The Gritti terrace.
Photo: Courtesy of the Gritti

The Ultimate Art and Design Insiders’ Guide to Venice

Ahead of the 2024 Venice Biennale, tastemakers share their secret spots in Venice, including best bars, design stores, restaurants and art spaces

There is perhaps no city in the world quite as beautiful and beguiling as Venice, a floating city known as La Serenissima that has inspired travelers and artists for centuries. Ahead of the 2024 Venice Biennale, which opens to the public on April 20, Galerie asked a handful of leading art and design luminaries to share their favorite insider spots, from the newly restored Palazzo Grimani Santa Maria Formosa to the best place to acquire Murano mirrors or where to pick up the perfect handmade gift for a souvenir.

Contributors to the guide include designer Roger Thomas, who for four decades was the design mastermind behind luxurious, high-impact casino hotel interiors from Las Vegas and Mississippi to Macau. Having retired in 2020, Thomas now splits his time between Northern California and his residence on the Grand Canal of Venice. Designer Alvise Orsini, meanwhile, is a true local Venetian, spending his idyllic childhood growing up there. Now based in New York, running his firm Orsini Designs, he regularly visits Venice and infuses an elegant sense of Italian grandeur to all his projects. 

Curator and art historian Gražina Subelytė first visited Venice as an intern at the Peggy Guggenheim in 2007 and now is the famed museum’s associate curator. For the last Venice Biennale, she curated the lauded large-scale exhibition “Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity.” Katya Shyfrin and Lily Atherton Hanbury are the founders behind buzz-worthy footwear line Le Monde Beryl, a brand that kicked off in 2016 with shoes inspired by traditional Venetian slippers. Lastly, Alberto Bevilacqua, another true Venetian, is the great grandson of Luigi Bevilacqua, who founded the esteemed fabric atelier in 1875, known for supplying the finest silks and velvet in the world.

Avra at the Aman Venice. Photo: Courtesy of Aman


Oliva Nera
“Always fantastic food, Oliva Nera has the advantage of being steps from the Venice Biennale. In charming rooms or at the sidewalk tables, Isabella Zambon is a talented restauranteur. I always start with the Fiori di Zucca. I created the drawing of the façade on their website.”—Roger Thomas 

Locanda Cipriani
“Located on the island of Torcello, at the end of the Venetian lagoon, it is worth the excursion at any time of the year. Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time there as he wrote Across the River and into the Trees. Also worth visiting while you’re there is the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunto, with the earliest mosaics in Venice.” —Lily Atherton-Hanbury & Katya Shyfrin

“One of my favorite restaurants is Arva at the Aman Venice, where you can savor exquisite dishes in a luxurious, historical palace overlooking the Grand Canal.” — Alberto Bevilacqua

Trattoria Al Gatto Nero
“I love taking my friends on my 1960s wooden boat to this famous trattoria in Burano. The food  is truly excellent and the service precise yet relaxed.  The best sauté of vongole!” — Alvise Orsini

La Zucca 
“Osteria La Zucca has always been on top of my list for their incredibly fresh and flavorful vegetable dishes and the pumpkin flan (signature dish). But you have to reserve a table quite a bit in advance as its so popular.” Grazina Subelyte

The Oriental Bar at The Metropole Hotel. Photo: Courtesy of The Metropole Hotel


Al Merca
“There are so many but I still love going to the Gritti for a  proper martini with the  incomparable views of the Salute church. For a local experience I love to mingle with my Venetian friends on Saturday morning, after shopping at Rialto market, at Al Merca for a Campari and eggplant fritters! —Alvise Orsini 

Harry’s Bar
“It is a classic for good reason as is the Gritti. It’s arguably the most beautiful spot in Venice for a cocktail and you’re always guaranteed to meet or run into someone fun.” —Lily Atherton-Hanbury & Katya Shyfrin

The Gritti
“Spectacular both inside and out with a terrace view of La Salute on the Canale Grande or an ultra-romantic interior lined with Murano mirrors and sumptuous Rubelli textiles. There is always an interesting crowd.”—Roger Thomas 

The Oriental Bar at The Metropole Hotel
“Located in Riva degli Schiavoni, the Oriental Bar is for sure one of my favorites. Don’t miss trying their Oriental Spritz!” —Alberto Bevilacqua

Cantine del Vino già Schiavi 
“In Dorsoduro, this spot is a must, and much beloved by locals. Pop in for a glass of wine and the best cicchetti in town. I also love the bar at Palazzo Experimental that is modern, elegant and cozy.” Grazina Subelyte

Gallerie dell'Accademia. Photo: Matteo de Fina


Galleria Dell’Accademia

“The world-famous Galleria Dell’Accademia, the most important Painting Gallery in Venice, is a must-visit. Treasures of Renaissance masters Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese along with Venice’s most important painters of before and after, and a beautiful collection of Canova sculpture.  Part of the museum was designed by Palladio.” —Roger Thomas 

Stanze del Vetro
Being a supporter of Venetian Heritage, I love to see the precise and important works this association accomplishes. The newly renovated Gallerie dell Accademia, Palazzo Grimaldi, and Galleria Franchetti at Ca d’Oro are among the latest and most impactful projects . On a more contemporary take, I always enjoy the exhibitions at Stanze del Vetro in San Giorgio.” —Alvise Orsini 

Victoria Miro Gallery 
“Victoria Miro’s Venice outpost is a true gem (located in the former Galleria il Capricorno). It brings exciting exhibitions by international artists to Venice all year round, such as Hedda Sterne, Chantal Joffe, and Celia Paul to name but a few.” —Grazina Subelyte

“There are two locations owned by brothers Davide and Fabio Novello. The main gallery is on Calle Carbon near the Rialto and the second, is 5 minutes away on Calle Fubera. The very best curated 20th-century Italian decorative arts with exceptional selections from the previous centuries as well.” —Roger Thomas 

Palazzo Grimani at the Santa Maria Formosa. Photo: Courtesy Palazzo Grimani

Palazzo Grimani at the Santa Maria Formosa
“We have so many favorite museums it is difficult to choose, but the one that is least known is Palazzo Grimani Santa Maria Formosa. Recently restored by Venetian Heritage, it includes the most exceptional room in all of Venice, the Tribuna. Reinstalled with the largest, finest, and most important collection of antiquities in their original location in a 16th-century room created to impress.” —Roger Thomas

Fondazione Querini Stampalia
“I think our favorite has to be the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the lobby of which Carlo Scarpa renovated in 1961. It’s an architecturally poetic space, weaving materials and surfaces—including water—to create a sanctuary of space and sound.” —Lily Atherton-Hanbury & Katya Shyfrin

Cavalier. Photo: Steve Burkett


Alessandro and Alessandra Zoppi
“The two small but beautiful glass galleries of Alessandro and Alessandra Zoppi is where you find gorgeous glass objects from antique to modern.” —Alvise Orsini 

Cavalier at Chiesa San Vidal
“Facing Campo Santo Stefano very near the Ponte Dell’Academia, Alberto Cavalier is the best-remaining frame maker and Gilder In Venice. He was a boy when I commissioned his father to make very large mirrors for the Bellagio in Las Vegas. We decided on the size of the mirrors by measuring the very largest that could be made in this exquisite small studio shop.  I still have Alberto make custom frames for us, and it’s a first-choice gift for all of our friends.” —Roger Thomas 

Legatoria Polliero
“I like the charming traditional artisanal shops where you can experience the essence of Venetian craftsmanship; one of those is Legatoria Polliero in Campo dei Frari, which specializes in all kinds of fantastic papers.” —Alberto Bevilacqua

Bevilaqua Showroom 
“Visiting Bevilacqua’s showroom in Santa Croce is like stepping back in time. They still use hand-looms dating back to the 18th century that belonged to the silk guild of the Republic of Venice. Not only are all the fabrics gorgeous, but they epitomize the craftsmanship for which Venice has been known for centuries. —Lily Atherton-Hanbury & Katya Shyfrin

Kooch, founded by Yasra Pouyeshman in San Polo, is a fantastic little boutique dedicated to slow living and slow design and fashion. Kooch means migration, and all producs are handmade in Iran, mainly by women and outsiders.” Grazina Subelyte

Cover: The Gritti terrace.
Photo: Courtesy of the Gritti


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