Date of Trip: March 2004
We land at Marco Polo airport after a smooth flight from JFK thru Frankfurt. Weather is cool but clear. Step one is withdrawing from the Bancomat in the airport and picking up our Venice cards. Right outside the terminal is the shuttle bus to the boat docks. We added transport via Alilaguna to the Venice cards figuring that if it was raining we would spring for a water taxi, otherwise a Vaporatto. Glad it wasn’t raining. I’d rather spend the 85 euro on food and wine than a water taxi! Plus, I like the experience of mixing with the locals and tourists on public transport wherever we go.
Landing at S. Marco we walk the 5 minutes to our hotel (Hotel Kette — http://www.veniceby.com/kette/) which is a lovely four star that serves a dynamite breakfast every morning. The first day plan was to walk thru S. Marks square, look around and walk thru the Mercerio to the Ponte Rialto just to get our bearings and take a Vapperetto back to S. Marks getting a view from the canal of the city. We’d follow that with a quick nap. When we travel in a new area I like to plan my itineraries using both the Jeanne Oelerich walking guides and the Insideout pocket guides. Between these two and the MapEasy guide map to Venice, I had no trouble getting around.
We had lunch at a small no-name osteria on the canal just passed the Rialto bridge. After our nap, we found a small neighborhood restaurant called Piccollo Martini (just west of S. Marks off C. larga XXII Marzo) — small, inexpensive and with a live piano player. Perfect after a ten hour travel day. A bottle of wine, a pizza and 1 primi for 36.96 E. Who said Venice was expensive?
Awoke Tuesday to a beautiful warm day. Set off on foot across the Pte. Accademia to visit the Guggenheim and Accademia museums. The Guggenheim is a beautiful venue and worth a visit for this alone. I preferred the artwork at the Accademie and we spent the morning trying to do justice to the massive volume of work. After a walk along the Zattere and most of Dosodoro, we ended up back at the hotel to drop off our purchases and rest up for our first big dinner at Cip’s Place at the Hotel Cipriani. It was so nice out that we cancelled our dinner reservation and instead decided to go to Cip’s for a late lunch. The H. Cipriani has its own dock and launch that takes you from S. Marco over to Giudecca. Talk about feeling like royalty. This gorgeous launch shows up and conveys us to the hotel where we had a magnificent lunch overlooking S. Marco and all of Venice. Spedini capesan, pennette faraona, due fegato di vitello, 1 taleggio, a bottle of Brunello de Montelcino , we shared uno piatta de frommagio and due espresso. All for a mere 269.50 E OK, so Venice is looking a bit on the expensive side!!!
A pleasant walk through the hotel and gardens to the other side, at which point the dest called the launch to get us from there. After tipping the waiter and the launch captain it was an extravagance. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was one of the highlights of the trip. Tried to go to Bistrot de Venise for drinks but they were so nasty that we walked out. Had planned on a dinner there later in the week, but killed that! On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Harry’s bar for drinks. One bellini, one spritz con Aperol, 21.50 E., but you have to do it, just to see the place and anyhow I had to buy an ashtray for a friend. Needless to say we had a light bite at a no-name Osteria for dinner.
Wednesday I woke early and ran down to the Rialto with my cameras to catch the action at the Rialto markets. It was fun, but not as extensive as I had been led to believe and so I was back at the Hotel by 7AM for breakfast. We spent the morning going thru the Bassillica, Doges Palace and the Correr museum and then took a vapporetto to Accadamie and walked Dosodoro looking for the gondola boatyards. We found one, but it was under renovation and so not much to see, so we shopped our way thru Dosodoro and ended up at Margaritte du Champ for a pannini and wine lunch in Campo S. Margherita and wiled away the afternoon just walking the streets and mixing with the locals. Don’t miss the tiny workshop of Loris Marazzi (http://www.lorismarazzi.it/a1.htm).
Back at S. Marco we stopped in at Café Quadri for afternoon tea. Let’s see: one tea, one café, one chocolat mousse and one gelato and berries cost 40.40 E. Boy, Venice is expensive! On the way to dinner we stopped in at the lounge of the H. Bauer (great place for drinks). We had a lovely dinner at Acqua Pazza (Adriatic seafood) and we had fun from the second we walked in. There’s a friendly and comfortable crew. And the owner was on premises, so after much discussion we let them set the menu. After drinks we had a salad and some pasta, shared a wonderful grilled sea bass, washed down by a delicious bottle of Tommasi Amarone, dolce and espresso for 194 E.
Thursday we woke to a cold rainy, nasty day, but off we went on the Vaperatto to Murano. We toured the glass museum, bought trinkets and gifts, had a local lunch and while we were equipped with raingear and umbrellas, it finally became a bit much and so we reluctantly headed back to S. Marco. We ended up at the Gritti Palace (a five star beauty that’s worth a look see) for drinks and decided to cancel our reservations at Fiashetteria Toscana (just too long a trip and walk in the rain) and went around the corner to Ristorante Alla Borsa for dinner. Turned out to be one of the best, if not THE best meals of the trip. It is a charming, quite, romantic spot and was just wonderful. Of course that’s the receipt I can’t find so I can’t give you chapter and verse other than from memory. Penny had a smoked swordfish carppaccio, salad, and a cheese and porcini ravioli. I had tagliarini with baby spider crab and seppi – cuttlefish in black ink, all with drinks and the requisite bottle of chiant riserva etc etc. I think it was in the 200 E. range but, like I said, I can’t find the receipt. Go anyway, as I said, it is a marvelous dining experience.
Friday we were scheduled to tour the old ghetto and synagogues, so off we went to the S. Marco vaperetto station. After 5 minutes the ticket agent came down to explain to the crowd that there would be no boat! It seems that they were staging a one day strike. This would have been our longest Vaporetto ride (except for Morano). Instead it turned out to be our longest walk. It took us over an hour and a half to go from S. Marco to Pte. d. Guglie . After the tours, we stopped at the foot of Pte. Scalzi for a quick lunch, sitting outside in the sun, just delicious, before heading back to our home area. I think we walked through every neighborhood in Venice and saw two demonstrations by the strikers. Hey wait a minute, isn’t that a Vaporetto on the canal??? After inquiring, we found out that they were running, but only as far as Rialto. We hopped aboard — packed in like sardines and sure enough we all got dumped out at Rialto. Really, lots of fun.
The plan was to get to Fiasetteria Toscana for dinner but now with no Vaporetto running we weren’t about to walk all the way down there and back again. Luckily, we were able to get an 8:30 reservation at Da Ivo. We stopped at Vino Vino for drinks and dined superbly at Da Ivo. It would have been the best meal of the trip because the food was just wonderful but I felt that they set the timing and agenda of our meal as opposed to our setting the pace. Granted, they were packed (and it is small) but I did not feel as relaxed or comfortable as I did at Alla Borsa. Drinks, a bottle of Banfi Barollo. We shared a risotto de pesche (made for two) that was to die for! Penny had a grilled tuna with capers, I had a grilled monkfish, cheese, dessert and café. All for 257.64 E. Boy! Venice IS expensive.
Saturday came much too soon, and we had to catch an 11:20 boat to make our plane which was 45 min late arriving and led to a mad dash for our connection in Frankfort. At the other end of the world!!! All in all, for an impulsive week away it was just fantastic and I am ready to go back. It all started with an e-mail offering 4 days in Venice for $689. After upgrading the hotel and adding an extra day, insurance, taxes etc., it worked out to much more, but was well worth it. Yes, it is expensive in Venice and the exchange rate compounds that right now, but I can’t think of a better place to spend the money. Shopping is cheaper in NYC (even for Italian designer goods) so we only bought odds and ends, a couple of engravings and gifts, but again, I would go back tomorrow.