While staying in Giudecca, I had a chance to talk to Francesco, a Venetian local, who was passionate about the history of the city. Francesco said that "Giudecca" could be translated in two different contexts; first it could mean "Jewish", referring to the Jewish population that used to stay on the island. Another translation could be that Giudecca's name meant "wait to be judged" , since notorious and wealthy families used to get exiled to Giudecca, waiting for the judgment of their sins. In the 20th century, Giudecca became an industrial area, home to many large factories. The Hilton Hotel in Giudecca, for example, used to be a flour mill. Nowadays, the island is a local favorite and a getaway from the crowds of the main island of Venice.
The first thing you will notice in Giudecca is the dominant presence of the local life. Walking leisurely around the island was one my favorite activities. I still remember vividly the smell of the fresh laundry and the tranquil sight of the colorful sheets hanging in between the buildings. My favorite moment was to watch a 3-year-old boy playing happily with a puddle of water, with a stunning background of the peaceful blue sea. It is hard to find such images in the center of Venice. Another way to explore the local life is to visit the art workshops at Artisti Artigiani del Chiostro, which used to be a monastery. There, you can buy traditional Venetian products from the local artisanal stores.
After strolling in Giudecca, visit the local restaurant called Al Pontil Dea Giudecca for a budget and authentic lunch. You have to ask the waiters what's the daily specialty offered, since there is no fixed menu. Then I would suggest having a gelato for dessert from the local gelateria nearby, called L'isola dei gelati. "Not just any gelato but the best gelato in Venice!". Everything is made freshly on site. Eating a gelato on the steps of the 16th-century church Il Redentore, while enjoying a beautiful view of Venice, was my favorite thing to do while there.
To me, Giudecca feels like a surreal world as depicted in Giorgio de Chirico's paintings. It is best to explore Giudecca in a freestyle, without any plans or directions. That way, the magic of Giudecca will reveal itself. My most favorite time in Giudecca is during the sunrise and sunset, as watching them from the island is just breathtaking. In the next part, I will recommend places to stay and some more unique experiences that you would enjoy in Giudecca - the activities that will follow will be quite upscale. Here is the second part: "Giudecca: The best island of Venice (Part 2)"
If you have plenty of time in Venice, you should buy a Venice pass for public transport and make the most out of it by visiting as many Venetian Lagoon Islands as possible - some of the most popular ones are Murano, Burano, Torcello, and San Giorgio Maggiore. Apart from Giudecca, another favorite island of mine is Burano, which is full of colorful houses. Are you still looking for more insights on where to find off-the-beaten-path experiences in Venice? If yes, go ahead and check out Joe Thorpe's story: A different side of Venice.
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