As recently as just one generation ago Venice was a night city, where the residents of each parish set out tables on the street at the flimsiest excuse. Nowadays, with the pavements overrun by outsiders, the social life of the Venetians is more of an indoor business - a restaurant meal or a drink with friends might feature in most people's diary for the week, and a conversational stroll is certainly a favourite Venetian pastime, but home entertainment takes up most time and energy. That said, Venice's calendar of special events is pretty impressive, with the Carnevale, the Film Festival and the Biennale ranking among the continent's hottest dates. To find out what's on in the way of concerts and films, check Un Ospite di Venezia , a free bilingual magazine available from the tourist office and some of the more expensive hotels - it's produced weekly in peak season, monthly in winter. Information and listings for bars, events, festivals can also be found at .
Music and theatre
Music in Venice, to all intents and purposes, means classical music - rock bands rarely come nearer than Padua, and big names stop at Verona. The top-bracket music venues are La Fenice (temporarily rehoused on Tronchetto) and the Teatro Goldoni in Calle Goldoni, in the San Marco sestiere.
Prior to the fire of 1996, La Fenice was the third-ranking Italian opera house after Milan's La Scala and Naples' San Carlo. While the building is being reconstructed, performances are held in a vast marquee called Palafenice , over on Tronchetto; a special water-bus transports ticket-holders from San Marco to the tent. Tickets for Palafenice can be bought from the temporary box office in the Cassa di Risparmio building on Campo S. Luca (Mon-Fri 8.30am-1.30pm; tel 041.521.0161; fax 041.786.580), or at Palafenice itself, where the box office is open from two hours before the start of the night's show. Tickets usually start at around L30,000/16, though prices are higher for the more glamorous productions, and you'll pay twice as much for the opening night of a production as you would for the same seat later in the run. The opera season runs from late November to the end of June, punctuated by ballet performances.
The city's major venue for classical music concerts used to be the Sale Apollinee in La Fenice. When La Fenice is at last rebuilt it may reclaim that position, but for now the principal concert hall is the Teatro Malibran (by the church of San Giovanni Crisostomo), which will soon re-open after years of dereliction. At the time of writing, box-office details were not available - the tourist offices should be able to supply programmes.
Music performances at the Goldoni (box office 9.30am-12.30pm & 4-6pm; tel 041.520.5422) are somewhat less frequent than at La Fenice and the Malibran; the repertoire here tends to be more populist, with a jazz series cropping up every now and then. For most of the year the Goldoni specializes in the works of the eponymous writer.
Classical concerts, with a strong bias towards the eighteenth century, are also performed at the Palazzo Prigione Vecchie , the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista , the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Palazzo Mocenigo (San Stae) and the churches of Santo Stefano , the Frari , San Stae , San Samuele , San Bartolomeo , Zitelle , San Barnaba , the Ospedaletto and the Pietà (the most regularly used - it specializes in Vivaldi in particular). The average ticket price for these concerts is around L30,000 (often with a L10,000 reduction for students and children), which is expensive for performances more often distinguished by enthusiasm than professionalism - for the same price you can get to hear real stars at La Fenice. The state radio service sometimes records concerts at the Palazzo Labia , to which the public are admitted free of charge, as long as seats are reserved in advance (tel 041.716.666). In summer the Italian-German Cultural Association presents free chamber music concerts every Saturday at 5.30pm in the Palazzo Albrizzi , Fondamenta S. Andrea, Cannaregio.
Up beat and down market from the theatre and classical concerts, some bars have live music: the main ones are Paradiso Perduto in Cannaregio and Da Codroma in Dorsoduro. They don't charge for entrance, but a mark-up on the drinks pays for the bands.
English-language films are the basic fare for Venice's moviegoers, and virtually every screening is dubbed rather than subtitled. From around mid-July to the end of August, however, an open-air cinema in Campo S. Polo shows dubbed or Italian-language films to a high-spirited local audience. Films start each night at around 9pm, and it's worth an evening of anyone's holiday, if only for the atmosphere. (For information ring 041.524.1320; email@example.com .) A big new media and cinema centre is planned for Calle Vallaresso, but for the meantime the main cinemas are as follows:
Accademia , Calle Corfù, Dorsoduro 1019 tel 041.528.7706. By the Accademia; mixture of general release and art-house films.
Giorgione , Rio Terrà dei Franceschi 4612a tel 041.522.6298. Two small screens, occasionally showing independent films.
Ritz , Calle dei Segretaria, San Marco 617 tel 041.520.4429. By S. Zulian; general release.
Rossini , Calle delle Muneghe, San Marco 4000 tel 041.523.0322. The biggest screen in the city. Facing the church of S. Luca; general release.
Discos and clubs
Venice is notorious for its lack of decent nightlife, relying mostly on the handful of late bars dotted around the city. The most buzzing area, particularly in winter, is along the Fondamenta della Misericordia, in Cannaregio, where Iguana, Le Notti d'Oriente and Paradiso Perduto (see listings under "Bars and snacks") stay open late and have occasional DJs or live music. Dorsoduro, on and around the studenty Campo S. Margherita, is another good bet, particularly in the warmer months: try Margaret DuChamp , Il Caffè or Green Pub , all of which stay open late. To really get down, however, there's only one recommendable option, Casanova (tel 041.534.7479), on the Lista di Spagna. As a huge, old-fashioned disco-club it would be half empty anywhere else, but in Venice it stays fairly busy from Thursday to Saturday. The current regime is salsa (Wed), student/Indie (Thurs), classic dance (Fri) and House (Sat), but don't even think about arriving before around 2am.
There's a tiny disco over on the Lido, Nuova Acropolis , Lungomare Marconi 22, and Mestre has several identikit clubs which are listed in the local press. The real action is further away, out in the northern reaches of the lagoon at Jesolo . Every Friday and Saturday evening, this sedate resort transforms itself into a ravers' haven, as a swarm of clubs kick into life. Just stroll into town after 11pm and you'll find the hot spots. The problem is that though there are plenty of buses out to Jesolo, there's no way of getting back except to get a lift with someone - and Jesolo is notorious not so much for its weekend bachannals as for what happens afterwards, when hundreds of inebriated young Italians go blasting back home. The Jesolo-Venice road has just about the highest death toll of any strip of tarmac in the country.
Only one aspect of Venice's nightlife attracts the kids from the mainland, and that's the Casinò , one of only half a dozen in the entire country. The Saturday night migration is a strange sight - the vaporetto pulls in at the dismal Tronchetto stop, and on board step the well-groomed young gamblers, having parked their Alfa Romeos in the Tronchetto's multistorey. Minimum age is 18, and the dress code is not as strict as you'd think - even jeans are acceptable in the rooms given over to slot machines (L5000/?2.58 admission), though jacket and tie are obligatory for the "French" games (L10,000/?5.16), such as roulette and chemin de fer. From mid-September to mid-June the Casinò occupies the magnificent Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi (Cannaregio) on the Canal Grande; in high summer it migrates to the Lido's Palazzo del Casinò on Lungomare Marconi. At both sites it operates from 4pm until 2.30am (3.30am on Saturday).
Special exhibitions - and the Biennale
As if the profusion of galleries, museums and picture-stuffed churches weren't enough, Venice boasts a phalanx of venues for special exhibitions . Listed below are the places where you'll find the first-rank shows, with an indication of the themes favoured by each venue - look in Un Ospite di Venezia for details of fringe events, and take note of advertising posters and banners.
Archivio di Stato (San Polo): Venetian history.
Ca' Pésaro (San Polo): modern art.
Fondazione Cini , on San Giorgio Maggiore: art history.
Guggenheim (Dorsoduro): modern art.
Museo Correr (San Marco): exhibitions usually related to Venetian history or art.
Museo Fortuny (San Marco): design and photography.
Palazzo Ducale (San Marco): art history, ethnology and archeology.
Palazzo Grassi (San Marco): major art and cultural shows, on subjects as diverse as Celtic civilization and Futurism.
Querini-Stampalia (Castello): art history.
Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista (San Polo): photography, video, technology as applied to the arts.
Scuola Grande di San Teodoro (San Marco): modern and applied art - often tacky.
Contemporary private galleries in Venice are generally timorous affairs, most of them functioning more as shops for arty artefacts than as exhibition spaces; again, look in Un Ospite for their latest offerings. A handful stand out against a background of dross, all of them in the sestiere of San Marco:
Arte Moderna Contini, Calle Spezier, off Campo S. Stefano.
Bugno & Samueli, Campo San Fantin.
Santo Stefano , Campo S. Stefano.
Traghetto, Campo S. Maria del Giglio
Venice celebrates enthusiastically a number of special days either not observed elsewhere in Italy, or, like the Carnevale, celebrated to a lesser extent. Although they have gone through various degrees of decline and revival, the form they take now is still related very strongly to their traditional character
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