we have been to venice at least 5 times in the last 20 years and yet each time feels like we make a new discovery – by staying in different areas, it means that you explore new alleys and squares – of which there are so many in venice. this time as we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, we stayed at Monaco and Grand Canal, just one block away from St Mark’s Square and close to the famous Harry’s Bar and Danieli Hotel we have never stayed at the Danielli, despite its wonderfully atmospheric entrance and reception – as apparently the rooms are not so comfy and its very overpriced and you can always drop into have a drink at any time of day – its a great place to stop for a pre dinner drink. we always book our Venice trip with Kirker Travel as they make the whole visit very easy, organising the hotel, the transportation to and from the hotel and at this time of year, you definitely get a better deal with rooms; I always used to think that rooms were just a place to stay in a city as long as they are comfortable, but in Venice its such a pleasure to wake up to an amazing view. this hotel also has a lovely restaurant with views directly onto the Grand Canal where you have breakfast. All in all it was very romantic waking up to the sun rising over the gondolas.
I always recommend waking up early if you can and take a walk to st marks square before breakfast, nobody there, just the restaurateurs setting up their chairs and you feel that Venice is just yours.
one thing to note in venice is that a lot of the well known restaurants close on a sunday and monday, and also January is when they redecorate, especially if there has been high tides, so it meant finding new places to eat. we relied on our concierge, who last recommended our favourite place for lunch al paradiso – other good restaurants are corte sconta, vecia cavana and Anticho Carampane, difficult to find, but wonderful food and atmosphere. generally i do think that the food in a lot of the smaller trattorias is decent and pretty much similar, but there are a few higher end restaurants where the food is a little more special, but you do seem to pay for that difference. remember that the speciality in venice is seafood and of course home made fresh pasta. we were really lucky with the weather for the first 2 days, so we were able to sit out in one of the many squares and enjoy coffee and I would definitely recommend the terrace of the Monaco and Grand Canal restaurant – siting on the water’s edge watching guests arrive in the water taxis at lunchtime, its a bit of glamour and very good food. Da Forno is a very traditional restaurant, popular with Venetian locals, not cheap though. Alle Testieri was recommended to us and in fact Robert booked this restaurant for our anniversary celebration meal – but then realised that he got the date wrong! luckily we were there for our actual date, but this really simple restaurant is very small, only about 8 tables, only serves seafood and fish, but is very clean and good food. our last evening was at the Taverna la Fenice, which is right by the famous opera theatre La Fenice, and had a lovely atmosphere and very good food. we noticed that you could also just have a drink there too. its definitely hit and miss with restaurants in Venice – some are very expensive and over priced, but I guess you realise that Venice is like that – a lot of the restaurants offer a lunch menu which is good value, or you can do what we did a lot, which was to share meals and then have pasta – nobody seems to care about this and in fact sometimes there is far too much food on your plate and restaurants like la Fenice offer half portions of most main dishes.
we never plan much in Venice, we decide on an area to make our destination and then twist and turn on the many canals and bridges to take in Venetian life; naturally the further you escape from St Marks Square, the more you witness real locals living in the many squares – tourists do tend to stick to the main sites and 2 main bridges. we popped into the Teatro Opera Fenice for a tour whilst there was no performance – definitely worth a visit – tickets for the opera are very expensive; there are so many wondrous churches to visit, most of them displaying famous paintings by Titian and other artists of the time. our last day sadly was rain all day, which we knew was going to be, so we designated this as our gallery day; we visited the Palazzo Cavelli Franchetti museum with my favourite Morandi still lives and the newly built Willmotte foundation, which as exhibiting black and white photographs from the 1950’s all of Venice. a lot of things were closed but then this just makes you visit new things. of course you must see Peggy Guggenheim, the Olivetti showroom and the Fortuny collection; my favourite part of galleries is seeing the amazing palazzos themselves, the scale of the interiors are just spectacular.
The Realto market is a must, only open until lunchtime, but its great to see the fish and the vegetable sellers. I don’t know why, but Venice seems to be one of those places that you can visit over and over again and never get bored; it never changes physically, and yet it intrigues you each time. the light is so special, maybe its all the water and the fact that there are no straight roads or canals, so each walk takes on a different way – you can’t help but get lost, even with your google maps. I definitely suggest not putting that on, unless you are absolutely frustrated or else you miss the wonderful colour and splendour of whats around you, rather than looking at your phone all the time…….