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Our Essential Venice Travel Guide including

Hidden Treasures You Should not Miss
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September 17, 2020

While it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice is often associated with the hordes of visitors who fill St Mark’s Square but we know (our headquarter is located 35-minute drive North of Venice) that even in the country’s most popular cities, there are always hidden corners to be found. Ponte de Chiodo, the island of Torcello, and the magnificent staircase at Scala Contarini del Bovolo are great spots for avoiding the crowds.

With so many “faces”, La Serenissima is a city that offers so much to see and do all year round and also during a 24-hour trip.

We will take you to places that you should not miss and hidden spots where you can still experience the authentic Venice atmosphere.


Scala Contarini del Bovolo

Scala Contarini del BovoloAn architectural phenomenon, if you want to talk about a hidden gem, Scala Contarini del Bovolo has reopened after generations and accurate restoration. After walking along the calles suddenly you stop here and what a surprise! It’s a cylindrical tower, a ‘bovolo’ (snail shell in Venetian dialect) that was built by a wealthy family. Venice is filled with the rich history of wealthy families outdoing and showing who could build the best in home design. There was always a sort of ride where these powerful families have to show who had more money or a better taste.

La Scala was commissioned by Pietro Contarini, part of the powerful Contarini family of the San Paternian branch who in the fourteenth century had been able to boast the high honor of having given a doge, Andrea Contarini, to the Serenissima Republic. And it is precisely in the fourteenth century that the original construction of the building would take place.

The importance of the Palazzo, which does not overlook the Grand Canal, is due to the privileged position it occupies in the city: it is in fact at the same distance between Rialto, the economic heart, and San Marco, the political heart of Venice. In-depth stylistic studies agree in attributing the Scala del Bovolo project to a local craftsman identified in the Venetian Giovanni Candi and the transformation works that involved the internal courtyard with the opening of loggias can also be dated to the same years.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo is located in a dead-end ‘calle’ hidden from the most crowded places and its uniqueness will leave breathless. The design is purely aesthetic, a unique combination of Venetian-Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance. The architect wanted to add something special to a plain palace so he thought about this staircase that spirals up to a loggia (the top covered terrace) where you can enjoy the most spectacular views of the city. Words can not do justice to this magical place! The views of the city are just spectacular, pivoting above the lagoon, and see each campanile.

Palazzo Contarini by Haute Retreats

We can arrange a private visit and more for you at this beautiful sight in Venice

Discover the antique art production

Visit the Orsoni furnace (active since 1888), the only furnace still open in the historic center where you can discover the city’s sublime Byzantine mosaic art production and the technique of Murano pure enamels.

During your visit,  you can discover how the mosaic tiles are made and the various phases of the process. There are three different phases, the processes are handmade by Venetian people who keep the tradition alive. The Library of the colours is the real gem of the fornace, it is a picturesque archive which preserves cataloged over 3,000 gradations of tones and features endless color combinations that are sold all over the world. You can attend private mosaic lessons where you can learn the mosaic techniques and create your own mosaic!

Campo San Maurizio and its Antique Market

Since 1970, when it started, Campo San Maurizio has been the most curious market in Venice. The area where it takes place is a spot close to the most crowded areas of the city, where you can breathe intimacy and authenticity.

It is held during five weekends in 2020 the weekends in October and December are: October 16,17,18 and December 4,5,6

Many exhibitors are present and they all come from different Italian cities. Each of the exhibitors offers various goods, curiosities from the past like books, furs, pipes, Murano chandeliers, old postcards, vintage shoes, pocket watches, carpets ….

You can find pieces from different époques beautiful and precious.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli and its extraordinary Architecture

Looking to add a precious treasure during your stay in Venice? You should not miss a visit of Santa Maria Dei Miracoli Church.

This small church boasts a fascinating architecture. It was built back in the 15th century, and remained untouched, unlike all the other churches in the city. The architecture is magnificent with both interior and facades enriched with sculptures and multi-coloured marble.

It is located in the Castello Area, one authentic district of Venice.

Santa Maria dei Miracoli and its extraordinary Architecture

Murano, Burano and Torcello

The Murano and Burano islands are very well-know by tourists, but you should not miss a visit to Torcello as well.

Murano is renowned as where glass-making takes place for centuries, still to this day the island’s principal industry. Watching the artisans work is a pretty unique experience, after discovering how the glass is made, you can also go and be guided in the factory’s shop where you can purchase glass products that can also be shipped everywhere.

The Murano Glass Museum

with over 4,000 objects, the Murano Glass Museum is a place you should not miss to visit, you can see Phoenician flasks, goblets, mirrors and kaleidoscope beads. The most spectacular item is a chandelier that weighs 330 kilos (727 Ibs).


Burano is an island in the Lagoon of Venice. It is located to the north of Venice, very near Torcello, and is famous for its lacemaking.

The island with about 4,000 inhabitants has a curious leaning bell tower that is visible from a distance.

Burano has become one of the most visited islands for its colourful houses. Every so often, the neighbours must paint the façades of their homes and they are not allowed to choose the colour, but are notified of the specific shade according to where their residence is located. A legend is told that the houses were painted with bright and cheerful colours so that the sailors could see them on the gloomy and foggy days.

Torcello deserves much more recognition. It is a small island, often underrated, only a five-minute vaporetto trip from Burano, and it is one of the most ancient settlements of the lagoon. The two beautiful churches with other archaeological remains testify the old history of this island.


Here you can experience a slower rhythm of life, where people have preserved their traditions. You can enjoy quiet places perfect to stare at the laguna.

In Torcello don’t miss the Devil’s bridge located on the road towards the Basilica square one on its kind.


A Private Visit of Duomo di San Marco at night

When you think of Venice, you think about San Marco, the very heart of the city of canals. It is the most visited part of the city.

We suggest visiting St. Marks at night for a more even special experience because the piazza at that time is quiet. Step inside the Basilica at night and you will have an experience you remember for a lifetime. You walk through the doors without having to do the line, and enjoy the splendor of the gold-covered sanctuary, and you sit in complete darkness as the caretakers turned on the lights to illuminate the 43,000 square feet of glittering mosaics.

You will have one hour to explore the basilica in complete solitude. A private guide will explain all the changes of the Basilica over its nearly 1200 years of history. The ceilings are magnificent and the floors are beautiful as well. During the day with all the visitors visiting you won’t be able to see the floors as during a private visit at night. Imagine having the opportunity to admire the Pala d’Oro masterpiece in silence, contemplating this impressive altarpiece.

Visit the Artisan Mask Makers

Part of our hidden gems in Venice is walking into a mask shop. When you enter into a mask shop you are being transported into a magical world where thousand of faces of all shapes and colours seem to be watching you while hiding their secrets.

Wearing a mask in Venice was not only something they used to do at Carnival, but also during another holiday season. All told, these masked periods could add up to almost six months out of the year!

Back in the days, people from aristocrats, to spies of the fearsome Council of Ten, the commoners …would hide behind a white larva, the name of a specific mask associated with the costume, bauta.

The production of masks had existed since the 13th century. Right now in Venice there are fewer than 10 shops that produce original Venetian masks.

A mask is made starts with the study of traditional forms, and then the creation of a design that combines these received ideas with the imagination of the artisan. Once they have a design, the artisan molds a clay model of the mask, and plaster mold is produced from this model.

Paper is then laid in the plaster mold and left to dry.

See Gondolas Being Made

Another great experience part of our treasures in Venice is visiting how gondolas are made. Gondola makers, squerarióli, formed a tight-knit social group.

The gondola was and somehow still is a status symbol, and features custom fittings and seasonal fabrics.  Even after 1562, when authorities banned ostentatious ornamentation and decreed that all but ceremonial gondolas be painted black, some wealthy Venetians chose to pay the fines, just to have the best gondola for themselves.

Today as in the past, the craft of the squerariólo begins with a wooden frame or template called a cantier, sometimes hammered into the dirt floor of the workspace generations earlier. From there, nine different kinds of wood — beech, cherry, elm, fir, larch, lime, mahogany, oak and walnut — are shaped to form the distinctive boat designed to glide through shallow water.

The oak is the most critical, for the planks run the entire length of the boat, about thirty feet. A gondola has no straight lines or edges, so everything must be formed with hand tools and warped with water and torches made of marsh reeds set ablaze. A special mix of varnish coats the boat and makes it watertight.

It takes some 500 hours of labor, for the boat to finally slide down the ramp fo the squero and into the canal.


Food and Wine experience with tastings of the Bacari in Venice

Venice is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, a place that you can’t help but visit again and again. A city that hides its vital energy by the tourist paths. One of the many authentic aspects of Venice there is one that is part of the Venetian habits, that will let you experience Venezia as a local, the Bacaro Tour. It is the real authentic part of Venice that speaks into those old special places where everyone can find interior peace.

A Bacaro is a typical tavern, features by simple furniture, where mainly glasses of wine are served along with small appetisers (cicheti), showed in the display window over the counter. What is the most original part of the Bacaro is that your host is a local Venetian, a place where to chat, laugh and talk about the different aspects of life. The expression bacar comes from the Venetian expression as ‘far baccarat’ that means to have a party, to make noise, have fun.

Everything in a Bacaro is typical from the food and the wine, ombra, and cicheto, or coccus, small quantity. Usually, a ciccheto includes meatballs, or fishballs, sarde in saor, or codfish in butter and small octopus, from fried ones to those on a slice of bread.

Bacaro Venezia


Contact Haute Retreats to plan a trip to Venice, our team of expert travel designers can recommend the best properties, luxury resorts, restaurants and activities for your interests.


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