Ok, so when you think of Venice you think of water. The city is built on it, life within it is made possible by the canals that snake through it and the lagoon surrounds it and sometimes flows into it. What I hadn’t appreciated until recently, when we took our guests for a much anticipated day there, was that it sometimes comes down from the sky – by the bucketful.
Until then I had only seen Venice under the canopy of a clear blue sky, naively assuming that would always be the case, so under-prepared doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Resulting advice (more to self than anyone else): look at weather forecast, digest and equip accordingly. If rain is due, waterproof footwear – tick, waterproof outer shell – tick, umbrella – tick.
Even with the correct attire, as above, there are in my mind better ways to enjoy a washed-out day in Venice than locking umbrellas with fellow travellers in narrow passage ways. Here are five things to do in Venice when it rains, to keep your spirits up and the powder dry…
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal in Dorsoduro, an 18th-century palace which was home to the American heiress Peggy Guggenheim for 30 years, the once private collection of modern art is now shown all year round by the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation. Expect to be dazzled by works from De Chirico, Severini, Duchamp, Picasso and Mondrian as the rain rattles on the roof high above.
Teatro La Fenice
One of the most famous and renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theatre (and the history of opera as a whole), La Fenice became the site of many operatic premieres from the likes of composers Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. Destroyed by fire three times in 1774, 1836 and the result of arson in 1996, the present reconstruction began in 2001 and was completed by a team of 200 craftsmen in 650 days to the tune of 90 million euros. The seating capacity has increased from 840 to 1000, and it now boasts extra rehearsal areas and a state of the art stage. Well worth immersing yourself in a tour if the heavens have opened beyond the beautiful doors.
The Rialto Markets
This is a controversial one as it’s the place where we were caught short when stair rods descended from above on our recent visit to the city. In retrospect, and with suitable attire, the stunning fish and fresh produce markets are very doable on a rainy day as they are mostly covered and thus at least partially protected from the elements. The Rialto district has for many centuries been the financial and commercial centre of Venice, with the markets moving there as long ago as 1097. Feast your eyes upon row after row of brightly coloured seasonal fruit and veg, every type of fish and seafood imaginable – caught daily from the seas around and also indigenous to the lagoon – and innumerable other pleasures to heighten the senses. Dodge the water cascading from plastic sheeting and enjoy every bit of this pulsating central jewel.
My personal pastime of choice. Settle down in a comfortable, classically rustic bar with warm, seductive lighting, shabby-chic wooden tables, inviting smells from the kitchen and shelves stocked with local wines as well as an eye-catching array of premium gins from far and wide. Order a plate of delicious local salumi and cheese, a deep golden glass of Tocai (now called Friulano) and sit back and consume the ambience as less fortunate souls battle with the elements and their umbrellas in the narrow streets outside. Pure heaven in your own personal cocoon, which despite its generic nature could strangely only be in this evocative part of Venice.
Osteria Alle Testiere
Get out of the rain, whip off your coat, dump your umbrella and sit down at this tiny, hugely popular seafood joint which caters for only 22 diners at a time and has been masterfully looked after by chef Bruno Gavagnin since 1993. If you have spent some time in the Rialto fish markets then you will appreciate what a highly acclaimed and talented predominantly fish chef has to play with in terms of produce, and all you will want to do is experience the magic that will be on offer. Watch the rain tap against the windows, nurse your glass of deliciously crisp local wine and taste plate after plate of impossibly fresh and beautifully executed fish dishes brought to life by this legend of the Venetian restaurant scene. You won’t have been the first person to find this place, and it will leave a small(ish) hole in your wallet – but it is truly guaranteed to be worth every penny. Let the rain continue.