It’s that time of the year again! La Biennale di Venezia 2019 opened on 14 May, and from this event comes to our idea to take you around the exposition area, beyond the main venues (Padiglione Centrale (Giardini) and Arsenale (Gaggiandre, Giardino delle Vergini, Lorenzo Quinn – Building Bridges) where the Biennale takes place in 2019: until 24 November.
It’s an area seldom covered in guides and magazines. This is La Venezia minore you won’t see during your first visit. Our secret Venice holds fascinating places, in my opinion, and what I’m going to show you in this post is part of my “extended” neighborhood: Quiet and pittoresque corners where you could stop for breakfast, lunch, coffee and tea.
We start exploring the Biennale neighborhood in Via Garibaldi, the major meeting and shopping area in the eastern part of Venice. You may know this wide (and pleasantly paved) street and its excellent osterie, cafes and bacari. It was once a wide canal, filled in to create the boulevard-style street, unusually long and straight for Venice. Not far from here, Venice ended at the times of the Republic. Only afterwards was the area filled in, and the city expanded to comprise the Giardini (now: Biennale gardens) and the green island to the east, Sant’Elena.
While we walk along Via Garibaldi, which changed as all streets in Venice did during the past five years, you can notice a number of bar-caffes, where it would be nice to sit down on a warm and humid morning like they usually are in spring, drink coffee and eat a cornetto (Venetian brioche-style croissant, rather buttery, soft, warm, flaky, filled with apricot or raspberry jam). They taste good everywhere, I usually stop at Pasticceria Majer, which developed into a small Venetian cafe chain over the past ten years.
It didn’t feel like spring this year, though. Going for a walk in the morning almost seemed out of the question when the day starts (1) cold and (2) with heavy dark mist threatening rain. During the first three (!) weeks of May, Venice was hit by an extended spell of bad weather, arriving after Easter and from which we still haven’t fully recovered (and neither has the garden). So to get started, here’s an interactive map for you, showing the area we are going to cover. You can click and enlarge the area as we go:
Continue walking to where Viale Garibaldi branches off on the right, leading towards Riva dei Sette Martiri. Opposite, on your left, the church opening up on Via Garibaldi is located, San Francesco e Paola. Take a look inside, it’s a popular church open most mornings. Then continue walking under the linden and chestnut trees along Viale Garibaldi (“where Venice looks like the Kew Gardens”) towards the Riva from where you will get a wonderful and clear view of the southern Lagoon. To reach Riva Sette Martiri, you need to cross Rio di San Giuseppe, separating the extended Biennale Gardens from the area around Via Garibaldi. Turn left and walk along the rio for a few minutes until you can see the church of San Isepo (Giuseppe) in front of you. Retrace your steps to Riva dei Sette Martiri and enjoy the Lagoon panoramic view while from behind, you will take in the fresh smell of the new leaves, mingled with the scent of pittosporum blossoms just coming into bloom.
Continue walking towards the main entrance of the Biennale – Central Exposition Area. This time, we walk past wild gardens framed in by dark green fences and flowering acacia and elder trees. And they smell heavenly! Of course, we use these blossoms in the kitchen to make frittelles :)
Now cross the bridge leading towards the island Sant’Elena and its lush pineta (pine wood). And if you are lucky and it’s warm enough, the scent of the pine trees will be overwhelming!
Take a break under the green pines and take in the view again! From here, the islands of the southern Lagoon look so much closer. The grass is already quite high, and did you notice the wild medical herbs growing here? There are caraway, glechoma, dente di leone and other edible herbs such as trifolium pratense (red clover), alchemilla, daisies and maresina thriving in the humid meadows of spring. I watched a couple of women forage for herbs here in the morning, and picking elder and acacia blossoms in early May. It’s a Venice reminiscent of the times when our city was even greener and most campi had a wild corner with edible herbs, berry shrubs and fruit trees.
Now retrace your steps and walk down Viale Quattro Novembre, then turn left at its end and walk past the Biennale area. Cross the bridge, turn left and walk along Rio Terà San Isepo, taking you back to the church of Sant Isepo (San Giuseppe in Castello) which you’ve seen at the beginning of our walk. Continue past the church and take any of the narrow calli ahead, such as Calle delle Furlane, taking you straight back to Via Garibaldi and Rio di Sant’Anna, where a little floating market on a vegetable boat is located. A relaxing yet lively area with homely restaurants and bar caffés now opens up, ideal for breakfast, lunch, and a favorite for pre-dinner drinks in summer. This is where Venetians love to spend the early evening in July and August!
Opposite the vegetable boat, Calle Loredan takes you towards Fondamenta della Tana and the Arsenale, while Calle Crosera (crossing Rio di Sant’Anna) brings you to the second main area of the Biennale (Arsenale – Giardino delle Vergini). It’s the Venice of surprising views, beige walls and homes wearing red bricks. Look up and you will notice surprising flower-filled terraces located on the first and second floors!
From Fondamenta della Tana, cross Campo della Tana and walk past the main entrance of the Arsenale. A long story is waiting to be retold, and in part, we are doing that in this post which also mentions the role the Arsenale played in history. Walk past towards the church of San Martino, then turn right to see the pictoresque Campo delle Gorne, its cherry tree and view of the impressive red brick wall of the Arsenale. Continue walking along Calle delle Muneghete and turn left to enter Salizzada del Pignater, where you could stop for lunch at Ristorante ai Corazzieri (Venetian home food and light lunch with seafood and pasta. Try the fish soup!). From here it’s not far to the better known areas of Castello (to most of our frequent visitors) and back to one of my favorites, Campo della Bragora.
Click below to download this bookmark linking back to the post + the walk we just took. And here’s the link to download the official program of Biennale 2019.5