Off-Season Venice, Jan 2004

This Trip Report was originally written for the Fodor's Travel Forum.
Although I have visited Italy a number of times I had never visited Venice. I think I was worried that in season it would be horribly busy and perhaps have the Disneyland character of Assisi which my husband enjoyed in the 1980's but seemed eclisped by tourism when we visited a few years ago.

I was wrong. Venice in January was spectacular. The days were cold and clear and the city was so much more than the main tourist areas. I never really inderstood the consequence of a city without roads...the wonderful quiet when you remove the automobile. The sheer stillness at night, the beauty of just the silence.

HOTEL: We stayed at the Ca'Pisani which is wonderfully located behind the Accademia. We found it easy to take the Alialuguna (10 euros) from the Airport to the stop at Zattere , a little less than an hour and a half. From the Zattere stop we walked past La Calcina (which was almost right next to the stop) and turned up a small roadway for a short walk of about 250 yds toward the hotel.

The hotels is gorgeous. It's unusual for Venice, as a hip "Design Hotel",  but unlike some of these places that are too starkly modern (with a cold feel and snooty staff) the Ca' Pisani is a winner. The staff gave us excellent recommendations for dinner and were generally helpful. The room (a junior suite) was beautiful with an incredible sparkling brown granite bathroom - complete with jacuzzi. It was wonderfully quiet. Although the rooms do not look out over a canal we didn't miss a view. There was a steam room upstairs and a roof deck for warmer weather.

I loved the neighborhood because you can walk to St Marks in less than 10 minutes but you are "far from the madding crowds"! It is also very conveniant to be close to the Accademia bridge.

SIGHTS: We enjoyed lots of the museums and churches but with four night we didn't have enough time to see all that we would have liked. After this trip I think Venice deserve to be a destination on it's own, rather than a couple of nights tagged onto a longer trip. The Guggenheim Museum makes an interesting change, after  all the renaissance art it's relief to see something modern!
 You can get a spectacular view of the mosaics at St Marks f from the church museum (climb up to on the right as you go into the church). We also enjoyed the Museo Mocenigo which was one of the few places that gave one a sense of how people lived.

FOOD: was a highlight of the trip. We ate at La Rivista in our hotel on one evening. The food is very modern,with a small be interestiong menu that will definately appeal to foodies. Very reasonable 36 Euros for a three course menu. To finish I had a wonderful plate of artisinal cheeses which were pared with a ginger jelly and other conserves.

Our favorite meal was at La Columbina (Campiello del Pergolotto, Cannaregio)which was so charming. We thought it was very reasonable 40 Euros for the meat degustation and 50 Euros for seafood, six courses including dessert, they also had a vegetarian option. The atmosphere was very friendly and it seemed to be one of the few places that was busy late...we ate at 9:30pm. They brought a complimentary glass of Prosecco which was lovely and then the food which we enjoyed enormously. I loved the raw fish appetizer and my husband loved his plate of fabulously moist mixed house salami and ham...the subtle flavourings of the smoked meats were wonderful.The entire meal with a nice bottle of local wine was 130 euros

Another night we ate at Osteria ai quatro Feri on Calle Lunga San Barnaba. It was a completely different experience...very busy filled with Italian and foriegn tourists as well as a crowd of locals who obviously knew the owners. As with each of the places we ate this was somewhere you needed a reservation, they were turing away people all night. If you're in a party of two expect to be placed at a shared table, or to have people join you half way through your meal if they seat two of you at a small table for four!

We drank the house wine out of a hugh barrel sitting on the bar, ate a mixed seafood antipasta and sharded a hugh plate of spaghetti with large (canocchie) mantis prawns. The food was wonderful, the place bustling and loud and with two quartos of the house wine the bill was 40 Euros.

We also ate at Antica Trattoria la Furtola also on Calle Lunga San Barnaba in Dorsoduro. which was also very good for seafood and full of locals. The were very friendly, suggested an excellent local wine and brought us digestives on the house. The menu was entirely fish based and we had had rather alot of seafood by this time. My husband had a gorgeous place of frito misto including soft shalled crabs. It was about 25 euros for a main course and 12 Euros for a pasta.

All in all I loved Venice and can't think why we didn't visit years ago.  I think what made the trip so enjoyable  was visiting off season and staying away from the touristy area around St. Marks. What we enjoyed most of all was walking across the city at night, it was often deserted by 9 pm. 

St Marks Square and the canals in the moonlight are something I will never forget.