The Curators' Guide to Venice

The Curators' Guide to Venice

Words Mark Hooper

Photographs Marie Valognes

With the Venice Biennale up and running once more (until 25 November 2019), we asked the people who know it best – the hoteliers, the art critics, the artists and most of all the curators – to open up their little black books for us…

Renowned for its art and its sumptuous palazzi, Venice was historically known as the ‘city of artisans’. Stunning craftsmanship is found at every turn – but before we get to that, here are a few of our own Venetian hole-and-corners…

Escape the crowds for the beach of the Lido, famous for the climactic scene of Visconti’s Death in Venice – it’s where the locals go and it provides a rare moment of calm in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the canal ways.

It’s impossible to escape art at this time of the year in Venice, but the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a must for any trip. The former home of the eponymous über-collector and socialite, it houses some of the finest examples of the modern European and American art she championed – including those from the Dada, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist movements. This year it celebrates the 70th anniversary of her show in the Greek Pavilion for the 1948 Biennale – a milestone event in 20th century art.

Mocenigo Palace is a unique museum devoted to Venetian life, housed within a palazzo on the Grand Canal. One of its highlights is a multi-sensory museum of perfumery, where you can also take courses on the composition of fragrances as well as see the displays of original instruments, rare texts (including Secreti Nobilissimi dell’Arte Profumatoria by Giovanventura Rosetti – considered the first recipe book for cosmetics, dating from 1672) and ancient perfume phials and bottles – some dating back to 2,000 BC.



Works of art including a Henry Moore (right) in the grounds of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection


The Michelangelo Foundation guide to Master craftsmen

The inaugural Homo Faber arrives this autumn (from 14-30 September) in the stunning location of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on San Giorgio Maggiore Island. Under the subheading ‘Crafting a more human future’, the exhibition includes some of the very best examples of European craftsmanship, including Cartier, Alfred Dunhill’s Walthamstow Atelier, Smythson, Vacheron Constantin, Montblanc, porcelain specialists Nymphenburg, Hermès saddle makers and hand embroiderers Bordado de Madeira.

Here, Alberto Cavalli, the show’s curator, picks a few of his favourite homegrown master craftsmen based in Venice…




Operating since the 18th century, Bevilacqua has kept hand-loom textile production thriving in Venice. Their hand-woven silks, velvets and brocades are hugely n demand, with world-famous clients including Dolce & Gabbana – who, when they wanted a vintage renaissance textile reproduced, knew that Bevilacqua was the only place to go… Gainluca Bevilacqua, who still maintains the family traditions of quality and to this day.



Roberto Tramontin is the latest in a long line of gondola-makers operating from the Domenico Traontin e Figli boatyard, which has built gondolas for everyone from the Italian Royal Family to the local carbinieri.


Bottega dei Mascareri

Brothers Sergio and Massimo Boldrin make traditional Venetian masks from their workshop at the foot of the famous Rialto bridge. In lesser hands these can be the stuff of tourist cliché – with the Boldrins displaying their mastery of centuries-old craft, it is elevated to high art.


Fornace Orsoni

One of Venice’s best-kept secrets is the spectacular furnace of Angelo Orsoni – the oldest of its kind in the world of its kind, which has operated since 1888, producing precious glass and gold mosaic tiles used in some of the most famous monuments in the world, including the Golden Buddha in Bangkok, Theatre de l’Opera in Paris and of course the Basilica of San Marco in Venice.


Fonderia Artistica Valese di Carlo Semenzato

The last remaining foundry in Venice, Valese continues the traditional manufacturing process for objects made in brass and bronze to this day.



The art world’s secret Venice

We asked a selection of art world figures – including gallerists, art critics and artists themselves – to each tell us about one of their favourite Venetian haunts.



Hotel All Angelo

One of Peggy Guggenheim’s favourite restaurants is still going strong. Just off the tourist hotspot of St Marks Square, it was once the principle hangout for the Venice art scene and its owner became the Secretary of her collection. The hotel’s art collection includes gifts by the many artists who stayed there, including Matisse, Picasso and Braque.

San Marco 403, 30124 Venice
+39 041 5209299


Corte Sconta, Castello

This menu-free trattoria is the place to go for fresh seafood. Its seafood antipasti has an international following.

Calle del Pestrin, 3886,
30122 Castello
+39 041 522 7024


Osteria Al Portego

For something youthful and more casual check this neighbourhood osteria north-west of Santa Maria Formosa. Its inventive drinks menu includes such delicious drops as rosemary and artichoke artisanal beer.

Castello San Lio, 6014,
30122 Venice
+39 041 522 9038





The Bauer Bar

This glitzy bar in the five-star hotel off St Marks is one of the few Venetian haunts to stay open late. As such, during the art biennale you’ll find dealers, collectors and artists quaffing prosecco here till the early hours.

San Marco, 1459 Venice
+39 041 5207022


Harry’s Bar

It might be obvious, but no Venice hitlist can miss out Harry’s Bar, the place where the Belini cocktail was invented. Since it opened in 1931, it’s consistently quenched the thirst of anyone who is anyone, including Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and of course, Peggy Guggenheim.

Calle Vallaresso 1323, 30124 Venice
+39 041 528 5777




Expert Guide: Francesca Bortolotto Possati

The legendary Chief of the Bauers Hotel Group gives her insider tips on where to visit, shop, eat and drink (or just be inspired) while in Venice…



For quiet contemplation, I like to go to Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, like Venice itself. It could more correctly be called an archipelago of four islands linked by bridges.



The Zuecca Project Space’s mission is to act as a centre of excellence in the production and promotion of contemporary arts. It aims to guarantee a continuous process of exchanges with local life and a communion with some of the leading international cultural institutions.

Zuecca Gallery
Palladian Zitelle Complex


The Gallerie dell’Accademia hosts a very rich collection of Venetian paintings as well as from Veneto, from the Byzantine and Gothic art of the 14th century to the artists of the Renaissance: Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiziano up to Gianbattista Tiepolo and the Vedutisti of the 18th century, Canaletto, Guardi, Bellotto, Longhi… These are artists who influenced the whole history of European painting.

Gallerie dell’Accademia
Campo Della Carità
+39 041 520 0345


Also worth checking out is the Foundation Giorgio Cini, a non-profit cultural institution.

Foundation Giorgio Cini
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
+39 041 271 0211



My favourite places for an evening meal are Antiche Carampane or Caffè Quadrino, with star chef Massimiliano Alajmo.

Antiche Carampane

Rio Terà delle Carampane,
San Polo 1911 Venice
+39 041 5240165


Caffè Quadrino

St Mark’s Square 121,
+39 041 528 922


For lunch, I’d recommend La Piscina or Harry’s Dolci.

La Piscina

Zattere 78
+39 041 5206466

Harry’s Dolci

Giudecca  773
+39 041 522 4844





The famous Caffé Florian is the oldest cafe in Italy, but also worth visiting is Goppion in Ruga Rialto (the fish market area).


Caffé Florian

St Mark’s Square 45
+39 041 5205641



San Polo 644
+39 041 5237031



For a drink in the evening, try Ostaria Naranzaria near the Rialto bridge, or Cantinone Schiavi.


Ostaria Naranzaria

San Polo 130
+39 041 7241035


Cantinone Schiavi

Fondamenta Nani 992
+39 041 5230034




Studio Arnoldo e Battois is run by two young designer-architects, Massimiliano Battois and Silvano Arnoldo, who just decided to open up and design handbags crafted from the most divine leather and fun clothes at their boutique.

Studio Arnoldo e Battois

Calle dei Fuseri 4271
+39 041 5285944


Try Vianello Serena for handmade hats and gloves… and some great work in velvet.

Vianello Serena

Campo San Aponal 1226
+39 347 7802696


Gianni Basso is an old-world printing shop making custom engraved stationery. It’s the place to order letterpress, ex libris, calling cards and elegant stationery. Gianni has hand-set custom printing for celebrity clients including Hugh Grant.

Gianni Basso

Calle del Fumo 5306

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