Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

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Marshall Gelb
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Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

#1 Post by Marshall Gelb » August 25th, 2016, 5:37 pm

Hi everyone: I have done a bit of research and most of the Venice info is a bit dated. I would love some hotel and restaurant ideas that are more current. We are not going till next Fall so I have some time. We will be in a couple of other areas as well but would like to concentrate on Venice info as I have never been there.

Thanks! [berserker.gif]

Cheers!
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#2 Post by Neal.Mollen » August 26th, 2016, 5:55 am

Sorry I can't help with more current info, Marshall, but you are going to love Venice in the fall. It is unique, and has to be taken on its own terms, but there really is nothing like getting lost in the back alleys and canals and then turning the corner onto a lagoon vista or the Grand Canal or St Marks. The light is gorgeous, the architecture is beautiful, and the opportunity to see it all without a single car or motorbike assaulting your senses is unlike anything else, anywhere else.
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#3 Post by M.Kaplan » August 26th, 2016, 8:02 am

Biennale 2017.
---Mark

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#4 Post by Marshall Gelb » August 26th, 2016, 2:20 pm

Thanks Neal......lovely descriptions.


Mark; We have plenty of time to talk.


Cheers!
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#5 Post by jdietz » August 28th, 2016, 9:57 am

Stay in an an apartment. We were on a canal behind the Fenice Theater, a 5 min walk to San Marcos. We walked everywhere from there, often aimlessly, finding hidden squares and cafes. Use Airbnb or something like that. Having a kitchen and a bedroom, as well as living space, is so much nicer.

I'll PM you some restaurant choices.
Cheers, James

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#6 Post by Ron Kramer » August 28th, 2016, 10:08 am

jdietz wrote:Stay in an an apartment. We were on a canal behind the Fenice Theater, a 5 min walk to San Marcos. We walked everywhere from there, often aimlessly, finding hidden squares and cafes. Use Airbnb or something like that. Having a kitchen and a bedroom, as well as living space, is so much nicer.

I'll PM you some restaurant choices.

Why don't you just post them here?

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#7 Post by Peter Kleban » August 28th, 2016, 10:23 am

Too long since we've been there for specifics. But it is a magical place! Do watch out for scams, they've been fleecing tourists for centuries. If you're stuck for a good place to eat, try to follow the French tourists
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#8 Post by craig v » August 28th, 2016, 5:35 pm

Well said! Ill add that its even more magical after dark. Biggest mistake is spending much time around St Marks before 6PM. Meandering the small back alleys is the best.
Neal.Mollen wrote:Sorry I can't help with more current info, Marshall, but you are going to love Venice in the fall. It is unique, and has to be taken on its own terms, but there really is nothing like getting lost in the back alleys and canals and then turning the corner onto a lagoon vista or the Grand Canal or St Marks. The light is gorgeous, the architecture is beautiful, and the opportunity to see it all without a single car or motorbike assaulting your senses is unlike anything else, anywhere else.
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#9 Post by David T » August 28th, 2016, 6:38 pm

we stayed at al ponte antico - I really liked it. Old palace converted into a boutique hotel. Jeffrey steingarten has a great chapter on venice and its cuisine in one of his books. [thumbs-up.gif]
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#10 Post by P. Moy » August 29th, 2016, 12:05 pm

Venice is one of the great cities of the world, and unique in that it is built entirely on water. Having visited some two dozen times when I lived in Rome and another dozen times since, it is a place that is dear to me. Autumn is a good time to visit, and although there are still crowds at that time, it is not nearly as chaotic as it is in late spring, summer, and early autumn. My preference has always been to visit from late November to early March, a time when the locals reclaim their city and imbue it with a spirit that is distinctly Venetian.

The city itself is divided into six sestieri or districts. They are San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce, Castello, Cannaregio, and Dorsoduro. San Marco is where the famed Piazza San Marco is located, along with the Basilica di San Marco and the Campanile. As a first time visitor, Marshall, you should take in these sights. Cannaregio is the most densely populated of the sestieri, but is also where the Jewish Ghetto is located. Historically, this is where the Jews were segregated from the rest of the population. Castello is the largest of the sestieri, and composed of such a maze of back streets and canals that you will be forever lost once there. San Polo is where the famous Rialto Bridge is, and it is this bridge that connects San Polo to San Marco. Santa Croce is the first sestiere one enters from mainland Italy via the Ponte della Liberta. As such, it is the only sestiere where one sees cars. Dorsoduro is the southernmost of the sestieri, and my favorite. I have never stayed anywhere but here, in large part because the tourists clear out by late afternoon and the district returns to the serenity it is known for. Here, one is in the midst of the Venice of families and students. The Dorsoduro is home to most of the great museums of Venice. The Gallerie dell'Accademia, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Palazzo Grassi, among others, are located here.

As for hotels, I can suggest only the ones I have stayed in in Dorsoduro. One thing to keep in mind is that most visitors stay in the San Marco and Rialto areas because of their proximity to the sights. As such, you'll pay a premium, and if you're not careful, a dear premium for location. The irony is that Venice is eminently walkable, and you can explore the entire city on foot. It never took me more than 15-20 minutes to walk leisurely from the Dorsoduro to say, San Marco Square. Bottom line, no need to stay in San Marco or the Rialto because you can walk everywhere.

The hotels are rated from 0 stars to 5 stars. When I first started coming to Venice from Rome, my hotel of choice was the 2 star Hotel Agli Alboretti (it has since been elevated to 3 stars). The rooms are very clean and well kept, and that it is located in the Dorsoduro, very quiet. The proprietress of the hotel was also the sommelier of the Ristorante Agli Alboretti, which is attached to the hotel. I had some of the greatest wine experiences of my life here, but that is, alas, another story for another time. I believe the restaurant is presently under new ownership.

I also stayed at the Pensione Accademia a few times. It is housed in a building that was the former home of the Russian Consulate. The Pensione is very popular among Americans and the British, and it used to be that booking a room here was difficult because repeat customers always reserved a year in advance. What distinguishes the Pensione is that the guests tend to be well-travelled. In the evenings, many guests would convene in the large sitting room and trade stories and tips about Venice.

My hotel of choice in the Dorsoduro is the 4 star Ca' Pisani, a design hotel that is absolutely gorgeous. The service is wonderful and the spread they put out at breakfast can hold you until dinner. My brother and his family stayed here last December, and he will return. If you like high tech gadgetry in your room, this hotel has it. Another design hotel to consider is the 4 star Charming House DD724. I stayed here only once, and while we enjoyed it very much, there were service issues then that have hopefully been ironed out. This hotel is located right next to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

As for restaurants, Osteria alle Testiere is a seafood only restaurant located in Castello that deserves its reputation for impeccable cuisine. The chef has a creative bent, and at times lightly flavors some of his seafood dishes with ginger and cinnamon, spices that one normally does not associate with Italian cooking. That is, however, until one realizes that Venice was once a maritime power, and brought in goods and spices from the Middle East and Asia. The front of the house is run by a fellow named Luca, who speaks at least 5 languages and is a sommelier. Ask him for recs and he'll always come up with a good bottle for you. I've eaten here about 10 times, and my brother had a memorable meal last winter. The restaurant is small, perhaps 10 or 12 tables, so book well in advance.

Back in Dorsoduro, my secret find used to be the Enoteca Ai Artisti, a family owned place serving up delicious, honest cooking. Back then, the Enoteca was known only by the locals in Dorsoduro. It is located in the depths of Dorsoduro, but some years ago it was discovered, and now during the tourist season, is mobbed. Friends who ate there this spring report that it is still excellent, but service can be a bit harried. As this is an enoteca, wine is taken seriously here.

A visit to Venice would not be complete without hanging out in a wine bar. Just as Spain has its tapas bars, Venice has it cichetti bars. The Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi in Dorsoduro was where I hung out in the evenings. In winter, there are few tourists here, and the place has a jovial neighborhood atmosphere. Plates of cichetti still cost 1 euro to 1.5 euro each. Red and white wines are always offered by the glass, and a meal for two, depending on how much one eats and drinks, will run no more than 30 euros. Opposite the bar is a wall that is lined with hundreds of bottles of wine for sale.

Lastly, a tip. One winter, I got up at 4:30am and walked to the Piazza San Marco. The Piazza has a certain feel when it is mobbed during the day, and a completely different vibe when no one is there. The Piazza was empty that morning save for the lone figure of an old man sweeping the piazza. It was snowing lightly, with the faintest light of dawn appearing at the horizon. The Basilica di San Marco and other monuments stood majestically in the background as it has for centuries. If one strained one's ears long enough, one could hear the whispers coming from their walls. Magical, and enchanting. This memory will haunt me forever, and it was then that I realized that Venice is breathtakingly beautiful, indeed, achingly so, because of the confluence of decay and elegance that defines this place.
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#11 Post by jdietz » August 29th, 2016, 6:09 pm

Piazza San Marco is not crowded before 8 am. No need to go at 4:30, though that is impressive!! The flow of tourists hits hard 9 ish, as the cruise ship passengers descend. Then things lighten up after 5 or so, but the morning is magical.

The open market with its beautiful fruits and veggies is a fun place to roam and grab some snacks for later in the day. It's right along the Grand Canal. And there is a place to wash anything you buy right there, too.
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#12 Post by Neal.Mollen » August 30th, 2016, 5:11 am

jdietz wrote:Piazza San Marco is not crowded before 8 am. No need to go at 4:30, though that is impressive!! The flow of tourists hits hard 9 ish, as the cruise ship passengers descend. Then things lighten up after 5 or so, but the morning is magical.

The open market with its beautiful fruits and veggies is a fun place to roam and grab some snacks for later in the day. It's right along the Grand Canal. And there is a place to wash anything you buy right there, too.
My habit when we travel abroad is to get up very early -- around sunrise -- and take my camera out to watch the city wake up while my wife sleeps. It is particularly rewarding in Venice because of the quality of the light early in the morning. But it is always a good way to see the city as the locals see it.

The key is a nice mid-to-late afternoon nap when the tourists are at their most active.
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#13 Post by Marshall Gelb » August 30th, 2016, 1:11 pm

Peter Moy: Thank you so much! That is simply fantastic information. flirtysmile I really have tons to think about and luckily plenty of time to digest all these facts!

Cheers!
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#14 Post by P. Moy » August 30th, 2016, 1:20 pm

Marshall Gelb wrote:Peter Moy: Thank you so much! That is simply fantastic information. flirtysmile I really have tons to think about and luckily plenty of time to digest all these facts!

Cheers!
Marshall
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#15 Post by Patrick Duffy » August 30th, 2016, 3:05 pm

Peter has great information. I merely have opinions. :)

We really enjoyed Osteria alle Testiere. I second the recommendation to book well in advance. I can't tell you how many people came in while we were eating, only for them to be turned away for lack of a reservation. What's on the menu is what was fresh in the market today. You truly feel like the chef is cooking specifically for you.

We stayed at Hotel Ca Segredo which was quite roomy. We had their only room with access to a roof patio, from which we had a 360 degree view of Venice. Most impressive.

The other thing that we stumbled into was Sunday morning (7:30 a.m.) Mass at St. Marks. You use the side entrance marked something like "for worship." The church is not open to tourists on Sunday morning, so it was just us and about 25 other people. Wow. Mass was over just about the time that the Campanile opened, so we were in the first group to the top, from which we watched the flag raising over the piazza. Note that, as I understand it, the cruise ships do not come in on Sunday because St. Mark's is closed until noon. And that's a good thing. Seeing the effects of cruise ship day trippers on Venice has convinced me that I have no interest in cruising.

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#16 Post by Tom G l a s g o w » August 30th, 2016, 3:34 pm

We were going to take the elevator at the Campanile, but it got stuck. We were in the next group. They got the people out, who all took refunds, as did our group except for a Russian family. I guess if you fly Aeroflot you have a different concept of risk.

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#17 Post by Eric Ifune » August 30th, 2016, 6:13 pm

Don't forget other cities in the Veneto. Easily reached via the train. Verona is great. Vicenza is the city of Palladio, but you might need a car to visit all his buildings.

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#18 Post by Rich Salsano » August 31st, 2016, 7:43 pm

David T wrote:we stayed at al ponte antico - I really liked it. Old palace converted into a boutique hotel. Jeffrey steingarten has a great chapter on venice and its cuisine in one of his books. [thumbs-up.gif]
This. We stayed here a few years ago and it was an incredible experience. The owners are fabulous folks who make you feel like family and the hotel is right on the grand canal with a birds eye view of the Rialto bridge. Afternoon drinks or coffee on the patio were just beautiful. Plus, they have a coffee machine that needs to be seen and tasted. I have never had better espresso and cappuccino in my life. The machine is the size of a refrigerator.

Look into it. If we were to return to Venice, we would absolutely stay here again.
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#19 Post by P. Moy » September 1st, 2016, 11:11 am

One of the most enduring images associated with Venice is that of a gondola plying the waters of the Grand Canal with a couple seated in loving embrace. It is a romantic image, for which there are no shortage of couples and families lining up for this most quintessential of Venetian experiences. The city of Venice presumably regulates this activity, setting official rates for what a gondola ride should cost. Some gondoliers respect the set rate, but as there is an infinite number of people for whom a gondola ride is a must, there is an equal number of gondoliers, knowing that a lot of money can be made, who ignore the regulation. There are gondola stations everywhere along the Grand Canal. One cannot miss them, if only because the gondoliers or their designated barkers will try to entice you to get on board.

Last time I checked, the going rate was 80 euros for 40 minutes. One can negotiate a lower fare, but if you do, the ride will be less than 40 minutes, and some gondoliers won't tell you this. If you want the full treatment, and ask the gondolier to be Tony Bennett or Pavarotti, you'll pay more. If you really want the full treatment and go for a sunset ride (after 7pm), you'll pay more. If you're having a great time on a sunset ride while the gondolier is serenading you, and you ask if he can extend the tour a little longer, you'll hear the cash register ring again. The point is, if you negotiate with a gondolier, be sure both parties are absolutely clear on how much the ride will cost, how long he'll ply the Grand Canal, and how much more it will cost if you ask for more time and he sings. Even then, this being Venice, the gondolier may still shortchange you. If negotiating does not appeal to you, hotel concierges can arrange a gondola for you, but it's going to cost more because, this being Venice, he takes his cut too. In another post, I'll detail the darker side of Venetian commerce.

If you must ride a gondola but the thought of parting with more euros than you care to spend doesn't appeal, there is another alternative, and one that I used all the time. Take a traghetto, which many locals do if they wish to go from point A to point B and avoid taking a vaporetto, which is almost always crowded. A traghetto is a gondola, outfitted to accommodate a certain number of people on the way home with groceries or to get to somewhere more quickly. Some locals take a traghetto just to cross one side of the Grand Canal to the other, a trip of some five minutes or less. Many riders stand on a traghetto as the seating is limited. There are signs all along the Grand Canal that indicate where one can board a traghetto. Best of all, it costs around one euro or so to ride!

There are two other forms of water transport to consider. Ferries, or vaporetti, course up and down the Grand Canal morning, afternoon and evening. Vaporetto stations are everywhere on the Grand Canal, and it's a great way to see the architecture of the city from the water. A ticket booth is situated at every stop, and after you buy a ticket, be sure to validate it in a ticket box before you board. Now it used to be that the ticket takers on board did not even look at your ticket, which led some tourists (and locals) to forego buying tickets altogether and ride for free. Some years ago, the city fathers got wise to this when they wondered why vaporetti revenue was so low. Consequently, they installed undercover agents on the most popular routes, where they chose riders at random and asked to see their tickets. Fines, which had to be paid on the spot, ran upwards of 50 euros or more.

The other form of transport is a motorboat, the virtue of which allows one to get to one's destination much faster as well as dream how James Bond must have felt riding one of these things. If you fly into Venice, a vaporetto will take about an hour (or longer) from the airport to Venice, whereas a motorboat cuts the time in half or shorter. IIRC, a motorboat from the airport costs some 100 euros, perhaps more. Many visitors, eager to get into Venice quicker, ask complete strangers at the airport if they want to share in the cost. Sharing the cost is a good way to pay a lower tariff, since the fare is fixed and not dependent on how many people are in the motorboat.

A motorboat can be reserved in advance online. This is more convenient than having to wait with crowds of people who line up en masse at the motorboat station outside the airport. The station is a stone's throw from the airport. Of course, hotel concierges can arrange a motorboat for you, but this being Venice, the cost will be higher since he/she gets a cut.

In the next post, the wine and cuisine of Venice.
Peter Moy

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#20 Post by M.Kaplan » September 1st, 2016, 11:49 am

I haven't been as often as Peter, but we've been a handful of times, including 3 times in the past 10 years, most recently in September 2015 for Biennale. We've stayed around the city and agree with Peter's recommendation of staying in Dorsoduro. Last year, we stayed in Dorsoduro at the 'new' Centurion Palace, which, like most recent Venice hotel construction, consists of gutting an old palazzo and building a new hotel inside. We liked the hotel very much and will return next year when we visit Biennale 2017. Opposite the Grand Canal from the Gritti Palace and one stop (Salute) from San Marco. Close enough, but outside of the crush, with a tremendous view from our canalside room. The restaurant we liked the most last trip was Ristorante Riviera, located on the southern side of Dorsoduro on Fondamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo. We also liked Osteria Oliva Nera, which is located near Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci, half way between the Basilica and Arsenale. Finally, although it is touristic, I still like the braised baby octopus for lunch at Trattoria alla Madonna.

Better than a gondola ride, visit the Squero San Trovaso gondola workshop, if they will let you sneak in.
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#21 Post by P. ONeill » September 2nd, 2016, 9:11 pm

Marshall, if you're in the mood for a bit of an excursion, I recommend Venissa (http://www.venissa.it) on the island of Mazzorbo, near Burano, in the lagoon. We had an excellent dinner there last week while on a three day visit, eating outdoors on a spectacular summer evening near the vineyards which the proprietors have planted to reintroduce the local Dorona grape to the lagoon.

We went back to a couple of old favorites too - Corte Sconta, near the Arsenale, which we love as much for the warmth of the staff as for the food which is generally very good, and, like Mark, to Alla Madonna for lunch. We missed Alle Testiere, which was closed for summer vacation, but which is "don't miss" for me when its open.

Enjoy

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#22 Post by P. Moy » September 3rd, 2016, 1:35 pm

Venice has the reputation as something of a culinary wasteland. It is not a place one associates with fine dining, certainly not when compared to other regions of Italy such as Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Piemonte. There is much truth to this observation, and more so when one realizes that many of the restaurants in Venice exist for the sole reason in feeding masses of tourists quickly, many of whom will never be back. There is little incentive, then, for restaurateurs and chefs to take pride in what they serve. The irony, of course, is that Venice and the region of the Veneto is rich in food products, most notably fish and seafood from the Lagoon and Adriatic, and vegetables from the islands. Rather than take advantage of this bounty, cynical restaurateurs have for many decades resorted to using, among other abominations, frozen fish imported from Asia and frozen and canned vegetables that can come from anywhere. Indeed, a seemingly dire situation for those interested in a good meal.

Can one eat well in Venice? Yes, if one is resourceful and does the requisite research. Some twenty-five years ago, a number of concerned restaurateurs and chefs met to discuss the state of Venetian cuisine. They were, of course, well aware of the sad reputation of their beloved cuisine. Ideas were discussed, and after much back and forth, the Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza (literally, "restaurants of good/excellent welcome/hospitality") was born. The twelve to fifteen restaurants that belong to this organization vow to preserve the integrity of Venetian cuisine, using excellent local products, good/great wine lists, a good price quality ratio, and warm hospitality. The visitor in search of true Venetian cuisine can find brochures of the Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza in tourist offices (one of which is in the Santa Lucia train station), tobacco shops, and in the member restaurants themselves. It can also be found online.

The culinary ethos of Italy centers on impeccable products cooked simply so the natural taste of the ingredient shines. Vegetables, for example, are often dressed with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of herbs. Treated as such, a zucchini tastes like a zucchini, and a tomato like a tomato. Grilled fish is treated in the same way. Italian cuisine does not attempt to transform a product, save for the Michelin starred places in Italy that offer a more international style of cooking.

The bounty from the Venetian Lagoon and Adriatic is astounding for its variety. Go to the Rialto fish market early in the morning and see the range of fish and seafood caught the night before. One evening at Alle Testiere, I asked Luca if he could find razor clams for the following evening's dinner. He said he would try. The next morning, I saw him at the Rialto fish market, choosing, among other things, razor clams. He saw me, smiled, and said "for your dinner tonight." Priceless. The razor clams were quickly sauteed in olive oil and garlic, and finished with a dash of parsely. I can still taste it as I write it.

With so much fish and seafood on offer, the white wines of the Veneto and neighboring Friuli are recommended. Winemaking in the region has improved over the years, and if one drinks local wines, they are often quite good and affordable. Don't forget Prosecco, grown in Treviso in the Veneto region. Vini da Gigio, a member of the Buona Accoglienza, has an astounding wine list that features not only the wines of the region, but strays farther afield if your tastes run to Toscana and Piemonte.

As a caution, not all of the restaurants listed in the Ristoranti della Buona Accoglienza live up to their guarantee all of the time. Fiaschetteria Toscana, for example, can provide rude service because they are always full. Their wine list is not updated regularly, the cooking can be tired, and their quality price ratio tips in favor of price.

Avoid the restaurants in the vicinity of the Piazza San Marco and Rialto that advertise tourist menus. The menus are written in five or six languages, and the tariff is relatively cheap. If it sounds too good to be true...

And then there is Harry's Bar, the former haunt of Hemingway and Orson Welles. Mostly everyone who visits Venice at one time or another either has a drink there, eats lunch or dinner, or sticks their heads in so they can say they went to Harry's Bar. It's been coasting on its reputation for decades, and why not, when the lure of Hemingway or spotting a celebrity fills the imagination of those for whom Venice has a romantic appeal. I went twice during my first ever trip, once to drink their famed Bellini (invented at Harry's Bar) and once to eat dinner. A proper Bellini is made using the puree of fresh white peaches and Prosecco. White peaches are in season in Spring and early Summer, and I doubt Harry's Bar uses it when it is cheaper and faster to use canned peach juice. The latter is what was used when I went in winter. Not only was it expensive (for a small glass!), but tasted pedestrian. Dinner was, let's say, not memorable. If you have euros to spare and feel like getting fleeced, have a meal at Harry's Bar. Recent reports by friends confirm that it has not changed its ways.

Other than tips I received from the locals, the Buona Accoglienza has always been my guide to culinary nirvana. It's worth consulting.
One can, after all, eat well, indeed, very well, in Venice.

The next post will detail the darker aspects of commerce in Venice.
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Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

#23 Post by P. Moy » September 7th, 2016, 6:56 am

Venice is one of the most visited cities on earth, attracting some 20 million people annually. The crush of tourists is greatest in spring, summer and early autumn. Venice's economy is built around tourism, and city officials recognize that tourism is the engine that propels the commerce and livelihood of the city. It is inevitable that when a city is so dependent on tourism for its survival, many of its merchants, hoteliers and restaurateurs will resort to deceit and unethical behavior that can quickly put a damper on a visitor's vacation. Deception is so widespread in Venice that many tourists, who have been taken, have their tales of woe. To be sure, there is virtually no violent crime, if at all, in Venice. After all, where is a person who commits violence going to hide in a city like Venice? In the close to 40 times I've been to Venice, I never read once, in the local newspaper, or heard in conversations with locals in wine bars, of violent crimes being committed. Instead, what the unsuspecting visitor will encounter are pickpockets, scammers, scoundrels and other assorted miscreants whose only goal is to separate one from as many euros as possible.

Misfortune can strike even before one sets foot in Venice. Pickpockets operate in Venice Marco Polo Airport and the Santa Lucia train station. Their cover is crowds of people and the distracted minds of tourists who are trying to get their bearings straight. These folks are good at what they do, and they can relieve one of one's wallet in an instant. In Venice itself, pickpockets operate on the vaporetti, the area around San Marco Square, and the Rialto. Tourists who board the vaporetti with their luggage are usually so entranced at seeing Venice by boat that they become instant marks.

A word about taking the overnight train into Venice. Thieves have been known to enter the locked cabins of sleeping passengers and steal their money. That's how good they are at what they do. There is some suspicion that the conductors are in on it, as they have keys to every cabin. Equally unsettling, however, is that if you are on an overnight train to Venice, the conductor will ask for your passport, ostensibly to record your info, and keep it until the next morning. If in fact conductors are working with thieves, they will know who the Americans are. The one time we traveled on an overnight train, I insisted that the conductor return our passports, and I stood in his cabin, his protestations notwithstanding, until they were returned.

To be continued...
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#24 Post by P. Moy » September 9th, 2016, 7:43 am

Hotels are normally not places where employees are engaged in scamming their guests. Yet in many hotels in Venice, this is exactly what has been happening for decades. The principals in this scheme are front desk personnel and concierges on the Venice side, and the glass blowing factories located on the island of Murano on the other side. The fraud starts innocently enough, and goes like this. A guest(s) is asked if he or she would like a free trip to Murano to see how the famous glass of Murano is made. At first glance, this is an enticing proposition, and a way to spend an interesting part of the day. The guest(s) is told to go to a certain vaporetto stop where a boat, provide by the glass factory, is waiting to depart at a certain time. At the pier, the guest sees other guests from the hotel waiting to board, as well as guests from other hotels. On arrival in Murano, the group is met at the pier by a well-dressed rep from the factory and shepherded to the facility. There, a demonstration of glass blowing is given, along with a commentary in English by the rep. Purely from an artistic point of view, the demonstration is quite fascinating, and the group is told that Murano glass has been made in the same way for centuries.

After the demo is over, the group is quickly led to the factory showroom, where they are met by salespeople who proceed to persuade them to buy. Their pitches are aggressive and intimidating, and if one has difficulty in saying "no," one will be taken for a ride. Buying Murano glass from these factories is expensive, and the same glass can be found in Venice for a much lower price. If one buys, the factory offers to send the glass to your home. I have been told by some that when the parcel arrives, what is inside is not what they bought. Inferior glass is substituted instead. This is a scam and a bait and switch rolled into one. What happens if some in the group resist the hard sell and decline to buy? They are left to find their way back to Venice. Front desk personnel and concierges have been confronted by some outraged guests, and their usual response is a shrug. What do they care, as long as they get their cut from the factory, and in all likelihood will never see the same guests again.

If you are interested in seeing a demonstration of glass blowing, decline the hotel's invitation and take the vaporetto on your own to Murano. You can walk into any of the glass factories to see a demo for free, and afterwards, a salesperson will approach you to buy, but the pitch will not be aggressive. Just walk out. You can spend a nice morning and afternoon walking and taking in the sights in Murano, and when it is time to head back to Venice, no one will deny you entry into a vaporetto.

The next post will describe scams perpetrated by some restaurants.
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#25 Post by Barry L i p t o n » September 9th, 2016, 8:52 am

Marshal is from the Bronx, he won't succumb to buying pressure. Never thought of the glass factory as a scam, just a free deluxe version one way ride to Murano. Perhaps it's tougher if you don't know it's a one way ride.

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#26 Post by Warren Taranow » September 9th, 2016, 5:57 pm

Great timing with this thread; I'll be there in a couple of weeks.
Any other restaurants in addition to Osteria alle Testiere in Castello and Enoteca Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro?

Thanks!!!
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#27 Post by M.Kaplan » September 9th, 2016, 8:27 pm

http://www.ristoranteriviera.it/mobile/ ... orante.htm

The whole fish for two in salt crust is the dish to order. We ate there twice last year.
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#28 Post by Barry L i p t o n » September 9th, 2016, 11:16 pm

I'm a huge fan of Fiaschetteria Toscana. Usually go there twice per trip, along with Ai Testiere and Da Fiore.

Perhaps Peter has been more often; but I haven't had the subpar experiences he has in about the 8 times I've been there.Perhaps having my swanky hotel make the reservation made a difference.

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#29 Post by P. Moy » September 10th, 2016, 7:55 am

Warren Taranow wrote:Great timing with this thread; I'll be there in a couple of weeks.
Any other restaurants in addition to Osteria alle Testiere in Castello and Enoteca Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro?

Thanks!!!
Two recommendations in Dorsoduro:

A local in the wine bar I frequent told me to try Pane Vino e San Daniele, located in the Campo dell'Angelo Raffaele. In winter, the place is packed with locals and students. Although the menu strays into other regions of Italy, their specialty is the cuisine of Friuli, and I suggest you stick with this. Start with a platter of the renown Prosciutto di San Daniele, which is produced only in the Friuli region. The San Daniele is a bit sweeter than its cousin, Prosciutto di Parma, owing to a shorter salting time and longer aging time. Wine is taken seriously here.

The other rec is Trattoria ai Cugnai, which serves traditional Venetian food prepared as your Venetian mother or grandmother would. Lots of fish and seafood on the menu. The women who run the place can be a hoot, serving up brusque service along with a wink.
Packed with locals in winter.
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#30 Post by P. Moy » September 11th, 2016, 8:05 am

Just as some hotels conspire with the glass factories in Murano to scam their guests, hotels engage in similar schemes with restaurants.
It is not unusual for hotel guests anywhere to ask front desk personnel or concierges for restaurant recommendations. In Venice, there is a risk in doing so because some (if not many) hotels have arrangements with certain restaurants where for every guest sent there, a kickback is given. Some hotels even entice guests with offers of discounted meals at certain restaurants. If you are sent to a restaurant and happen to see (many) guests from your hotel there, you have a decision to make. To be sure, not all hotels send their guests to tourist restaurants in exchange for kickbacks. But enough do that it is preferable to do your own research and eat in those places that serve true Venetian cuisine at a good price to mainly locals or a mix of locals and visitors.

In the area around the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto, you will see waiters and owners standing outside their restaurants shamelessly hawking their "culinary" wares. They will go right up to people and point to their restaurants with promises of authentic cuisine at a good price. The restaurants in the Rialto are especially egregious, with waiters even following people and making aggressive pitches. Those who succumb are shown to a table outside or inside, whereupon the waiter or owner tries to upsell the customer on certain items like a whole fish. If you consent, the final bill will be much higher than what is quoted before you walk in. If you have sticker shock at seeing the bill and protest, the waiter will say that the fish is priced according to weight rather than piece. It is a known fact that many of the restaurants that cater to tourists serve frozen fish and other inferior foodstuffs. No wonder Venice has such a bad reputation for cuisine. The irony, of course, is that Venice offers a bounty of fresh fish and seafood available from the lagoon and Adriatic, and a harvest of vegetables from the islands.

One other matter to keep in mind. As a general rule, count your change in cafes and restaurants, especially those around the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto. If you are on an overnight train to Venice, and eat in the dining car, count your change as well.

Next post will offer some insights into the Caffe Florian and Gran Caffe Quadri, two famous cafes in the Piazza San Marco, and the dueling orchestras associated with each cafe.
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#31 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 11th, 2016, 8:54 am

Peter, these reports have been extremely interesting. Thank you for taking the time to post them (and for scaring the bejeesus out of me)
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#32 Post by P. Moy » September 11th, 2016, 10:14 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:Peter, these reports have been extremely interesting. Thank you for taking the time to post them (and for scaring the bejeesus out of me)
The pleasure is mine, counselor. If these posts can be of help to Marshall or anyone here who travels to Venice, the effort will have been worth it. In the future I may do similar posts on Hong Kong, where I spent ten summers as a kid with relatives, and China, where I lived for five years.
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#33 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 11th, 2016, 10:15 am

Well, we don't have dates yet, but I plan on going back soon, and these posts are a very useful resource
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#34 Post by Ian Sutton » September 11th, 2016, 4:22 pm

Echoing the comments. Peter's posts are a wonderful resource to understand the pitfalls that mass tourism generates, and how to avoid the worst abuses that allow an individual to be scammed. For those that learnt the hard way, they may avoid future scams, but there are thousands that will follow.

I should add that not als of Italy is like this, and I've encountered remarkable generosity, especially when a long way from the mass tourist trail. Likewise my evening class Italian tutor for two years, was a Venetian and also one of the kindest. most supportive people you could hope for. My view remains that it is not the Venetians (or the Pisani etc.) that are the problem, but rather it is us the tourists, especially when we allow our ignorance to guide us to the well-trodden mass tourist trail.

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#35 Post by Michael Martin » September 11th, 2016, 4:41 pm

I am glad someone posted about the "other" side of Venice. I found Venice interesting, but way too touristy and not as authentic, if I can use that word, compared to other parts of Italy. Go, enjoy, but don't exclude seeing the rest of country. The other areas will present an interesting contrast to this ancient Disneyland.

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#36 Post by P. Moy » September 11th, 2016, 8:55 pm

While I am in complete agreement that Venice has become touristy, it has not lost its authenticity if one visits in the off season. This means late November to early March. I have always preferred Venice in winter, when the local people once again reclaim their beautiful city and imbue it with a spirit that is difficult to sense during tourist season. It is in winter when the visitor can truly appreciate the ethos that defines the city, and understand why it has always been called "La Serenissima" or the "Most Serene Republic of Venice." In winter, invite yourself to walk the streets and along the canals late at night or very early in the morning, and who knows, perhaps Venice will become your muse as well.
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#37 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 12th, 2016, 5:20 am

For me, Venice has more "authenticity" than any other city in Italy, and just about any other city in Europe. It is true that there are huge lines, esp in summer, much of the commerce in the city is devoted to the mass-market tourist trade, and the huge cruise ships are a curse, but the fact is that you can see Venice almost precisely as Caravaggio saw it, and you can't say that about Florence or Rome (or London or Paris or Berlin or Vienna etc). The buildings are the same, the light is the same, the conveyances are (mostly) the same. No cars, no trucks, just water lapping against stone.

I am a history buff, and a lover of art and architecture. There is no place like Venice for me. Comparing it to Disneyland makes no sense at all to me.
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#38 Post by Jim Friedman » September 12th, 2016, 5:32 am

We have only visited Venice in winter and love it. Mardi gras in Venice was very interesting and very mellow
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#39 Post by mgriffith » September 12th, 2016, 6:06 am

The further you can get from the tourist center the more you will enjoy Venice.

Don't have much of an itinerary, don't be in a hurry, get lost in the back streets.
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#40 Post by P. Moy » September 13th, 2016, 8:28 am

There are three cafes in the Piazza San Marco that vie with each other both for fame and for the business of tourists. They are Caffe Florian, Gran Caffee Quadri, and Caffe Lavena. These are grand places in every sense of the word, known not only for their history and formality, but for the sense of awe that many feel when they sit in parlors previously occupied by the famous and infamous. Caffe Florian is the first among equals, and proudly date their birth to 1720. Historically, Caffe Florian was the drawing room of Europe and beyond, attracting famous writers and artists, royalty and aristocracy. It was where assignations were cemented and machinations hatched. Today, it is the home of movie stars and the wealthy, but also draws its share of those who simply wish to sit in a place steeped in history and renown.

Just as old if not older, the Gran Caffe Quadri is opulent and proud, and harkens back to a time when formality and charm defined its reason for being. Quadri also attracted its share of famous writers and artists, and those who were accustomed to being pampered. The old world charm still exists here today, but juxtaposed with the oftentimes jarring scene that is the Piazza San Marco. There is a Michelin starred restaurant called Ristorante Quadri that adjoins the caffe and offers a more modern interpretation of Italian and Venetian cuisine.

Whereas Caffe Florian and Gran Caffe Quadri face each other on the square, Cafe Lavena sits around the corner. It claims a history that also dates back to the 18th century, and its habitues were musicians, composers, writers and intellectuals. Wagner was said to have gone there every day whenever he was in Venice, and it was Wagner who put Lavena on the map.

Although these three caffes are distinct in their personalities, they have one thing in common. You will pay dearly for the privilege of sitting indoors or outdoors, whether you have an espresso or a meal. This is Venice, after all, where the price of something is calculated on mass appeal and history.

When the sun begins to set on the Piazza San Marco and the crowds begin to diminish, the Piazza transforms into a concert hall of sorts as well as a dance floor. That's because each of the three gran caffes employs an orchestra to entertain outdoors. The orchestras do not try to play over each other; rather, they take turns making music. It's a festive time in the Piazza, and lots of people are seen dancing to the music until the bell strikes at midnight, which is when the music stops. The music plays from April to the end of October.

This being Venice, it can cost a small fortune if you decide to sit at any of the caffes to take in the music. If you sit down at say, the Florian when the Florian orchestra is playing, you'll pay a surcharge. Order something to drink and eat, and well, ka-ching. I have heard that if you sit when the music is not playing at your caffe of choice, that there is no surcharge. How true this is I cannot say other than ask before you sit and check your bill and count your change. You can, of course, spend an evening at the Piazza San Marco listening to music and dancing for free as long as you don't sit down at any of the caffes. Many do this, and it's quite a scene.

A final word about caffes throughout Italy. If you sit, you will be charged more than if you stand at the bar to take your coffee. This applies to gran caffes as well as smaller, neighborhood cafes.

The next post will be on visiting the islands.
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#41 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 13th, 2016, 8:53 am

Peter, have you been to the new Marriott property on the Isola Della Rose? I have a bazillion Marriott points, and am tempted to stay a night or two. It is 20 minutes from St Marks by shuttle, so totally unsuited for most of the trip, but it might be a nice experience for a night or two
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#42 Post by P. Moy » September 13th, 2016, 10:08 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:Peter, have you been to the new Marriott property on the Isola Della Rose? I have a bazillion Marriott points, and am tempted to stay a night or two. It is 20 minutes from St Marks by shuttle, so totally unsuited for most of the trip, but it might be a nice experience for a night or two
Sorry, Neal but I've not been nor have heard anything from friends who visit Venice regularly. I can offer this, but it's only a generalization. New hotels in and around Venice, especially the big name properties, usually encounter service and other issues for a while after they open. The Hilton Molino Stucky in Guidecca Island, for example, took quite a while before they ironed out their issues.

The front desk folks at the 'Ca Pisani where I usually stay told me a couple years back that new hotels in Venice and on the islands do not have an easy time finding qualified personnel because with a population of some 56,000, Venice cannot provide enough good workers to staff new(er) properties. Therefore, the hotels have to go elsewhere in Italy to recruit.
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#43 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 13th, 2016, 10:15 am

The idea of staying in a Hilton or a Marriott in Venice gives me the hives -- especially one "off property" -- but there is that whole "free" thing, to which I am very much attached. I looked at your place; it looks lovely and I do like the neighborhood, just across the bridge.
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#44 Post by P. Moy » September 13th, 2016, 11:17 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:The idea of staying in a Hilton or a Marriott in Venice gives me the hives -- especially one "off property" -- but there is that whole "free" thing, to which I am very much attached. I looked at your place; it looks lovely and I do like the neighborhood, just across the bridge.
The Dorsoduro is my district of choice. Neal, check this out. Late at night or very early in the morning, I'm in the habit of walking Venice. Like you, my wife and kid are sound asleep. One of the things I always do is stand on the Accademia Bridge and gaze out at the Grand Canal. What a marvelous view, made all the more hauntingly beautiful because I'm the only one on the bridge. When dawn is about to break and the lights in the city begin to turn on, what a sight!

While the idea of being secluded in a big name property on an island may have its advantages, factor in the disadvantages as well. If the weather is bad, you may be stuck on the island for the day if the shuttle doesn't go out. If the weather is bad in Venice and the shuttle doesn't come, you may be stuck. If you lose track of time in Venice and miss the shuttle back to the island, you may be stuck. Staying on an island makes you dependent on the shuttle schedule. As every visitor to Venice knows, there are times after a day of exploration where you just want to go back to the hotel to rest and nap. If you want to have lunch or dinner in the restaurant on the property, it's probably going to cost an arm and a leg unless you have some kind of deal with them. When the San Clemente Palace Kempinski opened on the island of San Clemente, these are exactly the kinds of things that happened to its guests.

On the other hand, can't beat "free", but I save my hotel points for destinations other than Venice.
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#45 Post by Ian Sutton » September 13th, 2016, 11:32 am

P. Moy wrote: A final word about caffes throughout Italy. If you sit, you will be charged more than if you stand at the bar to take your coffee. This applies to gran caffes as well as smaller, neighborhood cafes.
Peter
Really appreciating the comments, and this is an important point. FWIW in untouristy/unflashy places I've often been charged the same price sat down, as for standing up, indeed I can recall a place in Reggio Emilia, where we sat outside on a very pleasant side street (blocked to traffic) and were still charged the same price as those rushing in for their caffeine fix at the bar.

However assuming people are going to recognised tourist destinations & in the general area of them, your advice will be pretty universally appropriate. I did get caught out once in Pisa, by sitting down indoors at a 'modest at best' café near the central station. €4 a coffee [wow.gif]. I'd become so used to recognising and frequenting non-touristy places, that I hadn't twigged this was a major tourist thoroughfare.

There used to be a legislated maximum price for a coffee taken standing up ('Al banco' in Italian for those that want to do this) It was €0.95 back then for an espresso, but I believe the scale became more 'advisory' a few years ago. As far as I'm aware there are no limits to what can be charged to sit down.

Despite this, we do see Italians sat outside cafes, but they do this when they want to sit down, relax and spend a good while people watching, catching up on news or chatting with friends. They bought their drink and hence they see it as the price of staying there as long as they want to.

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#46 Post by P. Moy » September 13th, 2016, 11:44 am

Ian Sutton wrote:
P. Moy wrote: A final word about caffes throughout Italy. If you sit, you will be charged more than if you stand at the bar to take your coffee. This applies to gran caffes as well as smaller, neighborhood cafes.
Peter
Really appreciating the comments, and this is an important point. FWIW in untouristy/unflashy places I've often been charged the same price sat down, as for standing up, indeed I can recall a place in Reggio Emilia, where we sat outside on a very pleasant side street (blocked to traffic) and were still charged the same price as those rushing in for their caffeine fix at the bar.

However assuming people are going to recognised tourist destinations & in the general area of them, your advice will be pretty universally appropriate. I did get caught out once in Pisa, by sitting down indoors at a 'modest at best' café near the central station. €4 a coffee [wow.gif]. I'd become so used to recognising and frequenting non-touristy places, that I hadn't twigged this was a major tourist thoroughfare.

There used to be a legislated maximum price for a coffee taken standing up ('Al banco' in Italian for those that want to do this) It was €0.95 back then for an espresso, but I believe the scale became more 'advisory' a few years ago. As far as I'm aware there are no limits to what can be charged to sit down.

Despite this, we do see Italians sat outside cafes, but they do this when they want to sit down, relax and spend a good while people watching, catching up on news or chatting with friends. They bought their drink and hence they see it as the price of staying there as long as they want to.

regards
Ian
Well put, Ian!
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#47 Post by P. Moy » September 15th, 2016, 6:56 am

Venice is but one island among a chain of islands situated in a lagoon that flows into the Adriatic. Although Venice is by far the most popular of these islands, there are others worth exploring that could easily take up an entire day. The islands with the greatest access include Murano, Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello.

The Laguna Nord (LN) ferry makes a run to Murano, Burano and Mazzorbo from Fondamente Nuove in Venice. If you are game, you can visit all three islands in a morning, afternoon and early evening. Murano is, of course, famous for its glass, and you can visit any number of glassworks factories spread out on the island. No appointments are necessary, you just poke your head in and ask to see a demonstration. The folks who fashion glass are artisans, and they are a dwindling lot. It is anyone's guess how many of them will be left in the next several generations. There is a showroom attached to each factory, but beware of high prices and aggressive salespeople. Murano is nice to stroll, the chief virtue being a tranquil environment (other than weekends). Lunch can be had at Ai Frati, a family-run affair that serves typical Venetian cuisine. The restaurant is located on a canal, and there is a terrace where one can linger over a long meal.

Burano is known for its lace and linen, made by artisans that have been in the business for many generations. What is striking about Burano are the brightly colored homes painted in pink, blue, red and white that line the canal. You'll want to have your camera ready. Perhaps as a sign of the times, many of the shops that purport to sell Burano handcrafted linen and lace actually import them from China. If you must have the real thing, head over to Martina Vidal to see and feel the quality linen that made Burano famous. Of course, after strolling around Burano, you'll be hungry, and the only place to eat is Trattoria al Gatto Nero. This is a family run place, and an astounding variety of fish and seafood from the lagoon is on offer. I once overheard a waiter recommend risotto to a family of locals, and when the dish came out and they tasted it, they rolled their collective eyes heavenward.

Mazzorbo is connected to Burano by a bridge. Here you will also see brightly painted homes, but the main attraction are the vineyards that produce wine made with the Dorona grape, a white wine varietal that is not seen outside of the Veneto. IIRC, Venissa is the only producer on the island.

Torcello is ninety minutes by ferry from Venice. It was settled soon after the fall of Rome, and was once the premier maritime power before Venice's ascendency. Today it is inhabited by some two dozen hardy folks. I visited only once, on a rain and wind swept morning, which only served to add to the eerie feeling I got while visiting the ruins of a once prominent Byzantine cathedral. The cathedral is the main attraction here. Almost inconceivably, Torcello is home to the Locanda Cipriani, a prominent small hotel and restaurant that apparently draws enough guests and diners to stay in business. Very expensive, and as an alternative, you might consider the several small restaurants that line the road after you disembark at the pier.

Two other islands of note are the Guidecca, located across the canal from the Zattere (promenade) in Dorsoduro, and San Michele. The Guidecca is home to the Hilton Molino Stucky hotel, and is the only island where cars are allowed, this being mainly a residential island. Seeing cars here can be a bit jarring after spending time in and around Venice. San Michele is mainly a cemetery, and the resting place of many famous people like Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. I've never been.

That's it for now, Marshall. Hope this has been helpful. Feel free to post questions. I'm off to France next week and won't be checking this board much until I return in mid-November.
Peter Moy

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Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

#48 Post by Barry L i p t o n » September 15th, 2016, 12:45 pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:The idea of staying in a Hilton or a Marriott in Venice gives me the hives -- especially one "off property" -- but there is that whole "free" thing, to which I am very much attached. I looked at your place; it looks lovely and I do like the neighborhood, just across the bridge.
When the Starwood acquisition by Marriott is completed, those points can be redeemed at the Gritti Palace! The restaurant/bar is right on the grand canal, the 20 euro drink is completely worth it.

One of my favorite, albeit very pricey, restaurants is Osteria da Fiore. Razor clams even better than Ai Testiere (at almost double the price). The little lagoon crabs are a must if they have them. The other two are already mentioned (Ai Testiere and Fiascetteria Toscana, the latter I go to twice each visit). Went to Ai Gondolieri once, very good if you are tired of seafood.

PS Neil, I share your love for Venice. My favorite small city, always want to go back.

PPS For those who are less familiar with Venice, it's not hard to avoid the heaviest of tourist crowds. Avoid the Rialto bridge area and San Marco at peak times, check out the Jewish Ghetto or the area around Campo San Maria Formosa (near Ai Testiere). There is a great wine bar there called Enoiteca Mascareta. On Sunday, when crowds are heaviest, go to Murano which even when busy isn't that crowded. Eat at Busa Alla Torre (reservations needed for Sunday afternoon)

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Marshall Gelb
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Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

#49 Post by Marshall Gelb » October 1st, 2016, 6:35 am

P. Moy wrote:
Neal.Mollen wrote:Peter, these reports have been extremely interesting. Thank you for taking the time to post them (and for scaring the bejeesus out of me)
The pleasure is mine, counselor. If these posts can be of help to Marshall or anyone here who travels to Venice, the effort will have been worth it. In the future I may do similar posts on Hong Kong, where I spent ten summers as a kid with relatives, and China, where I lived for five years.


Peter: These posts have been fantastic! The information you have provided is very much appreciated.

Thanks again!

Cheers!
Marshall [cheers.gif]
A quién tiene buen vino no le faltan amigos.

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Steve Nordhoff
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Venice (Italy) help for a first timer

#50 Post by Steve Nordhoff » October 20th, 2016, 5:06 pm

First, a big thank you to Peter, not only for his time posting here, but his insight and recommendations regarding Venice are extremely helpful and spot on.

I was there earlier this month as part of my honeymoon. The entire stay was fantastic. It certainly helped we had great weather and great food. We stayed at the Londra Palace (the view from Room 510 is spectacular), which is about six doors down from St. Mark's square and the Doge's palace. The property is perfectly located, the service was excellent as was the restaurant. Highly recommended.

The crowds in Venice could easily be overwhelming. It was not that bad when we were there, but I would imagine the mid summer months are close to intolerable. The entire town is designed to bring in tourists. The train station is about 100 feet from the Grand Canal. You can take a boat from the airport directly to your hotel and the docks accommodate massive tourist ships with people pouring onto the island. For the most part, that means St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge area are packed between 10 and 4, so wonder down a side street, go to the outer islands, etc. Venice is truly amazing. The fact that more than 1000 years ago people started building in a muddy lagoon with wood poles is incredible enough, but when there are so many buildings still standing after hundreds of years, it is truly something to behold.

We took a tour guide (pm for info if anyone wants its) and he was excellent, showing us some better and lesser known sites. The energy of the Rialto market, the spectacular beauty of St. Mark's (and the Horses upstairs) and the Doge's palace are all must see stops.

We ate incredibly well, Peter's recommendations were spot on and the meal at Il Ridotto was the best of the entire trip.

I want to go back, but imagine it might be tough to have a better stay.
ITB -Riverain Vineyards

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