Highlights from a Trip to Venice
September 16, 2013
We just returned from Buy Veneto, one of Italy’s most prestigious trade shows. Here are some of my notes from the stay.
Molino Stucky Hotel on the Giudecca Island of Venice was a fantastic surprise! A former flour/pasta mill from the 1800s, this structure was overtaken by ivy, literally falling apart, when the Hilton company bought it in the early 2000s and did a massive restoration.
Opened in 2007 as a five star property, the hotel manages to provide an intimate feel even though it spreads over several large buildings. Some of the highlights included:
- Rooftop bar and swimming pool that offered unequalled views of Venice, especially at night.
- Free 5-minute shuttles to Venice throughout the day and evening.
We loved escaping to a peaceful respite from the San Marco chaos with such ease! Try to get one of the Tower Suites, which are L-shaped and give fantastic views of the Giudecca and Venice.
Also thrilled to find a decently-priced, luxurious, super-well located apartment that sleeps up to 6 in Venice, just steps from Piazza San Marco! Walking up the stairway to the foyer, the first thing you see is a glass cabinet filled with beautiful pieces from Murano. To the left is a large double bedroom with a small bathroom (shower only) and windows onto a little square. Turn right and you reach another large double bedroom with a roomy bathroom (tub/shower), several windows, and a little terrace onto a canal just off the Venetian lagoon.
Both bedrooms close off completely from each other and can have extra single beds added for a total capacity of 6. Furnishings are exquisite, antique Venetian. On request, the apartment’s kitchen can be equipped for light cooking. A nearby four-star hotel handles check-in, and you can eat at their intimate rooftop restaurant (open seasonally), overlooking Venice’s San Marco area, which is only open to their guests. Our seasonal soup and seabass (olives, tomatoes, capers) were quite tasty.
During our last night in Venice, we visited an amazing privately-owned palazzo, still inhabited by a patrician family. When our chartered boat preempts two vaporettos at a public boat stop near Venice’s Frari church, I know it’s going to be an unusual evening! Our group of nearly 200 tour operators is met by 2 young Venetians in full 16th c. regalia, who lead us with lanterns through nearly deserted campi (squares) to a stunning Gothic palace tucked away on the San Sten canal. Trumpets announce our arrival as the palace doors open to reveal a courtyard and grand staircase.
On each stair, still as a statue, stands a Venetian in black cape and white mask with a long Pinocchio-style nose (“Dottore Peste”). This mask has a very unique history. One of the worst scourges for the city of Venice was without any doubt the Plague, which struck the city on several occasions. Because of this the Plague Doctor isn’t a real mask but was a disguise used by local doctors who went on visits wearing this strange costume to people afflicted with plague. The hat showed that the wearer was a doctor; the mask (which included protective crystal eyes) protected the face; the beak was stuffed with medicinal herbs to purify the air that the doctor breathed; a wooden stick pushed away victims who would get too close to him; a pair of leather gloves protected the hands; and a gown waxed from the exterior and full length boots completed the look.
But I digress….this fabulous palace was built in the 14th c. by Carlo Zen, a hero in Venice’s war against opposing sea power Genova. The family played an integral part in Venice’s history, having provided ambassadors, cardinals, and even one of the city’s doges. The courtyard where we entered accesses the wing added by Alessandro Zen, ambassador to the France during the time of Louis XV. His taste, surely influenced by frequent visits to Versailles, is reflected in the sumptuous frescoes and stucco work that grace every room.
Drinking Wine in Venice
Loving the little wine bar we found in Campo Santa Margherita – in the Dorsoduro area – closest vaporetto stop is Ca’ Rezzonico for its passionate wine-loving owners Roberto and Enrico. Tiny and unpretentious, this is one of only 3 wine bars in Venice where you can taste interesting, hard-to-source wines by the glass at a reasonable price. They are now carrying a small collection of organic Italian wines that they tell us are just starting to catch on with Italians. Adagio Travel can arrange a nice tasting of 4 special wines, with simple paired appetizers, for Euro 29 per person.
We have found the absolute BEST “Hidden Venice” tour! We were guided through the winding back alleys (“calle”) of this amazing city, all the while getting just enough interesting info to keep everyone engaged. Where did the term “campo” come from? Where’s the ugliest statue in Venice? Where’s the only house in Venice that’s on a peninsula? Have you ever seen a glass-blower create a tiny rabbit in less than 20 minutes?
This guide is a fabulous source of info for lodging and eating suggestions as well; we loved the sandwiches and home brew at Birreria Forst, on what our guide calls “sandwich alley”. Hidden Venice is the perfect tour for families with children ages 5 and up.