Stroll along the Dark, Quite Byways for Venice’s Intrinsic Beauty

There is no better way to allow the city’s intrinsic beauty to cast its spell than to wander its dark, quiet byways. End your stroll at the foot of the Rialto Bridge for a nightcap.

Venetians don’t generally do Venice by night — most restaurants tend to shut their kitchens early and the smattering of pubs that stay open past midnight (several in the Campo Santa Margherita) don’t make for an especially lively night life. Even gondoliers tend to hang up their paddles

“In the summer, we’re usually tired by dinnertime,” said one lagoon rower. “It’s a busy time for us.”

That leaves the mostly empty streets of late-night Venice to the visitor who refuses to conform to the city’s early hours. And in fact, there is no better way to allow Venice’s intrinsic beauty to cast its spell than to wander those dark, quiet byways.

With lapping water as the muffled soundtrack, an after-midnight stroll through the San Polo and Santa Croce neighborhoods may be one of the most romantic — if slightly ominous — ways to experience the city. Take the somewhat spooky approach to the Gothic church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari by walking along dimly lighted calli (as streets are known), taking in the Campo San Polo, oddly silent after a cacophonous day. Getting lost, easy enough during the day, practically inevitable at night, only jacks up the frisson of tension.

Or why not sit for a spell on one of the benches in the nearby Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio? If you give in to the silence — remember, there’s no traffic noise as distraction — you’ll pick up the faraway echo of footsteps, the hushed garble of a television from behind a shuttered window.

Once you’ve had your fill, head to the foot of the Rialto Bridge where the Erbaria, the daytime fruit and vegetable market, turns into a hip hangout for night owls. Do as the locals do: grab a glass of something at one of the half-dozen bars and restaurants like the Naranzaria (39-041) 724-1035), which is open every day, but on Monday until 2 a.m. and meander into the adjacent square. It’s sure to be livelier.

But only a few steps away, just around a corner, is another dimly lit street waiting to usher you back into the darkness.

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