Attractions in Venice are multiple and at this time of year merry too, but the atmosphere is often the most intense thing of all. Under cool Christmas skies, you can meander the sides of canals and hidden campos, or squares, with ease and duck into whatever church or little shop tickles your fancy. You might find yourself in front of La Fenice, the venerable Venetian opera house, or at a café on the Zattere, the famous promenade of Dorsoduro that has for a front yard the wide Giudecca canal, nursing that signature Venetian drink, the spritz: white wine from the Veneto, Aperol (like Campari, but lighter) and soda with ice.
A Secret Island?
Venice’s six districts are called sestiere (Venice is essentially divided into sixths), and the sestieri of Dorsoduro includes Giudecca, even though these sections are separated by the Giudecca Canal. And any season is the right time to contemplate some of the many charms of Venice’s secret, but not so little, island sister. Known to well-heeled travelers the world over as home of the Hotel Cipriani, now an Orient-Express Hotel, Venice’s own “long island” has more to offer than luxurious lodgings (though that is certainly a draw). Apocryphal evidence points to an ancient moniker of Spinalunga, or “long thorn,” for Giudecca, or the name might have something to do with Jews who once lived there (although the famous Jewish Ghetto of Venice is located in the Cannaregio sestieri).
Giudecca was always a place apart from the Venice hubbub, and you will get a distinct sense of the place almost instantly upon disembarking the vaporetto (Venice water shuttle) from elsewhere in Venice. Wealthy Venetians favored (and still favor) the island. You won’t find a roster of major monuments here, but neither will you find boatloads of tourists. For example, rare will be the crowds at the beautiful Redentore, a 16th-century church with a stunning white façade and an impressive that cupola rises above the island. Designed by Andrea Palladio, it was built as thanks to God for relief from the plague of 1575-1576.
The nuns who sought a tranquil haven in the island’s sixteenth-century convent, also designed by Andrea Palladio, might be surprised to find it converted today to the luxurious Bauers Palladio Hotel & Spa, but they would still find that a serene atmosphere prevails. That’s particularly true of the hotel’s three gardens, which began as vineyards centuries ago.
Casanova Was Here
It’s worth a detour on your island stroll to have a look at the small but lovely Casanova garden, part of the Hotel Cipriani and where the Continent’s onetime greatest lover (well, at least he thought so) is said to have wooed the fancy ladies of the day. You can prolong the Cipriani magic with a meal (in season) at Cip’s Club restaurant, where the wooden terrace is decked out like the deck of a private yacht. Wood-fired pizza from a purpose-built oven beckons as does great seafood. The restaurant is closed for the winter, but you can also try Harry’s Dolci – risotto primavera might tempt, or perhaps a nice Italian coffee and gelato pairing. If you fancy another one of those delicious Venetian spritzes, there’s no better place in this corner of Venice to enjoy one than atop another Giudecca great: the Hotel Stucky Molino Hilton. The oddly named hotel, on the site of a 19th century flour mill and granary, boasts a rooftop bar, called the Skyline Bar, and from this perch you can savor some amazing views across the Giudecca Canal to Piazza San Marco and beyond.
Do you want more secrets about Venice including where to shop and where to eat? Visit our Tips for Travelers.