4 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Venice, Italy

by Christopher Atwood

Venice isn’t exactly one of Italy’s hidden gems. Unless you know a local, it can be hard to experience the Venice that exists beyond the postcard places. Worry not -- there’s much more to Venezia than gondoliers and the Grand Canal! Another city thrives just off the beaten path here.

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Unearth 4 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Venice below -- they're 100% local-approved:

1. The Rialto Market

Venice's cuisine pays homage to the sea -- teaming with fish, shrimp and shellfish. To find the freshest seafood in Venice, you need to stroll the aisles of the Rialto Market. Dating back to the 11th century, the Rialto Market is Venice’s main open-air mercato.

Located just west of the famed Rialto Bridge, this market bustles with vendors selling fruits/vegetables (Erberia), spices (Speziali) and fish (Pescaria). The fish vendors are found in a covered area called the pescheria. You can still encounter Venetian grandmothers bartering here with their trusted pescivendolo -- fishmonger.

Insider tip: Food-loving travelers can shop for ingredients in the market with a local before enjoying a hands-on cooking class.

2. Jewish Ghetto

The word “ghetto” in English actually comes from the Venetian language. Historically, the term was used to refer to the city districts where the Jewish people were allowed to live. As of 1516, the rulers of Venice confined the city’s Jewish residents to the “Ghetto Nuovo” -- the island where the present-day community still resides. Jews of German, Spanish, Middle-Eastern and Italian origin each inhabited Venice’s Jewish ghetto, each building their own synagogue.

To this day, Venice is home to a small but active Jewish community, numbering around 500. Found near the Venice main train station, the Jewish quarter is a quiet refuge -- scarcely known to outside tourists. Here, visitors will find five historic synagogues, quiet kosher restaurants, a Jewish bookshop and a stunning museum tracing the neighborhood 500 years of history.

Insider tip: Visitors can enjoy a guided visit through the Venice’s rich Jewish history, including entry into the spectacular synagogues.

3. Cichetti Bars

Cichetti are to Venice as tapas are to Spain. After a day’s work, Venetians gather in their favorite bacaro -- a neighborhood bar serving drinks and bite-sized eats. Traditional cichetti  (pronounced chi-ket-ee) include crostini, fried seafood and other savory morsels served on a toothpick.

Venetians like to enjoy their happy-hour nibbles with a glass of wine or a spritz cocktail.  Locals abound in these establishments, sharing the latest in neighborhood gossip or a hearty laugh among friend. The bacaro bar is basically the exact opposite of a tourist trap – it’s a home away from home for Venetians, brimming with tasty bites and affordable tipples.

Insider tip: Travelers who want to discover the real Venice can take a tasting tour of neighborhood cichetti – you’ll savor the local flavor in the company of our Venice born-and-raised guide.

4. Artisan Workshops

Walking the streets of Venice, you’ll see ornate Carnival masks hanging in shop windows. Strolling along the city’s canals, you’ll eye gondola gliding past.  These iconic images of Venice hide centuries of history behind them.  To this day, master artisans still craft Carnival masks and Venetian gondolas by hand.  It’s even possible to go behind-the-scenes at their workshops, observing how they take materials like wood and paper and transform them into objects of beauty.

Insider tips: In the company of a private guide, it’s possible to enjoy a making class or to tour the wood-working workshops where gondolas are still hand built. Both activities are kid-friendly and hands-on.

Are you ready to travel to Italy beyond the postcard places? Click below to unlock more crowd-free activities in Venice, Italy.

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