The locals' guide to...Venice

Quick! Venice is sinking, leaving you very little time to sample one of the world's most spectacular cities. Let the doomed locals tell you how... Our top tip - well it has to be a Venice gondola ride.

Venice

How do I get away from large tour groups wearing matching caps?

Literally don't follow the crowd. Should a gaggle of bum-bag wearers on holiday in Venice bumble into view quickly dart down a calle - that's an alleyway in our money - and soon you'll be safe. Head to quieter districts such as Castello and Cannaregio, where you may even bump into some real Venetians - they're the ones wearing wellies and shouting, "We're doomed! We're doomed!" in Italian. And for a view untainted by the background chatter of a thousand flustered foreigners ditch St Mark's Campanile in the nearest canal and take a boat to San Giorgio Maggiore. Ask nicely and a local monk may just take you up the church bell tower.

Where do the locals party?

On the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge. Head for the line of smart little bars before the fish market. Though nuzzling up against tourist central, the area's recent more liberal approach to bar licensing has attracted Venetians. Be warned though: on the whole, Venice is not a late-night city. The party kids often head for the offputtingly industrial sprawl of Mestre on the mainland.

Restaurants without an 'all-you-can-eat tourist buffet'?

Few of those on a Venice city break delve far into Cannaregio. Try Ca' d'Oro Alla Vedova, but get there before the locals nick all the tables. If you're too late prop up the bar and order a plate of the scrumptious cicchetti, Venice's answer to tapas.

The locals' absolutely secret number one tip : Fernet-Branca is a Milanese cure for Venetian hangovers. The mysterious recipe includes myrrh; the taste will certainly make you forget your headache. Persist with this bitters and you may even start to like it.

A quick guide to where the locals hang out

Venicw

The beach: Nature and naturists flourish around the forest-backed Alberoni beach on the southern bulge of the Lido. Best on weekdays.

The pick-me-up: Cantina do Mori on Calle dei Do Mori. Stand with the Rialto market traders for mid-morning ‘ombra' (wine) and cicchetti.

The breakfast: Pasticceria Zanin, a very smart little bar in Campo San Luca just south of the Rialto Bridge.

The middle-of-the-night toasted sandwich: Bar-restaurant Bacaro Jazz, Salizada del Fontego dei Tedeschi, near the Rialto Bridge - it's open 'til 2am.

The flicks: Giorgione Movie d'essai behind Campo Santi Apostoli in Cannaregio shows some English language films.

The shops : For clothes, it has to be Calle Larga Marzo XXII, the main drag from Campo Santo Stefano to Piazza San Marco. For books head for the Little Market of Miracles in Campo Santa Maria Nova.

The water: Take a vaporetto (river boat) around the Laguna and to the peaceful and rustic island of Torcello. Travel in Venice doesn't get better than this.

The trip: Make the fast, efficient 60km train ride to Vicenza to see some of Palladio's spectacular buildings, including the Teatro Olimpico.

Why not try? A Venice walking tour and gondola ride.

Can I drink the water?

The eight essential questions you'll need answering

Which local animal is likely to hospitalise me?

The bad news? Heat plus water equals mosquitoes. The good news? Some people say tequila wards them off.

Which native liquor will make me think I am attractive?

Grappa (grape stalk). Too much and you might have difficulty locating your Venice hotel, especially with all that pesky water in the way.

How can I avoid a beating by the local hard nuts?

Sitting rather than standing in the gondolier ferries on the Canal Grande will earn you the odd dirty look.

Will I get lost?

The maze of alleyways resembles the web of a spider on speed and so the cartographers didn't fret about naming them all. Getting lost comes highly recommended.

Will I find myself?

Film makers have always been more concerned with finding others in Venice. Dash about the alleys wearing red, and see if you can't attract a Donald Sutherland or a Daniel Craig.

Should I take an umbrella?

Yes, outside the summer months. More importantly take wellies. Venice floods around 60 times a year, mostly between September and April.

What should I order in a restaurant to impress the locals?

Ask the owner to recommend what to eat. It's why Venetians always seem to eat better looking food. Don't be surprised to find pomegranates or raisins with your seafood.

Can I drink the water?

From the Lagoon? Don't even think about it. From the tap, yes.

 
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