Venice Grand Canal

The Grandest of Canals is in Venice!

Go to Venice whenever, and as often, as you can. If you’re going there now, in the summertime, be prepared to be squeezed into your gondola, the Doge’s Palace, and Piazza San Marco like I’m squeezing into this bathing suit after a long winter. Summer in Venice means elbow-to-elbow crowds that seem intent on obscuring your photographs and making you spend more time waiting for a table than actually sitting at one. And you might be drained from the heat that radiates off of the water like a giant microwave oven. So if you’re there this time of year, I strongly recommend getting out of the tourist traps and going a little deeper.

Venice Canal

Venice really looks like this.

During my recent visit, I had a series of uniquely Venetian experiences booked through Vivo Venetia, an initiative promoting local artisans, artists, and businesses that allows you to directly book tours, visits, and workshops through one site. It was through them that I discovered a range of activities that mixed Venetian traditions with some colorful characters – and opportunities to shop. Check out the website to browse and book.

Most visitors trek to Murano to visit glass factories and to shop for gifts, as I had many times. But with extra time and no crowds to worry about, I was able to attend a glassblowing workshop at Abate Zenetti, and a glass jewelry making demonstration at Lucenti Studio with the magical Muriel. If you have never seen glass being blown and shaped by hand, this is the place and time to do it.

Murano Venice Glass

Perfect outfits for summer in Italy.

And if you are as allergic as I am to tacky gift shops filled with junk made who-knows-where, the experiences booked through Vivo Venetia allow you to watch some of the city’s artists create little works of art that also happen to be purchasable. At Plum Plum Creations, you can watch energetic Arianna show you how to make prints and watercolors in the old school way, and the added bonus is that she does it all in the actual studio that once belonged to Tintoretto, whom we all remember from our college art history classes.

Tintoretto church Venice

The Church of Madonna dell’Orto, where Tintoretto worshipped and is buried, and housing several of his masterpieces…

Venice 2016 - PlumPlum

…and at Tintoretto’s actual art studio a few doors down, Arianna with Plum Plum Creations recreates Tintoretto’s church with traditional printmaking methods.

Nearby, you can watch the infinitely charming and fabulously coiffed Andrea at Fabricharte create stationery and book covers by hand, before leaving his shop with a bag of colorful paper products of your own.

Venice shopping gifts

Behold Andrea from Fabricharte at work!

Gifts for you and your buddies at Fabricharte in Venice.

Gifts for you and your buddies at Fabrichartein Venice.

Then, located smack in the middle of the Rialto Bridge between all the souvenir stalls, Eredi Jovon is the place to watch the owners create stunning cameos, including portraits from photographs you provide, showing off their shockingly impressive fine motor skills. I am currently obsessed with ordering a custom cameo to give to my mother as a brooch or ring by sending them my favorite old photo of her, my sister, and me when we were little. If you know her, don’t tell her!

Eredi Jovon cameos Venice jewelry

A sample of Eredi Jovon‘s handmade brooches. Watching them make these by hand is like stepping into a time machine, and I wanted to pretty much buy all of these. But I left some for you….

If you want to buy something that is sure not to last long, head to Vizio Virtù, where Venice’s centuries-long affair with spices and sweets has trickled down into one exquisite chocolate shop that offers workshops and chocolate-making lessons right there in the store. No but seriously – stop in here, try a few things, leave with a bounty. You won’t have it for long.

My head is spinning at Vizio Virtù chocolate shop in Venice.

My head is spinning at Vizio Virtù chocolate shop in Venice.

Cooking classes are becoming as common as wine tastings in Italy these days, but for a cooking class unlike any other I’ve experienced, Cook in Venice offers you and your friends or family the chance to shop for fresh-off-the-farm-and-boat ingredients in the Rialto Market, then cook them up in the modern kitchen of an historic palazzo. A tasting of prosecco and local, artisanal cheeses from Perenzin Latteria is included and magnificent. My class included seafood risotto, baccalà, tiramisu – and an unexpected treat – a lesson on cleaning a cuttlefish, complete with rubber gloves for the ink. And the best part is the cook herself – Monica – a ball of energy in a tiny package who will make sure you have as much fun as you do food.

The freshest of the fresh at Rialto Market with Cook in Venice. The crabs on the top left were still dancing.

The freshest of the fresh at Rialto Market with Cook in Venice. The crabs on the top left were still dancing.

Cook in Venice rialto market venice

Veggies and fruit that taste like candy, perfectly picked by Cook in Venice.

None of my ex-boyfriends will believe it, but I had a hand in making this risotto! (Thanks to Monica Cook in Venice...Shh...)

None of my ex-boyfriends will believe it, but I had a hand in making this risotto! (Thanks to Monica at Cook in Venice…Shh….)

Venice cooking class

Artisinal cheese and prosecco – my two favorite food groups.

Finally, Venice can get eerily quiet after dark, even in summer, but that doesn’t mean it lacks its own form of nightlife. One of the my most moving travel experiences in Italy TO DATE has been seeing Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata put on by Musica a Palazzo – an opera company performing in a 15th-Century palace on the Grand Canal. Moving from room to room, sitting just a couple of meters from the singers, I don’t mind sharing with you that a few of us got a little choked up at the end. Perfect way to spend a cool evening in Venice when after a long, hot day.

If you like things that are amazing, Musica a Palazzo is FOR YOU.

If you like things that are amazing, Musica a Palazzo is FOR YOU.

Also, looking for spacious and perfectly located accommodations? Usually you don’t get both — but you will if you stay at Views on Venice apartments. Incredible! And a variety of prices that are a better bargain than hotels.

Views on Venice Apartments

My “Views on Venice” apartment. The view made me weep; that bed made me sleep.

And you? What’s your favorite Venice experience?? Leave me a comment below!

I am one hundred million percent obsessed with having insanely fun travel experiences – in Italy and everywhere. Oh, you too? Consider liking my Facebook page for DAILY pics, jokes, and travel ideas! I’d love to hear yours as well. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter. And why not get this blog in your email? Use the handy link below.