Being the Only Guest in a Gondola: 16 Tips to Spend a Refreshing Summer Day in Venice

Are you planning to visit Venice in July or August? Summer does have a special look and feel: Colors are so soft, less clear and flamboyant, and much less stark and challenging than they are during fall and early spring. Pastel hues abound, and this look is conditioned by the mild morning breeze smelling of musky sea tang.

When I published the image you can see above on Facebook last week, a few readers sent messages asking me to show more of these images of early summer in Venice. You can make out the summer colors best in the early morning and at sunset, in my opinion. In this post, you can see the images I took between 6 and 9 am in the morning. Plus, you also get sixteen suggestions for spending your summer day in Venice :-)

As I wrote above, summer has that special allure but you must choose the right time of day. Only in the morning can you have Venice to yourselves, and that’s also true if you’d like to be the only guest in a gondola :-)
So visiting Venice in summer is just fine if you can take the heat and if you’re well prepared for the only three downsides of summer in Venice I can think of.

First, an incredible (!) amount of day trippers arrive in town as early as 8:30 – 9:00 am. On top of that, there are clients of the cruise ships coming in to see Venice. By early July, tourists arrive from every possible direction (north via the Alilaguna lines connecting Venice with the airport, east from the beach resorts on the Cavallino and Iesolo peninsulas, west from nearby cities and lakes, and south, from the port of Venice). So yes, by 10 am, Venice gets very crowded.

Second, you must know that after 9:30 am, it is very hot walking around in a city whose white marbles, flagstones and red brick walls store heat and continuously reflect sun rays. This is why I get up early to take pictures, not because I’m such a morning person.

Third, expect summer mosquitoes in Venice, but we can deal with that. For example, I spay a mixture of citronella and geranium essential oils on my bed. It doesn’t work all the time though, a mosquito-repellent lotion brings more protection, and you can find these organic lotions in any pharmacy in Venice.

The most visible issue of summer is the crowded streets, so to enjoy an insightful stay, you need to find an alternative schedule rather than alternative itineraries. That’s especially important for those of you who don’t have access to a cool garden. I suggest you align your time schedule with the Venetians, who spend time outside in the early morning, late afternoon and evening. So below, you can find my favorite sixteen itineraries, places I love to visit especially in July and August. Join me now!

#1: (Cannaregio) Visit the fruit market in Strada Nova and stop at Torrefazione Cannaregio to taste one of the best coffee brands in town. Don’t forget to buy a few sun-warm apricots, nectarines or a slice of water melon. Venetian summer fruit has all the ingredients to keep you going on a  hot day in July.

From here, it’s not far to Ponte delle Guglie at which you turn right and then right again, to taste some of the delicious almond pastries at Pasticceria Giovanni Volpe.

#2: (San Polo) Visit the Rialto Market and take a look at sun-golden fruit (especially, golden plums!) and green vegetables harvested on the Lagoon islands. We love zucchini blossoms! And of course, finding a spot where to enjoy your morning coffee at the Rialto is simply great. You can often find me at cafeteria Goppion, located just a few minutes from the market area.

#3: (Castello) Visit the large square in front of Chiesa di San Lorenzo at dawn (this church holds a secret: legend has it that Marco Polo’s grave is located here, but we don’t have proof…) Continue walking towards Salizzada Sant’Antonin and explore this ancient Levantine area with no special plan, just enjoy its impressions and secret bends of the canals. By now, Pasticceria Chiusso is open, so join the Venetians and try apple-marzipan filled cornetti with your morning coffee.

#4: (Castello) Visit a lush garden that once belonged to a Greek merchant family. Now, it’s part of Hotel Sant’ Antonin, located next to the church. As the garden belongs to the hotel, you can enter and drink coffee, reminiscent of Castello’s Levantine past.

#5: (Castello) Start at Riva degli Schiavoni, walk past the gardens of Hotel Metropole. Beyond Hotel Bisanzio, turn right and walk until you can make out a stone bridge. From this bridge, enjoy one of the most beautiful and scenic views of Levantine Venice, taking you back in time.

#6. (Castello) Eat breakfast on the quiet Campo Santa Marina. Here, one of my favorite family led pastry stores in town, Pasticceria Didovic, offers Venetian, Viennese and even Neapolitan sweets. For example, you could taste oven-warm cornetti filled with strawberry jam. If you’re like me, you might eat the best ham and eggs dish in town, decorated with soft lettuce growing in the Lagoon :-)

#7: (Castello) Spend a refreshing morning in the verdant pineta di Sant’Elena, a sprawling park consisting mostly of pine trees. Enjoy the morning sun illuminating the long-stretched Lido island in the distance and watch the vaporetti pass by, on their way to San Marco.

#8: (Cannaregio) Spend the morning on Campo dei Miracoli, sitting on a flamboyant-red painted wooden bench and watch the gondolieri getting ready for work. Drink your cappuccino at the Bar Caffé Miracoli, located next to the church, and do try their pistachio cream pastries.

#9: (San Marco) If you love gondolas, why not be the first guest of the day on a gondola traghetto (as the gondolas crossing the Grand Canal are called) at the Santa Maria del Giglio stop? Arriving here by 8:50 am, you could be their only guest, if you’re lucky, thus having a gondola all to yourselves (!!) Such an intense experience on a Saturday morning, while you are swiftly gliding across the Grand Canal, almost touching the water with your hand. Take in the special sun reflections on the water, painting the Grand Canal pastel turquoise.

I took the images you can see in this blog post on Saturday morning just before 9:00 am. No boats or vaporetti were in sight, just one vegetable barge was passing on its way to the Rialto Market.

#10: (San Marco) Enjoy your cappuccino at Caffé Florian at 9:00 am sharp. Sit down on one of the soft black leather-covered benches under the arcades and watch how Piazza San Marco is slowly waking up.

#11: (San Marco) Take a walk around Teatro La Fenice in the calm morning air. There’s enough space to savor secret glimpses, ponti storti (stone bridges leading into several directions) and the labyrinth of calli and calleselle leading towards secret gardens, flowering courtyards and views of turquoise-glittering water.

#12: (Castello) Sit down on a breezy Venetian terrace (perhaps at Casa Verardo’s, overlooking Rio di San Provolo), Take an hour or two off and read the stories of 32 bloggers, foodies, chefs, tour guides, photographers, writers, and others who love Venice, collected by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez in her newly published, free ebook, called FIRST SPRITZ IS FREE.

I’m sure you will recognize many of the contributors: For example, there’s Luca Marchiori, chef and blogger at Luca’s Venice. There’s Katia’s story, author of the Venice Insider Guide for Frequent Visitors to Venice.  Monica Cesarato, food writer, chef and guide, is sharing her impressions of Venice, and so is Marisa Convento of Venetian Dreams. This book is a wonderful opportunity to get to know better Venetians and frequent visitors, while they share personal insights from which we can all benefit.

And yes, this book also holds La Venessiana’s story, which I haven’t shared anywhere until now, not even here on our website. It’s about Grandmother Lina’s and my Number #1 inspiration for writing La Venessiana, a very special garden. Find out more below :-)

#13: (Castello) Enjoy breakfast at Rosa Salva‘s on Campo San Zanipolo. I’m sure you will savour each pastina (pastry). I love their rotolo al cioccolato (chocolate-filled pastry). But be ready, this is not a quiet place in the morning, for the boat stops on Fondamente Nuove aren’t far from here, and there’s also the Venetian hospital across the campo.

#14: (Cannaregio) I love breakfast at Algiubagiò, located directly on the banks of Fondamente Nove. Come early, that is, before 8:30 am, if you want to eat breakfast on a sunny day, for this area is fully exposed to the sun and it gets very hot by 9:30 am. Yet, it’s so nice to sit at one of the outside tables at Algiubagiò and taste their mini tramezzini or chocolate-filled cornetti and vanilla pastries, just a step away from the lively boats leaving for Murano, Burano, Sant’Erasmo and other destinations in the northern Lagoon.

#15: (Cannaregio) Enjoy a second breakfast and peach-flavored tea at Cafe Amo located on the ground floor of Fondaco dei Tedeschi, then walk to the window overlooking the Grand Canal and enjoy a special view of the Rialto bridge, so tall and impressive, and the sun painting reflections on its white marbles. Do enjoy another view of the bridge and the Rialto Market from their roof terrace :-)

Time’s flying … our next article, published on Friday, will already be dedicated to the Redentore Feast in Venice, taking place on the third Sunday in July!

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