Unexpected Venice: the secret Venice most don't know

At Libreria Acqua Alta, books used and new alike are showcased on all kinds of unorthodox "shelves" such as small rowing boats, gondolas, canoes and even bathtubs

At Libreria Acqua Alta, books used and new alike are showcased on all kinds of unorthodox "shelves" such as small rowing boats, gondolas, canoes and even bathtubs

Venice is one of Italy’s top travel destinations and always strikes a chord with those visiting it, but while the main sights are definitely worth seeing – St. Mark’s Square, Palazzo Ducale, the Accademia just to mention a  few – there are several lesser known spots and activities that give travelers a unique insight on this much loved and celebrated town. So whether it’s your first time in Venice or you are a seasoned Venice connoisseur, here are seven “off the beaten path” things to check out next time you are there: 
 
Libreria Acqua Alta. A truly unique gem, this bookstore is every book lover’s dream come true: books used and new alike are showcased on all kinds of unorthodox “shelves” such as small rowing boats, gondolas, canoes and even bathtubs. But that’s not all: the store also sells pieces of furniture built with books – the perfect gift for someone who loves both reading and unique design objects. The bookstore is open every day from 9 am to 8 pm and is located in the Sestriere Castello. 
 
San Francesco della Vigna. Sure, Saint. Mark’s Cathedral is opulent and splendid, but there is a lesser known church in Venice that is worth a visit, the church of San Francesco della Vigna in the Sestiere of Castello. Along with Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, it is one of the two Franciscan churches in town and it dates back to 1534. Designed by famous Renaissance master Jacopo Sansovino, the church features an especially exquisite cloister, while the interior is embellished with stunning alabaster sculptures and precious Gothic paintings: the perfect spot for a meditative walk. 
 
Isola di Sant’Andrea. While most tourists flock to the islands of Burano and Murano, few know that another island deserves to be visited: the Isola di Sant’Andrea with its incredible Fort. Built in the mid 1500s and subsequently remodeled in the 1700s, the fort offers amazing views over the lagoon and the city and is an ideal place for a quiet and leisurely picnic if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle (and often high prices) of the restaurants in Venice. http://www.innvenice. com/Isola-Sant-Andrea.htm.
 
Quirky walking tours. Venice at night can be even more fascinating and steeped in mystery and those with a knack for horror stories will definitely enjoy the 1.5 hours ghost walking tours taking place every night departing from the Rialto bridge. An expert tour guide will share all his chilling stories with you while taking you to forgotten squares, haunted alleys and other hidden corners of the town. For more information: http://www.viator. com/tours/Venice/Venice-Ghost-Walking-Tour/d522-2635GW
 
Orto delle meraviglie. Are you in Venice on a Thursday? Then don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit a unique farmers market, the Orto delle Meraviglie. Held by the Coop Rio Terà dei Pensieri, the market sells 100% organic fruits and vegetables grown in the Orto delle Meraviglie, a vegetable garden located in the Women’s Prison on the Giudecca Island. The Coop promotes formative courses aimed at female prisoners, preparing them for work integration: at its kiosk in Campo Santo Stefano inmates and inmates on parole sell its products, an occasion in which to interact with the public, promoting both quality 
and solidarity. More details: http://www. rioteradeipensieri. org/en/our-activities.html
 
Museo Storico Navale. Not far from St. Mark’s Square in quiet Campo San Biagio the Museo Storico Navale is often overlooked, but is a true delight for those interested in history. Founded in 1919, this museum showcases historical boats and ships, some dating back as far as the 1500s, while some from World War 2. With its 43,000 square feet the Museo Storico Navale takes a while to visit – calculate at least three hours if you want to enjoy all its incredible exhibits, including the Dandolo submarine. Beware: unlike most museums, the Museo Storico Navale is closed on Sundays but open on Mondays. For information visit: http://www.marina.difesa.it/EN/history/museums/Pagine/museostoriconavale...
 
La serra dei giardini. Much more than your average botanical garden, the Serra dei Giardini, a restored 19th century greenhouse and plant nursery, is the ideal place to stop at when looking for some relaxing down time away from the crowds. Located in the Castello area, the greenhouse offers a chance to learn more about flowers, or, more simply, to sit down, read a book or a magazine and enjoy teas, smoothies, juice and all organic snacks like the typical venetian crostini with baccalà. For detailed information: http://www.serradeigiardini.org/en/index.php 

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