Jayden Ali on his Venice Highlights

Where do you send a renaissance man? Why, Venice, of course. And so when it came to appointing the co-curators for the British pavilion at this year’s Biennale Architettura, to whom else could they turn but Jayden Ali, artist, architect, filmmaker, interdisciplinary space maker and all-round star in the making. Through his practice, JA Projects, he’s helped mould a vast range of different spaces from exhibitions at the V&A to storied old market halls in Newham. His Venice installation, Thunder and Şimşek, pays homage to his Trinidadian and Cypriot roots. We talked to him about his hidden gems of La Serenissima. 

“Coming from an architectural perspective, Venice is obviously a remarkable place. The fact that it was conjured out of nothing makes it hallowed ground, the ultimate architectural miracle. And being surrounded by water give it that double layer of light, which gives everything a kind of evenness, like it’s in a photo shoot or a film. It’s just an incredibly romantic place.”  

Trattoria Dai Tosi

I was lucky enough to be overseeing the build for this year’s British Pavilion and so I spent a lot of time in the city, living near the Giardini. I would start my day with a run, across the park and along the water, part the football stadium, across bridges, through dense streets. And then after work I would usually end the day at the same understated family-run restaurant. I stumbled on it but if you ask anyone who lives round there, they all rate it as the top local secret spot. The food is simple but beautifully done; salads tossed in oil, lovely plates of pasta, pizzas for €9.  

Castello, 738, Venezia; no website 

Corte Sconta

Corte Sconta 

I took my girlfriend here for her birthday lunch as it’s a beautiful place with a wonderful courtyard and I wanted her to try their amazing tuna in the Venetian style. It’s not like any tuna I’ve ever eaten before. The fish is cooked in a hot ceramic bowl with sweet, caramelised onions and it comes so hot that it has this kind of dynamism to it with the ingredients moving in the pot.

Calle del Pestrin, 3886, Venezia; cortescontave.com/

Museo Fortuny 

My girlfriend is a set designer on films, and she’s obsessed with furniture. She took me to this beautiful museum, which is housed in the Palazzo Pesaro Orfei where the architect, artist and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny lived from 1902 to 1949. The museum shows his incredible collection of wall hangings, paintings and furniture, all set in his preserved palatial home. It’s been elegantly renovated recently, and the courtyard has this wonderful open wooden staircase, which makes the space incredibly atmospheric.  

S. Marco, Venezia; fortuny.visitmuve.it/

Al Ponte Antico 

When I first visit the city, I stayed in this amazing, small hotel, just by the Rialto Bridge. It’s a labour of love. The host is almost a caricature of a host, he is so hospitable. He makes your eggs in the morning, and he’s done a really careful restoration of the place, which has beautiful wall coverings and wallpaper. Every room is slightly different, with gorgeous beddings and fabrics.  

Calle Aseo, 5768, Venezia; www.alponteantico.com


Venice isn’t that fun in the rain but if you’re wet and cold you have an excuse to visit this amazing sanctuary where they make the best hot chocolate you’ll ever drink. It’s not diluted with anything else, it’s just chunks of beautiful chocolate stuck into a vat and melted. A cup of their hot chocolate fixes anything.  

Calle del Forner, 5988, Venezia; www.viziovirtu.com

For more on Jayden’s work go to: ja-projects.com

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