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2.5 day Venice Itinerary - suggestions welcome

First off, thanks to everyone who posts about Venice for the wealth of information you've already shared with the board. I've read a ton of posts and I think I've got a decent plan in place, but I wanted to run it by you experts before I set things in stone! I'll be coming to Venice with my parents for 2.5 days in mid-April. We have a couple of restrictions: my parents are in their early 70s and my father has bad knees, so I'm trying to plan restaurants that are nearby other attractions that we'll be seeing. They prefer to eat earlyish, so we'll be doing 7:30 seatings as much as possible. Also, my mother eats no seafood (major bummer in Venice!). So, given those issues, here's what I have so far:

Tuesday: we arrive around 2pm by train, so too late for a real lunch. I have a friend who lives on La Giudecca, so I thought we might just drop our things at the hotel (Locanda San Barnaba) and head over to Giudecca for a drink and a snack with her. We'll come back over to the mainland for a little sightseeing if there's time before dinner, then have dinner at Al Covo, with a vaporetto trip up/down the Grand Canal either after (or before if my parents don't want to walk).

Wednesday: Guggenheim Museum in the morning, then lunch at La Bitta. We'll do more sightseeing in the afternoon, then dinner at Alle Testiere. I know it's a seafood place, but I am really dying to go there - my mother will happily eat vegetarian things, and since La Bitta looks to be rather meat-heavy perhaps she wouldn't mind a lighter meal in the evening. For those of you who frequent Alle Testiere, do you know if they can/will do vegetarian dishes? If not, what would be a good replacement? I was considering Antiche Carampane (I know they're also mostly seafood, but their website mentions a couple of meat dishes) or possibly Osteria Santa Marina. Other options?

Thursday: We're going to go over to Murano/Burano/Torcello for the day, so I reserved for lunch at Venissa Ristorante Mazzorbo. I don't know if my parents will be completely worn out by then, so I was thinking Bancogiro for dinner - I've been there and enjoyed it, but I won't be heartbroken if they prefer to skip it.

We head out Friday for Paris around 1pm, so I would love recommendations for a hearty breakfast near our hotel - thoughts?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. Oh, forgot to add Il Ridotto as a possibility for one night - thoughts?

    1. biondanonima--I'm sorry I can't help w/breakfast suggestions. We never had anything but light breakfasts, almosts always in. And you may not need any more recs for lunch or dinner, butI just wanted to mention Ai Gondolieri (Dorsodoru), which specializes in meat, where we've had three lovely meals over a few stays. A risotto made with red wine and bits of meat was divine; I also remember a fabulous ravioli or tortelloni or similar stuffed with lamb. It's been a few years, but I assume they're still there. My husband tires of the seafood in Venice, so Ai Gondolieri was always a treat for him.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nomadchowwoman

        Thank you for this rec - I see that Ai Gondolieri is quite close to our hotel as well. Definitely an option!

      2. You may want to consider the alternative of eating near home some evenings. Also, given physical limitations, you might be best served by planning your lunches near where you are touring in the am - or at least easily convenient by vaporetto -

        Im a map freak but spending some time with the vaporetti maps can pay off in your planning..

        PBSF stays in Dorsoduro so surely he will weigh in, but there is a cluster of restaurants and winebars right around the church of San Barnaba as well as on Calle Lunga San Barnaba
        Oniga is one we havent tried yet but it looks interesting
        http://www.oniga.it/index.htm

        Personally, I think Torcello, Murano and Burano + a lunch at Venissa is too much for one day. I love Torcello, - its mainly a long level walk along a canal through fields to the Cathedral and back again. Very nice if your Dad can handle it. torcello is very close to burano and Mazzorbo, where Venissa is and thes three seem like a good combo fif the walking is not an issue. I guess if you wanted to make a quick stop at the glass museum in Murano that would be ok, but frankly there is a ton of glass in venice proper - why bother,

        1 Reply
        1. re: jen kalb

          Yeah, I think Burano/Torcello/Murano is a lot too, but my mother wanted to see "where they make glass", so I was planning a brief stop there unless she feels like she's seen her fill of glass in Venice the previous day. I was under the false impression that Venissa was ON Torcello, but now that I see that it's not, I think we'll probably skip Torcello and just see Burano and Murano (with the quick wander over to Mazzorbo for lunch), unless my mother wants to skip Murano.

        2. If your mother does not eat seafood, I would skip Alle Testiere. Just about every item on their daily changing menu has seafood (except maybe a primi). I am sure they will cook some vegetable dishes but I just don’t think they will be good enough for our mom. As for Antiche Carampane, from the numerous times eating there, I have never seen any non-seafood item on their menu. Since you found them on their website, maybe I wasn’t reading carefully. I have not eaten at Il Ridotto but someone stated on another post that they will do a non-seafood menu. It might be a better choice. The ambience will be different as both Alle Testiere and Antiche are both trattorie: simple, lively and crowded; also the cooking more creative at Il Ridotto. One can find excellent in many non-exclusive seafood places such as Anice Stellato, Fiaschetteria Toscana.

          Just to clarify jen kalb, we have an apartment near Campo San Polo where we spend a couple months each year. As for Friday breakfast in Dorosduro, hearty breakfast is not big in Venice and there are not any high-end hotels nearby. I would get a flavor of Venice by going to a bacaro such as Al Bottegon/Cantinone gia Shiavi or Da Gino for some crostini/panini; or Pane Vino e San Danieli for excellent prosciutto and such. All have table seating. Or outside terrace seating at Al Chioschetto on the Zattere. There are couple of seat down cafes near the Accademia and on Campo Santa Margherita open early for coffee, pastries and snacks. Nothing right on Campo San Barnaba.

          With your elderly father, Jen kalb’s advice of not packing too much is good. To see Venice requires a lot of walking. The vaporetto and traghetto are great but they just park on the docks of the Grand Canals or the islands. The rest is walking to get to the various sites. For example, just walking from the vaporetto stop at Torcello to get to the church is a bit of a distant.

          11 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            Hm, I had a feeling that breakfast might be challenging. Our hotel provides it, so perhaps we'll just eat a little something at the hotel and then buy something portable to take to the airport, or just find something at the airport to eat.

            As for Alle Testiere and Antiche Carampane, I was afraid you'd say that...it really is too bad, as I have read such rave reviews here and elsewhere of both places. My father and I are both huge seafood lovers and I know we'll want to taste the best Venice has to offer. I considered Anice Stellato but I think it's a bit too far away from everything for my father, and Fiaschetteria Toscana seems to get very mixed reviews. Il Ridotto sounds good, though, and a creative twist on Venetian cooking might be nice since it sounds as though Al Covo is fairly traditional?

            1. re: biondanonima

              We were in Venice in January. We really liked La Bitta but I don't think it's open for lunch. Maybe you can switch it to dinner. Regarding your father, what PBSF says is true. We expected to walk a lot, even with the vaporetto, and we did, but what we didn't expect were so many steps. There are bridges everywhere and always step up to the bridges and then down from the bridge.

              1. re: tlubow

                Yes, when my mother told me they wanted to see Venice I warned her about the steps - she said my dad could handle it, but we shall see. As for La Bitta, it looks like you're right about it not being open for lunch - perhaps we'll try it for dinner one night instead of Bancogiro or something. I hear Il Ridotto is nice and inexpensive at lunch, too, so maybe that would be an option, especially since it's right near San Marco.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Grr, of course Il Ridotto isn't open for lunch on Wednesday. I suppose I could switch the days so we do Murano/Burano/Venissa on Weds and stay in Venice proper on Thursday...

              2. re: biondanonima

                a newish vaporetto resource
                http://www.actv.it/en

                I think if you want the best of Venetian seafood, you dont need to go to AT or Antiche Carampane, Based on the comments on this site, I am sure the standards are just as high at Al Covo and Fiaschetteria Toscana, for example.And you parent may appreciate a quieter setting than AT.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Is Alle Testiere loud? That's good to know - my father is a little bit deaf, so a more sedate atmosphere is definitely better. Al Covo is a definite, so perhaps I'll replace AT with Il Ridotto or Osteria Santa Marina.

                2. re: biondanonima

                  Alle Testiere can be loud as it is very small, about 24 seats with very little space between tables. Antiche Carampane is larger, more comfortable with outside terrace seating on a very quiet calle. Alle Testiere gets a lot of writeup on this board and I like it very much but it is by no mean head and shoulder above many other good places. Many places that are not seafood specific have very good seafood including those from the lagoon that should be in season. Think moleche, canoce, tiny baby scallop with roe, spider crab. From my experiences of eating in Venice for more than 20 years, it does not have great restaurants such as those in Paris, NYC, etc. The good places are basically trattorie/osterie with their quirks and off nights. What makes Venice special is Venice itself, therefore, don’t expect your eating itinerary to be perfect. There is so much more than sitting inside a stuffy restaurant two meals a day. There is outdoor sitting in the campos or snacking in bacari where the real Venice still exists. Pick good and convenient places and try not to have sky high expectations.

                  I would consider Al Covo traditional with a little creativity. The menu has a few traditional items such as saor, bigoli, frito misto as well as others with a twist. Definitely nothing unusal or far out.

                  I agree with jen kalb that Murano and Burano with lunch at Venessi will probably take up most of the day. Things always take longer in Venice. Try not to hurry and whisk from one sight to another.

                  As for Friday morning, nothing wrong of taking breakfast in the hotel. There are not many food choices in Marco Polo Airport. I would pick up something at a nearby bakery or go to Punto supermarket for rolls, cheese, cured meat. Or drop by at a nearby bacaro and have a couple cichetti.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    PBSF, you mention places that are simple trattorie not specialising on seafood but as good as Alle Testiere and Antiche Carampane. I love seafood but I'll be dining with friends which I don't know so much and they might prefer something else than fish or seafood. Please share a name or two - what places did you have in mind?
                    Thanks!

                    1. re: sasicka

                      For an excellent dining experience with a menu mix of seafood and non, can't do much better than Al Covo; also Osteria Santa Marina. Last year, had a couple of very good dinners at Al Paradiso in San Polo; nice ambience, friendly owner and little more creative food (nothing too far out). All about same in term of cost.
                      More moderate is Anice Stellato, da Rioba, Orto dei Mori; Bancogiro’s menu is small but always has a couple of good non-seafood secondi. For very traditional with terrific wines is Vini di Gigio. Less expensive are the traditional Ostaria Garanghelo in San Polo and Al Bacareto.

                      1. re: PBSF

                        Thanks so much! Will try some of them out.

                  2. re: biondanonima

                    When you have the menu at Il Ridotto, they will ask you if you want seafood or meat - you can choose. I'm not sure about vegetarian but I'm sure the chef is very good and would be willing to prepare something.

                3. Just wanted to report back on our trip - we ended up having dinners at Al Covo, Antiche Carampane and La Bitta, plus lunch one day at Venissa on Mazzorbo. A BIG thank you to everyone who helped me with our itinerary!

                  Al Covo was our first night and we thoroughly enjoyed dinner there, although the food wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I started with the cooked seafood, which was all quite fresh and delicious, but not well seasoned. My second course, a special of grilled moeche, was delicious but almost too rich, and although the menu stated there was a lemon sauce I tasted not a hint of acid, which it badly needed. My father's fritto misto was also good but again underseasoned. Mom's veal chop was quite pedestrian, though she really enjoyed her starter of bean soup. The desserts were terrific - a very delicious prune and pear cake, rich fried cream and an assertive selection of cheeses.

                  Antiche Carampane was the second night and I must say, it blew Al Covo out of the water, even for my non-fish-eating mother. They had a liver dish and a prosciutto platter on the menu, but my mother decided to go vegetarian and the staff was more than accomodating. They were featuring the beautiful purple artichokes that I saw all over the markets, so she enjoyed several of those, simply grilled, along with a salad and a perfect plate of pasta with tomato and olive sauce (which was on the menu with swordfish - they were happy to make it without). I had an artichoke starter myself - grilled artichokes and beautiful scallops with their roe, in a light vinaigrette, topped with burrata cheese. Outstanding. The fritto misto here was also perfect - just salty enough, crisp and light, and the seafood, particularly the shrimp, were to die for. My dad's starter of clams and mussels in tomato broth was delicious as well. Tiramisu was probably the best I've ever had.

                  On our last day in Venice, we headed out to Murano first thing. I think my parents were expecting the worst, as the vaporetto to Murano was filled to the brim with tourists, as was the glass museum. When we boarded the vaporetto for Mazzorbo, it was even worse, because everyone from Murano was heading to Burano. However, when we disembarked on Mazzorbo, it was like entering another world. We were practically the only people on the island! We walked into the restaurant's vineyards and I think my Dad thought he had died and gone to heaven. Anyway, suffice it to say, Venissa is a BEAUTIFUL restaurant and a perfect escape from the tourist hoards. We were lucky enough to have warm, sunny weather, so we dined on the terrace. They offer a tasting menu for 90EU, but it was fish heavy and too much at lunch, so we ordered a la carte. I started with a risotto topped with Go', a tiny local fish - it was tasty enough, but fairly pedestrian. My second course was pork belly with an artichoke puree, shaved raw artichoke salad and a crisp fried artichoke - amazing. The skin on the belly was perfecly crispy, the meat tender, accented brilliantly by the sweet puree and refreshing salad. My mother started with an asparagus/poached egg thing that she enjoyed, then had a (somewhat disappointing) ricotta tortellini in vegetable broth. My father started with an interesting combination of beans, shrimp and some sort of fish meatballs, then had a very nice cheese plate. Excellent breads, especially their focaccia. Cherry cake for dessert - I wasn't wild about the cake, but the fennel gelato that came with it was first rate.

                  Anyway, the bill for each of these meals was around 200EU (we had a bottle of wine with each), so they're comparable from a price standpoint, but Antiche Carampane was my favorite, food-wise. However, Venissa is DEFINITELY worth a visit - the food isn't quite up to NYC fine dining standards, but the whole experience is amazing. I wouldn't hesitate to go back to Al Covo, either.

                  Our last night was La Bitta - perhaps we were just too tired or not hungry enough, but no one was impressed here. I had a passable carpaccio and crepe stuffed with potato and cheese, but my parents' pasta dish was lackluster and my mother's secondo, some type of sauteed chicken with herbs, was downright disgusting. It was a good deal less expensive than our other meals, but even so I wouldn't come back.