The walk from the Basilica della Salute along the Zattere to San Basilio is a journey through the inner soul of Venice that everyone should do at least once in their lives: the only way that allows you to walk “straight” for almost 2 km, exempting us from the traditionally Venetian zigzagging for calli and bridges, and that crosses all the eras of the city telling us extraordinary stories.
The adventure begins in one of the most beautiful hotels in Venice, although hotel is certainly not the most suitable word; rather a private residence converted with admirable skill by the Campa brothers into a fine residence for ladies and gentlemen who came down to discover the lagoon city. This is Ca’ Maria Adele, a 16th-century building furnished with an eclectic decor that pays homage to the history of Venice and its Oriental Nights, boasting facilities and service worthy of a royal residence. From there, after having breakfast in one of the sexiest rooms on the planet, the Sala Noir, we take Calle del Bastion until we arrive shortly afterwards at the former Abbey of San Gregorio which, after Napoleon’s arrival, was used as a workshop of the Mint for the gold refinery. The ancient cloister is normally open, it usually hosts temporary exhibitions, and is definitely worth a visit.
From here you follow directions to the Peggy Museum Guggenheim. The break is a must to know the history of this eclectic patron-of-arts: inherited a fortune from her father who died in the Titanic disaster, Peggy put together one of the largest collections of works of art, with undisputed flair, in history. Enter even just to admire René Magritte‘s Empire of Lights, a dreamlike journey between night and day: coexistence in an impossible oxymoron that leads you to think further. At the Guggenheim there is also the famous café and one of the most beautiful museum bookshops in the world where it is worth treating yourself with a souvenir of Venice (at this point, if you want to stop for lunch, you can go to the Gondolieri).
From there the walk continues and you take the Fondamenta Bragadin to finally reach the Zattere promenade which takes its name from the barges which came with the timber from the Venetian mountains, or alternatively from those, referring to the myth, which would have been used, with great tactical acumen, around the year 810 to defeat the attack of the son of Charlemagne against Venice. If you look to the right, you will see the Hotel La Calcina. It was one of the first “literary cafes” in Italy, usually frequented by artists of all sorts and nationalities from the mid-1800s on, from Ippolito Caffi to Domenico Fabris, from Luigi Borro to John Ruskin…Just think that it was nicknamed “The Pool” because the Passoni swimming pool was right in front of it (Venice was full of them at that time), in reality a fenced area in the water, which remained in operation until the 60s of the last century.
Going on, another must is a retro break at Gelateria Nico. One of the oldest ice-cream shops in Italy, opened in the 1920s, it has become famous for its Gianduiotto, gianduia ice cream by the glass drowned in whipped cream, which still enchants us today for its reassuring atmosphere reminding of an American pier from the 1950s with vintage lampposts and seats in woven plastic threads. After the ice cream shop, if you turn slightly to the right after the bridge, you can see the Squero San Trovaso, one of the oldest and most characteristic Venice, where gondolas are still built and repaired today. Opposite is one of the bacari (typical local bars) most loved by the Venetians, named Al Squero.
At this point, the aperitif time should have arrived and you can choose between a true Venetian spritz at Al Chioschetto, letting yourself be lulled by the boats that flow slowly along the Giudecca canal, or take a more cosmopolitan and less crowded break at the cocktail bar of the new hotel Palazzo Experimental. This is definitely worth a quick visit to admire the interior design that has transformed the historic headquarters of the Compagnia Navale Adriatica and one of the most iconic buildings in the city into an art deco paradise. A few meters away is one of the most fascinating shops in Venice, the Mercante di Venezia, where you can find real nautical antiques (impossible not to buy even a small object that belonged to one of the many sailing ships that plowed the seas from Venice to the East!) whilst enjoying a truly unique atmosphere.
Once you get here, take some time to admire in front of you the gigantic Mulino Stucky, a factory-mill inaugurated in 1897 by the entrepreneur Giovanni Stucky, at the time the richest man in Venice, in the neo-Gothic industrial style typical of the Germanic countries. Today home to the Hilton Hotel, it is a romantic warning about the transience of the, often ironic, wheel of life and at sunset it offers one of the most beautiful views of Venice.
From here you can get to Piazzale Roma in a few minutes or to Santa Lucia station. If you are lucky, however, book the second night at the Metropole Hotel and get ready to visit the Castello and Arsenale areas of Venice. But this is another story to tell.