Melissa McGill suggested navigating Venice by sail or by oar. In 2019, the artist's Red Regatta activated its lagoon and canals with traditional sailboats featuring hand-painted red sails, in collaboration with Associazione Vela al Terzo Venezia. Courtesy of the artist and Mazzoleni.

With the Venice Biennale opening this week, we reached out to art-world insiders to help us prepare. They already helped us sort out a packing list and told us where to eat and drink. So now the question is, “What else should we do while in Venice?” We asked for the city’s best-kept secrets. Here’s what they said.


Amy Cappellazzo, Art Advisor


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“If you are craving light and air, there are two places to visit on the Lido: First, the Jewish Cemetery in San Nicolò, which is a World Monuments Fund site. And second, walk to the end of Spiaggia di San Nicolò, out to the lighthouse at the end of the jetty. On the left you can see the artificial island with the water gate that was built to protect Venice from flooding.”


Ellen Swieskowski, Entrepreneur

“There are many exhibitions happening around the city that can be hard to find—especially those that aren’t official ‘Collateral Events’ of the biennale. For example, Fiona Banner, aka The Vanity Press, is staging ‘Pranayama Typhoon‘ (until May 22, 2022), an exhibition in the basketball court of a converted church that I wouldn’t want to miss. You can navigate all of the exhibitions in the Giardini, the Arsenale, and throughout Venice with See Saw. The Venice section is going live just in time for the [biennale’s] pre-opening.”


Ermanno Rivetti, Gallerist

Church of San Francesco del Deserto. Photo by Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images.

“If you have enough time (a luxury in Venice, I know), then it’s a no-brainer: Book a private boat to visit the convent on the island of San Francesco del Deserto, where legend says Saint Francis of Assisi visited following his travels in the Holy Land. Words couldn’t possibly describe it. And it’s off the public transport route, so it’s usually quite empty!”


Eugenio Re Rebaudengo, Collector

“With my family, I have acquired a small island that is a 15-minute boat ride away from Piazza San Marco. There is still a lot of construction work to do, but hopefully we will be ready soon to develop some exciting art projects and welcome you there!”


Geoff Dyer, Author

The headstone of author Joseph Brodsky, in San Michele cemetery. Photo: Mayall/ullstein bild via Getty Images.

“Joseph Brodsky’s grave, and that of his near-neighbor, who was in the same line of work, Ezra Pound.”


Heather Flow, Art Advisor

Photo: Sergio Anelli/Electa/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.

“The Scuola Grande di San Rocco houses the most majestic paintings by Tintoretto. Going to Venice without visiting [it would be] an immeasurable loss!”


Maria Brito, Art Advisor

Photo: Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

“Venice is rather small so you can do so many things in one day, and walk from one end to the other, always finding new places to explore. It’s a good thing to roam those narrow streets freely. Sometimes people stick to rigid agendas and they miss the city itself. I once entered this amazing bookstore called Libreria Acqua Alta—it’s filled with antique books, floor to ceiling. It is an incredible place to see.”


Melissa McGill, Artist

“Get out into the lagoon! Navigating by sail or by oar connects you with the extraordinary Venetian ecosystem. I highly recommend Venice on Board: these passionate and dedicated Venetian friends give lessons in traditional rowing and sailing. Truly, there is nothing like it—a meaningful and unforgettable experience that gives you a sense of the real Venice.”


Nazy Nazhand, Art Advisor

An Antony Gormley sculpture inside the Olivetti showroom. Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO STUDIO.

“I love to explore the Modernist architecture of the city, and the best examples are by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. The Olivetti showroom in Piazza San Marco is a stunning example of formal precision and refinement, designed with concrete, marble, Murano glass, wood, and copper. [It is hosting the exhibition “Lucio Fontana / Antony Gormley” (April 23–November 27, 2022), curated by Luca Massimo Barbero as a Collateral Event of the biennale.]


Paulina Bebecka, Gallerist

Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto, Sestiere, Cannaregio, Venice. Veneto. Photo: Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

“It is not a secret that there are churches on every corner of every alley, even one on top of another. But what is a secret are a few specific ones that are filled with masterpieces from Tintoretto, Titian, Bellini, Vivarini, and so many other masters. I am lucky to have Nicola Verlato (a friend and artist with whom I work) to point out the jewels among the gems, such as Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto, and Chiesa dei Santi Giobbe e Bernardino.


Simmy Swinder Voellmy, Gallerist

Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Photo by Antonio Quattrone/Archivio Quattrone/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images.

“A trip to Padua to visit Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel. I spent a year studying art history at the University of Padua; this half-day excursion is essential to anyone who calls themselves a lover of art.”

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