Venice notes – May 15 to 20, 2007

May 24, 2007

Transport:

We arrived at the Venice airport in the early evening. We were met by a transfer agent arranged by our hotel; he took our luggage and drove us to the dock. He had a water taxi ready which took us right to our hotel, a spectacular entry to the city. This private transfer is a worthwhile extravagance for a smooth arrival. For our departure the hotel called a regular water taxi which dropped us at the dock. Airport luggage carts are available and we loaded one up and pushed it for the ten minute walk to the new terminal. There is no real restaurant in the departure area. A sandwich at the Wine Bar probably would have worked better than the pizza and pasta counter we tried. 

Hotels:

We stayed five nights at the Hotel Europa e Regina, on the Grand Canal, a five minute walk west of the Piazza San Marco. Our room was okay, with a comfortable big bed, a small sitting area and a newly redone marble bathroom, but I would have expected at least that for the price, even in Venice. When we stayed here seventeen years ago, it was part of the CIGA group, along with the Gritti Palace and the Danieli. When the Starwood group bought CIGA, they put the Europa e Regina in their Westin Group and the other two in their Luxury Group. The difference shows now. One excellent feature of the hotel is the knowledgeable, friendly and helpful concierge desk. I was amazed at the questions they were able to answer readily in several languages when I was sitting at the guest internet access computer, which is right next to them. 

As it was already late, we ate the first night at the hotel’s restaurant, La Cusina. It has a spectacular setting right on the Grand Canal looking across to Santa Maria de la Salute. We had a table outside right on the water. But the meal was not what it should have been. One can also have breakfast there, but the price, particularly for the breakfast buffet, is high. One is paying for the setting, as so often in Venice. From 7:30 to 8:00 the view is enlivened by the students getting off the vaporetto at the Salute stop and walking to the middle school just to the left of the church. 

Hotels in Venice are expensive. The best deal, if one can reserve well in advance, is probably the Pensione Accademia, well located next to the Accademia Bridge and its vaporetto stop on the No 1 and 82 lines. 

Sightseeing:

A few notes from our experience to add to what you read in the guidebooks:

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For seeing the fabulous buildings along the Grand Canal the 82 express vaporetto (every twenty minutes) is better than the more frequent No 1. The 82 cruises in the middle, is less crowded and makes fewer stops. One can also take the 82 from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio. Arrive in time to take the first elevator to the top of the campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore at its 9:30 opening. The bells ring at 10:00 and on every hour. This is much more pleasant than waiting in line to go up the campanile at San Marco. 

Buy a ticket at the Correr Museum for all of the San Marco museums. Then you will not have to wait in the long lines at the Doge’s Palace and the cathedral museum. 

When going to Murano, you can take the No 41 vaporetto either from San Zaccaria, which goes all around the east end of Venice, or from Fondmente Nove, where No 41 stops before leaving Venice proper. The next stop is Cimeterio where you should get off, either going or coming, and wander around the cemetery for twenty minutes, when the next boat will come. If interested, you can walk back to the “Greek” enclosure to see the graves of Sergei Diaghilev and of Igor and Vera Stravinsky. The first is appropriately ornate and the second is severe Art Deco. One of the best glass shops on Murano is Schiavone, just as you start to walk along the main canal after arriving at the Colonna stop. We found the prices for the good glass to be quite high and not significantly better than in the center of Venice.  

The official Venice website for tourism is quite useful. 

Restaurants:

I have made separate web posts for Da Fiore, Alle Testiere, Fiaschetteria Toscana and La Colomba. Click on the name to see the post. Restaurants in Venice tend to be surprisingly inexpensive, in contrast to the hotels. This is even true of the wine lists. Well, Da Fiore and La Colomba were not inexpensive, but we got value for our money. I had emailed the hotel concierge a month in advance asking him to make all four reservations; this was definitely needed, except at La Colomba. 

cvn1.jpgWe came upon a nice little place for lunch and went back a second time: Trattoria Cea. It is on the Calle de Pestrin as one walks south from the Fondamente Nove vaporetto stop under an arch by the Calle Varisco. Both times we ate outside and had the spaghetti vongole, dressed only with plenty of the little local clams, garlic, olive oil and parsley. It was followed by mixed deep-fried seafood and a shredded carrot salad. The house chardonnay in a carafe is lightly effervescent and excellent for an al fresco lunch.

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As it is at a turn in a main pedestrian route, the people-watching from one of the outside tables is terrific. There is a pastry shop next door with constant comings and goings of a varied clientele. Many workmen from nearby renovation projects have their lunch at Trattoria Cea on some kind of a preset arrangement. 

We also had excellent people-watching while lunching at the Ristorante San Stefano, the one with the pink tablecloths near the northeast corner of the Campo San Stefano. Linda started with bresaola (thinly sliced dried beef;) I with sardines in saor (pickled onions.) We then shared a good seafood risotto. 

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Cafés:

We went three mornings to Le Café, the one with the yellow tablecloths on the right as you enter the Campo San Stefano. It opened at 8:00 and was ready for outdoor table service fifteen minutes later. We could watch the interesting flow of passers by and of people coming to the café as we had our coffee and cornetti.

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One evening we decided to have an apéritif on the Piazza San Marco on the way to the restaurant. We chose Quadri, on the north side where a small orchestra of two violins, a clarinet, an accordion, a bass and a piano were playing schmaltzy music. As white peaches were not yet in season, we could not have a Bellini, but since strawberries were in season we ordered Rossinis: strawberry juice with prosecco.cvn4.jpg

They came with munchies, water etc. We could watch the setting sun shining directly on San Marco Cathedral. One expects to pay for the setting and we did: 37€, including a 10€ music supplement, but it was worth it.cvn3.jpg 

If you are in Venice on a Sunday morning, I suggest having coffee at Florian, on the other side of the Piazza San Marco. Be there before 9:00 when soldiers raise the three huge flags in front of the cathedral. You will also see the figures running around the clock over the gate to its left. Afterwards, the lady tourists can have their pictures taken with the soldiers.  

Shopping: 

An excellent shop for hand-made fabrics, mostly velvets and linens, well-made into coats, jackets, shawls etc, is Hélène’s Shop at 727 Calle della Chiesa, just before you get to the Guggenheim Museum coming from the Accademia. Another good shop in the area is Capriccio, on the corner just as you depart from the Accademia toward the Guggenheim. It is a glass and jewelry shop that looks like many others, but we found the quality to be excellent. The same is true of Levante Veneto on the Calle della Bissa, northeast of the Rialto Bridge.

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Colorcasa is on the right just as you leave the Campo San Polo heading toward the Rialto. There is a variety of excellent fabrics and things they make from them. They buy Voghi silk and make it into very elegant neckties and scarves and shawls.

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One Response to “Venice notes – May 15 to 20, 2007”

  1. Maeve Says:

    I have just returned yesterday from a four day stay in Venice to celebrate my 60th birthday, and it was a joy to read your descriptions and see your photos. I found your site because I was looking to see if Cappriccio, the jewellery shop you mention, had a website. I’m glad to find another fan of their beautiful creations!

    You obviously had warmer weather in May, but I loved the quietness of Venice in early January, even though it meant some places were closed. To walk down our silent street to the Grand Canal after dinner on my birthday, and watch the reflections of the lights in the water will be a lasting memory.


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