many apparently don't). Thank you!
Be aware that you will also need to make reservations well in advance for Monday, Dec 26, the feast of Santo Stefano, the origins of Boxing Day. Much of Venice observes the holiday.
I was just mentioning to a friend last night that one of the enjoyable meals I had in Venice was on Christmas morning at Caffe Florian's, a brunch of smoked salmon, salad, prosecco and memorably delicious coffee. The caffee is only open until 2pm on Christmas day, and I don't know if is open the following day. I never would have gone in that morning had I not noticed, passing by after seeing a high mass at San Marco, that the caffe was next to empty, with plenty of velvet banquettes with a view of the piazza. That was the draw, but I was surprised by the freshness and high quality of everything I was served (so elegantly). I was braced for tired tourist-trap crap and it wasn't at all. For my bite to eat. I seem to recall paying about 15 euros for the salmon plate, perhaps 8 for the presecco and 4 for the coffee (but I am really not sure. It was 7 or 8 years ago.)
Unfortunately, my other meals in that time frame in Venice were not as enjoyable (Fiaschetteria Toscana, La Furatola, and agli Alborettil), but these restaurants are popular with others.
Also, any advice about how to made Venice reservations from US when the inquirer (me :o) doesn't speak Italian. I can find a translation app on the computer to formulate my initial query, but I don't know how I would understand the response (in Italian: yes, we have availability at 2:00 or 5:00 or 9:00, which would you like? Do you want to be seated upstairs or downstairs? Etc.) It just seems like there's a whole lot of conversation that goes back-and-forth in this "transaction" that I have always taken for granted in my mother-tongue and didn't worry about when making them in person in an unknown language, because I have body language (pointing and flailing my arms about and looking to the Other for cues of the same). Any tips, folks? Thank you!
I found these two previous threads for you on the subject of dining in Venice on Christmas:
(In the second one, you may notice a post by me recommending La Furatola, but I was later reminded that I had mixed up the memory with another restaurant -- which isn't open Christmas. Anyway, like I said, other people recommend La Furatola).
As for making reservations, a great many people who answer phones in restaurants in Venice speak English. You up your chances of finding them if you call just at the beginning or the end of the meal hours -- ie. 12:30 pm or 3pm, 6:30pm or 10pm. My only tip would be that if you have a complicated last name, use a much simpler alias for making your reservation (ie, if you are the Finsterhavens, reserve as Fini, or an Italian version of your first name).
Also, if you know a restaurant is open, e-mail your hotel and ask them to make the reservation, and to send you a confirmation that they did so.
Other people here have more experience of Venice restaurants than I do, so they can help you out as to whether or not any Venetian resetaurants do "seatings" or table turnovers (most Italian restaurants do not). I can only think of one Venetian restaurant with an upstairs, but there may be others, and other people can help you with specifying where you might want to sit in them.
But the bottom line is: I think you can most likely make your reservation in English, and if not, your phrase book or app should get you through the simple process of saying how many people you are and when you plan to arrive.
My wife and I have been in Italy in December. I would give the same warning as Santo Stefano about reservations on December 8th for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, if you plan to go out. We were turned away at 3 or 4 restaurants in Parma before they took mercy on us at Ristorante Cocchi in the Hotel Daniel. The Christmas season seemed as more of a subdued religious holiday in most of Northern Italy, but in the Austrian influenced Alto Adige, they really celebrate the season. The police had the highway exits blocked in Bolzano for the Christmas Fair because there was no place left to park.
Via Gramsci, 16a, Parma 43100, IT
Below is a link regarding to last year's Christmas opening including an update
Except for Al Covo which is usually closed during the Christmas holidays and beyond, just about all restaurants will be open on Saturday Christmas Eve. I would check for the many earlier posts on eating in Venice for recommendations.
As for Christmas day on a Sunday, except for those in high-end hotels, it is the most difficult. Bistrot de Venise is always open with decent food, nice ambience though it is fairly expensive. Also Aciugheta and Vino Vino, both simplier, are usually opened all year round. Can't think of much else.
Santo Stefano on a Monday with many only seafood places closed (exception might be La Furatola) closed. Places are usually opened Mondays should be open: Da Alberto, Alla Frasca, Alla Vedova, Ai Promissi Sposi. Ostaria Garanghelo, La Cantina, Fiaschetteria Toscana.
Holiday openings and closings for individual restaurants changes year to year depending on the owners. Unless one is there this year, no one knows for sure; have to check yourself.
Save the supermarkets, most shops will be closing early on Christmas eves, therefore, plan your food shopping accordingly. If you are not getting into Venice until late afternoon, might consider doing some shopping in Milan.
As for reservations, as stated by earlier poster, there should be somebody in just about most places that will speak some English to help with reservation. If you are staying in a hotel, give them a list with your priorities and ask to call for you. Or ask your daughter in Milan to call for you as it should not be expensive to call within Italy. Venetians are not complicated people regarding to reservation; they don't deal with too many minute details. Just tell them date, time (wouldn't reserve before 7:00pm) and how many. Except for F. Toscana, there is no upstair/downstair or such details to worry about.
As for the above recommendation of Caffe Florian, it is a beautiful historical place right on San Marco. It does not serve any complicated hot food. Coffee is excellent. It is expensive for a caffe: prices when we took guests there this spring: simple plates such as prosciutto or smoked salmon or assorted cold antipasto are 20e and up, salads 18, tremazzini 10e, pastries 12e, cocktail starts at 11e for a spritz and simple espresso 6e.
Campiello della Pescaria,Castello 3968, Venice, Veneto 30122, IT
Cannaregio, 5719, Venice, Veneto 30131, IT
Campo San Felice, Cannaregio 3689, Venice, Veneto , IT
Just couple of more comments. Some of higher end places such as Alle Testiere, Antiche Carampane, F.Toscana will take reservation through email. Email is not quite as reliable as those in the U.S. but improving. They might take a few days to respond. With any reservation, it is prudent to reconfirm when you get to Venice.
As for Christmas Eve, when making reservations, you might also inquire if a restaurant is offering a special menu and if they do, make sure to check on the cost.
If you are experiencing difficulty in finding places or other logistics, post back and hopefully posters will provide help.
Calle de la Carampane, 1911,San Polo, Venice, Veneto 30125, IT
Calle del Mondo Novo,Sestiere Castello,5801, Venice, Veneto 30122, IT
I hope you have a fabulous time in a wonderful city for a glorious holiday.
Please share some of your experiences in a post after your return.