Friday, April 25, 2014

Accommodation in Venice

Hotel Danieli
There are about 200 hotels in Venice and, this being Italy, most of them are well run. A few may have become slatternly through over confidence induced by a non-stop flow of package tourists, but their principal handicap is age.  
A medieval palace, religious institution or merchant's house cannot be converted into a modern hotel with identical bedrooms, although ruthless use of a steel joists has opened up many a spacious lobby behind a Renaissance facade. Thus the same hotel is likely to offer both large and lofty bedrooms commanding magnificent views and dark poky rooms overlooking a dank ventilation well or an alley. If a particular hotel is known to command fine views, suitable rooms can usually be reserved at an extra charge.
Lone travelers are particularly at risk since single rooms are the most cramped. One solution for those accustomed to traveling alone and staying in the more expensive hotels is to choose one that is less expensive and book a double room. Venice is remarkably quiet city but for light sleepers these is the hazard of church bells in the early morning and the hooters and bellowing diesels of barges on the wider canals.
                                                                                     HOTELS in Venice

Hotel Boscolo Bellini
For most visitors the chance of such disturbance is an acceptable risk. Now that the city is busy at Christmas and Easter and the February carnival has been reintroduced, there are fewer times of the year when it can seem empty. These currently are November, the first three weeks of December, January and March, when some hotels may close. The busiest months are July, August and September.
Most Venetian hotels now serve only breakfast and only the grandest offer a cooked breakfast. A number have good restaurants but, as a general rule, half board should be avoided because this nearly always involves the evening meal and so hampers the enjoyable exploration of the city's restaurants. The tourist information offices at Piazzale Roma, on the Tronchetto, at Santa Lucia railway station, Marco Polo airport and the Venice exit of the autostrada  at Marghera all operate a hotel booking service. If a room is found the 5 EUR deposit is deducted from your first night's bill.

Luxurious hotels

There are dozens very imposing hotels in Venice, most of them, suitably, on the Grand Canal near San Marco.
Ca'Sagredo Hotel

Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth is a former Gothic palazzo with its architectural splendours incorporated into its public rooms, courtyard and rose garden, but here, too single rooms can be cell-sized.

Londra Palace, Riva degli Schiavoni, Castello 4171 - is one of the hotels along the Riva degli Schiavoni - so overlooking the Basin of San Marco. It is efficiently run and comfortable.

Hotel Luna, Calle dell'Ascensione San Marco 1234. Like the Bonvecchiati, this is a comfortable package holiday hotel in the higher price bracket. Its position near the Piazza San Marco is convenient for exploring the city.

Moderately priced Hotels

The following are popular with regular visitors to Venice.

Hotel Accademia - This is a 17th century house in its own garden at the junction of two canals, just off the Canal Grande. Only breakfast is served (in the garden when warm. Although the hotel is no longer family owned, the management has improved. Its position remains idyllic, particularly when the wisteria is in bloom, and it is prudent to ask for a room overlooking the front or back garden as those above the canal at one side can be noisy with barges in the early morning.

Hotel Pausania  - San Barnaba, Dorsoduro 2824. This hotel is on a quiet canal where vegetables are sold  to housewife's direct from a moored bridge. It has recently been modernized but upper-floor bedrooms are reached by a steep stone Gothic staircase  in the courtyard. 

Inexpensive Hotels

The choice of pleasant accommodation for visitors on a low budget is limited, but there are some gems of pensioni with historical or literary associations or fine views to compensate for any lack of luxury.

Hotel Helvetia
Lido Hotels - Two gigantic relics of the heyday of the Lido are hotels designed for rich pre-1914 families. Both come alive during the Venice Film Festival, which is concentrated on the Lido, and both are as expensive as one would expect from their glamorous associations.

Among the tall trees just inland from the famous beach stands the Quattro Fontane ( Via Fontane 4/16), a comfortable, rambling house in an oddly alpine style with a modern wing. In summer, meals and drinks are served in the large garden, and a vaporetto stops near by at the Casino pier from lunchtime until 4. hours every half hour and takes passengers direct to San Marco.

Suggested Reading:

Venice Highlights
Venice Islands
Booking Hotel in Venice

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Venice Highlights

Canal Grande
City Layout

Most of Venice may be a maze of canals and alleys but there are particular places where people walk or gather, usually campi (squares) or fondamente (waterside promenades). The city is divided into six sestrieri: to the north and east of Grand Canal, San Marco is in the center, Castello to the east and Cannaregio to the west; to the south and west, Dorsoduro lies across the Grand canal from San Marco with San Polo, then Santa Croce to the north.  The aquatic highway by which most of the sestrieri are reached is the main street of the city and that is, of course, the Grand canal.
The Grand Canal

Following the course of an original creek through the muddy islands of the lagoon, the serpentine canal sweeps in two great curves from what is now the Santa Lucia railway station to the Basin of San Marco. it varies in width from 130 to 230 feet, has a max depth of 18 feet and is crossed by three bridges - the Scalzi, the Rialto and the Accademia and seven traghetto (ferry gondola)routes. Travelling eastwards along the Grand canal, some of the principal buildings between the railway station and the Rialto Bridge are, on the left hand side, the Scalzi, San Geremia and San Marcuola churches and the palaces Ca'Labia, Ca Vendramin - Calergiand the Ca'd'Oro. On the right hand side are the San Simeone Piccolo and San Stae churches, the palaces Fondaco dei Turchi and Ca'Favretto  and then the fish, fruit and vegetable markets just before the Rialto Bridges. Between the Rialto and the Accademia bridges are, on the left hand side, the church of San Samuele and the Ca'Mocenigo
                                                                     The most romantic views in Venice

Cafe Florian
Piazza San Marco

The Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice. When Napoleon conquered the Venetian Republic he called ,the most elegant drawing room in Europe', and so it  still is. At the eastern end stands the Basilica di San Marco with its Byzantine domes; to one side is its campanile, the Piazzetta outside the Doges Palace and the Basin of San marco; to the other the Clock Tower and the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, named after the red marble lions standing there. The north side of the Piazza is bounded by the Procuratie Vecchie, the former offices of the Republic's administration, with an arcade of shops below and the Cafe Quadri, once patronised by the Austrian occupiers of Venice. On the south side are the former administration building, the Procuratie Nuove, with another arcade of shops and the Cafe Florian, the favorite of Venetian patriots during the Austrian occupation. At the western end of the Piazza, the church of San Geminiano was demolished on Napoleon's orders and a new arcade with a ballroom above was built. The two granite columns near the water's edge in the Piazzetta were set up in the 12-th century; one is surmounted by a stone Lon of St. Mark, the other by the figure of St. Theodore, the first patron saint of the city, proudly wielding shield and spear.

Cafe Quadri
Promenades and Squares

The Riva degli Shiavoni is the principal waterside promenade of Venice, running eastwards from the Doges Palace to the Ca'di Dio canal, where its name changes; then continuing to the Giardini (public gardens. After the Doges Palace and the adjoining State Prison comes the Hotel Danieli and a succession of other grand hotels facing the Basin of San Marco. The wide, paved Riva, broken by a succession of bridges over canals, is cluttered with cafe tables and souvenir - sellers, stalls at its western end, while its waterside is busy with vaporetto piers and the pleasure boats and tugs that moor there. Leading from the Riva to the north are many alleys and archways running into the maze of the city and to a few squares, notably the Campo San Zaccaria and the Campo Bandiera e Moro. Beyond the canal leading to the Arsenale, lie the Giardini, the public gardens, rather dusty and unkempt but with fine tall trees, among which are the pavilions where the Biennale art exhibition is held. This rare open space is where Napoleon demolished the buildings to lay out defensive batteries.
View over Canal Grande
Inexpensive Hotels in Venice

The choice of pleasant accommodation for visitors on a low budget is limited, but there are some gems of pensioni with historical or literary associations or fine views to compensate for any lack of luxury.

Bucintoro - The best view of Venice from any hotel is from here. All the bedroom windows overlook the Riva degli Schiavoni, the Basin of San Marco and the island of San Giorgio, the Salute and the Doges Palace beyond. Run by a delightful family, it is cosy rather than smart and has its own restaurant, so offering half-board.
Hotel Danieli

Calcina  - another fine view of water - in this casethe canale Giudecca - is from the Calcina, the small hotel on the Zattere, where Ruskin stayed while writing The Stones of Venice. Partly modernized and lacking some of its former modest charm, it is a friendly little hotel and a favorite with British visitors.

Suggested Reading:

Eating Out in Venice
Venice Islands
Booking Hotel in Venice

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eating out in Venice

Food and Drink

Its reputation for dull, unimaginative cooking, high prices and surly service is not fair to Venice. It is true that restaurants tend to be more expensive that those on the mainland, since almost everything but some of the fish has to be imported by barge, and along the tourist trails the waiters can become as jaded as their customers, particularly in summer.
That said, the visitor can eat well in Venice. Those enjoying the higher trattoria style of cooking will not be disappointing. Venetian restaurants offer the same range of basic Italian dishes as will be found throughout the country but their local specialties are most simple than those of, say, Florence, Bologna or Rome. For a first course try fish soup - zuppa di pesce - which is so full of shellfish, shrimps and white fish that it is best followed by something light, or Parma ham - proscuitto crudo - with fresh figs.
Two of the most familiar Venetian main dishes are acquired tastes: sliced calves liver with onion (fegato alla Veneziana) and squid (seppie) cooked in its own black ink with cornmealcake (polenta).
Venetians are good at creating delectable sweets, particularly the light and creamy tiramisu, a delicious cold confection of chocolate, coffee, marscapone, cheese and brandy.
Another way to get a taste of Italian food is to try some of the many local snacks (cichetti) available, usually displayed on counters. These include garlicky meatballs (polpette), mini-pizzas (pizzetas), various types of seafood and slices of fried vegetables.
When ordering drinks, 'una ombra' (which means ,shade') will produce a glass of white house wine, unless you request rosso (red). Ombra comes from the old tradition of drinking wine in the shade of the Piazza.


Restaurants in the middle and upper-middle range are generally cheaper than their equivalents in Britain and waiters are more often friendly than not. Many restaurants display a set-price menu turistico offering a choice of three or four dishes (piatti) for each course, this can be an inexpensive way of tasting a number of Venetian specialties. There are some 300 restaurants in the city.  Some close in the low seasons and many shut on Sundays and Mondays, except those in hotels and the grander of these serve food suitable to their style, often out of doors in summer. Particularly recommended are the restaurants in the Gritti Palace, the Daniel, the Monaco e Grand Canal, and the Londra Palace.    Search Hotel in Venice

The Cipriani Restaurants - Venetian restaurants owe much to the Cipriani family, who have given them a smart ye friendly style. THe hotel named after them is now owned by Sea Containers, which also runs the Orient Express, but the family still run three notable restaurants which deserve pride of place, although they do now tend to be more expensive and attract the in-crowd.

Harry's Bar - this was the original Cipriani establishment, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, who would eat and drink in the downstairs bar, which is more amusing than the grander restaurant upstairs. It still has an air of the 1930s as do many of its customers - the richer expatriate residents of the city and the more eccentric and affluent Venetians - and there is often so much to watch indoors that nobody tries to look at the view through the opaque windows. The food is delicious and quite expensive, although it is difficult to improve on a very simple meal of their specialty, tagliolini verdi gratinati (green pasta with chopped ham in a cheese sauce) and a jug of chilled Soave white wine from the Veneto.

Eating by the Water

Waterside meals are a particular Venetian pleasure and these can be enjoyed on  the Zattere or by quiet canals. There is a row of relatively cheap and cheerful pizzerie lining the fondamenta at this end of the Zattere, with tables on wooden platforms built out over the water. Here, beside the bridge over the San Trovaso canal, pizza with wine followed by ice-cream and coffee provides an excuse for sitting an hour or so in the sun, and is not expensive.                            

La Cusina - This luxury restaurant must surely be one of the city's most romantic, with its terrace on the Grand Canal overlooking the Salute church and the island of San Giorgio

Riviera - This restaurant has been opened in a former religious building (on the facade stands a statue of a saint with a pig beside him) In fine weather, tables are set outside by the water and the delicious food is slightly cheaper than at Cipriani restaurants.

Suggested Reading:

Venice Highlights
Venice Islands
Booking Hotel in Venice

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Venice Islands


Scattered across nearly 200 square miles of the Venetian lagoon are some 40 islands. Half of them are now deserted, while those still inhabited may be thriving communities or isolated institutions - a prison, a hospital or a religious retreat - and a few are used for public or private recreation. Enough of them can be visited to add another dimension to a holiday in Venice. The main Venice islands are very well serviced by vaporetto, but the others can only be reached by water-taxi. 
                                                                            Shopping in Venice


San Polo
The fishermen's and lace makers island with a population of about 5 000 lies more than five miles to the northeast of Venice. While Murano is work a day and slightly dishevelled,  Burano is neat and clean and its multi-colored cottages lining little canals make it a perfect subject for photographs. Burano's character has been shaped by its industries - the robust way of life of its fishermen and boat -builders and the delicacy of its lacemakers skills. Usually women can be seen making lace outside the doors of their cottages - although they are now dwindling in number - and their products (as well as embroidery from Hong Kong) are on sale at stalls and local shops.
There are few buildings of note but the church of San Martino contains a painting of the Crucifixtion by the elder Tiepolo and boasts the most alarmingly tilted campanile of them all. Vaporetto: route 12

                                                                                 Cheap Hotels in Venice

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Gondolas & Vaporetto
Once an island, Chioggia is now, like Venice, connected to the mainland by a causeway; unlike Venice, several of its canals have been filled in to become roads for cars. In the far south of the lagoon, 16 miles from Venice, it has grown from a fishing port to an important town of some 55 000 inhabitants. Now, in essence, it belongs to the mainland rather than the lagoon.
Much of the town, particularly around the remaining canals, is reminiscent of Venice and many buildings date from the 13th to 18th centuries. There are several fine churches, notably the Duomo, built between the 13th an 17th centuries, which contains a painting by the elder Tiepolo. There are a number of excellent fish restaurants to sample the local catch near the harbor and in the Corso del Popolo. Vaporetto: route 11

                                              The Lido

Venetian Masks
This is the only one of the Venetian islands to have roads, and its buses, cars and lorries are imported by ferry from the mainland. A little to the southeast of Venice, it is just over seven miles long and a half a mile wide, covering the largest sand bank between the lagoon and the Adriatic. With a population of about 20 000 it is essentially a seaside holiday resort and is crowded in summer, when it is also host to the International Film Festival. 

It was at its most fashionable before World War I as the architecture of its hotels and villas testifies, and its long sandy beach is still lined with wooden bathing huts, which recall that time. Its most notable building is, in fact, a short distance across the water: the 16 th century  fortress of Saint Andrea, built on the little island of Vignole to command the main entrance to the lagoon. It was the guns of this fort that fired on a French warship in 1797, so precipitating the French invasion and the end of the Republic. The fortress, adorned with a massive relief carving of the Lion of St. Mark, is currently under major restoration and not open to the public.

From the Vaporetto bound from the Lido to San Marco, Venice is seen as it was intended it should first be seen, from the deck of a ship approaching from the sea, its towers, domes and palaces materializing between water and sky in one of the great spectacles the world has to offer. Vaporetto: routes 1,6,14,52,61 and 82.

Grand Canal

                                                                   Top Ten Things to Do in Venice
Venice 10 Essentials

If you only have a short time to visit Venice, and would like to take home unforgettable impressions, here are the essentials:

1. Take a boat along the Grand Canal by day, to marvel at its majestic water-lapped palazzi and gaily painted mooring poles, or by night to catch glimpses of the grand illuminated interiors;

2. Visit the Rialto markets at the crack of dawn before the crowds arrive;

3. A mid-morning coffee in Europe's finest square, atmospheric St. Mark's will both delight and bankrupt you;

4. Stroll along the southern shore of the Dorsoduro, with its boathouses, bars, and cafes. Go at dusk, when Venetians take their passeggiata or promenade;

Italian cuisine
5. Indulge yourself in the romance of a gondola ride at sunset and capture the magic of Venice;

6. Take the lift up to the top of the Campanile or San Giorgio Maggiore for breathtaking views;

7. Watch the world go by from the terrace of a Venetian classic, Harry's Dolci on the Giudecca, whilst sipping on a Bellini cocktail;

8. Get lost in the labyrinthine alleys and backwaters of the city, or visit the outlying islands for a taste of Venetian life off the main tourist drag;

9. See Venice by night. The canals have a magical beauty and many of the main monuments are floodlit;

10. End your day Venetian - style with an ice-cream or a digestif in one of the city's countless cafe-ringed squares.

Booking Hotel in Venice

***** Bauer Grunwald e Grand - The land-side of this hotel is modern but its canal facade reveals that it was once a splendid palazzo. Today it has an opulence designed for the plutocracy. It offers views over the Grand Canal.

**** Bonvecchiati - Situated close to the Piazza San Marco, this is one of the more expensive hotels which cater for package holidays. Although it lacks the distinctive Venetian character, it is comfortable and well placed for exploring the city. 

****Cipriani - Across the water on the otherwise unfashionable island of Giudecca is the Cipriani, the caravanserai of the rich and smart. Elegant and comfortable as the former religious institution buildings now are, they lack the character of Venice itself, which lies across the Basin of San Marco and is reached in five minutes by the hotel's free ferry. Its principal asset is its magnificent open air swimming pool, a miraculous cure for fatique after a long day's sightseeing in the city. Non-residents lunching at the hotel may be allowed t use the pool if it is not crowded, but the charge is expensive.

Suggested Reading:
Eating Out in Venice
Venice Highlights
Booking Hotel in Venice

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