My first visit was September last year, it was supposed to be a multi destination road trip through Florence, Rome and Venice but because of the logistics of the drive we decided to stick to one, the winner was Venezia, my long-time dream destination. Funnily enough I didn’t stay true to myself when planning it, as normally I am rather meticulous about the where I am going and consider all the possible details – I didn’t. I was lucky enough to be suggested a few restaurants and stupidly or what it seemed to be at the time, opted for Luna Baglioni hotel, ignoring all my instincts and advice from several friends against it. Ok, I am not about to trash the place, it wasn’t that bad, but upon arrival they quite literally couldn’t find our reservation for about half an hour, which as you can imagine, was infuriating considering we had come a long way (road trip, remember?) and I had more than a few email exchanges with the front desk regarding our stay and activities we would like to plan. A lifetime later they found our rooms, which we were forced to upgrade because the junior suite I had booked turned out to be a somewhat spacious room, with a tiny bathroom that lacked any sort of view of the city or canal, even though the hotel was (in my mind) strategically positioned at the front of the grand canal and literally 5 steps away from the St. Mark’s square, and so it was, but it gave nothing in terms of views. Naturally, I went down to negotiate an upgrade, and I got one, for a price of course. No doubt the upgraded suite was gorgeous, but rather old as everything else in Venice. Our suite was called ‘Sansovino lagoon view suite’ and had a massive terrace with a beautiful rooftop view of the canal. It was a little disappointing and unexpected that the view wasn’t directly onto the canal, since the hotel was positioned at the forefront of the city, nevertheless the interior made it quite inviting, it was the Renaissance style finishes, which gave it a very light feel as opposed to the dark and ominous style used in most Venetian homes. Nevertheless, the last thing one should worry about in Venice is their room, as you won’t be spending much time in it, as soon as we got settled and unpacked, we rushed out and it feels like we never returned until the day we were leaving, which came faster than we thought.
Being a Newbie to Venice I assumed I would need around 5 days to explore the city, thankfully I was advised otherwise by my sister at the last minute and amended the stay to just 4 days – turns out, even that was a bit much…
On our first evening, me being the excited traveler, ready to try every touristic attraction my city of choice has to offer, I of course booked a gondola ride to the restaurant, and not just any restaurant, it had to be THE restaurant – Da Ivo.
The oldest and most famous dining spot in Venice, approachable of course by the infamous venetian gondolas, gliding through the smelly, rat-infested canals. We didn’t actually see any rats, but that’s the rumour. When visiting new places, I stick to local cuisine, as it gives me a more profound experience of a foreign culture. Despite the fact that the beef carpaccio was invented in Venice, by signor Cipriani, the local food is more reflective of the city’s location. Venetians favor seafood, as well as squid ink pasta and risotto, sardines, and shellfish dishes such as the spaghetti alle vongole, which didn’t originate in Venice but is nevertheless much appreciated. Among other Italian classic dishes served widely in Venice, is of course liver, which is known far and wide as one of their delicacies, historically reserved for the Venetian elite. Although I would normally devour a plate of seafood and a squid ink pasta with clams is a childhood favorite, Venice and its odor put me off eating anything that comes from water, so I stuck with the less traditional but truly fantastic choices that the Italians generously offer: stuffed zucchini flowers, beef carpaccio and truffle pasta, all the courtesy of the impeccable cucina of Da Ivo restaurant. It was our first and most amazing dining experience in Venice and little did we know it, was also our last good one.
Upon leaving the restaurant we found that the city was quite literally a maze – not the best feeling for anyone with claustrophobia. It was incredibly difficult to find our way, thankfully it was very late, the streets were empty, since a person without even the hint of claustrophobia could find themselves experiencing unwanted symptoms of being trapped in a labyrinth. That feeling was compellingly amplified the next day when we went on a walking city tour with a guide – in the sweltering heat the maze felt even tighter, I felt that with every turn I was gasping for air in the form of a hoping to catch the glimpse of the grand canal (a way out) or at least a less populated square. We soon realized that 4 days in Venice was way too long and that it was time to consider cutting our trip short, as we were demotivated to explore further, I cannot quite put my finger on what exactly repelled me, but I was uninterested to look further, I cancelled the rest of our tours and decided we were leaving the next day.
On our last night we took up a recommendation from a friend of mine and went to Ristorante Quadri – not to be confused with the Café, if you want to experience the real deal make sure you book the restaurant. The restaurant was perfectly situated on the St. Mark’s square, which is truly one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen, so if you are lucky enough to get a table by the window you can have quite the romantic evening, overlooking the various quartets performing on the perfectly lit, famously gothic main square of Venice. We, however, did not score a window table as we were a party of 5 including my 3-year-old (at that time), which in fact caused the restaurant staff to behave noticeably snobby. The rudeness put me off my dinner entirely, I forgot to appreciate the fine dining cuisine offered in a seamlessly designed interior with crystal chandeliers set amidst an intimate room, beautifully decorated with dark damask wallpaper with cleverly hidden images of the Michelin starred chefs behind the Quadri restaurants. It was frustrating that because of restaurant staff rudeness I am unable to give an honest review on the restaurant. In fact, the next visit to Venice it didn’t even cross my mind to try Ristorante Quadri again. Yes, you read that right… I said next visit.
I know it seems strange that there was a ‘next visit’ to a place I left earlier than planned, especially in such a short space of time, but within 8 months, we were back to Venice.
It was a fluke really, this time around it was a road trip through the Italian Country with destinations such as Forte dei Marmi, Florence and Gardaland, but a funny twist of events landed us in Venice – not that funny really, we went to Gardaland, which was supposed to be the Italian version of Disneyland (this comparison couldn’t be further from the truth), but that’s a tale for another time. Since Garda is only an hour from Venice, we thought it was best to drive on and give it a second chance – and so we did. I started searching for rooms and decided that this time I’m going to opt for Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which has been sold to the Four Seasons hotels and resorts and will reopen under the FS Brand in 2025 following a massive renovation. The renovation is overdue by the way, having stayed there this past May I can confirm that with complete certainty. Even though, we had a lovely experience at the Danieli, I look forward to it becoming a part of the Four Seasons family as I am a big fan of the company and generally try to stay at one of their hotels if there is the option. But it of course depends on the destination.
Arriving around 9pm I was pleased with the speedy ‘check in’ that we experienced this time around, and the reception staff were quite efficient escorting us to our rooms almost instantly, after a quick R’n’R we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant called Terrazza Danieli which turned out to be one of the most sought-after dining spots in Venice, and a truly delicious dinner. This time around our trip was only a day long which turned out to be the perfect duration for this interesting and not yet figured out city – by me at least. We arrived late evening, spent an entire day exploring and left at 9am the next day, perhaps if it is a first and only trip, I would recommend it for a 2-day visit, to be able to fit in all the activities Venice has to offer. We started off by a little walk around the main square and the main street which hosts all the fashion boutiques, such as Chanel, Dolce Gabbana, Hermes, etc. before going to Palazzo Ducale, known in English as the Doges Palace, which was a fantastic experience architecturally and historically, but was extremely stuffy even with all the windows open, as it was around 30 degrees outside, so I would recommend taking a hand fan with you if you visit in the late spring, summer or early fall. Also, it’s best to purchase your tickets online to avoid the massive queues.
After our tour we ventured out to town to find a lunch spot, after a 30-minute search, we eventually sat down at one of the side street restaurants for a quick bite, as our trip to the Murano glass factory was fast approaching, after a mediocre lunch, we rushed off onto our taxi boat to make it in time. Upon arrival we were welcomed by a private guide, who appeared to be one of the managers at the factory, he offered us comfortable seating while we watched the ‘maestro’ perform glass blowing small objects – giving us a demonstration of how Murano glass sculptures and chandeliers are created. It was truly fascinating – Venice was now growing on me.
This was followed by the Murano Glass Museum tour, housing unimaginable pieces, which one can purchase. The prices varied from piece to piece but of course anything worth buying exceeded four digits. After ohing and ahing over the beauty of the hand-made pieces we rushed to our private transfer back to the City as it was getting late and we had dinner reservations at no other but Da Ivo, the only table available was at 7:30pm but unlike the previous visit we now knew of more restaurants we would have loved to taste, unfortunately they had no availability… spontaneous trip remember?:) We stuffed our bellies like no tomorrow, as the next day we were leaving the hotel at 9am to drive back home and yes, we left exactly on the dot, with much higher spirits than our first trip and I am not afraid to say it, we will return. After all there are several more hotels and restaurants I wanna review in Venezia!