There are only really two ways to see Venice. In the winter when it’s dark and dank and deserted, or freezing, sunny, sharp and equally deserted. Or in season when it’s hot and humid and heaving, but you manage to stay one step ahead of the sweating throngs and find a place where you feel you shouldn’t really be but at the same time feels so right.
Travelling should be about observing, being discreet, feeling integrated, learning and experiencing – not queuing, following, framing, transforming or disrupting. But Venice by name and nature is becoming increasingly challenging to court on an intimate basis.
Campo Santa Margherita on Dorsoduro is a sanctuary for serious travellers who are looking to circumvent the banality of the well-trodden path. It feels inappropriate even to proffer the coordinates of this long, rather awkwardly-shaped space in the hope that a name and a map will make its discovery even more rewarding.
By day it could be the central square of a small but bustling hilltop village. A bakery tickles the aromatic senses from the early hours turning out hot crusty bread. Fresh fish and fruit and veg stalls mimicking the bustling Rialto markets give the local community the opportunity to buy without having to face the crowds. In terms of seeking refuge from the outside world, this unpretentious but self-sufficient microcosm has everything you might need to restore your energy, re-group your thoughts and let the soft humdrum of everyday life wash over you.
Caffe Rosso for your caffeine injection, Bistro do Draghi for something a little stronger, Osteria all Bifura to warm you from the inside or Ai Sportivi for a pizza to recharge the batteries. If you’re in the market for a snack or wanting to embrace the shade thrown by the trees – a rare sight in this city of water – Pizza al Volo will cater for your culinary needs and there is the Supermercato Punto to provide the necessary elements for an impromptu picnic. Gelateria Artigianale Il Doge will cap it all off with the most delicious ice creams, just when you thought that it couldn’t get any better.
At night Santa Margherita puts on her party clothes and hosts some of the hippest and brightest nightlife the city has to offer. The University crowd takes over and the bars and cafes carry on late into the night. The drinks of choice are the Spritz and Campari and soda, and the chat is intense and animated.
Campo Santa Margherita offers the chance to slip down a side alleyway, beat the day trippers and come up for air in a parallel world where the pace of life is slow and measured. It’s an oasis which has everything at hand to restore the balance and sanity which can at times be robbed from us by the constant throng of curious but demanding visitors to this magical City of all Cities. Whether it be illuminated by sunlight or moonlight, this sanctuary plays an unerring host to the theatre of life.