Imagine! Getting off your airplane and walking to the water to catch a boat to your hotel. There is water everywhere. And boats of all sizes. The water laps at the sometimes crumbling foundations of the buildings – some beautiful – some not so beautiful. Of course Patricia, it’s Venice! And it was an amazing experience to see Venice for the first time with its waterways, narrow streets and bridges at your feet, and spires and towers and domes above your head.
Bring your walking shoes and be prepared to be lost many times a day. We were lucky with the weather. It was sunny and in the low 70s. Perfect for exploring this fascinating city. Did I mention shopping? Be sure to bring your cash or credit cards. There are myriads of shops along the streets, some streets so narrow you can touch both sides at the same time. And cafes and restaurants dot every inch. We have not had a bad meal since we arrived in Italy. The other thing I was surprised at, was every eating establishment that we entered, offered a gluten-free menu, and it was DELICIOUS! We are so behind with this option back home. I kept asking, “are you sure this pasta is gluten-free?” And I was assured it was.
Our hotel, The Foscari Palace is located on the Grand Canal, so our trip from the airport brought us to our front door. It is a 4 star delightful boutique hotel, small, with faded elegance and the rooms could use a little TLC. However, it is comfortable, spacious, clean and the staff here are outstanding So friendly and helpful. I would stay here again in a heartbeat.
You can walk to everything from Foscari. Or catch a water taxi, vaporetto, or gondola right next door. A delicious breakfast is included every day and they offer a prix fixe dinner package for $40 that includes wine and a boat trip on the canal afterwards. They had this most interesting shower in my room. It shoots water at you from all angles to all parts of your body. The problem is when I went to get out of the shower/bathtub, I had about one inch of water all over the floor. Thank goodness I had lots of towels to soak it up.
My travelling companion, Pat Dawkins, found our hotel and chose it, not only for its location in the city, but because it had a stop on the Grand Canal. When you are out walking around, there are people everywhere dragging suitcases along the streets heading to and from their hotels. The streets are uneven and paved with huge cobblestones, and many bridges. And you have to drag that suitcase up one set of steps to cross the little bridges and then down the steps on the other side. So location, location is a great consideration here. I thanked Pat every time I saw some gal struggling with her luggage.
Our first day found us just wandering around and enjoying the little cafes and the shops and the people. It was nice not to be up at at the crack of dawn and on a bus to the next stop as we did through Sicily. The following day we found our way (finally) to San Marco with its beautiful square and church and spire. They said it was a 20 minute walk from our hotel, but between getting lost and shopping it took us half a day. So we were ready for the Florian Cafe, elegant, with a four piece orchestra, expensive, and overlooking the square.
Just in front of us, a group gathered and we heard “horns” being played. It was a group from Switzerland, lederhosen and all , and they were playing those beautiful six foot long swiss horns that you hear throughout the Alps. However, it wasn’t long before the local constabulary made them stop, and pack up and then led them away into a building. We never did see them again.
On the way back to our hotel, we ran into another group of musicians in a small square. This time it was a local men’s chorus with a director and they were singing up a storm – in Italian. We stopped and listened to them for awhile before heading back to our hotel and dinner around the corner at a great little cafe.
Pat and i travelled to Murano and had a delightful – read handsome – tour guide to take us around the glass factory, after which he arranged a private boat to take us to Burano for lunch. Burano is a lovely little town, with all the houses painted in bright colours, and lots of nice shops.
By the time we ate and shopped and got the water bus back to Venice, it was dark, windy and pouring down with rain. We made our way through the little dark streets, even though Pat’s umbrella turned inside out. My little cheap touristy one, purchased in Burano, and had Venice written all over it, held it’s own, and we found our way back to our hotel. Finally! A little damp, but happy to be “home”.
We paid homage to my Don and had lunch at his favourite hotel – the Cipriani. Not cheap!! A bowl of bean soup, a salad and a glass of wine cost us $200 euros. We used the vaparetto like a hop-on, hop-off bus, and managed to find the church with the Caravaggio paintings, Harry’s bar and $25Euros peach bellinis, and San Marco Square, not necessarily in that order! We were very proud of ourselves for getting around so well. One day we stopped in a square for coffee and discovered they were building the set to film the new Spiderman movie. We thought they had discovered some old ruins, but the blocks and parts of buildings on the ground turned out to be ‘styrofoam’!! They sure looked real.
Another evening found us at the Bistrot de Venise. A Michelin starred restaurant with wonderful food and wine. But we didn’t really have a bad meal anywhere from the little cafes around the corner from our hotel, to the hotel itself with its set menu and boat ride.
The Bistrot de Venise. The little Cafe around the corner. Dinner overlooking the Grand Canal at Foscari Palace.
The Foscari also had a rustic roof-top patio with panoramic views in all directions. A great place to sit and have a glass of wine and watch the sun go down over the city. We had it all to ourselves and the weather was warm and comfortable. A great place to contemplate the day and think about what we would do tomorrow.
We were both sad to depart and vowed we would return soon again. And where else can you go back to the airport in a water taxi?? Arrivederci Venice!!!!