If you’re looking for serious nocturnal action, you’re in the wrong town—Verona and Padua are far livelier. Your best bet is to sit in the moonlit Piazza San Marco and listen to the cafes’ outdoor orchestras, with the illuminated basilica before you—the perfect opera set—though this pleasure comes with a hefty price tag. Other popular spots to hang out include Campo San Bartolomeo, at the foot of the Rialto Bridge (although it is a zoo here in high season), and nearby Campo San Luca. In late-night hours, for low prices and low pretension, the absolute best place to go is Campo Santa Margherita, a huge open campo about halfway between the train station and the Accademia Bridge. Although Venice boasts an old and prominent university, clubs and discos barely enjoy their 15 minutes of popularity before changing hands or closing down (some are open only in the summer months). Young Venetians tend to go to the Lido or mainland Mestre. Note: Most bars are open Monday to Saturday from 8pm to midnight.
The Performing Arts
Venice has a long and rich tradition of classical music; this was, after all, the home of Vivaldi. Several churches regularly host classical music concerts (with an emphasis on the baroque) by local and international artists. People dressed in period costumes stand around in heavily trafficked spots near San Marco and Rialto passing out brochures advertising the classical music concerts, so you'll have no trouble finding up-to-date information.
From May to October, Casino Municipale di Venezia, located at Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, Cannaregio 2040 (Fondamenta Vendramin; tel. 041-529-7111; www.casinovenezia.it; vaporetto: San Marcuola), moves to its nondescript summer location on the Lido, where a visit is not as strongly recommended as during the winter months, when it is housed in this handsome 15th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. Venice's tradition of gambling goes back to the glory days of the republic and lives on in this august Renaissance palace built by Mauro Codussi. Though not of the caliber of Monte Carlo and, on a midweek winter's night, occasionally slow, this is one of only four casinos on Italian territory -- and what a remarkable stage setting it is! Richard Wagner lived and died in a wing of this palazzo in 1883.
Check with your hotel before setting forth; some offer free passes for their guests. Otherwise, if you're not a gambler or a curiosity seeker, it may not be worth the admission cost of 5€ to get in. Tip: If you pay a higher 10€ admission fee, the casino will provide you with a 10€ credit for gambling, so your admission could actually be free -- and perhaps, if you're lucky, better than free. Note: A passport and jacket are required for entrance (you can rent the jacket there, the passport you have to bring yourself), and the casino is open daily from 3:30pm (11am for the slots) to 2:45am (3:45am Fri and Sat).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.