After two-and-a-half days in Venice, we were feeling like we had done what we had set out to accomplish on our visit. We saw the charming and buzzing neighborhood of Dorsoduro, toured the must-see Palazzo Ducale, explored Cannaregio, and took a day trip to Venice’s famous islands of Burano and Murano. We were torn between spending our last day in the Lido, the barrier island separating the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea, or staying closer to the city at the Giardini, a large, peaceful park in Castello that we had seen from the window of the many vaporetto rides we took around the southern tip of Venice.
Knowing we had a late flight that day and not wanting to have to factor in major transportation time to and from the Lido, we agreed that the Giardini would be our best bet. It turned out to be a great decision.
Located in the Giardini and nearby Arsenale is the Biennale, a famous cultural organization that hosts major art and architectural exhibitions. The Architecture Biennale 2016 was being held there while we visited, and continues through November 27 of this year. It is a major international exhibition of architecture with 63 nations showcasing their best works in pavilions in the park. Additional projects, events and talks are programmed around the main exhibitions for the duration of the show. I’m sure if I were an architect I would have much more appreciation for the significance of the Biennale, and though we were very interested in seeing it, we simply didn’t have time to tour the exhibition before our flight.
We instead focused our day on pure wandering and enjoyment of the local life and culture of Castello, the most populated district in Venice. True to form, there were far more people on the streets than in Cannaregio, with bustling stores and restaurants, laundry hanging out on lines, families strolling in the park and locals fishing off the stone banks. It looked like a beautiful way of life.
Walking the streets here is definitely a must, though we opted to spend the majority of our time in the park.
Unlike Venice’s other districts, Castello is rimmed with green thanks to the park on its southern end, giving it a distinctly different look and feel. I felt very at peace in this area.
The sun was high and hot, so we welcomed the shade of the park and its multitude of benches.
In fact, we spent a lot of time hanging out on one particular bench napping, blowing bubbles, and people watching.
Adding to the idyllic setting was this mother casually pushing her child on a swing with the historic city over her shoulder.
Eventually we made our way to a lovely patio café that we had seen near the entrance of the park. Come to find out, it had a rooftop with a fantastic lounge-like setup, uninterrupted views of the city, and fabulous Bellinis. It was at this moment that the magic of Venice really sank in with me.
It was the perfect way to end our Venetian vacation.
The Giardini is an easy walk from St. Mark’s Square. Just follow the main road along the water all the way to the eastern side of the city. The street changes names a lot, but you can catch it in St. Mark’s Square as Riva degli Schiavoni and take it all the way to the park.
There are also multiple vaporetto stops at various points in the park. You can choose from Giardini (No. 1, N), Giardini Biennale (No. 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6), S. Elena M/N Ponente (No. 7) and S. Elena (No. 1, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6, N).
How Long to Spend
Unless you plan to go to the Biennale exhibitions, I wouldn’t spend more than a half-day walking around the Giardini and nearby areas of Castello.