Don’t miss Venice’s museum (and the former house of Robert Browning) dedicated to the 18th century. This palazzo, which took twenty years to restore before it reopened, in 2001, contains a wonderful selection of art and furniture. It’s often compared to New York’s Frick for the way it showcases art and antiques in a grand house setting.
Collezione Peggy Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim’s incredible collection, which includes major works by Picasso, Pollock, Kandinsky and Ernst, is on view at her former home: the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. The wealthy American eccentric, who reportedly loved to sunbathe nude on her terrace and was the last person in Venice to have a private gondola, is buried here alongside her fourteen dogs. Closed Tuesday.
D’Arte e di Vetro
Indagare insider Marie Brandolini, known for her innovative, colorful glass creations based on traditional Venetian designs, recommends visiting D’Arte e di Vetro gallery where its owner “Caterina Tognon presents many international glass artists (Silvia Levenson, Toots Zynsky,) and a fantastic Venetian one, Maria Grazia Rosin (who makes octopus shape chandeliers).”
This cool museum is mostly devoted to the works of Italian painter Emilio Vedova (a native Venetian). Housed in a warehouse on the Zattere quay, where the abstract expressionist artist lived with his wife, Annabianca, for many years, the foundation opened in 2009. Architect Renzo Piano, who knew Vedova since the 1980s, devised an ingenious way to display the artist’s oversized works: suspended on a track running along the ceiling, the pieces seem to float toward the viewer, longer shortly, then disappear again. The foundation also hosts smaller, temporary exhibitions. This museum is a great one to combine with visiting the larger Punta della Dogana. It may not be as flashy or large-scale, but the works of this pioneering painter, as well as the vision behind their installation is very impressive. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
What’s Nearby: Lineadombra, a lovely seafood restaurant with a terrace over the Giudecca Canal; Punta della Dogana, a contemporary art museum; and gelateria Nico, a good spot for an afternoon break.
Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro
Ca’ d’Oro’s façade may no longer be gold, as the name suggests, but this palazzo is one of the best preserved along the Grand Canal, and lovers of Gothic Byzantine-style architecture should not miss it. The collection on view inside includes 16th-century Flemish tapestries, paintings by Titian and Andrea Mantegna and furniture.
Yes, it’s almost always crowded, but you should still go to see the finest collection of Venetian paintings in the world, including works by Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto and Carpaccio.
As insider Francesca Bortolotto Possati says in her insider tips, “While most tourists flock to see the façade of the famous basilica on St. Marks Square, few realize that you can visit the Sansovino-designed Marciana Library inside, which lies across the square.” It has gorgeous interiors and a spectacular collection of rare books and maps, which you can be shown with a docent.
The special exhibits at the Correr museum are always worth seeing. Past exhibitions have included shows such as “Sargent and Venice.” An American painter born in Florence in 1856, John Singer Sargent was drawn to Venice, whose people and landscapes he painted for forty-some years.
City Secrets is a series of innovative guidebooks whose contributors, from art historians and professors to novelists and architects, choose their personal “city secrets” to share. Read a Q&A with founding editor Robert Kahn. The following is a pick from City Secrets: Florence & Venice by the late Rona Goffen, a historian.
Palazzo Fortuny used to be one of the palaces of the Pesaro family, patrons of Bellini and Titian. It now houses the Fortuny Museum. (Mariano Fortuny was the textile maker and designer, to whom one is particularly grateful for ravishing pleated silks.) Closed Tuesdays.
The last palazzo to be erected in Venice before the fall of the Republic, in the late 18th century, the Grassi now hosts exhibitions drawn mainly from the vast contemporary-art collection that French businessman François Pinault assembled over more than thirty years. Originally, the publicity-shy billionaire had planned on exhibiting his extraordinary art—including works by Jeff Koons, Cy Twombly, Brice Marden and Damien Hirst—in France, but after French red tape delayed the project several times, Pinault moved his treasures to Venice (he also brought along architect Tadeo Ando to renovate the building and former French minister of culture and communication Jean-Jacques Aillagon to serve as the director). Palazzo Grassi now shares the collection with the Punta della Dogana, which opened in 2009, but considering Pinault is one of the world’s most ambitious collectors, there’s plenty of blue-chip art displayed in both places. The exhibitions change every two years in time for the Biennale.
Be sure to stay for lunch in the terrific cafe, which is run by Irina Freguia whose family own Venetian classic Vecio Fritolin. The menu specializes in Venetian and Italian dishes.
Read a member’s tips on visiting
Punta della Dogana
The stunning contemporary art museum, which opened in 2009 to coincide with the Venice Biennale, showcases the blue-chip collection of French collector Francois Pinault. Whether you love or loathe Pinault’s gathering of greatest hits (Hirst, Sherman, Koons, Murakami etc), the museum is worth seeing for the spectacular building, a former 17th-century customs house, envisioned and designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Many of the works seem virtually created for the dramatic beauty of Ando’s spaces. There’s German artist Sigmar Polke’s Axial Age, a huge painting cycle of monochormatic, translucent panels; photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series of ethereal images called Stylized Sculpture; and Fischli & Weiss’ whimsical Sonne Mond und Sterne in which magazine ads tell a playful tale of the life cycles. Be sure to get the audio tour and plan to spend some time in this special gallery. Closed Tuesday.
What’s Nearby: Lineadombra, a lovely seafood restaurant with a terrace over the Giudecca Canal; Fondazione Vedova, another contemporary museum; and gelateria Nico, a good spot for an afternoon break.
Indagare insider Marie Brandolini, known for her innovative, colorful glass creations based on traditional Venetian designs, recommends visiting San Gregorio (www.sangregorioartgallery.com) in Dorsoduro, which features a part from the famous XX collection and is very interesting, masterminded by young and talented art curator: Luca Massimo Barbero.”
Scuola Grande di San Marco
Renaissance fans ought to check out this magnificent building, in the Castello district. From 2000 to 2004, Save Venice (www.savevenice.org), a United States–based nonprofit organization, spearheaded the restoration of the structure’s intricate façade, which is adorned with pillars and statues.