After visiting the 16th-century cloister of Santo Stefano, we walk in the direction of the Square of Sant’Angelo and if you turn round you will notice the heavily leaning bell tower. Towards the end of Calle della Mandola, which is dotted with pretty shops and a very interesting bookshop specialising in Venice, turn left and follow the directions to the Fortuny Museum. Shortly you will enter a quiet and tranquil street where stands my dream home, Palazzo Fortuny: I return here every time I am in Venice. This is a different world and I love its cosy atmosphere.
This palace is charming – you walk in dim light surrounded by beauty everywhere you look. You can visit the rooms created by Mariano Fortuny and sit contemplating the luxury of the objects surrounding you – the famous lamps, the paintings, the fabulous furniture – all wrapped in the rich, wall-hung tapestries. This eclectic collection and the palace are magical and you wish you could just have the place to yourself: to lie in peace on the big sofa, immersed in beauty. But do not despair as beauty is waiting for you outside – this is what I always have to remind myself when I need to get up from my favourite sofa!
So let’s walk towards Campo Manin. In the middle of the campo stands one of the few monuments in Venice dedicated to a person. It represents Daniele Manin, the Venetian patriot who fought against the Austrians, a hero of the Italian unification, and at the base of the statue the winged lion, the symbol of St Mark and of Venice. Follow the very discreet, almost hidden, indications to the right of Corte Contarini del Bovolo. This is a hidden gem: a small courtyard with an elaborate external spiral staircase which is an extension to the Gothic palace of the Contarini family. The name refers to the spiral form of the staircase – in fact, bovolo in Venetian is a small, edible snail. The tower is a mixture of Renaissance, Gothic and Byzantine styles.
It is now time for a drink and, of course, some food. As usual, one of my favourite osterie happens to be just around the corner, Enoteca Al Volto. My dad used to come here on his lunch break with his colleagues many years ago and we are often here together still nowadays. We always opt for quite a few traditional cicchetti such as crostini with baccala (salt cod), sarde en saor (a Venetian dish of marinated sardines with onions and pine nuts) and the first spritz all’ aperol! Now refreshed and recharged we are ready to continue. We pass the Bacino with its many gondolas. Some gondoliers are resting, some joking and some inevitably flirting with the tourists.
And after the porch, we are in the heart of Venice, St Mark’s Square. This time we skip the Basilica, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace to spend some time admiring the capitals of the columns of this last one. Try and spot my favourite, I can tell you that it is the one telling the story of love, life and death, the alpha and the omega where everything starts and ends. For the evening I recommend to go for a stroll and a drink in Via Garibaldi, where you will find the real local Venetians. My favourite restaurant in this area is the Trattoria Giorgione for its food, for the atmosphere, but most of all for the voice of Lucio Bisutto, who entertains his friends and customers with typical Venetian songs.