Patricia Urquiola’s Venice

Spanish-born Patricia Urquiola is one of the world’s most influential designers and architects, renowned for her work for Alessi, B&B Italia, Moroso and Mandarin Oriental.

Architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, near the Punta della Dogana museum, Venice.
Architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, near the Punta della Dogana museum, Venice. | Image: Fabio Massimo Aceto

“I leave Milan for Venice on Friday night with my husband Alberto and daughters Giulia, 16, and Sofia, five. What I love is that we go by train – it’s relaxed, and slow, and lets you think. And Venice is the perfect place to arrive by train; you cross the whole lagoon to Stazione Santa Lucia in the old centre.

We’ve been going to Venice for almost 15 years to stay with our very good friends Eliana Gerotto and Davide Fiorelli. Their flat is in Cannaregio, in a 17th-century building, one of several owned by Eliana and her 11 brothers, all overlooking a communal garden. Their daughters have grown up with mine, and their dog, Johnny, plays with our Jack Russell, Lola. When we arrive, there’s always a cousin or a brother or a niece coming in around the same time, so we’ll have a big, late, very casual dinner, and catch up.

Saturday morning, I’m always up early and out. I walk across the Ponte alle Guglie and have a brioche or frittelle and coffee at Pasticceria Tonolo, and read the newspapers. This is really a ritual. Sometimes I’ll take Giulia, and on the way home we might stop in one of the churches; you never know when there will suddenly be an altarpiece by Bellini.

I’m working on a glass project produced in Murano for an exhibition called Glasstress, so late morning I go to the fornace there with Alberto, to check on the progress of the works I’ll show. Then we’ll go back to town and have lunch near the Rialto market. A favourite is Osteria Bancogiro – basically a bar with a restaurant menu, but it has a lovely terrace on the canal. Then we’ll stroll in the market, buying vegetables and perhaps flowers.

It’s close to many of the exhibition spaces, so we’ll go to see something at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia or the Palazzo Fortuny. We just saw a fantastic exhibition called L’Avventura del Vetro at the Museo Correr [until April 25]. If we have friends visiting, we’ll take them to the bigger venues, such as the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi. For me, as an architect and designer, it’s great that there’s always some new art or design to see in Venice.

If we’re elsewhere, we might go to one of the city’s lovely bookshops, such as Libreria Toletta in Dorsoduro. I also love Rigattieri in San Marco; it has beautiful ceramic, glass and pewter objects.


In the late afternoon, we’ll go to All’Arco Rialto for an ombra, a little glass of wine, and some cicchetti, Venetian tapas. Another great place for aperitivi is Zanzibar, in the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, looking right at the church.

If we haven’t seen much of the Gerottos, we’ll have a family-style dinner at home. Otherwise, we’ll go to the trattoria Dalla Marisa in Cannaregio – they cook very simple food, and know us and what we like. We’ll eat schie, shrimps with polenta, and sarde in soar, sweet-sour sardines.

On Sunday morning we take a s’ciopon, a rowboat, out on the canals. For lunch, we usually end up at Ostaria Da Rioba. It’s a great fish place, and they put tables outside if it’s nice. Then in the afternoon we’ll take the topo – a little sailboat – to Torcellino, a tiny island where Eliana and her sister Martina have a vegetable garden. There are no houses – just allotments – and it’s incredibly tranquil. Sofia loves this; she’ll run around with the dogs while we pick artichokes and relax.

If we’re in the mood to indulge, we’ll sail to Locanda Cipriani, on the nearby island of Torcello, for dinner. There’s a beautiful garden with white iron chairs I love, and a kind of portico on one side.

Then, we sometimes take a late train home – but I try always to stay until Monday morning. Venice gives me a nice, protected feeling; and the more time I spend there, the more I feel it. So I like to make it last.”

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