On our most recent trip, we stayed once again at Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal; again we arrived at night and watched Venice appear like magic.
In this same price bracket (and also on the Grand Canal) is the Hotel Danieli; another charming old world hotel. I won't spend much time talking about hotels as there are many to choose from in Venice; any travel agent can help you find one to fit your budget. However, another favorite (and very inexpensive) is the Pensione Accademia; very small, it offers offers two large gardens for breakfast al fresco and is close to the Accademia Gallery. It's in the Dorsoduro district, one of the most peaceful areas of Venice, adjacent to the Grand Canal.
One of the biggest charms of Venice is getting lost. Very easy to do with all the narrow streets, alleys and tiny bridges, but that's the way you find out-of-the-way churches, some of the nicer shops and workshops owned by old fashioned artisans and the niches, nooks and crannies I spoke of. Besides, there are maps and the concierge at your hotel will be extremely helpful.
If you have time, visit Murano, located north of Venice; it's famous for its beautiful, hand-blown glass. There’s a glass museum there, and many glass-making shops; you can go into the factories and see the glass blowers shaping the lovely pieces as they are being made. The glass blowers were moved to Murano long ago to lessen the chance of fires in Venice, and they have remained there ever since; you can find less expensive prices on the fine glass there than in the Venice shops, and you can bargain with the shops for even lower prices.
Art. It is everywhere. In churches, in architecture, on the gondolas, secreted away in wall niches, on a wall in a restaurant. There are the museums: The Venier dei Leoni Palace is the headquarters of the famous Peggy Guggenheim art collection and contains works by Picasso, Klee and Kandinskij. The Accademia Gallery holds a vast collection of Venetian painters from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The Ca'd'Oro, one of the most beautiful monuments of Venice, is now the seat of the Franchetti Gallery. I love wandering and finding the art in churches. Any guidebook worth its salt will list churches, locations (good luck with that) and a brief description of the paintings in each. We were fortunate to have my daughter along, who knows her way around Venice. But even she finds new surprises every trip- it is part of the charm of Venice.
And yet another fabulous place for lunch: Trattoria alla Madonna, Calle della Madonna, Rialto 594. As you can see from the address, this is in the Rialto market area. The fish here is mouth-watering.
For dinner, there are so many restaurants to choose from. The first night, because we arrived so late, we ate out on the water at our hotel's restaurant, The Grand Canal. It was delicious. But to narrow the dining list down just a bit, and if food is really important to you, you can't miss with any of these three beyond perfect restaurants: Corte Sconta, Calle del Pestrin, 3886; Da Ivo, Calle dei Fuseri, San Marco 1809; and lastly, Antico Martini, Sestiere San Marco, 2007. I had the most perfect asparagus I have ever tasted at Antico Martini.
We had a drink at Caffe Florian in the Piazza San Marco late in the afternoon every single day; you can't beat the view, it's relaxing, there is live music, you feel as though you are finally a true Venetian, and the crowds in the piazza have started to thin out by cocktail time. Anyway, it is super people-watching.
We saw as much of Venice as we could during our short trip and I am already planning my return. I always feel that way as I leave the magic city in the distance. Ciao, Venice!