By Donna Polizzi
Venice is as magical as imagined and a weekend isn’t nearly enough. Still, two days is sure to give you a lifetime of memories.
Taking the train to Venice from Rome takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. It’s a comfortable ride and the scenery alone is worth the scenic journey through the heart of Italy.
A Little History
Venice is also known as the floating city, made up of 118 small islands with more than 400 bridges over its canals.
Surprisingly, while most people think wood to be much less durable than metal and stone, foundations built by wooden stakes were used in the early buildings in Venice. When wood is submerged in water, it is not subjected to the decay caused by microorganisms, like fungi and bacteria. Over time, the salt water petrifies the wood into a hardened structure more like stone.
Venice features architecture dating back to the middle of the first millennium A.D.
In 10th century B.C., the name Venice was given from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region. In 1866, it became part of the kingdom of Italy.
Love at First Sight
Exit the train station and you are literally facing the spectacular Grand Canal — truly a magnificent first sight to see. Historic buildings of all shapes, sizes and colors, with magnificent architecture, are certain to excite your senses. Relief art of all types grace the spectacular buildings, some of which date back to the 17th century.
Strolling along the Grand Canal is a dream for anyone who loves architecture, history, art and iconic beauty. Amid massive sculptures and a buzzing energy, vendors line both sides of the waterway.
Water taxis and gondolas in multiple colors — including deep midnight blue and ruby red — are delightful to watch. The graceful gondolas float gently through the water, offering the epitome of a romantic experience on the Grand Canal.
It’s good to know that Venice is not handicap-friendly. You will be walking a great deal to get anywhere on unsteady ground and you’ll climb an absurd number of stairs. If you are carrying any luggage and want to cross a bridge, be prepared that it is all steps, not smooth and flat.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
Montecito Village Travel has 450 travel agents worldwide, and they wisely and highly recommend the delightful luxury Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. The name means house of the Sagredo noble family, which lived in this grand luxury hotel in the 18th century.
Chiara Depellegrin, the reservations manager, gave us a delightful tour of the hotel. Original frescos by Pietro Longhi on the walls and ceilings are among many treasures inside the hotel, which is considered a national museum.
Outside of the main suite entrances are exhibits and descriptions of the art works. The common areas are magnificent with artwork symbolizing historical events.
A circa 1720 biblioteca, the Sagredos’ private library, was converted into a guest bedroom, complete with bookshelves intact. Legend has it that Galileo Galilei wrote inside this library.
The Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is situated on the banks of the Grand Canal facing the historic Mercati di Rialto between Ca’ d’Oro and the Rialto Bridge. The hotel doors open to the Grand Canal in all its majesty. You can dine on the patio overlooking the canal, as the daytime bustles with water transportation, vendors, locals and tourists.
Sunsets make the view even more surreal. Imagine a rainbow at sunset over the Grand Canal. Fairytale views do happen in Venice.
After dark, you can hear the sounds of the water rushing in the canal, while the lights glimmer like diamonds on the rippling water.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is only a short walk away from museums and interesting shops, which are remarkably inexpensive. Several boutiques with nice clothing and attractive, comfortable shoes charge 10 Euro or less per item, and there are plenty of leather-goods shops for the purse-aholic — or if you need a wallet, overnight bag or attaché.
Setting the Bar
Ca’ Sagredo defines the essence of opulent accommodations in Venice. According to our guide, it is the only hotel in Italy that has been declared a “Museum for the Artistic and Historic Heritage Preservation.”
Massive marble staircases, painted ceilings and magnificent views add to the ambience.
Dine on the terrace at L’Alcova Restaurant inside Ca’ Sagredo. It’s impossible to decide what’s better — the panoramic view of the Grand Canal or the excellent cuisine.
A short five-minute walk takes you to many other incredible restaurants. Try Trattoria da Gianni for excellent Caprese salad and traditional Spaghetti Bolognese. Brick walls, dark wood and beveled glass doors give the restaurant a romantic feel that exemplifies Venice.
Magnificent Murano Glass Art
The Ca’ Sagredo Hotel generously arranged for complimentary transportation via water taxi to Murano to visit the B.F. Signoretti glass gallery, where masters blow magnificent glass art.
Hundreds of pieces are on display, winding through multiple rooms holding various works of art, from classic Venetian to Baroque to more modern pieces. Many of the Murano chandeliers are magnificent, and no two are alike. You can choose from champagne flutes, dishes, lamps, beautiful vases, massive glass sculptures or jewelry.
It’s important to know that a knowledgeable, friendly person will walk with you through the shop. Be prepared to say “no” if necessary, when being pressured to buy.
When the complementary water taxi takes you back to Venice, which is roughly 10 minutes each way, stop in at one of the many patisseries and give yourself permission to forget the word “calories.” After all, you’re on vacation and every sumptuous bite is an experience.
Where to Stay
Stefania Vaccari, the hotel’s assistant manager, can provide a tour of the hotel, which is luxurious, recently updated, comfortable and elegant.
The view is spectacular and the location ideal. Murano glass and beautiful artwork grace the public areas in the hotel.
Breakfast at the Londra Palace
Enjoy an excellent buffet breakfast on the patio, watching the water taxis and boats, and people strolling by. It is quite amusing to people watch and hear passing conversations in every language, including Chinese, German, Farsi and French.
Venice is certainly the place to indulge in an incredible shopping experience. Keep your eyes open to purchase a suitcase at a good price. Chances are you will purchase so many beautiful things to take home that you’re going to need an additional piece of luggage. Trust me, it happens often.
It’s also good to know that most of the vendors will negotiate prices along the canal and in the shops.
At the end of a beautiful day exploring, shopping and eating fantastic food, you may want to go to the Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal. It is across the canal from the train station and just over the bridge. Views from the rooftop restaurant overlooking the canal are breathtaking. Dine or simply have a cocktail or a flute of prosecco.
This was just the beginning of the Keys 2 the Coast adventure through Italy, France and Spain. Fifty people are sharing the journey on a Celebrity Cruise and all of us are having fun and experiencing a trip of a lifetime.
Life is short. Wine, dine and explore … in comfortable shoes. Arrivederci!