Date of Trip: April 2010
We disembarked our cruise ship, the Silver Wind, at the Basilio dock, which is essentially a long extension of the Zattere, separated along its length into two sections by a chain link fence. On the other side of the fence, we could see an ordinary looking street with land taxis available for transport. We walked along the fence to the cruise terminal building, and then through it to the outside, and we were in Venice, or almost: there was a wooden bridge we had to traverse, as you can see in the picture.
The area in front of the cruise terminal included a stand where a vendor was directing passengers to the water taxis they had reserved. I saw that we would not have to go over the wooden bridge, even if I decided to proceed further by vaporetto, and I was a little unsure of distances, so I asked how much a water taxi would be to our hotel, the Locanda San Barnaba. I was told it would be $120, so I decided that we would forgo that pleasure. I didn’t have any Euros, so I went looking for an Exchange or an ATM. I found noplace, mostly because I kept looking for an ATM that had one of the logos on my card (I never found one in all of Venice).
I knew, actually, that after the wooden bridge there would be only one more bridge to traverse, so I returned to Nancy and our luggage and we began walking, first over that wooden bridge. We had a nice leisurely walk to our hotel, rolling our suitcases behind us, and when we got to the one bridge, we slowly pulled up our luggage, whereupon two people walking by rushed to help us. Our hotel, Locanda San Barnaba, appeared after about ten minutes of easy walking, which was just the first of several big advantages of its location.
We left our baggage at the hotel and went for another walk. I decided to go to Piazzale Roma to get our Venice Connected cards validated. It was a fairly easy walk, with the maps provided by the hotel. We passed by a barge moored in the Rio Barnaba, and admired the produce. When we got to the large Piazzale Roma, we quickly found the correct ACTV window, presented the printout of my online purchase, and obtained our passes. We then went onto the vaporetto, and I noticed that many passengers had luggage, and that while it was not particularly easy to get on and off at some stops, it was not all that difficult (perhaps because people were helpful). I didn’t realize in which direction we were going, so we went the wrong way, which was really ok Instead of going to San Marco, we went to the Zattere, and had a nice lunch at La Piscina, which I thought was ok, but not really excellent. However, as we strolled towards La Piscina, I noticed Nico’s; after lunch we had a gelato, and that was very good indeed. J
We walked up to Bottegon Schiavi, passing the gondola repair factory. The bottegon looked very attractive, but we never got to it for a cicchetti and ombra. We did some more exploring, but this time via vaporetto, so that we could sit and relax. We took lots of pictures from the front of the boat. We walked back to the hotel, through San Marco Plaza, enjoying the dueling musicians, and then to the Accademia bridge. Finally, back to the hotel to unpack. Roberto, the hotel manager of the day, had brought all of our luggage up the 48 steps (Nancy counted) to our room; if he had not, I think we could have just used the contents of our carryon, but we appreciated his helpfulness.
I was a little anxious about dinner because we had been told definitely that Venice was not a good place for foodies. Roberto advised us to go to La Furatola for dinner, and wow, was he ever right.
La Furatola gave us a very warm welcome at a busy restaurant. The front window has a display of small fish on ice, all looking directly at you as you pass by. The house wine was a very nice Italian Sauvignon Blanc. My wife and I shared a lovely fritto misto and a mixed grill, which together was far too much for us. The fish was done a point; all was fresh and precisely done to the exact point of. Lovely.
We didn’t actually order dessert; it was brought to us. Our waiter brought out a large bowl with a big block of sherbet and let it soften. Then he progressively poured in some prosecco and vodka and began to whisk. He judged it was right to add a little more liquid, so he did. The result was a very frothy mixture. He took two Martini glasses, and coated the inside with a spiral of licorice flavored stuff that adhered to the glass, and then filled the glasses with the froth. Wonderful!
We returned a second night during our stay in Venice and the food was equally wonderful. Strongly recommended, but only for fish; I dont believe there was any meat on the menu.
The froth was so good, that I didn’t even stop for a gelato at the place in the Campo San Barnaba, right near the hotel; I wish I remembered its name, because it was really very good (we went there twice, later on). We had a wonderful dinner, and returned to the hotel happy and not even interested in going out to see if there was a tango dance that night.
Saturday, April 17, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel (yoghurt for Nancy and croissants for me), and then we walked the very short distance to the vaporetto (another advantage of the hotel’s location) and went to San Marco. We walked around the square, looked inside the shops inside the colonnades, and went to the Doge’s palace for the Secret Itineraries tour I had booked online. The tour was great, took about an hour and a half, and at the end we were free to look through the palace itself, which we did. We walked back toward our hotel and passed the Missoni store. I could not resist; I purchased two ties (for our sons), and as I think back, I should have purchased a third for me.
We returned to the vicinity of our hotel and a very nice lunch at Taverna San Trovaso (on the canal, opposite the Accademia Pensione- note that this is not the same as the Ristorante of the same name, owned by the same people). I over-ordered, which I do routinely, but didn’t realize that I was doing it this time. We had sarde in saor, and liked it, but it was a gigantic portion. The waiter smiled when he saw our reaction, and asked if we would like to cancel one of the pizzas, which we did. Not haute cuisine, but excellent food and friendly service.
We returned to our hotel to learn that our flight home on Sunday had been cancelled because of the Iceland Volcano eruption. CNN said that the ash cloud might last for well over a month, and that air travel would be restricted all of that time. We panicked, and spent the rest of the day worrying. We cancelled our dinner reservations at da Fiore because we felt we were too upset to enjoy it. The biggest problem was my medications, because I had only enough for the next day. The rest of the day was spent in emails and phone calls. We spoke with our travel agent (who eventually came through like gangbusters), and with two of our children, who together were able to get our prescriptions and were prepared to fax them to Venice if necessary.
Sunday, April 18. Marco Polo still closed; our flight was cancelled. Roberto advised us to go to a pharmacy in Cannaregio, which we did. The pharmacist there was very helpful and was able to get almost all of my medications that day and promised to get the rest the following day. No prescriptions were needed, she told me; but later I did discover that the price might have been less with local prescriptions. Since we were near the ghetto, we toured it, finding it tiny, and hard to believe that it had housed the entire population of Venice’s Jewry at one time.
Back to the San Trovaso for lunch; We really did like their pizzas, especially the one with arugula.
It was a short walk to the Guggenheim, which was, I admit, a little beyond my taste or understanding. And then an attempt to locate an internet cafe which was fruitless; I got lost too many times. Still, it is nice to get lost in Venice. We saw one of the places where the masks get made, and spent some time in the Campo San Margherita, which is lovely.
Dinner was at the Agli Arboretti, which was very fine, and rather expensive. I had the risotto with seppie, and liked it very much.
As we walked back to the hotel, I was struck by how quiet it was. Nancy commented that she felt very safe, that it did not feel like a dangerous city to walk at night. I don’t know how valid that is, but that’s how it felt to us.
Monday was another anxious day, spent wandering back and forth to the cruise pier (we had been told that Silversea might take us back on board but they had never heard of such a thing). We went to the pharmacy again, and acquired the rest of my medications. A nice lunch at a pizza place near our hotel, the Inigo. It was a beautiful day. We had a few drinks in San Marco Plaza, listening to the bands. Our son Dan had called, suggesting that since there were flights from Lisbon to the USA, that perhaps we should consider getting there. I found an internet cafe and mapped it out: a train to Genoa, then a ferry to Barcelona, then a highspeed train to Lisbon: piece of cake. Not.
Then back to the hotel, hoping to hear some better news. And it was there. At 7:20PM, Silversea’s port agent phoned, and told us that they had booked us on the first flight leaving Venice. We had tickets on a flight going out of Marco Polo on Thursday noon, and that in the meantime, because we had booked our air travel with the cruise company, they would pick up our hotel bill from that time forward, if we would just go to the Monaco Hotel tomorrow morning and check in there. (We later learned that our travel agent had been calling nonstop for hours, and I firmly believe that if it had not been for her, they would not even have found us.) Vastly relieved, we asked Roberto to book us (last minute) back at La Furatola, where we had another lovely dinner, again ending with the “froth”.
Tuesday. After breakfast we said goodbye to the Locanda San Barnaba. Roberto was not there, but Sylvia was, and I told her how much we appreciated everything she and Roberto had done for us. They both had made many many phone calls for us, including to the USA, at no extra charge to us. Nancy and I had seen them doing the same for some of the other folks stranded by the eruption; I can not say too many good things about them. We walked the short distance to the vaporetto, rolling our luggage, and boarded with no difficulty whatever. We got off at San Marco Calle Vallaresso, right at Harry’s Bar, and walked the 50 feet or so to the entrance of the Monaco Hotel.
The Monaco is a very grand hotel. It was elegant and dignified. I was impressed by the room rate posted on a notice inside our room’s wardrobe. On the other hand, the lobby contained only a single computer for internet access (skimpy for such a grand place). I purchased a few hours worth and emailed everyone to let them know of our changed location and the flight arrangements. We went out walking again, and then over the bridge to the Accademia where we admired the paintings. More walking, back to the hotel, and then on to Al Covo for dinner.
Al Covo was a wonderful dinner. We shared a cold shellfish appetizer, and then Nancy had a wonderful cod and prune stew, and I had some broiled whole small fish (trout?) from the lagoon. The broiled fish were wonderful, well worth the trouble of picking out the bones. At the end, as we were sharing the Panna Cotta that Diane, the chef’s wife had made, Diane came to our table and chatted with us. We had a lovely conversation with her, and thoroughly enjoyed her company. And the Panna Cotta was superb!!!
Wednesday. We had breakfast on the Canal. It was very elegant, and we saw that another couple from our cruise had been sent to the Monaco. The Monaco has a commanding position, very close to San Marco Plaza, and with a lovely view of Salute. Afterwards, we decided to take a trip out to Murano, where we toured a glass factory, and walked around the island a bit. We ate at a small canalside cafe, very pretty, but I had my first taste of mediocre (or worse) food in Venice. We would have returned to Al Covo that night if it had been open, but it is closed on Wednesdays.
Before we left for dinner, we noticed that one of the doors in the hotel, that led to the old palazzo portion of the building, had been left open. Curious, we went upstairs and found a beautiful set of rooms that the hotel clearly used for large functions, dinners, weddings, etc. They were lovely.
We ate dinner at Alla Rivetta, and had a very nice time. Good food, well prepared. Nancy had the mussels, and loved them. I had some ravioli, which I thought were superb. You always know you like the place when you feel good about your food but curious about what your neighbors have on their plates. Rivetta is not a big place, it’s really more like a neighborhood restaurant, but once again I felt that the food of Venice was vastly under-rated.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel through San Marco Plaza. The bands were still fighting, and one of them played a tango. Nancy and I started to dance, first in the plaza itself, near the chairs, and then later inside the colonnade. We arrived back at the hotel in a euphoria that had nothing to do with the wine at dinner.
Thursday. We asked for breakfast to be sent up to the room because we knew that we had to leave early. Breakfast was delivered at 7:15am, promptly; it was very good, but they did forget an item or two. We brought our luggage down to the lobby and I checked out. The representative from the Silversea port agent was there, and she brought us to the dock right next to the vaporetto, to a waiting water taxi. So we got a water taxi ride to the airport, at Silversea’s expense. The airport was very quiet, almost deserted. Our gate waiting area very slowly became populated, and then we emplaned.
In retrospect, I see that most of my review is about the food we had. That’s ok, because that is probably what I will remember most, alongside the wonderful walks we took and the vistas we saw. And Roberto and Sylvia, who were so helpful. When I return, I will book my room very far in advance at the Locanda San Barnaba. I cant believe my list of places I missed: La Fenice, Santa Maria Gloriosa, Rialto fish market- ah well, next time.
Also- I have learned to bring my travel insurance docs along; if I had, my anxiety would have been relieved instantly, because they will pay for all of my expenses. In addition, I am going to find out why none of the ATMs have the logos I want; they had them in Greece and Turkey. The Venice ATMs all charged me an extra fee, I now see.
I will close by thanking all of the TA members who were so helpful to me. They were key to my planning, and I really do appreciate it.