She has one of the best views of Venice from her office terrace in the building that houses the City Hall for Venice. As the go-to person for Venice tourism Paola Mar finds that, “People come to Venice – because it is Venice.” While she and her team are delighted to welcome the 25 million people who flock to the city, there is one wish that she delightfully shared with me, “We want them to stay longer.”
On average, the tourist to Venice visits lasts only a bit more than one day; if Mar had her way they would stay a few days longer. A one-day visit to Venice is barely enough time to learn how to use the water transportation system – let alone get a feeling for the delicious and awesome things to see and do.
I scheduled three days in Venice, and I must admit that this is my “bad” – I should have arranged a week (at least).
Arrival in Venice
Located 4.9 miles from Venice, the Marco Polo Airport, designed by architect Gian Paolo Mar (Paola’s Father), is the one official airport in Venice that is located on the shoulders of the lagoon and one of the busiest airports in Italy. It is serviced by Air Canada Rouge as well as 39 other airlines from regions/locales that include the US, Europe, Eastern Europe and Israel. A nearby airport, Treviso, is used by Ryannair and there is an airfield on the Lido that is used by helicopters.
Transportation options to/from Marco Polo airport:
• Schedules and fees vary by day of the week, time of day, number of people in the group, size/number of luggage and many other variables; advisable to do a thorough research job and/or consult your travel professional.
• Arriving by train (with a Rail Europe pass)
I arrived in Venice by train from Bologna using Rail Europe to book my train tickets through the country. This very busy modern station is not unlike other European train depots, busy with people going in all directions, and a plethora of eating/drinking/shopping options. What it does not have is good Wi-Fi connectivity. There are a few shops that offer the service; however, only the very lucky are able to find any “bars” on their cell phones.
Upon arrival, try not to get confused with all the action; head directly for the corner ticket booth where water ferry transit passes are sold. If you plan to spend a short time in Venice a water transit pass may be unnecessary; however, if you intend to see the city, experience its museums, and churches, restaurants and bistros, shops and the MOSE, it will be convenient (and budget-savvy) to purchase a multi-day pass so that you can get on/off the boats/ferries without searching for a ticket booth each time you want to move from place to place.
Boarding a Water Ferry
The water ferry will bring you one step closer to your hotel; however, remember you are in Italy and what is old and functioning is unlikely to be replaced with something new and efficient…so – be prepared to be confused.
The water ferries have different routes and it is not easy to determine which one will bring you to your hotel (or even close to your hotel). Because life is so uncertain, it is advisable to get directions from your hotel concierge prior to arrival. If you missed this opportunity, ask for directions from the ticket salesperson before departing the train station. If you wait until you are about to board a ferry the best I can offer is, “good luck.” The ferry operators want to be helpful – but with the complexity of their job and the humongous number of visitors, it is difficult for them to provide information. If you packed lightly (a small wheelie and tote or backpack) you will easily maneuver the gap between the ferry and the dock and, ultimately, the walk from the ferry to your hotel.
San Clemente Palace Kempinski Hotel. Venice
Now it is time to watch for your landing (the stop closest to your hotel). If you are a guest at the San Clemente Palace Kempinski – elegantly perched on its own island – your stop is San Marco Square. From here there is search for the hotel water taxi (see photo) that will ferry you across the lagoon to the property.
Upon docking the hotel staff collects you and your luggage and escorts you to the front desk for registration. This elegant property is managed by Tatjana Mayer.
Mayer joined the hotel as Food and Beverage Manager and quickly moved into the position of Hotel Manager. With years of experience with the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa, the Hotel Eden Roc (Switzerland), The Langham Hotels and Resorts (UK and Old Course Hotel (Scotland) and Sofitel Luxury Hotels and Resorts (Luxemburgh), she is able to direct staff and assist guests in 5 languages (German, English, Italian, French and Spanish).
The San Clemente is recognized as a 5-star luxury hotel and is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. In the 12th century the property was built as church and monastery. Since then it has morphed into a hospice for pilgrims, crusaders, plague victims and a hide-away for “lunatic” women. During the Mussolini government reign (1922-1943), Il Duce placed his first wife, Ida Daiser here – until her death in 1937.
Breakfast. One of the many luxuries at the San Clemente Palace
Currently the 190 rooms offer well-heeled guests terrazzo floors, Murano chandeliers, Venetian mirrors, opulent window treatments with miles of drapery in gold, green and neutral shades. The hotel also offers a 65 ft. heated swimming pool, a network of trails for runners, and multiple meeting rooms for small and large private conferences, meetings, anniversaries and weddings. The previous owner (St. Regis) spent $28 million on the renovation and the investment is clear – as the public space makes even the most affluent feel as though they are at home. For more information, click here.
Gianmatteo Zampieri, General Manager Baglioni Hotel Luna. Venice
Born in Venice, the elegant, articulate, charming Baglioni Hotel Luna General Manager Gianmatteo Zampieri, directs a hotel team that places the property among the most desired locations in Venice. There is nowhere in the world that Zampieri would prefer to live or work and nothing compares with his daily commute (by boat) from his home on the Lido Island (separates the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea) to the hotel. A professional career that started upon college graduation he has experienced the challenges associated with operating both small and large hotels, finding his niche with luxury properties. Zampieri has been associated with the Bauer Hotel & Bauer Il Palazzo, the Boscolo Groups’ Grand Hotel dei Dogi, the San Clemente Palace, the Hotel dei Bragomanni and now he is the Manager of the Baglioni Hotel Luna.
For executives and other travelers who want to be close to the Venice action and able to retreat to privacy and old world splendor in a matter of moments, there is no better hotel choice than the Baglioni Hotel Luna. Although it is located steps from San Marco Square it is light years removed from the bustling throngs that populate the Venetian streets and shops.
Built in 1240, Baglioni Hotel Luna guests arrive at this property via a vaporetto stop that is steps away or a private taxi at the hotel’s personal jetty. This elegantly traditional 5-star luxury property offers views that are spectacular. Whether dining waterside or watching the San Giorgio Maggiore from a private terrace, this hotel offers old world elegance and service unencumbered by any suggestion of dowdy. Art historians will be fascinated with the vast salon frescoed by students of the 18th century maestro, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
If you are into fabric you will be happy happy with the silk brocade wall linings, miles of drapes on the windows, Fortuny lamps and linen bedsheets. Some rooms /suites overlook the Giardinetti Reali Park while others focus on the lagoon. If a room with a view is important, check space availability when making a reservation.
While it is efficient to ask the hotel concierge for shopping suggestions, it may not be the most effective way to find the values that add a bit of sizzle to a holiday. Here are both high-end branded shops and buying opportunities; Venice offers chic, sizzle and savings.
1. What Not To Buy. Unless you are a collector of tacky and trashy, you will not want to spend even a moment browsing the kiosks that offer souvenirs. From carnival face masks to t-shirts I am unable to understand the attraction of visitors to this merchandise.
For quality up-to-date fashions and accessories leave the waterside and delve into the side streets of Venice.
2. If life is incomplete without a current Prada, Miu, Bettega Veneta or Gucci, walk the streets to the west of the Piazza San Marco (i.e., Salizda San Moise; Calle Vallaresso, Calle Goldoni, Frezzeria).
3. Trois. Fortuny Fabrics (usually below UK/UK prices). Campo San Maurizio, San Marco 2666
4. Gaggio. Thin silk velvets with hand-printed wooden block motifs and damasks. Calle delle Botteghe, San Marco 3441-3451
5. Antiica Legatoria Piazzesi. Established in 18909 the focus is on the art of covering everyday objects with elegant, hand printed decorations. Loyal customers include writers, artists, aristocrats, church and business executives and fine crafts workers. The shop specializes in decoration, restoration and bookbinding. Sestriere San Marco 2511/c-30124 Campiello dell Feltrina, Santa Maria del Giglio.
6. The Merchant of Venice. A luxury line that includes Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, body care and accessories. Inspired by “mude,” the maritime trade routes that covered the ocean area from Asia to Africa and Europe to the Northern Seas, the mude started in Venice and reached global ports that were exchange centers for raw materials and finished products. The scents are fabulous, the bottles are works of art and (to my amazement), value priced. Via Altinia, 298/B, 30173. For more information, click here.
By the 16th century Venice had diverted from its original function – as a trading power – and was on its way to having tourism at its economic base. A postmodern city it sold no product other than itself and its images to hundreds of thousands of free-spending foreigners each year. The attractions at the time focused on gambling and prostitution combined with the Italian opera and Carnivale. Today, the foreign invasion of 15+ million visitors each year (who take over the main island of the Laguna Veneta – knows as the “centro storico” or historic center) has a theme park, Disney-esque quality.
This deluge of foreign visitors creates problems for Venice that it did not seek and does not know how to resolve. From environmental degradation and heritage monument problems to conservation issues and the implications for the host community, there is great concern that Venice will lose its identify as a cultural and historical center and be attractive only as a “theme park” destination.
In true Italian fashion, neither the public nor private sectors are able to determine if the situation is a dire emergency and requires immediate attention or it is best to leave the state of affairs as is, after all, the tourists are providing a richly rewarding cash flow and if they are happy and continue to find the city attractive – why make a change?
My suggestion. See Venice ASAP! Stay for a week (or longer) and use it as a base for visiting nearby Borghi’s. For additional information: click here.
Rosa Maria Musco. Borghi Italia Tour Network
This copyright article may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.