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Trip Report Hotel and restaurants recommended in Venice

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My trip report from Venice, three nights in May 2006:

We arrived at 9:00 p.m. in Venice via EuroStar from Florence, on Saturday night. My daughter planned our arrival time so I would see the city for the first time at night, a particularly pretty time to see its Grand Canal and the majestic buildings all lit up. It was an amazing and impressive first look at Venice.

We took the vaporetto to the Rialto stop (5 EUR each; we were not charged extra for baggage). I quickly began to understand everyone’s recommendation to pack light for Venice—it’s not easy to drag a large bag on wheels up and down the steps of the bridges, and to navigate the narrow cobblestoned streets. But it wasn’t a long walk, and my daughter followed the rather complicated map, to bring us directly to the front door of the Hotel Riva, at Ponte dell’Angelo.

We checked in and were happy to have a first floor room, since there’s no elevator. Our room was in the corner, looking over the intersection of two small canals. We were pleased with this room assignment, since we had requested such a position, but were thinking we’d only have it for the second two nights, not all three nights. So we were prepared to move after our first night, but we were fortunate it turned out to be unnecessary to change rooms.

Hotel Riva is a small one-star hotel, very quaint and charming. Its lobby is welcoming, and its breakfast room is appealing, with both rooms having windows looking directly out on a little canal where gondoliers glide by every few minutes. It couldn’t be a better location. The hotel is sparkling clean, with marble floors, wooden walls, and glass sconces. The bedspreads could be replaced, as they are a bit worn, but that’s a very minor thing to notice, given the wonderful canal views from the hotel and its overall charm.

Our room had an amazing view of the two canals, and the bridges that cross them. Singing gondoliers would use one of the canals, especially. So, from our room, we could hear them go by, singing “Ave Maria” and other Italian favorites. I would sit on my bed, open both corner windows, and watch the activities on two different canals and bridges. Despite the nearness of the canals and the people walking over the bridges and down the little street, the noise was not bothersome to us. The double windows and shutters close tightly, and the canal and foot traffic seemed to be minimal at night.

I highly recommend the Hotel Riva. Its location and price are unbeatable. We paid for a double room, which was just 130 EUR, including an extra 10 EUR for the canal view. We actually had a triple room, with one large bed comprised of two twins pushed together, plus another twin bed in a little alcove. Breakfast is included, which is simply a hard roll and jam, but also with very nice cappuccino. It was a perfect hotel for us.

After getting settled, even though it was getting late, we walked around to get oriented in the neighborhood. We were located close to San Marco, so it was a short walk to the square, with lots of shops and restaurants along the way.

The next day was Mother’s Day, so we headed out to find Bar Caffe La Piscina for a special brunch. Having read so much about the Pension La Calcina, Dorsoduro 780, I had sent an availability inquiry via e-mail to them while looking for accommodations in Venice. Even though they were full, La Calcina sent back a nice e-mail with their regrets, and an offer to visit their lovely restaurant, La Piscina, including a 12 percent discount on our meal, to thank us for our interest (a very nice touch).

Researching La Piscina on the internet, I thought it looked very attractive. It sits on the Zattere, with a beautiful view of the Giudecca canal and the pretty buildings across it. La Piscina’s outdoor tables are shaded by pretty blue umbrellas, and are set on a wooden deck over the water.

We were very happy we’d made the somewhat long and hungry walk to Dorsoduro, because eating at La Piscina was a real treat. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere amazing, and we had a beautiful blue-sky day to enjoy the view. Our meal included wine, bottled water, a primi, a “snack”, and a secondi, for 46.50EUR, minus 5.50 EUR for our discount. It was an especially memorable Mother’s Day, for sure.

After our meal, we walked into Pensione La Calcina and were impressed with how nice it looked. Its prices seemed really low, for its nice setting and the pretty look of the hotel. We’ll definitely remember it, if we re-visit Venice in the future. We were told to inquire several months in advance for lodging availability there.

Our plan for Venice was simply to walk and enjoy its unique charm. After the big museums and attractions of Florence and Rome, we were ready to slow down the sightseeing pace a bit. Venice, of course, is perfect for wandering and investigating, finding lovely little canals everywhere. Our weather was in the low 70s, with blue skies everyday.

It’s actually hard to write about what we were doing at every time of each day, and where we ate, where we shopped. We walked everywhere, looked in lots of glass shops, ate gelato at Michelangelo’s, drank wine and cappuccino, enjoyed caprese and panini whenever we found a nice spot and needed a break.

We did tour the Doge’s Palace, walked across the Bridge of Sighs, and toured its prison underneath. We also lined up to see the extraordinary San Marco Basilica, and admire its ‘wavy’ mosaic floor. We rode the vaporetto for a view of the Grand Canal. We walked around the Dorsoduro, Rialto Bridge and Accademia Bridge areas.

The only problem we encountered was one evening, looking in a shop window near the Rialto Bridge, I felt jostled by two young men. I was immediately aware of it, and checked my small purse, which was on my shoulder, securely under my arm. Sure enough, the top of my purse was unzipped, though. I was amazed anyone could work that quickly, and was thankful I’d been paying attention. Because one more ‘jostle’ and the youth would have had my wallet out of my purse, I’m sure. I was carrying a fair amount of cash, plus my credit card and two ATM cards in that wallet, so it would have been a significant problem had the wallet been lifted. From that time on, I was especially aware of people around me, and carried less cash and fewer cards.

We especially liked all the Murano glass offered for sale in shops throughout Venice, and we took time to look in many of them. One glass shop where we found an especially nice, simple necklace and earring set at a very good price, was Vetri Artistici di Murano, 3 G di Giordani, Castello 4589 (www.venetian-art.com).

Our first night, we ate at Trattoria Alla Rivetta, recommended by the hotel for its fish menu. It’s at Ponte S. Provolo 4625. It was nice, with a lot of locals and others lining up to eat there. Our meal was 58.24EUR, for two fish entrees, and a half-liter of house wine.

The second night, we ate at Osteria Alla Botte, San Marco 5482. It was a very friendly and busy little place, with reasonable prices. Our meal was 46 EUR, also for two fish dishes and a half-liter of house wine.

We needed to use the internet one afternoon with my daughter’s laptop, and found a hotel just up the canal from the Hotel Riva, the Hotel Colombina, which offers wi-fi in its lobby at a price more reasonable than the internet shops around. It was also a more pleasant place to sit for an hour, while we finished some internet business.

The Hotel Colombina is a four-star hotel, located at Calle del Remedio, Castello 4416. It looked like a very classy and pleasant hotel, in true “Venetian” style of design. The front desk personnel were very helpful in setting us up on the wi-fi, even though they knew we were not patrons of the hotel itself.

Other appealing hotels we noticed (besides the Pension Calcina mentioned above) include:

Dona Palace Hotel, four-stars, San Marco 391. www.donapalace.it. It overlooks the Rio of Palazzo Ducale, the Bridge of Sighs canal.

Hotel American, three-stars, San Vio, 628 Accademia, www.hotelamerica.com. An “antique palace”, it also faces a nice little canal, the San Vio, in the Dorsuduro area, with a pleasant first floor terrace café.

Hotel Bruno, three-stars, Castello, Salizzada S. Lio 5726/A, www.hoteldabruno.com.

For a simpler choice, the Casa Rezzonico (which we had also considered for this visit, as its rates are in the range of the Hotel Riva), Dorsoduro, Fondamenta Gherardini 2813, www.casarezzonico.it. It is in a quiet, out-of-the-way location, near a small campo, close to the Accademia. It has an attractive garden area in the center, which some rooms overlook, and where breakfast buffet is served. A good budget choice.

After our very pleasant visit, we left Venice on Tuesday afternoon, to take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure.

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