Before I ever visited Venice, I had in my mind a beautiful and powerful city, of merchants and gondoliers and opera and art. A place from a bygone era, of great beauty and romance. I couldn’t wait to cross the quiet bridges in the evening, cutting through narrow alley ways on the way to a secret opera, dine in opulent surroundings overlooking the canals and wake to the beautiful sound of the water gently lapping outside my Juliet balcony.
Sounds a little unrealistic? Think again.. Venice can give you all those things and more. Especially if you visit out of season. In this post I’ll be writing about the hotel and restaurants I recommend, as well as a very special opera performance that is a must do if you are in town at the right time…
Where we stay
Boscolo Venezia (part of the Marriott Autograph Collection), Fondamenta Madonna dell’Orto, 3500, 30121 Venezia
We always get a water taxi from the airport directly to the Boscolo hotel. Previously I’ve booked these in advance online, but there’s no real need to. As long as you’re at the official water taxi rank, they’re regulated, so can’t overcharge you. The one way trip should cost around €120. You’ll be whisked into Venice, Bond Girl style in around 15-20 mins, depending on where you’re staying. The driver will drop you and your luggage right outside the hotel doors (stilettos not recommended for getting in and out of the boat – although I wore them the first time and I was fine!)
The hotel itself is set in an antique mansion, beautifully restored to a very luxurious standard, while recreating the opulent Venetian style of the 18th century. It’s in a very quiet part of Venice, which is lovely to walk around without the crowds. We’ve walked back to the Boscolo many evenings and felt like we had the city to ourselves.
We have stayed in Deluxe rooms and a Superior rooms. All were superb, and were right on the water. One of them had its own jetty, where we were dropped off after a trip to nearby Murano! The rooms and hotel are incredibly quiet, and very respectful of privacy. The room service is also excellent.
I highly recommend the Boscolo for the friendly staff, beautiful hotel, and location
Where we dined
Ristorante Fiaschetteria Toscana, Cannaregio 5719, Salizada S. Giovanni Grisostomo, 30121 Venezia
It’s easy to walk past this little restaurant on your way to or from the Rialto Bridge, without really noticing, as it has an unassuming facade. Don’t let that fool you – the food and service are first class. It’s become one of our favourite restaurants in Venice.
It’s been run by the Busatto family since the 1950s, and has retained its casual, family atmosphere.
The pasta dishes are some of the best I’ve had in Italy, and the fish is as fresh as it comes, creating an incredible display at the front of the restaurant.
The waiters will be happy to suggest a specific fish for you, and cook it in a simple and delicious way, with fresh vegetables. There is also a fantastic wine list & beautiful desserts.
Highly recommended for fresh delicious seafood and pasta in a friendly atmosphere
Update: Sadly in 2018 this family restaurant closed its doors permanently and was taken over by a Burger King of all things.. a travesty in our opinion, and I think one that is echoed by some of the other local family restaurants 🙁
Bistrot de Venise, Calle dei Fabbri, 4685, 30124 Sestiere San Marco, Venezia
We first happened upon this restaurant when looking for a late dinner after an opera performance – and it couldn’t have been a more perfect setting. We sat towards the back of the restaurant, in a window next to the canal and had some lovely food and wine in the opulent Venetian surroundings.
The Bistrot has been around since 1993, but feels as though it’s been there forever. It’s beautifully decorated, with very attentive and knowledgable staff.
Bistrot de Venice has an incredible list of over 300 Italian & French wines (they also sell some of them online for shipment worldwide), and are recommended highly by TripAdvisor and Michelin. And me!
We have managed to get a table twice without a reservation, but that was after 10pm, and low season, so it’s probably advisable to book if you’re heading there earlier.
L’Alcova Restaurant @ Ca’Sagredo Hotel
The Ca’Sagredo Hotel is one of the Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) group (I reviewed the Lord Byron Hotel in Rome in a previous post), and I imagine is a beautiful place to stay. If I ever stay there for a change, I will let you know!
The L’Alcova Restaurant is intimate and refined, overlooking the Grand Canal and opposite the Rialto Market. We have always had the same table with a view of the water, as it’s our preferred spot.
The extensive menu has everything from traditional Italian pasta, to fresh fish from the markets, and specific Venetian dishes. Being Venice, most of the choices are fish and seafood based, and very well presented.
We’ve had a couple of really lovely experiences here, and then one which wasn’t great. There were different staff, and the service and food just wasn’t up to the standard we had expected from previous visits. There wasn’t anyone there with knowledge of the wine list, and, especially at this price point, we would expect better.
I gave honest feedback to the Manager about our last visit, and received a very polite response, and a promise to use the feedback and improve things. We’re going to re-visit on the next trip to Venice, so watch this space!
Don’t miss…secret Opera at the Musica a Palazzo
I found out about the Musica a Palazzo on our 2nd trip to Venice, and I’ve now seen two of their three performances; La Traviata and Rigoletto. The operas take place in the Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto, an incredible 15th Century palace on the Grand Canal.
The opera performers and orchestra move around the beautiful rooms of the palace with each act, and the audience moves with them. There is a short break for a glass of bubbly after the first act : ) As the audience size is small, it creates an intimate and interactive experience, which for me adds to the emotive experience of the opera.
I’ve seen La Traviata in the Royal Opera House in London, and to me this performance was just as professional and moving.
The performances take place on set days each week. The link above will take you to the website and full details. You need to pay a fee for membership of the Musica a Palazzo, which is €70 per person, and covers all opera performances you see at the Palazzo for a year.
This is a must do in my opinion when you’re in Venice. Book as far in advance as you can – the performances have been full both times I’ve been
In my next post about Venice, I’ll be talking about museums, palaces and of course, the San Marco Campanile!