The Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia), was founded at the turn of the previous century. It stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends!
The Biennale is one of the world’s largest and most famous art fairs. Throughout its history it has grown out of being “just” about visual art. Today, it holds exhibitions and conducts research in 5 other major art sectors: Architecture, Cinema, Music, Theatre and Dance.
If you want to know more about the Biennale, and how to take the most out of your stay in Venice, keep on reading:
By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
The Venice Biennale in 2018/2019
The Venice Biennale is the original Biennale on which others in the world have been modelled. The next edition takes place from May 11th 2018 until November 24th 2019.
Each year, the Biennale invites world famous artists and showcases their work. It also supports the arts through the Biennale College project, which is dedicated to the formation of young artists. Many of the projects devised by the College students will be presented to the public on the days of the festival.
The main exhibition venues are Giardini Park and Arsenale. The Giardini includes a large exhibition hall that houses a themed exhibit curated by the Biennale’s director. The Arsenale holds the Aperto exhibit, which began in 1980 as a fringe event for younger artists, and artists of a national origin not represented by permanent national pavilions.
This coming show, the 58th edition of Art Biennale, is to be curated by Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery of London, also named as Director of the Visual Arts Department by the board of Venice Biennale.
If 2019 is too far away and you want a more immediate taste of Venice’s artistic events, fear not! The Biennale has an outstanding calendar of events staged for 2018 as well! Lucky for you, these events are all taking place from late spring until late autumn, giving you many opportunities to plan a warm escape to one of Italy’s most iconic art centres.
The 16th InternationalArchitecture Exhibition starts on May 26th and ends on November 25th 2018. This exhibit is held at Giardini and Arsenale, as well as other venues in the city. The exhibit is open from 10.00 am – 6.00 pm (closed on Mondays, except May 28th, September 3rd, November 19th). Both venues offer accessibility via wheelchair ramps, elevators and stairlifts, and have a wide range of services such as bar, restaurant, bookstores, and lounge areas. The theme of this edition is Freespace – an embodiment of the generosity of spirit and sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s functionality, all the while focusing on the quality of space itself.
By Pedro Szekely
The 12th International Festival of Contemporary Dance runs from June 22nd to July 1st, showcasing several events daily. The festival celebrates the way in which choreography and dance are developing, evolving from classical forms to modern, contemporary modes. This edition highlights the dynamic and expressive energy between dancer and choreographer. It will feature activities from the Biennale College – Dance, and also host three specific projects as part of its programme: the Dancer project, the Choreographer project, and a selection of Professional Dancers.
The 46th International Theatre Festival takes place from July 20th to August 5th 2018, with a rich programme of shows and encounters. The activities of the Biennale College – Teatro are addressed this year at young Italian directors (up to the age of 30).
In June you can also witness the world’s largest art scene Art Basel.
The 62nd International Festival of Contemporary Music runs from 28th September to 7th October, hosting several daily events. The notion of contemporary music refers to evolution of music, particularly classical into modernist and postmodernist forms, that began in the mid ‘70s. This festival addresses the ambiguities of interpreting the term ‘contemporary’ by looking at the crossover of influences between Europe and America. As per other sectors, this festival will include activities of the Biennale College – Musica. This year an international call for applications was launched in order to promote and support the production of a maximum of 4 micro-budget chamber musical theatre works.
By Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Perhaps one of the most famous events of Venice Biennale is the Venice International Film Festival. This year marks the 75th edition which will take place at Venice Lido from August 29th to September 8th. The jury of the festival will be presided by acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro.
The aim of the Film Festival is to promote international cinema as art, entertainment and industry, encouraging awareness and appreciation of cinema in a spirit of freedom and dialogue. The Festival also organises retrospectives and tributes to major figures as a contribution towards a better understanding of the history of cinema.
The prices of tickets for these events range from 10-40 Euro, and concessions also apply. However, available from March 15th is the ‘spectators in residence’ accreditation. This can be purchased for one or more of the Festivals of Dance Music and Theatre at 35 Euro for each event. This pass allows you to enjoy the full range of events in these festivals, accompanied by a tutor who will provide a dedicated experience through the performances and artists of the festivals, encounters with the protagonists and opportunities for dialogue and exchange.
The Biennale is never too far!
With its many exhibitions and events throughout the year, different venues and sectors, at the Biennale you are guaranteed to find the art that most captures your imagination.
If this year (or the next!) you are thinking about going to the Biennale, know that there will be so much more waiting for you, and the trip to Venice will be one that you will forever remember!
And if you are heading to Venice for all of its other amenities, make sure to check the Biennale schedule and get the most out of your trip!
Venice is a wonderful city full of marvels that are waiting to be discovered! The best thing you could do is warming up your legs and go on long walks. Either you decide to do so by day or night, Venice will offer stunning sights at every corner. Just make sure you avoid walking too much in the sun if you’re visiting in the summer!
2# No cars, mopeds, or bikes
Walking is an amazing thing to do in Venice, but it also your best option when moving around the city. Be aware that there is a ban on cars, mopeds and bikes! Even if you are thinking about ignoring it, we would still advice against bringing a bike on your trip. There are so many bridges, steps and small alleyways that it would be impossible (and dangerous!) to enjoy a bike ride there.
3# Ask for the prices
There are myriads of tourists visiting the city every year, and, unfortunately, some of the locals take advantage of this. It has been reported that many restaurants, bars and gondola owners (a small passenger boat) overcharge tourists, with the most glamorous scandal involving a group of Japanese tourists, a modest dinner, and a restaurant bill of 1143 Euro! Always ask to see the prices before committing to a gondola trip.
4# Scout the neighborhoods for a bargain
Venice is renowned for being a rather expensive city, but that doesn’t mean that you need to have a high budget when planning a trip there. The city has a large student community and a local population who know where to shop and eat without spending too much. Scout the neighborhoods and look around for small supermarkets, bars and restaurants which are there for the locals, and prefer the places where other Italians are. They are guaranteed to be the best and cheapest around!
5# Don’t take a swim, use the vaporetto
If you are heading to Venice in the summer, you may be tempted to go for a swim, but be careful because the city, even if built on water, has no beaches and it can be very dangerous to swim in its canals (they are deep, fast flowing and have a high traffic of boats). Fear not though! You can easily board the public boat service, called vaporetto, and head to the nearby Venezia Lido, an island with an entire coastline of sandy beaches!
What to Do?
Things change at a slow pace in Venice, and the entire city is a living and breathing historical centre.
Build on 118 small islands connected by bridges, Venice’s roads are waterways called ‘canali’, and most of its daily life is affected by the lagoon on which it is built. High tides can engulf the alleyways and main squares, boats replace all other means of transportation (they act as buses, ambulances and police cars).
Get up early in the morning and start exploring it before heading to the Biennale: every corner offers unique sights, and you will see countless wonderful churches, squares, palaces and bridges!
Piazza San Marco
During your explorations of the city, likely you will end up in Piazza San Marco, named after the Basilica that has been there since the 800s.
Built during Byzantine times, when the relics of Saint Mark were brought to the city, the Basilica has kept on being expanded and decorated for centuries, and it offers architectural motifs from many different styles.
It is worthwhile organising a visit there, and don’t be discouraged by the long queues as they move quite fast!
Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale
While in the Piazza, you can also climb the nearby tower bell to get one of the most stunning views of the city, or visit the wonderful Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale, the former seat of Venice’s authorities.
If you don’t feel like walking around too much, you can choose to see the city on a gondola trip.
An expert boatman will take you through the canals, sing songs and make sure that you don’t miss out on any of Venice’s sights. If you want your trip to be more relaxed (or romantic!), we would advice you to go early in the morning or towards the evening, as it can get very crowded during daytime.
You will find that most trips start from the bank of Piazza San Marco, but there are also boatmen offering trips in every other corner of the city!
Islands of Murano and Burano
Remember that the vaporetto services can also take you to Venice’s neighbouring islands of Murano and Burano, which are worldwide famous for their glassmakers. There you can purchase some amazing hand crafted works, statues, lamps and more: all unique souvenirs!
Musica a Palazzo at night time
If you are looking forward to do something particularly exclusive in the evening, you may want to join the Musica a Palazzo.
In the stunning Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, on the Grand Canal, you will find classic Italian Opera shows, such as La Traviata, Rigoletto or The barber of Seville.
What is particular about this series of ongoing events is that the palace does not have stages, instead the opera wanders through beautifully furnished rooms, one room for each part of the show, and the audience follows.
Going to Musica a Palazzo will certainly be the most amazing, intimate and original way for you to enjoy Italian Opera.
Where to stay?
To save on accommodation costs without compromising on quality and location, we suggest Hotel Villa Rosa.
A two star stay, it has 33 rooms ranging from single, twin/double to family rooms. It offers ensuite facilities, air conditioning, satellite TV and an ample breakfast buffet every morning.
If you are looking to escape the busy atmosphere of the streets, Villa Rosa has a private internal courtyard where guests can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere. The hotel is located in the historic centre of Venice, in Cannaregio;
a great choice for guests interested in walking, scenery and photography. Villa Rosa is just a 5-minute walk from Santa Lucia Train Station, and only a few steps away from the Vaporetto (water-bus) that takes you to San Marco square or to Arsenale.
For guests seeking historical immersion, museums and romance, book a stay at Antico Panada.
This 3 star hotel is set in 2 historical buildings, and dates back to 1889. Located just 30m from San Marco square, Antico Panada overlooks Calle degli Specchieri, a street leading to Basilica San Marco.
The interior is stylish, decorated with white and red marble. It features air-conditioned rooms with refined furniture, Murano lamps, as well as free Wi-Fi in public areas.
Its bar, Bar Ai Speci, an old Venetian Inn, is open until midnight. Go there for the traditional Spritz aperitif, espresso and international cocktails. The nearest Vaporetto stop is Calle Vallaresso.
For a more luxurious 4 star stay consider Hotel Rialto. It is located in front of Rialto Bridge, and features a terrace with views of the Grand Canal.
The Rialto Vaporetto station is just outside of the hotel and links to Santa Lucia Station and Marco Polo Airport. The rooms offer traditional Venetian furnishings, satellite TV, air-conditioning, and minibars.
If you book in time, you may reserve one of the rooms overlooking the canal and the bridge. There is a multilingual staff available 24/7 and free wifi throughout.
Hotel Danieli epitomises Venetian excellence. Set on Riva degli Schiavoni, its beautiful exterior exemplifies the typical architecture found on the banks of the Grand Canal.
By booking a stay here, you will be steps away from the Bridge of Sighs and from Piazza San Marco. The Danieli experience is not complete if you do not take advantage of its rooftop Restaurant Terrazza Danieli.
The hotel exudes a palatial atmosphere throughout its suites and rooms, by virtue of its rich collection of precious art and antiques that attest to the city’s history.
Prices range from 400-12.000 – the latter price being for the 150 m2 Doge Dandolo Royal Suite. If you are travelling with your family the hotel offers a 50% discount for the second room and complimentary meals for children.
Alternatively you can book a 3 night stay and enjoy the 4th night for free. Consider booking a suite with a lagoon view and enjoy a three-day program including food shopping at Rialto, Venetian aperitif, dinner and a cooking class with executive chef Daniele Turco!
Where to eat?
Venice has a wide availability of food for all tastes and pockets, and you will find many restaurants near the Biennale venues. You can nurse your hunger with authentic street food that ranges from large pizza slices, local pastries, on-the-go pasta, gelato, fruit smoothies and much more. Alongside local cuisine, you also find Lebanese, Chinese and Japanese dining options.
Frary’s quirky fusion
For more exotic tastes, seek out Frary’s which delivers a great blend of Mediterranean, Lebanese and Greek flavours. The restaurant has vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, so you can surely enjoy Frary’s special dishes.
They serve vegetable tajine, a typical oriental dish, with couscous, that can also be enriched by adding grapes with a drizzle of honey. Fessenjun, an Iranian dish combines chicken with pomegranate and walnut.
There are also Greek dolmades, rice rolls in vine leaves, ideal for both vegetarians and vegans!
If you want a more extravagant dining experience, La Caravella is for you! It is a stylish restaurant donning a unique nautical décor that recreates the interior of an ancient sailing ship.
Renown for its venetian cuisine and excellent service, it is also a stone throw away from San Marco square. Open all year round, over the summer Caravella moves outdoors to its flower-filled inner courtyard.
Looking for some seafood and history?
If you are a fan of history and seafood, you must book a meal at Poste Vecie. Converted from a post office in 1500 A.D., Poste Vecie is the oldest restaurant in Venice and the third oldest in Italy. It was even frequented by Casanova himself.
To this day it is the only restaurant within the fish market of Rialto – guaranteeing you freshness and quality of food. This venue consists of 2 historic rooms with frescoes of cherubs representing the seven deadly sins.
To enter the restaurant, you must cross its own bridge, which takes you away from the hustle and bustle of Venice streets to a quiet romantic eatery.
For a flavourful dinner check out La Zucca, a small restaurant close to San Giacomo square, near a picturesque bridge. Though it is not an exclusively vegetarian restaurant, as its name, ‘the pumpkin’, might suggest, it offers vegetarian and vegan options.
La Zucca is ideal for people seeking fresh vegetable courses made with natural ingredients, as well as for those seeking some of the best Italian wines.
La Zucca has a modern and welcoming atmosphere and displays an open kitchen, so the customers can glance at the chef preparing delicious meals. The restaurant has a door onto the canal, where customers can enter directly form a boat!
How to get there
Venice is served by two international airports. Marco Polo Airport is the main international hub, right on the lagoon, only 10km away from the city.
From airport by bus or vaporetto
From there, you can easily get to Venice either by bus or by boat (vaporetto). The other airport is Venezia Treviso, a smaller airport where low cost companies land, a bit further away from the city (40km). A train or bus ride from Treviso airport will take you to Venice in about an hour.
Alternatively, you can take a train which goes to Venezia Mestre, a large station on the mainland, and from there catch a short connection which will take you to Venezia Santa Lucia station, located on the island itself.
To Venice by Car
You could also travel to Venice by car (even though it is an option that we would discourage, as parking is very limited) following the A4 motorway and exit at Venezia-Mestre. From there, you will have to follow the signs to ‘Venezia’ and drive through the scenic Ponte della Libertà.
No public transport in Venice
Remember that all public transport lines and roads, with the exception of vaporetto, will end in Piazza Roma, a large square at the edge of the city. This is where the Santa Lucia train station and the bridge to the mainland are, and it is the only place in Venice where buses and cars are allowed.
If you are travelling by car, you can park in one of the many parking lots in Piazza Roma, but, needless to say, you won’t be able to take your car any further and be prepared to pay expensive parking fees.
Walking, Vaporetto, or Water Taxi
Once in the city, your best (and only!) options, other than walking, will be that of boarding the vaporetto, or hiring a private water taxi. Get a map of the vaporetto lines and docking points and think of these boats as subway trains and of the canals as tunnels: travelling through the city will be an easy, enjoyable and scenic experience!
Venice Biennale History
The Venice Biennale has a long history that started back in 1895, when Riccardo Selvatico, the mayor of the city at the time, proposed to organise a national art exhibition together with local artists and intellectuals.
From there onwards, it has kept on growing to the point of becoming a large organization which offers different events and exhibitions throughout the year. The Biennale now encompasses several art forms and attracts over 500.000 visitors only for the Art Exhibition and more for the other sectors!
Interesting fact: the name of the event comes from its early years, when the Biennale used to happen every odd numbered year (Biennale, in Italian, means ‘every two years’!).