Day 2: For Art's Sake
For art, there are two must-do's in Venice, the Galleria Dell'Accademia (Campo della Carit? 1050, Dorsoduro; +39-041-520-0345), which supports rooms upon rooms of Renaissance masters and rivals The Uffizi Galleries in Florence; and the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Dorsoduro; +39-041-240-5411), just down the block from the Accademia. The American heiress' collection, housed in her former mansion cum garden burial site, runs through every star of modern art: Picasso, Dali, Bacon, Rothko, and Kadinsky, to name drop a few.
Around lunchtime, wander northwest into Dorsoduro towards the studenty Campo Santa Margherita. Whether you eat along the way or stop in the Campo's Pizza Volo (Campo Santa Margherita 2944/a, Dorsoduro; +39-041-522-5430; 2-10 EUR) for a quick, bargain-sized pizza, don't miss the gelato at the Campo's Il Doge (Campo Santa Margherita 3058/a, Dorsoduro; 2-5 EUR).
Admission to the Galleria also gains you admission to the Museo d'Arte Orientale (Santa Croce 2076) and the Ca' d'Oro (Cannaregio 3932; +39-041-522-2349), which are just across the Grand Canal from each other and back up by La Zucca in Santa Croce. In the Ca' d'Oro, as eerie today as it was in the 15th century, hangs Andrea Mantegna's Renaissance masterwork of queer icon, Saint Sebastian.
From the Ca' d'Oro, it's a short walk southeast to the queer-friendly Paradiso Perduto (Fondamenta della Misericordia, Cannaregio 2640; +39-041-720-581), a Bohemian-style restaurant and bar popular with students. Later on, the lights dim and anything from live jazz to heavy, DJ-fuelled dancing can happen.
If you make it to midnight and are still in the Paradiso Perduto neighborhood, it's worth stepping back into Piazza San Marco. After dark and devoid of human bustle, it's not hard to believe you've stepped through time, too.
Day 3: Island Hopping
Beyond the conventional boundaries of Venice lie some of her greatest treasures. Well-worth the fare for its views of the city alone, take a morning trip on Vaporetto 1 to the sandbar island of Lido, where the rich and famous excuse themselves to private beaches every summer. The dunes bordering the beaches at the north and south ends of Lido were once quite cruisey, although that has dropped lately.
After a good wander and some lunch, leave Lido on the private Alilaguna Rossa (+39-041-240-1701; 6 EUR) water bus, which stops at Murano. Master glass craftsmen have packed this small island with factories, hand-making some of the world's most beautiful, impossibly wispy, and gaudy glass creations. Tour a factory if you can, but don't gesture wildly in the gift shop.
The first stop back in Venice proper on Vaporetto 41 or 42 is Fondamente N?ve, just a few blocks from Osteria al Bomba (Calle dell'Oca, Cannaregio 4297; +39-041-520-5175; 10-20 EUR). Nestled down a side street, it hides genial owners, a long, family-style wooden table, and some great typically Venetian seafood.
Heading towards the train station, pass through the historic Jewish Ghetto, where the original wooden doors that once enforced the neighborhood's curfew still stand.
If you are careful or adventurous enough, catch a train to Mestre, the conventionally urban portion of Venice, and check out Porto de Mar (Via delle Macchine in Mestre, 41; +39-346-211-3085), the city's only gay club. Entrance requires a membership card to ArciGay, Italy's national LGBT group, but exceptions are often made for foreigners. The card can be purchased at the club. Be careful to time your return to Venice with the trains, which are just a few blocks from the club, or plan to stay out until 5 a.m. or so.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three