Travel in Venice:
This magical city on the Adriatic is an unending source of delight to the visitor from foreign lands. No matter the crowds, no matter the season, no matter the weather, in Venice you will find nourishment for all of your senses. And no matter how often you return, you can count on making new discoveries: a bustling morning marketplace, a church, palazzo or museum reveals masterpieces by Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese or 18th century masters, the Tiepolos - father and son, Canaletto and Guardi. Then, there is the light glistening rosy at dawn and pearly toward dusk on the water of canals or lagoons, the gleaming gold of mosaics or the lovely hues of pastel palazzos. In winter, there is rain, fog and mist, silence but for the click of your heels as you negotiate narrow alleys. Venice is, of course, a walking city, so bring your walking shoes, whatever the season. A surprise awaits you around every corner. Most tourists visit Venice between Easter and mid-November - the museums, galleries, hotels and shops are open and the visitor, with luck, will find decent to fine weather and growing crowds as the summer peak season approaches.
Travel Tip: Be sure to bring a pair of small binoculars. You'll appreciate them when you want to study a ceiling fresco, mosaics, a painting detail or distant views on the lagoon.
During our most recent visit we found moderate weather, intermittent sunshine, cool, yet comfortable enough to partake of our Venetian tradition of taking an outdoor table at Quadri in the Piazza San Marco, sipping ice coffee with vanilla gelato and watching the passing parade: tourists, swooping pigeons and a view of the facade of the Byzantine-style Basilica of San Marco - its beautiful mosaics and the famous bronze horses. The Correr Museum, originally a part of the Doge's Palace in San Marco, was exhibiting Art Glass from the 1950's to the present. An annex across from the Correr displayed the conceptual drawings of the late German artist, Joseph Beuys. The Galleria dell'Accademia offered a special exposition of its Bellini paintings, recently cleaned and restored. Magnificent hardly does justice to the works. A Biennale of International Architecture was on-- and in 2001, it will be time once again for the famous Biennale of Fine Art (painting, sculpture, video, installation) - each nation with its own pavilion, selecting a single contemporary artist as representative. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is housed in an 18th century palazzo on the Grand Canal and is one of the jewels in the crown of the growing Guggenheim Museum empire (New York, Berlin and Bilbao). The Venice branch displays an extraordinary collection of 20th century masters. Ms. Guggenheim was one of the earliest dealers to recognize the Abstract Expressionists, like Gorky and Jackson Pollock. She exhibited their work in her New York gallery, Art of the Twentieth Century, and wisely purchased it as well. Married to the German imigrant artist, Max Ernst, his works are very much in evidence in the collection. On the island of San Giorgio Maggiore we took in a very interesting show of Modigliani and his friends in an annex to the Church. We revisited Tintoretto's Last Supper and Fall of Manna in the church, then took the elevator to the top of the Campanile for a splendid view of Venice and the lagoon.
Bottom line: Venice, for the art lover, is a treasure trove, from Byzantine to contemporary, it's all there to be seen. Permanent treasures as well as annual and seasonal exhibitions.
And speaking of permanent treasures, here are some of our "don't misses": the Bellini altarpiece at the Church of St John and St. Paul or Bellini's Madonna with Four Saints at the Church of San Zaccaria, each incredibly beautiful to behold. And, of course, the Scuola di San Rocco and its 56 paintings by Tintoretto on which he worked for eighteen years. They come in handy for studying small details on paintings, frescoes,
mosaics and ceilings. From the Peggy Guggenheim, it's a short stroll to the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. This 17th century masterpiece is situated at the entrance to the
Grand Canal. In the sacristy, you'll find one of Tintoretto's most famous paintings, The Marriage at Cana. Head for the Fondamenta delle Zattere and the Gesuati, a church filled with visual surprises.
On a prior visit to Venice, we allowed a day for an excursion we had never done before.We walked from our hotel to the Fondamenta Nuove, planning to take the 45 minute ferry ride to Torcello, to visit the Cathedral and view the magnificent 12th century Byzantine mosaic of The Last Judgment. On an impulse, we got off the ferry at Burano, an earlier stop along the way and there, beyond the Leaning Tower and lacemakers shops, saw a kitschy ice cream cone sign over the bridge. We couldn't resist, and found one of the best gelati makers in Italy. When we took the next ferry and arrived on Torcello, the church was closing at lunchtime. A moment of disappointment was followed by a revelation of good fortune. On Torcello is the Locanda Cipriani. There, five minutes from the church, in a splendid garden, we partook of an outstanding meal. Our waiter, Florio, a delightful gentleman, provided thoughtful service and excellent recommendations. The pasta with squid ink and a local fish, coda rospo, were mouth watering. Consider planning for lunch at the Locanda and have your concierge call ahead. It was crowded and we were fortunate to get a table. Our culinary appetite sated, at three o'clock we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and viewed The Last Judgment, a powerful work of art which absolutely lived up to its billing.
Travel Tip: We found the best exchange rate in a small travel bureau located on Ponte dei Greci-Castello, 4987. It is only a few winding blocks in from the riva dei Schiavoni and Piazza San Marco. They can also arrange tickets for concerts or travel. One night, we attended a concert in a church, listening to 17th century music played by a quintet dressed in period costumes. They were excellent performers and the experience was moving.
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Where to Stay - the Cipriani Experience:
Though there are a number of outstanding hotels in Venice, and we've stayed at several of them, there is none that compares to the Hotel Cipriani. It is no surprise then, that the Cipriani has been named one of the top ten hotels in the world. We've visited eight of the ten on that list and in our opinion, the Cipriani is near the top of the top. We recommend it unreservedly. From the moment you step off the private launch on arrival and view the splendid setting of the hotel amidst beautiful gardens, an atmosphere of genuine warmth and hospitality abounds. The service from top to bottom is friendly, relaxed and efficient. For a hotel which hosts royalty, Presidents (Carter and Reagan), film stars and top executives, it is remarkably unpretentious. The concierges are there for you, enthusiastic, willing and knowledgeable. At some luxury hotels, the concierge staff can be a bit stuffy. Not at the Cipriani. The concierges will help you to obtain difficult restaurant reservations, arrange concert tickets, discuss with you where to shop for that gift for someone special or help with changes in travel plans. The fine hand of Doctor Natale Rusconi, General Manager of the Hotel for twenty two years is evident in a highly motivated staff that reflects his warmth, interest in the comfort of the guest, and pride in excellence. He has overseen the expansion of the Cipriani with a thoughtful commitment to its development that is remarkable. He was descibed in one article aptyl, as the Doge of Hotel Management.
The Cipriani's 91 rooms and suites are each beautifully appointed throughout, well-designed and spacious, employing the finest, luxurious materials. Several have terraces from which you can view San Marco across the lagoon. One has a telescope placed on the
terrace. The suites are anything but cookie-cutter. Each has unique features, well thought out. Hotel facilities include a huge, fabulous salt-water swimming pool (the only outdoor swimming pool in a Venice hotel, by the way) which you will appreciate after hoofing it for hours through the streets of Venice. There is a small gym (one area that could use some expansion and updated equipment), steam and massage therapy and clay tennis court.
The Palazzo Vendramin and the new Palazetto (12 junior suites and suites) are more recent additions to the Cipriani, offering exceptional privacy (though only a short walk from the main building), views of the Venice and the possibility of accommodating personal staff.
Two restaurants, the beautiful formal Restaurant Cipriani, (which, in our opinion deserves to be starred in the Michelin) and the attactively appointed but more casual Cips Club, where the pizza was the best in Venice, provide a range of dining without leaving the grounds of the hotel. We found that welcome after a day of touring museums and churches and shopping in Venice proper. In season, Cips serves its fare al fresco, overlooking the lagoon and Venice. Keep in mind that the Cipriani offers special programs which vary from year to year, including fabulous cooking classes, dining in private palazzos and shopping the marketplace. In the past, such greats as Marcella Hazan, Julia Childs and Nobu Matsuhisa have been guest chefs in the cooking class.
First-time visitors to Venice whom we've spoken to, gravitate to the Gritti Palace or the Danieli, assuming that their locations on the main island and a short walk from Piazza San Marco are a major advantage. They question the necessity of taking the Cipriani's private launch back and forth from the hotel on Guidecca (an island in the lagoon) about six minutes from the San Marco landing by sea. We discovered that rather than an inconvenience, it was a pleasure. After a morning, afternoon or full day of touring and/or shopping in Venice, it was delightful to step onto the deck of the mahogany launches and see Venice recede into the distance as we crossed the lagoon to the Cipriani. It was an opportunity to meet and chat with fellow guests, from our own and other nations, and to exchange tips about dining and touring in Venice. Among others we met two most pleasant Londoners and are already e-mail correspondents. We never waited for our ride for more than five minutes either at the hotel or at the landing near San Marco. The Danieli deserves its five star status but the moment you step out of the door, you are in the midst of noisy crowds. The Gritti Palace, elegant and outstanding, is better located than the Danieli, a pleasant walking distance from San Marco. But neither offers the luxury in the relaxed, bucolic setting, away from the hubbub of Venice, as the Cipriani does with lovely gardens, vineyard and formidable pool (the only hotel pool in Venice).
Hotel Cipriani and Palazzo Vendramin, Guidecca, 10, 30133 Venezia, italy
Reservations: fax 041-520-77-45 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Internet address: http://www.orient-express.com
Alternatively, if your budget is not up to the Hotel Cipriani, here are two small hotels to consider:
Hotel Columbina, 32 rooms, 2 with views of the Bridge of Sighs, a hop, skip and jump from Piazza San Marco. Recently renovated, four stars.
Calle Del Remedio, Castello, 4416, Tel: 041-277-0525, Fax 041-277-6044
Hotel Locanda san Barnaba. 13 rooms in this charming inn, established in a 16th century palazzo. Breakfast on the patio or dining room, 3 stars, not luxurious (don't look for terry cloth robes or CNN) and be sure to bring bring your own hairdryer). Well-located and a good value. Calle del Traghetto, 2785-2786, Dorsoduro, Tel: 041-241-1233 For a look: http://www.locanda-sanbarnaba.com
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Where to Dine:
As noted above, you will find outstanding dining at the Cipriani, whether a guest of the hotel or a visitor for lunch or dinner. Remember, Venice is best know for its seafood and vegetables. Make the most of this healthy cuisine.
Osteria da Fiore, one Michelin star. Outstanding, innovative cuisine. Make reservations well in advance, using the services of your concierge. (San Polo-calle del Scaleter 2202A) 041-721308 Fax:041-721343 closed Sunday and Monday and 12/24- 1/15.
Harry's Bar (calle Vallerresso 1323), One Michelin star. Bustly, famous. Try the Risotto with squid ink. A memorable dish. Tel: 041-5285777 fax 041-5208822
Fiaschetteria Toscana (San Giovanni Crisostomo 5719) Tel: 041-5285281 fax 041-5285521 (fritto misto, gnochette, desserts) If you order the fritto misto, ask for plate as a souvenir. It's a custom, a "bon ricordo" of the experience.
Riviera (in Zattere quarter)
Osteria Anice Stellato, Fondamenta de las Sense 3272, Cannareggio; 041-720744
Trattoria Antica Bessetta, Riva de Biasio, Tel: 041-5240428 Fax: 041-721687
Try lunch the small bars around the market at the foot of the Rialto Bridge and sample the Venetian version of tapas.
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Exceptionally attractive, colorful, modestly priced contemporary glass jewelry can be found at Giorgio Nason, Dorsoduro, 167, Tel: and Fax: 041-5239426. His jewelry is sold at Barney's so you know the taste level is high.
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Via Lepanto, 21
30126 Venezia Lido
In the Lido in Venice, on a small dark street on a canal, resides a gem of a fish restaurant, Trattoria “Andri”. Luca, a third generation owner, smiles, greets you and is full of wonderful suggestions. For 50 Euros per person, one feasts on a large number of outstanding dishes “from hors d’oeuvre to dessert, from wine to grappa”.
We started with eggplant, grilled tomatoes, zucchini, shrimp with arugula, and in sweet and sour sauce, grilled mussels, grilled octopus, squid in squid ink, a local fish (shrimp or langustino-like) and crab.
The pasta was a spaghetti with zucchini, shrimp and tomatoes. A perfectly grilled and boned branzino followed with frito misto of fish. Home-made sorbets finished the meal with a glass of grappa.
The wines were a local white, which never stopped coming. The wine list is short with a bottle of pinot grigio at 10 Euros, or a Tivoli or Tuscan wine for 15 Euros.
The surroundings were attractive, simple, white with many brass plates hung, and local art. This is a must visit.
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