Hidden Venice with a Psycho-Mambo Twist - July 10, 2017 - Atlas Obscura Trips

Venice, Italy

Hidden Venice with a Psycho-Mambo Twist

Experience the Redentore Festival alongside psycho-mambo brass band Gato Loco, a local fan favorite, as we explore the hidden sites of Venice, dance until dawn, and celebrate the end of the Plague.

Come on a unique Atlas Obscura adventure, taking you beyond everyday Venice and into its darker corners and local haunts. You'll be welcomed as family, spending the week not only visiting some of the city's lesser-known historic spots, but also helping to cook up delicious dinners, decorating festival boats, and practicing unfamiliar instruments. Your hosts on the trip will include Gato Loco, a seven-person band based in New York City who have a huge fan following in Venice, and will be performing for you and locals throughout the trip. Our small group will also gain special access to forbidden islands, secret canals, and local parties. Setting out once the sun goes down, we'll experience a different side of the famed city.

Our whirlwind week will culminate in the dazzling Redentore Festival, a 500-year-old event that happens only once a year. Originally established to celebrate of the end of the Plague, the Redentore is now a bona fide musical bonanza, featuring a massive fireworks show that shimmers over the lagoon.

This special Atlas Obscura experience is limited to only 14 people. For those lucky few who join us, we'd like to remind you to embrace the unpredictability and spontaneity that comes with joining a family of locals; you never know what performance or plague-ridden island might be around the corner. We'd also like to recommend that you stay a few extra days before or after joining us if you'd like to see the more traditional Venice sights, such as Doges' Palace, Basilica di San Marco, Teatro La Fenice, and Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Be aware you'll be in speed boats, not gondolas, while you're with us. A few highlights:

  • Island explorations: Experience Venice's darker history on several of its historical islands, from cemeteries to insane asylums.
  • Endless food and music: At home in the group's villa, learn both culinary and musical tips and tricks from resident local chefs and musicians. It is rare that you won't be either eating, listening, or both.
  • Ancient festivities: It's never too late to celebrate the end of the Plague! Watch fireworks shimmer across the water, join Gato on the beach as they perform a final set, then dance away the rest of the dawn.


Gato Loco describes listening to their music as being "a decadent latin mambo ballroom, thrown in the midst of a 21st century rock show"—in other words, BIG music. The band "takes its cues from scratchy pre-war Cuban records and vintage betty boop cartoons, while freely incorporating a modern schizoid mentality, with equal parts latin, rock, and jazz. Their psycho-mambo brass repertoire does not fit neatly inside any one box (think, Claymation?). Gato's individual members have played with an array of different bands, from Vampire Weekend to Slavic Soul Party. The Redentore is one of their favorite events of the year, and they're eager to bring new music fans on board! 

Paolo Rosso is a passionate art curator and an enabler of all things cool and creative. He grew up in Pavia, near Milan, and now lives in Venice, though has done projects in Asia. Many of Paolo's projects are related to the locations they are in, or consist of artists who work to highlight the spirit of a place, with this relationship serving as a crucial force behind the art. Paolo most recently took Serra dei Giardini, an abandoned greenhouse built in 1894, and recreated it into a community space: part garden and flower shop, part concert and exhibition space, part classroom and social hub. He is excited to be your friend and local guide during your time together in his home city!

Adriana Molello is a world-class violinist who has performed all across the globe. Also a composer, choreographer, and avid traveler, Molello has performed with Pharrell on SNL, traveled to Kentucky to record with Jim James, and worked with electro artist Francesca Lombardo. Molello has also directed the musical programming for Atlas Obscura's annual Into the Veil event at Green-Wood Cemetery, an immersive, experiential after-dark soirée. She is looking forward to welcoming you in Venice with her stroh violin, whipping it out whenever an opportunity arises.


$250 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot, as we have a very limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill extremely quickly. The trip will cost $3,850—the $250 deposit plus the $3,600 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including your accommodations and all meals and activities listed in the itinerary below. 

Day 1
Initiation Day
  • Arrive in Venice at your leisure any time today before dinner at 8pm. We will be arranging your transportation from the Venice Airport.
  • Gather together with your new companions at your group's Venetian villa. Start getting to know your fellow travelers and the band members of Gato Loco at a welcome reception and family dinner.
  • Afterwards, once the clock strikes 11, we’ll head out together to Gato Loco’s covert initiation site, located by a secret canal underneath a famous church.
  • When the tide is just low enough, we will slow down our boat as it glides underneath the church. In that secret enclave, we will float, playing music and listening to the reverberations as they bounce between the church—hovering merely inches from our heads—and the water below.
Day 2
The Abandoned Islands
  • Enjoy a leisurely first breakfast at your villa around 9am.
  • We'll spend our first morning in Venice exploring the legends of Poveglia Plague Island, where it is rumored that 50 percent of the soil consists of human remains. Over the course of many centuries, Poveglia has been home to a mental hospital, Napoleon's store of weapons, and countless tales of battle and brutality.
  • Afterwards, we’ll scope out a scenic spot for a picnic lunch, gazing out over the water at Venice and pondering what it might have been like to be one of the hundreds of thousands of patients that were kept on the scattered islands of Venice. We’ll then climb into our boat and continue our investigations of the city's historic underbelly.
  • Head to “The Island of the Mad,” the San Servolo Insane Asylum, which served as the city’s official mental asylum from 1725 all the way until 1978. We'll check out the carefully preserved photo archives, medical and scientific works, and a myriad of other collections now there on display, and then take some time to wander around other parts of the island.
  • Rest and refresh at your villa.
  • For tonight's dinner, we'll convene at Do Farai, one of Venice's best restaurants. This evening, the small and cozy place will be home to just our group.
  • After dinner, head out with Gato Loco and friends to check out the local scene. Bars in Venice are a tricky place, and the locals entertain a continually moving journey, bouncing from bar to bar in an effort to avoid the throngs of tourists, and always in search of the next “moment." Much of this involves drinking wine on the steps of a cathedral or in a particularly serene alley. You never know, while meandering across a bridge to the next bar, when there might be an impromptu midnight jam session.
Day 3
Venice on Foot and on Water
  • Enjoy breakfast at your villa.
  • This morning, we'll set off for Isola di San Michele (“Cemetery Island”), which is home to thousands of the city’s former citizens. Venetians historically buried their dead in the churches or below the city paving, but when Napoleon came into power in 1797, burial policies changed. Churches, monuments, and gravestones—including that of Igor Stravinsky—make up the entire island, which remains an active cemetery.
  • After grabbing a quick lunch, those who wish can come explore the Flooded Crypt of San Zaccaria, where we’ll descend underground to see the mirror pools beneath this historic church. We’ll then check out the Libreria Acqua Alta (Venice Library of High Water), where the books are all stored in bathtubs and boats to protect from floodwater. Afterwards, we’ll swing by the local Fish Market to pick out something for dinner.
  • Later in the afternoon, as part of the illustrious Gato Loco entourage, we'll pile into boats and zip through the canals playing live music, handing out concert flyers to passersby, and sipping on something special.
  • Rest and refresh at your villa before our family-style dinner.
  • After the droves of summer tourists recede from the streets, our group will embark on our own nighttime tour of Venice. Together, we’ll wander around the corners and alleyways of this maze-like city, taking in its history and architecture by moonlight.
Day 4
Plants and Dance
  • Today, we'll give everyone some free time to wander—or perhaps unveil a special surprise tour.
  • Later in the day, we'll make our way to Zattere, originally built in 1519 as a landing dock and now one of the most beautiful places to watch the Venetian sunset. Enjoy spritz e cicchetti—small tapas-like plates that are a Venice tradition.
  • After plenty of food and drink, head back to the villa. Then, we'll meander over to the Microclima, a 19th century green-house-turned cultural center that Paolo, our tour guide, has rebuilt into a café and art space; the Microclima is now one of the only structures in the city that is used exclusively for locals.
  • In this unusual space, join us as Gato Loco hosts a night of music and dancing. Among these potted plants are some of the most vibrant performances and art installations in town. Gato Loco will play a festival-length show, culminating in a giant dance party on the green lawn.  
Day 5
Art, Gardens, and Monasticism
  • Enjoy a late breakfast at your villa.
  • After a slow and relaxing start to the day, we'll head to San Giorgio Maggiore Monastery, which boasts the most amazing view of Venice and even inspired Monet’s paintings of the city. The monastery is also home to a huge library that only recently became open to the public. You will have the option, too, of visiting the Squero Di San Trovaso.
  • Take in a leisurely lunch in San Elena, where locals hang and explore the breathtaking gardens.
  • Get a special art tour of the Biennale, Venice’s thriving arts organization, with our tour guide, Paolo, who is an insider of the Italian arts scene.
  • Rest and refresh at the villa before a family-style dinner.
  • Once evening has fallen, feel free to join Gato Loco and friends as they hit the town, or simply relax and spend the night in.
Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain
Day 6
Festa del Redentore!
  • Enjoy a lazy breakfast at your Villa—you’re going to need all your energy for tonight.
  • If you’re feeling energetic, come help decorate our boats for the Redentore Festival with colorful flowers and ribbons.
  • Head to Squero di San Trovaso, a gondola boatyard that dates back to the 17th century. The site now pays homage to the workers who have built Venice’s gondolas for centuries. Because of all the Redentore festivities, today will be a special day to visit.
  • We'll have a late lunch and then give everyone some time to rest and regroup at the villa.
  • By late afternoon, we'll begin making our way to the much anticipated Redentore Festival on our boats, starting at St. Mark’s Basin. Looping around the area, we’ll be able to see all the elaborately decorated terraces and rooftops.
  • The boat party will begin with hoards of excited onlookers as they wait for the fireworks display. Anticipate an abundance of food, drinks, music, and revelry.
  • Watch the Redentore fireworks show, which usually lasts an hour!
  • Head to the Lido, where everyone goes to dance and celebrate on the beach.  It is custom to stay until sunrise, but we will make several trips back to the villa if people would like to return home earlier.
  • At 3am, Gato Loco will perform one last, wild set on the beach, underneath a stone bandshell amphitheater. The live music will continue as everyone continues to dance, party, drink, and go swimming until dawn. 
marybettiniblank/CC0 Public Domain
Day 7
Prosecco Party & Last Adventures
  • In proper Redentore tradition, we'll all share a late prosecco brunch and swap stories from the night before. Plenty of food will be made to go around.
  • You can relax and recover from dancing till dawn and spend some more time, energy permitting, exploring Venice this afternoon if you'd like, and spend one more evening with Gato and the gang before flying back on Monday morning. You can also choose to fly out Sunday afternoon or evening if you prefer.(If you stay with us Sunday night, there will be an additional $200 for food and accommodation.)
  • When you're ready, we'll make sure you're all set to head to the airport, or wherever your next step takes you! (Transportation to the airport will be covered and will be arranged around your flight times.)


The Fine Print



  • Transportation and flights to and from Venice.
  • Payment for transportation from the Venice airport to our villa (we will help arrange).
  • Individual travel insurance (optional).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Three of your lunches, and any additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.


We'll be on Venice time during our week together, which means that flexibility and an ability to go with the flow are key. Certain aspects of the itinerary may be adjusted due to scheduling changes or factors on the ground; that said, you never know when an unanticipated change will uncover the most exciting discovery. As always—expect surprises.


Be aware that this is not, by any means, a luxury trip. Your villa in Venice is not a standard hotel, but a shared living space. Because of this, we cannot guarantee anyone a single room, but if sharing a room, you will be placed with someone of the same sex. While Venice is a major world tourist destination, modern city conveniences are sometimes not as accessible. For example, there are only a handful of laundromats in the whole city, so it might prove easier to hand wash items. Showers and plumbing can be funky, and getting around is an epic journey through the world's most intense maze. Sometimes it's fun, but when you're exhausted or impatient, it is excellent for building character. 


Food will be as flexible and accommodating as possible, but be aware that gluten-free and vegan diets here are challenging. The Venetian diet is all about meat, fish, and pasta. (That said, one of the band members has gluten allergies, and she has managed fine in the past.) Be aware that it is hard for the group to guarantee individual alternative food options, since we'll be often cooking and eating family-style meals. 


Be prepared for lots of walking and moving around. Getting around Venice is similar to getting around a place like New York City; it takes a certain amount of physicality—including lots of stairs. Be prepared to be climbing in and out of boats.


You will be charged a non-refundable $250 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $3,600 will be due on June 1, 2017. All reservations will be final after this date, and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. Please email us at journeys@atlasobscura.com with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

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