Travel & Living

A Guide to Venice's Northern Lagoon

Writer Rocky Casale breaks down all the best in food, lodging, and shopping in a less-explored area within the City of Canals.
Reading time 5 minutes

Travelers making a pilgrimage to Venice this year will be pleased to discover the city’s historical haunts and classic-meets-new restaurants, as well as hotels breathing life into what can sometimes be a staid tourist town. Nowhere is this renewal more evident than in the Northern Lagoon, where hotelier and restaurateur, Matteo Bisol is restoring and preserving a clutch of candy-colored homes on the islands of Burano and Mazzorbo.

It’s Bisol’s passion to identify and share with guests what he calls “Native Venice,” a region of the lagoon with its own unique cultural and culinary traditions. He does this best at his restaurants, Osteria Contemporanea and the Michelin star awarded, Venissa, both on quiet Mazzorbo Island. He also tends to an award-winning vineyard and vegetable gardens all visible from Bisol’s handful of recently renovated suites. You come here to chill out and immerse in the culinary traditions of The Lagoon that can be easily missed in Venice.

Casa Burano

On Burano, Bisol opened Casa Burano, a network of beautifully restored homes across Burano. To stay here is to feel like you live on Burano, which is a five-minute walk from Bisol’s restaurants at Venissa. There are five homes in total, and all very convenient if you’re traveling with groups of friends or family, as each house has multiple suites. Bisol partnered with some of the best design firms too, like Arclinea and Moroso to create comfortable suites where the best of Italian design is on showcase. The most advantageous part of staying at Casa Burano is the ability to have the village at your doorstep; you would do yourself a disservice if you didn’t visit lace makers, Emilia Burano, or have lunch at the storied Trattoria al Gatto Nero.

Palazzo Venart

Back in Venice, the newest hotel to open in the city’s San Polo district is Palazzo Venart, a 13th-century masterpiece resplendent with gardens that touch the grand canal. Original frescos, wood and marble work, and Murano glass—all the trappings of a regal Venetian palazzo—underwent restoration, and the gardens are flecked with modern art sculptures. Ask for the rooms on the top floor that come with private decks and spectacular views of Venice. The concierge will book you a table at the hotel’s GLAM restaurant, which certainly lives up to its name. The Michelin star restaurant is led by Chef Enrico Bartolini, who brings a fresh approach to classic Venetian staples like baccala and sepia. It’s like eating art, and you’ll want to reserve well in advance as seating and bookings are limited.

Every Aman resort is an opulent experience, and the 24-room Aman Grand Canal is quite possibly the most over-the-top and exclusive resort in town. It occupies the 16th-century residence of Palazzo Papadopoli, an extraordinary property embellished with paintings by Tiepolo, chinoiserie and painted ceilings, and silk-clad walls in many of the suites. All that said, the furnishing are chic and modern and a good, clean contrast to the original pomp of the palazzo. Aman’s Executive Chef Dario Ossola leads the hotel’s restaurant, Arva, which is new to Venice and a welcome addition. The food is local and seasonal—yellowtail tartare and veal tortellini with speck and taleggio cheese—and the new bar has a fantastic range of cocktails in every smoked confection imaginable.

For longer stays, Palazzo Morosini deli Spezieri is the best option in Venice. The suites here feel more like modern apartments with self-catering kitchens, vast living rooms, and multiple beds and baths. You rent these rooms if you’re hunkering down in Venice for a while, even as they are available by the night. You can’t beat its location in the city’s San Polo district, close to major attractions like the Rialto Market and Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The Palazzo has cute garden spaces and is completely discrete; there is no advertising outside that marks it as a hotel. And while many come to Venice for its over the top interior designs, Palazzo Morosini is chic and elegant with a minimalist style and modern Italian designer furnishings.

Ca’ Maria Adele is one of the quaintest boutique hotels in the city, from both a design standpoint and by dint of its quiet location on the edge of Venice’s Dorsoduro district. It’s romantic, to say the least, with a playful take on Venetian inspired design. Next door to the main hotel is their ‘mini palace’, which is a stand-alone tiny palazzo perfect for small groups wanting to rent a space that feels more like a private residence. The mini palace is modern with nods to Venice design, but should you want to ham it up and sleep in a room that celebrates the lavish decorum from the days of the Venetian republic, reserve the hotel’s sexy, gold and red saturated Doge’s Room.

Of course, there is shopping and activities to do in Venice, why not do so at well-established boutiques like Fortuny on the Giudecca and Rubelli, both of which produce some of the most outstanding textiles in the world. Take a cooking class with the Contessa Enrica Rocca, who is a walking encyclopedia of Venetian cuisine. Shop at the new Fondaco dei Tedeschi, if only to climb to the top floor terrace for brilliant panoramas of Venice. In a city awash with museums, visit Palazzo Fortuny, especially for its textile design collection, and short lines upon entering.

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