Trip report -- Venice

Sep 24th, 2010, 03:05 AM
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Trip report -- Venice

(This will be in the Fodorite Lounge, too)

Where we stayed: We rented an apartment from venicerentals.com, based on recommendations on this site. They’re run by a husband/wife team. She’s American, and he’s from Venice. We didn’t realize till the trip was over that they’re recommended by Rick Steves in his Venice book. The short story is that I would recommend them. Very responsive and helpful. I’ll be checking back, so if you have specific questions about the apartment, which was at Campo San Maurizio between San Marco and the Accademia Bridge, or venicerentals, fire away and I’ll try to answer.

Of course, we were beat from traveling our first day, but we managed to take a walk across the Accademia and thought we might tour the Guggenheim. Found out it’s closed on Tuesdays, so we headed over to the Accademia’s museum and toured it. Not my taste in art. A lot of that dark, heavy, 5th century religious painting. A few of the rooms had some impressive murals that I liked, but that was about it for me.

We grabbed a quick pizza lunch at the Belle Arti café, just outside the Accademia. It was basic and fine, and a good spot to sit at an outdoor table and people watch. The waitress there gave us directions to a nearby grocery store to buy some staples for the apartment – milk, coffee, cheeses, breakfast stuff. They had some ready-made stuff for dinner and a selection of wines. We knew we weren’t going to be in any shape to go out that night, so we bought dinner and wine there, and took it back to the apt. Later, after dinner, we did walk around a little and had the mandatory gelato.

Note: I speak semi-decent Italian, but if you only speak English, you’ll do fine in Venice. My wife speaks little or no Italian and had no problems most times, except for a few instances where she signaled me to come over and interpret for her. (See the Murano shopping story later.) Of course, most Italians will be happy to speak Italian with you if you prefer, and doing so adds to the charm of the trip.

Restaurants:
(I’m not a note taker, so whatever info’s here is a credit to my wife.)

RECOMMENDED
L’Osteria de S. Marina, in Campo S. Marina, in the Castello district. We came across this place when trying to get away from San Marco and explore other areas. Nice place on the campo. Good food. Good service. Not cheap. Among other things, we had a risotto carbonara for two that was very good – made the right way in a light (not cream) sauce – and the seafood cicchetti, a plate with four small selections, including an excellent mixture of baccala (cod) and mashed potatoes. While you’re waiting for your meal, they serve you bread and plate of polenta with cuttlefish, mushrooms and pesto. I’m not crazy about pesto, but this was very good.

Trattoria da Fiore, near Campo S. Stefano. OK, a kinda long story. My wife does journaling/sketching, so when the owner, Lisa, saw that, she came over and engaged us in conversation because she said she always wanted to do it. We talked and had a glass of the excellent house wine. It was a good time. For food, we had the vegetable cicchetti, polenta with shrimp, and pasta with mushrooms – all good. The veggie cichetti included artichoke hearts in olive oil. YOU MUST HAVE THE ARTICHOKE HEARTS.
Note: In a lot of places like this, we ordered some dishes and I told the waiter ‘vogliamo condividere’ – we want to share. You can just say ‘we want to share that.’ They were fine with that. I mention that because several years ago in Venice, an owner wagged his finger at me and said ‘no.’ We got up and walked out while I, in Italian, told him to take a flying ****. I recommend you do the same, in English, if a waiter or owner says you can’t share something on the menu.

Trattoria al Sempione. This place is a little bit north of S. Marco. We came across it because my wife was looking for the department store Coin. I don’t remember all the details of the meal, but it was good, and we had a table overlooking a small canal and gondola stop. This was one of the few places where the waiter didn’t speak much English. That was OK for us, because he and I spoke Italian, but it turned into a real comedy show at the table next to us, where two women from California we’re trying to order chicken parmagiana (I’m not sure it was even on the menu) and ended up with caprese! Anyway, our meal was very good. I asked the waiter for directions to Coin, and he obliged in Italian. The fact that we ended up actually finding the place confirmed for my wife that, indeed, I did have some clue about how to speak the language.

Trattoria da Bepi, in the Canareggio district. I mention this place because it’s on a side street off the campo and has a lot of locals eating there. The food was better than average, and it’s the kind of place where you can sit outside and watch the world go by while trying a few glasses of the house wine. Nothing fancy, just real Venice.

Restaurant Galuppi, on Burano. Another journaling/sketching story. The owner once taught art at the Accademia, so he came over and talked art with us when he saw my wife journaling. Again, don’t remember all the details about the food, but it was good and so was the service. Very friendly and accommodating. You can sit outside all day if you want and just watch the crowds. Our waiter told us to tour the church and which paintings to take special not of.
Note: Burano was packed with tourists, so most of the restaurants cater to the tourist trade. This one does, too, but it’s not a rip-off and the staff is nice. (In truth, I think it helps a lot if you speak Italian, but who knows?)

NOT RECOMMENDED
La Piscina, on the waterfront in Dorsudoro, with a view of Giudecca. I think there’s a rule in Venice: If a restaurant has a great view of the water, the food must be ordinary (unless you pay 100 euros for an entree). This place is on a dock and has a great view, especially at night when the lit-up cruise ships and tour boats pass by. Great atmosphere. The food is ordinary and commercial. Lots of tourists eat there. We walked up to the place and I told the waiter in Italian that we didn’t have a reservation but I wanted a table for two. He made a big fuss about our not having a reservation, even though there was plenty of seating. Finally, he sat us. Let’s just say there was nothing really awful about the place, but you can do better.

Alla Maddona, near the Rialto. I shoulda known better. Acquaintances of ours had been to Venice, stayed at one of the big, fancy hotels – the Danieli, I think – and said they ate at Alla Madonna on the recommendation of the hotel, and said they liked it. This place wasn’t awful, either. The service was brisk and efficient, and I think that characterizes the place best. It caters to tourists – get ‘em in quickly and get ‘em out quickly. The food is OK, but again, you can do better. In truth, we had a pretty good time, drinking wine and socializing with tourists from Germany (we lived there once), Mexico and Rome. But don’t go there expecting anything special about the food. When we left at about 9:00, there was a long line of American tourists waiting to get in. Nuff said.

Trattoria Valamarana, on Murano. Nice water view, lots of tourists, bad carbonara. What more do you need to know?

The Murano shopping story. We took the public boat to Murano and shopped around. My wife wanted to buy some plates as gifts. I have about a half-day tolerance for this sort of thing. So we ended up in an out-of-the-way shop that had some nice plates that seemed reasonably priced compared to some others we saw. Years ago, we were in Murano and bargained with the shopkeepers on prices, but this trip we didn’t see anyone bargaining. Everyone just seemed to be paying the asking price. So when my wife picked out the two plates, she said, ‘You think we can bargain?’ It turned out that the woman who owned the shop spoke very little English, so the bargaining went something like this:
My wife says something in English. Shopkeeper looks at me with quizzical expression. I translate.
Shopkeeper says something in Italian. Wife looks at me with quizzical expression. I translate.
And so on.

It all worked out. I think we ended up paying 20% more than the asking price.

Later in another shop, my wife spotted another plate and suggested the same routine. I started speaking Italian to the shop owner, and all my wife could tell from the conversation was that the shopkeeper kept pointing down the street and talking and nodding. When she finished talking, my wife said, ‘What was that about?’ I said, ‘I asked her for directions to the nearest boat stop so that we can get out of here.’

I’ll be back with more and to answer questions.
k9korps is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 03:15 AM
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LOL Luv the last paragraph
worldinabag is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 03:35 AM
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So only American tourists were lined up at Alla Madonna? Were they all wearing American flag emblazoned baseball caps and t-shirts so you could tell that everyone in the long line was an American tourist? Perhaps they were all waving American flags or carrying six packs of Miller's Lite?
Paul1950 is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 05:05 AM
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We didn't eat at La Piscina on our last trip (the no reservations routine,) but at a more modest-looking place down the Zattere near the vap stop, where the food far exceeded our expectations and the view was still wonderful.
tarquin is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 06:22 AM
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tarq: I think I know the place you're talking about. We considered it, but rejected it because of its proxomity to the boat stop. Bad decision on our part.

Anyway, here’s a little more.
Getting around: The apartment was in a great location, so we were able to walk to a lot of places. I wish I had brought a pedometer with us, because I’m sure we walked 100 miles. As for using the vaporetto, we decided to buy the 72-hour tix for 33 euros, which allows you unlimited use during that period. Otherwise, the 6.50-euro cost per trip is just outrageous if you’re going to use the vaporetto a lot. (You can get tix for longer than 72 hrs, but I can’t remember the cost or time block the covered.) It’s something you have to plan out to determine if you’re going to get your money’s worth by buying the time blocks. If you don’t think you’re going to spend much time on the vaporetto, then you can skip the whole thing.
Most of the times, the vaporetti were very crowded, so it’s not a pleasurable ride – more utilitarian than anything else, but that’s what they’re supposed to be all about. As a possible “pleasure trip,” you could try to get seats on the open front part of the boat, and see Venice that way. We did a little bit of that, and it’s nice if the weather’s good.
Getting to and from the airport: We used the Alilaguna boat to get from the airport to Venice. It’s 13.50 euros and makes a several stops. To get from the airport to our stop near San Marco took about an hour and 15 minutes. I’m told there’s a “fast boat” but it’s really not that much faster.
We spent our last night at the Titian Inn near the airport (recommended -- more on that later). So we had to figure out how to get there from Venice that night. Our choice was to splurge and take a water taxi to the airport – about 90 euros – and then take the free shuttle form the airport to the Titian. The water taxi was great. We left as the sun was setting. Sat in the back as the driver weaved east on the Grand Canal and then through some small, shortcut canals to open water north of Venice and to the airport. It was a great way to end the trip.
Otherwise, you can:
take the Alilaguna back to the airport
take the vaporetto to Piazalle Roma and take a land taxi to the airport or
(cheapest way) take the vaporetto to P.R. and then take the public bus to the airport

More later.
k9korps is offline  
Sep 24th, 2010, 06:25 AM
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I'd like more details about your apartment please. Thanks.
iamq is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 02:55 AM
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iam: As mentioned, we used venicerentals.com, run by Maurizio and Denise.

Their website -- www.venicerentals.com -- is a little different from some of the other sites. What they prefer is that you email them with your requirements: # of bedrooms, locations, etc. Then they'll email you back with a list and complete descriptions and photos of the available apts. that meet your criteria.

Our apartment was near the San Maurizio area, and just a few steps from the grand canal. Excellent location. It had one large bedroom with a Q-size bed and another very small bedroom with a daybed. There was a full bathroom at the end of a hall and a half bath off the master bedroom. Small but reasonably modern kitchen. Living/dining area. Washing machine. Hair dryer. You have to go up two flights of steps, no elevator. The place was immaculate. The one drawback was that it obviously was owned by an older woman, and the bathroom had a tub and one of those handheld nozzles, but no shower. (I never can figure out why someone would do that, and not just install a shower curtain, with handheld shower, around the tub.)

We booked the place for 8 nights for 1500 euros. Let me know if you have specific questions.
k9korps is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Printing for slow reading Venice is our next vacation.
Dayenu is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 03:08 PM
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ttt
annhig is offline  

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