A four star luxury hotel that perfectly blends old and new. My parents and I had a fantastic stay here a few months ago. Elegant, yet understated where it needs to be, this hotel offers all the common amenities plus a choice between modern rooms and traditional ones that we found really accommodating. The location right on the grand canal and the views from the restaurant are absolutely spectacular and a reason to stay there in itself. The restaurant is definitely elegant, and actually surprisingly good since it is a tourist attraction within one big tourist attraction. We were blown away by the service as well. And being only minutes from St. Mark's square was definitely spectacular in terms of location as well. There are places in Venice where one can certainly spend a lot more, and though this is very expensive in high season, you can actually swing deals depending on when you go. Still though, in terms of beauty, comfort, and service, this more than fit the bill.
The Art Academy B&B in Dorsoduro, Venice is a truly wonderful little gem. Tucked away by the side of the Accademia bridge you couldn't wish for a nicer to stay whilst exploring the marvels of Venice. The hosts Barbara and Mara were friendly and welcoming - despite our delayed 1 am appearance due to fog and an un-expected route via Trieste!
The rooms are immaculately clean and bright and spacious with simple furnishings. Some rooms have views of the Grand Canal..... the thrill of opening the shutters in the morning and seeing it all before you cannot be beaten.Rooms are available with en-suite or shared bathrooms, we opted for the latter and it was all perfectly fine.No queues or drama, perfectly nice bathroom with all the usual facilities. A lovely Italian breakfast is served in a room with views of the Grand Canal - so not much talking over breakfast but plenty of gawping!
Trust me, I have been to Venice before and places to stay that are as good as this, as centrally located and with such friendly & helpful hosts can be counted on the fingers of one hand. If flashy and fancy is your thing, then this isn't for you, but if you want to see and experience the friendlier side of Venice then do go and stay! Tell them Emma sent you!
I would definitely recommend a look when you visit Venice. It's inside the Church of St Mark (Basilica di San Marco) and as well as the fantastic ceiling mosaics, offers has a great view of the piazza.
Go up the (steep!) staircase on the right as you go from the narthex into the main body of the church. It's worth the effort, though.
The real horses of San Marco are up here too – the other ones are only modern replicas.
San Marco, Piazza San Marco
Venice is my most favourite city in the entire world, but when you are fed up of being jostled and barged into, when you become invisible to the ocean liner troupe let loose in the city for a few hours, where can you go?
Take the vaporetto or ferry from the Fondamente Nouve stop on Venice’s northern shore and travel 10km north-west across the lagoon to the tiny, windswept island of Torcello.
Deep channels run between the mud-banks and are marked by bricole, wooden poles lashed together and emerging from the water. The channels are busy with all sorts of craft - rushing water taxis, vaporetto ploughing along full of city workers, huge dredgers keeping channels clear and fishermen looking for shrimp.
The landscape opens out as you enter the lagoon. It’s often misty, often mysterious. The sky and water merge. Brine laden winds caress you. All at once the quiet of the lagoon becomes unearthly. A feeling of deep relaxation is within you, which can be strangely energising.
This silent island was the first in the lagoon to be settled by Veneti after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and Germanic invasion. It was virtually impregnable and became an attractive refuge for merchants and tradesmen. The population once exceeded 20,000 but by the 12th century the lagoon had silted up and Torcello became inaccessible and malarial. The inhabitants left, and literally took their fine residences with them, leaving a littering of architectural debris.
Just a handful of residents remain in this tranquil backwater. The two churches of Torcello stand in magnificent isolation around the overgrown piazza - the church of Santa Fosca alongside the oldest building in the lagoon, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta founded in the 7th century. Its exterior is devoid of splendour, yet within are Byzantine treasures - the 13th century Madonna in the apse and the west wall decorated with a huge 12th century mosaic depicting the Last Judgement. The massive stone shutters of the windows turning on huge rings of stone cause the whole building to resemble a retreat from the enemy rather than a house of God.
The roughly crafted campanile is to be climbed in the early evening, up strangely sloping ramps. The throat catching beauty and loneliness of the lagoon becomes apparent. John Ruskin called it, “a waste of wild sea moor of a lurid ashen grey”. The mudflats and marshes are choked. The silted-up waterways are now homes to herons and egrets. Trees, reeds and broom grow over what was once a settlement. With imagination, this place is timeless. Just rest and sigh. Enjoy this place with an open mind and a willingness to get lost.
As you speed back to Venice for your evening meal, take a moment, turn, and catch that ‘Turneresque’ light. Watch the buildings of the island melt into the lagoon.
Torcello is the perfect antidote to glamorous Venice. There’s time for quiet contemplation, which too often nowadays can elude you in Serenissima.
The last time I flew to Venice, an air hostess announced 'For those of you on the right-hand side of the plane you will shortly have a wonderful view of Venice in the sunset. For those of you on the left, you really should have sat on the right!'
Want to go to Venice but afraid of the hotel prices there? Stay in Mestre and commute to Venice each day. We did and found it fascinating to jump on a bus each morning and go to Venice with the workers. The view of Venice from a bus on the causeway is certainly different.
If you're arriving at San Marco airport, do splash out the 12 euros to get the blue line Alilaguna boat to your nearest stop. Day or night it's the only way to arrive, but once you're there, enjoy Venice most by just walking and getting lost in the quieter backstreets, and seeing a glimpse of what's left of the life of a diminishing non-tourist resident population. Small shops, bars, galleries and markets will welcome you.
Try Arsenale or around Campo Santa Margherita and the beautiful Del Frari Church for a start. If it's raining or misty, so much the better. If it's December, the Christmas market near Accademia Bridge will warm you up. For half a euro cross the canal by shared traghetti gondala and stand like the locals.
Then have a map handy for use in emergencies only
Venice has to be explored at 4am. The change in the city is quite simply indescribable to somebody who has only seen it during the tourist-infested day. Wait long enough and you get first the birds, then the dawn, and finally early-bird locals up and about, much friendlier than they are during the day as they presume you are one of them.
A tourist ticket is the best way to get around on the vaporetto. As an introduction to Venice, ride the No 1 from the station down the four kilometres of the Grand Canal until it opens out into St Mark’s Basin.
As warm breezes from the Adriatic ruffle your hair, watch Renaissance palazzos gently slide by, each gazing at its own reflection. Mooring posts for gondolas lean drunkenly, their stripes bright against the plaster walls.
It would be easy to sneer at the crowds of tourists in the Piazza San Marco, but this is a good place from which to start exploring the city. Napoleon’s phrase, “the drawing room of Europe,” is an apt one to describe this most supremely civilized place of elegant proportions with exquisite monuments that echoes to the sound of classical orchestras and is completely devoid of traffic.
The Campanile di San Marco gives the most breathtaking view over the city and with no climbing of steps-the lift will take you up to the top of the 100-metre-high bell tower. The medieval roofscape of terracotta tiles beneath will have changed little from four centuries ago when Galileo brought the Doge to the top of the tower to show off his newly invented telescope. Interestingly, none of the 117 canals can be seen from the top of the Campanile, either with or without a telescope.
While St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica are the jewels in the crown of this pearl of the Adriatic, a walk of a few minutes will take you to the silence of side canals where peeling shuttered windows dream of past glories of the Republic. Or a sleek black gondola rocks gently at its mooring post.
This quintessentially Venetian form of transport is always black, in deference to a law of 1562 that attempted to prohibit the extravagances of boat owners. This extraordinarily beautiful vessel is actually asymmetrical to compensate for the rowing by the gondolier at the stern. If travel by a gondola is wanted, then the best way is to use the ferry across the Grand Canal for a handful of small change.
If you go in October or November, take a boat ride in the early morning from Lido back into Venice and watch the light of the water play with the spires and domes. If it's been foggy - all the better. Venice will appear out of the mirage.
Small Italian hotel, some rooms overlook small canal and campo S. Apostoli, close to Grand Canal and Rialto, reasonable price and very friendly and helpful.
Camp San Apostoli, Cannareggio, Venice.
Take a trip to the church of St Giorgio Maggiore and go up the bell tower in the smallest of lifts accompanied by a monk with garlicky teeth - see if you can hold your breath all the way to the top - it's the best view in Venice and much better than the campanile in St Marco. There's a small marina below, you can look down and wonder who owns those boats.
When you arrive at the airport you have the option of taking a bus, water taxi or an "Alilaguna" boat to Venice. (Alilaguna is the name of the operator.) Especially if you have never been to Venice before, this is a magical way catch your first glimpse of it, unless you are happy and able to pay around £50 for a water taxi. The boat goes round the islands, finally stopping at the Arsenale and San Marco.
This is the best way to get your bearings in Venice, as it goes from one end of the Grand Canale to the other. Take the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide, with annotated illustrations for every stage of your journey, you get a marvellous guided tour from the station at one end to San Marco and the Arsenale at the other. Approximately 30 minutes each way, and not too expensive.
Most places along the Grand Canal, including the point where you arrive from the mainland
Torcello is the island at the north of the Venetian lagoon that might have been Venice, and that Venice might have been. In their early days they were equally populous, but Venice prospered and Torcello dwindled; as a result, you can find quiet and contemplation on Torcello that sometimes eludes one in Venice itself.
Especially noteworthy for church junkies is the Ciesa Santa Maria Assunta, with its mosaics of the Last Judgement and of the Virgin and child, heavily Byzantine influenced but with some North European influence too.
Take a vaporetto to Burano, a picturesque little island in its own right, and then the Traghetto to Murano.
Palladio's church on the island of the same name in St Mark's Basin. The church has a fine facade, two terrific Tintorettos, and a monk-operated lift up its campanile where you can get the best views of Venice and beyond.
San Giorgio Maggiore accessible by vaporetto no.82
It's this amazing tower with an external spiral staircase. As well as being an amazing and unusual piece of architecture, the view from the top is beautiful. I was thrilled to see the top of people's homes - with gardens and washing - rather than just the top of official buildings.
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