Like so many other “Venice, My Muse” interviewees, I met Katia because she is a Venetophile who I invited to contribute to First Spritz Is Free. She runs an excellent blog, The Venice Insider, with many great tips and insights into traveling in Venice, plus lists of books, restaurants, shops, festivals, and more. (Links are at the bottom of this post.) Katia has met up with other Venetophile contributors to First Spritz when she’s in Venice. I hope one day I’ll meet her in person!
How has Venice seduced you?
I visited Venice for the first time at the age of 16, first as part of my Italy school trip and later that year with my family. It took me, however, 15 years to return and fall in love with the city.
Venice is completely different from any other city I know. It’s very quiet and peaceful. I love wandering around without the noise of cars, admiring the beauty of the palazzos, the culture, and history, enjoying a spritz outside on a terrace, taking in the view of the Canal Grande. It’s a place where I can forget about everything and enjoy every moment, even when it is hectic and crowded. On top of that, there are so many things going on in Venice. There is always something to discover, whether it’s a new restaurant, an exposition, a calle that I hadn’t seen before or just the people walking around.
What do you never fail to do in Venice?
One of the first things I do when I arrive in Venice is enjoy a good Aperol spritz. This moment always feels like the official start of the holidays. Even though I also drink spritz at home, the setting in Venice makes it taste much better.
Walk or take a boat?
I usually walk as much as possible in Venice as it’s the best way to discover the city. Getting lost is part of the fun and brings you to unexpected places. It also ensures that you don’t rush from one place to another by jumping from one vaporetto to another. I take the time to stop whenever I see something new or beautiful, so the walk is always longer than I planned. Venice is also not that big, so you can easily walk from Sant’Elena to Cannaregio to Dorsoduro. If I would use a step counter, I’m sure that a day in Venice would be similar to one or two weeks of my daily routine at home.
Since I took 2 rowing classes with Venice On Board earlier this year, I love to be on the water and admire a canal view of Venice. Once, or if ever, my rowing skills have been perfected, I would probably be tempted to take a boat on a regular basis.
Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?
My favorite traditional event is the Festa del Redentore in July. I’m a huge fan of fireworks, and the ones in Venice are amongst the best ones I have ever seen. I also love the lively atmosphere on Saturday evening when friends and families join for dinner on the Riva or the Parco delle Rimembranze. Finally, crossing the pontoon bridge on Sunday and watching the regattas in the Giudecca canal is the perfect finale of an amazing weekend.
Spritz or Bellini?
I’m clearly a spritz fan, especially the version with Aperol. The company celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and designed new glasses for this occasion. I ordered a set of these to enjoy my favorite drink at home in style. I’ve only had a Bellini once and it’s not really my taste.
What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?
If they are visiting for the first time, I will advise them to climb the campanile on San Giorgio Maggiore. It gives a beautiful overview of the city, and it doesn’t have long lines such as the one on San Marco. If they visit during summer, I will recommend a visit to Palazzo Ducale at night, when the daytrippers are gone and there are no queues. I will also tell them to spend the majority of their time away from the main landmarks and the crowded areas. Sestieri such as Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, or Giudecca also have stunning palazzos, canals, campos and so on.
If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?
I would love to have dinner with one of the doges to better understand the political intrigues and the social relationships during La Serenissima. Ideally, we could have a candlelight dinner on the terrace of Palazzo Ducale overlooking Piazza San Marco, which for the occasion would be completely empty.
What would you do with $30,000 U.S. to spend in Venice?
I would stay in Venice for a couple of months at a time and spend the money supporting local organizations. I would certainly take plenty of rowing classes with Venice On Board, so they can continue restoring old boats and I can perfect my rowing skills. I would buy beautiful handmade objects from Venetian artisans so I have plenty of memories to take home. I would also book several guided tours to better understand the cultural heritage of the city. Finally, I would probably spend quite some money in tasting Venetian drinks and food at the numerous bars and restaurants.
If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
This is a difficult question as there are so many options. For several years, I would immediately have answered the villa along the Riva dei Sette Martiri, next to Palazzino Canonica. It seems quite large and has a beautiful terrace. It is close to Giardini and the Viale Garibaldi and far enough from the crowded areas around San Marco. The only disadvantage is probably the noise coming from the nearby vaporetto stop. I love the villa so much that I even put a note in the letterbox asking to notify me if they ever plan to sell it (even though I doubt that I would be able to afford it). I’m still waiting for their call. Another stunning palazzo is Palazzo Contarini Fasan along the Canal Grande. It’s located in front of the Salute, and the colored poles are covered in real gold. I saw some pictures of the inside, and it has been beautifully restored. Finally, Palazzo Fortuny is another palazzo that I love to visit and where I wouldn’t mind living.
Which gelato flavor are you?
I am not a big gelato fan, contradictory to my husband who eats one every day while we are in Venice. If I have to choose, I will pick chocolate, caramel, or coffee. On our last trip, I discovered a new (or new to me) ice cream place on Zattere: Gelateria Al Sole. It’s delicious and according to their sign, they include happiness in the ice cream. What more do you want?
How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits?
Katia Waegemans is a Belgian citizen who loves Venice and travels several times per year to the city. To share her passion with other frequent visitors, she started her travel blog The Venice Insider in December 2015.