by Anne Hanley, The Telegraph, February 5, 2018
From speakeasy bars and seafood restaurants to new hotels and carnival parties, our Venice expert offers some good excuses for a trip to the city in 2018.
1. Sip cocktails in Venice's first speakeasy
Venice's first 'speakeasy' – located in a deconsecrated church in the northern reaches of the island – has attracted a faithful congregation of cocktail-sippers since its hallowed portal opened last year. Not that it opens much: only 25 guests are accepted on its limited (Thursday-Saturday) evenings. Call to book, and remember the password of the day to gain entrance. Perhaps uniquely for Venice, no spritz is served – just a small selection of very sophisticated cocktails.
Cannaregio, campo dell’Abbazia: 00 44 744 864 9927; facebook.com
2. Marvel at mesmerising Venetian beads at the Glass Museum
Venetian craftspeople began making their rainbow-coloured, lamp-blown glass beads in the 14th century. Exported around the known world, they were used as jewels and as currency – an instantly recognisable symbol of exotic luxury. The collection on show at Murano's Glass Museum shows beads made in the 19th century – a gorgeous cascade of every imaginable colour.
Until April 15; Museo del Vetro, fondamenta Giustinian 8, Murano. €10 entry; visitmuve.it
3. Check out the Guggenheim's exhibition of the year
No one who visits the Guggenheim Collection leaves without a quick giggle at Marino Marini's bronze horseman, his manhood thrusting towards the Grand Canal on the waterside terrace (Peggy G used to unscrew it and carry it about with her to shock visitors, the story goes). For 2018, a large selection of statues by this 20th-century Italian artist will be shown, placed in context alongside works by Henry Moore, Picasso, Rodin and the mysterious Etruscans who ruled central Italy before the Romans.
January 27 – May 1. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Dorsoduro 701, calle San Cristoforo. €15; guggenheim-venice.com
4. Immerse yourself in a bumper Biennale
Dublin-based architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara will helm the 2018 Biennale – a massive, wide-ranging exploration of contemporary architectural trends. Entitled 'Freespace', this 16th edition of the two-yearly fest will explore the 'generosity of spirit and sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself,' the curators say. Whether the contents grab you or not, the Biennale is an unmissable opportunity to enter glorious areas of historical Venice otherwise off-limits to visitors.
May 26 – November 25. Arsenale, Giardini del Biennale and other venues. Ticket prices vary; labiennale.org
5. Bed down in Venice's swishest new hotel
Scheduled to open in the second half of 2018, this first Venetian outpost of the Spanish group Melia will be unique among hotels in the centro storico in having a swimming pool. The 79-room five-star will occupy the Ca' di Dio, a former old people's home close to the Arsenale – perfectly placed for visitors to the Biennale, but also just a short stroll along the lagoon to St Mark's square.
Opens late 2018. Castello 2182, Riva Ca' di Dio; meliahotelsinternational.com
6. Join in with the world's most colourful Carnevale
Venice's masked pre-Lenten extravaganza is a frenzy of exclusive parties, water-borne performances and angels flying over St Mark’s Square. There’s ice skating in Campo San Polo, dramatic video projections on the Grand Canal facade of Ca’ Vendramin Calergi each evening and free guided tours of the Peggy Guggenheim foundation daily at 11am. On the lagoon-side riva dei Sette Martiri a funfair whirls into action at 2.30 every afternoon. Weekdays in the early stages can be disappointingly quiet: visit at weekends or towards the culmination for the full Carnevale effect.
January 27 – February 13. Venues around the city; carnevale.venezia.it
7. Book a table at the city's trendiest new seafood joint
The original Timon remains one of Venice 's hippest steak houses/drinking dens but its recently opened seafood-heavy trattoria outpost just down the road, Timon all'Antica Mola, now rivals the motherhouse for laid-back vibes and high-quality fare. Noise levels are high and tables are elbow-to-elbow in the pared-back-chic interior: it's no place for a romantic tete-à-tete. But the clientele of youngish local creative types is a refreshing change from the tourist norm.
Closed Thursday. Cannaregio 2880, fondamenta dei Ormesini; facebook.com
8. While away time in an exciting new bookshop-gallery space
In late 2017 the hyperactive independent MarcoPolo bookshop rowed successfully against the tide to open a second branch. Located on the Giudecca – unquestionably the most happening of Venetian islands at the moment – Libreria MarcoPolo Giudecca is part bookshop (with an emphasis on smaller publishers) and part gallery display space. It also offers an impressive range of travel books, and second-hand books in Italian and English at very low prices.
Giudecca 282, fondamenta Ponte Piccolo; libreriamarcopolo.com
9. Check out a quirky music-themed art exhibition
Music is the underlying theme in the 2018 shows at Venice's Francois Pinault-owned galleries. At Palazzo Grassi 'Cows by the Water' includes 85 works by Germany's Albert Oehlen who cites music as central player in all his creations, many of which belong to Pinault's own collection. This same inexhaustible fount of contemporary goodies has been mined for the accompanying exhibition at Punta della Dogana, Dancing by Myself, which uses painting, photography, installations, sculpture and more to explore an artist's role in his/her own production.
From April 8. Palazzo Grassi, San Marco 3231, campo San Samuele; Punta della Dogana, Dorsoduro 2, campo della Salute. Admission to both €20; palazzograssi.it
10. Eat at the new chicheti joint that everyone is talking about
Bringing a contemporary touch to the traditional Venetian bacaro, Salvmeria is a very recent addition to the city's eating and drinking scene, located in a tastefully revamped old-style deli along buzzy via Garibaldi. From lunch until late, Salvmeria serves original cicheti (bar snacks) made from top-notch local ingredients along with cocktails, wine and long drinks. It's perfectly placed for Biennale-goers, and a short walk along the lagoon from St Mark's too.
Closed on Monday. Castello 1769, via Garibaldi; salvmeria.com