Piazza San Marco is NEVER crowded if you know how to schedule your visit. It would be a pity to leave the Piazza out or not being able to take in its beauty during your visit just because it’s too crowded. In the next three blog posts, I’m offering you a virtual guide on how to spend a marvelous three days in Venice with a focus: The coffee houses. Visiting cafes implies you’re here for breakfast, so you gain a lot of insights into a Venice you miss on a hit-and-run visit (obviously, we don’t recommend these !!). So, in this first part of the series, I’d like to show you around virtually the way I would if you came to Venice.
The FAMOUS coffee houses of Venice are located around the Piazza and yes, they may be expensive, but they’re worth it, especially now in the morning when you can take in the Piazza at a time of the day when it’s not crowded.
Second come the POPULAR cafes in town, I mean those much loved by the Venetians. Again, come at the right time of the day and you’ll meet the Venetians. You’ll be able to see and taste – and ask, of course – what they love to eat and drink. Visiting these cafes, or caffé-bar as we call them, is part of daily life here.
Third, I’ll show you some TRENDY cafes. They are trendy because Venetians love them, because they’re in an exclusive location offering an exclusive view, or simply, because they are setting trends in pastry making and/or coffee flavors, or because they are taking up antique trends and thus present to you a Venice of other, forgotten times.
DAY ONE: We’ll start your visit in the early morning. Come before 08:00 am on a sunny day and you’ll have the Giardinetti Reali to yourselves (currently they are being rearranged, but you can take a walk under the pine trees in front of them).
So yes, there are these gardens next to the Piazza, shielded by Pittosporum and pine trees. In early summer, elderflower, acacia and Pittosporum scent this copse next to the Piazza and you are mesmerized by the voices of the birds. So relaxing to breathe in deeply and then continue your walk to Piazza San Marco – or take a look at this video below, one of our favorites, which takes you to to Venice immediately so you can witness the early hours on a summer day:
As I said, chances are you won’t be seeing so many crowds if you come at 08:00 am, just like you can see in the Venizavion video. It’s one of my favorites, revealing the atmosphere of a summer morning, so do take at least a look at the first part, dedicated to Piazza San Marco. By the way, it was voted by the Venetian daily il Gazzettino the “most beautiful video on Venice”.
In the early morning, you’ll be able to explore the mosaics and pavements of the Piazza, laid out in an artistic and always surprising manner. Now, do sit down and have breakfast on the Piazza at one of the cafes located under the arcades, for example, on the soft black leather seats at Caffé Florian. Every year, they add new coffee specialties to their menu, though personally, I’d start my perfect day by tasting their rose-flavored tea té alla rosa venexiana and a plate of biscotti assortiti (Venetian biscuits such as zaleti).
If you are in the mood for chocolate, they have a special summer drink you shouldn’t miss – cioccolata alla menta – mint-liquor flavored chocolate. Yes, even though it is a hot drink as it should be in the morning, you’ll notice the refreshing notes of peppermint. I’d also drink a cup of one of their coffee specialties, like marocchin or caffé dalmato, which comes flavored with maraschino cherry liquor, evocating the common history of Venice and Dalmatia.
By now, a special exhibition just across the Piazza will have opened where you can discover lace, and it’s not just pizzi (lace) from Burano, but from all parts of the Lagoon. Yes, there is a lace-making tradition not just on the island of Burano but also on Pellestrina and on the mainland, where lace is produced in Stra and Mira. You’ll notice there are different kinds of lace and you could also buy a really high-quality souvenir at reasonable prices despite this prominent location.
Finally, visit the church which is on the other side of the Grand Canal by taking the vaporetto down the Grand Canal at the San Marco stop. Now you can have the Salute square all to yourselves, while it will be rather crowded on 21 November when Venetians celebrate La Festa della Salute.
Do walk up the marble steps and take a look at the mosaic floor of the church. Chances are you’ll have the church rather to yourselves, if no morning mass service is celebrated. Upon returning to the Piazza the same way you came :-) there’s the temptation to take a second breakfast by this time, under the cool arcades.
You could try a late-morning breakfast spuntino at Caffé Quadri’s cicheti venexiani assortiti which is a Venetian mouth-watering antipasto treat. It’s probably just now that you can understand the real meaning of the word ombra – watch how the sunny seats of Caffé Quadri remain empty because it’s far too hot by now, while people move into the shade.12