Venice is probably the most ideal place to keep Shabbos in the world. There’s not a single car on the island, so it’s like everyone’s keeping Shabbos! The island is also all mainly eruv friendly, with the exception of the Rialto Bridge area, so there’s a lot of opportunity to have a rockin Shabbos walk. The Chabad there is so incredible warm and organized, so Shabbos was even more heilig than we could have imagined. It’s important to know that the Chabad meals fill up quickly, so booking in advance is key. There are three different types of Shabbos meals to choose from 1)eating in restaurant 2) eating in the art gallery 3) communal meal. We chose the art gallery meal – the ambiance was beautiful and the food was incredible. You can also make order take out food for Shabbos from their restaurant Gam Gam. More information can be found here.
We went during off peak season, and there were two shuls to choose from 1) Spanish Synagogue 2) Chabad. The Spanish synagogue has tight security, and it is required to bring picture ID in order to enter (there IS an eruv in the area). You are also unable to leave services once you enter. The nissuch used for davening is unique, so it’s best to use one of the siddurim available in the shul. The Chabad shul starts later in the morning, around 10:30 a.m., and is a classic Chabad minyan. They have grand dairy kiddush after shul outside in the ghetto, and it’s a really nice way to meet people from all over the world that are in Venice for Shabbos.
Motzei Shabbos was definitely my personal favorite experience from Italy – there was so much to do! We had booked tickets for a night time ghost walking tour of Venice, which had excellent reviews. It began to close to the end of Shabbos though, and even though we called to say we would meet them by the Rialto Bridge a minute late, we missed the tour. Because they go through side streets, we were unable to meet up with them, and we were not refunded for the tour which was a bummer. I drove my friends absolutely crazy trying to find the tour though, and we got to experience Venice first hand in the raw. Definitely don’t attempt the dark alley’s and side streets without google maps 😉
On our way back, we stumbled upon a few concert halls. One of the halls had a cool guy dressed in 17th century clothes outside, who said the opera was starting in two minutes while also promising us the student discount. And that’s how we found ourselves listening to FIGARRRRRRRRRO in real time at the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro! We ran back to the Chabad house to hear a late night havdalah, and ate Gam Gam’s finest melave malka there while playing guitar and making new friends.
New friends (and guitar) in tow, we walked to a fruit smoothie hut called Frulala, which has a kosher menu when asked. You can also customize your drink, which can include a variety of fruits and/or alcohol. (There are two Frulala’s on the island, as well as a some fruit sorbet’s being kosher at Grom. Ask Chabad for more updated information before going.). Because it’s out in the open on the street, and because it’s kosher, we had a strong Jew crew going for a few hours, catching up with our new friends from Shabbos.
We then walked back towards Gam Gam, which has a secret alley nearby that leads to a club like place that has 5 euro pool or Foosball for the half hour (it’s called Ai biliardi). Don’t forget to bring ID, as you have to be stamped in order to get in. You also have to be very quiet while walking towards the door, as Venice is known for being very peaceful and quiet, and honestly this is probably the only nightlife on this quaint island. How can you not love a night where you own the place like a local, chat with new friends who feel like old friends you haven’t seen in a while, and live a little spontaneously?
Ditch the map.