Its closing in on the end of summer and although I’ve been on a brief hiatus, we have got great reports from friends coming back from summer trips all over the globe. Coming soon are reports from Calistoga Ranch in Napa, the relatively new Soho and Haymarket hotels in London (under the same ownership as The Crosby Hotel opening in September in NYC), a great villa rental in Provence and a  new boutique hotel situated on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, The Chelsea.

A couple, Kevin and Stacey Kotler, returning from a 2 week trip to Italy in late June report back on a wonderful 5-star hotel Ca’Sagredo in Venice and some great tips on where to eat and how to navigate your way through Venice. Thanks Stacey for your thorough report!

italy-venice-carnevaleVENICE: “I had been to Italy several times, but never to Venice.  What a magical place!  It’s difficult to fully describe the feeling you get surrounded by the waterways and narrow canals, but it really is a sight to be seen – and quite romantic.  Of course there are plenty of tourists as well – but being there in May or June is definitely better than late July or August when it is incredibly hot and wall-to-wall people.  Remember to think about that when planning your trip – everyone in Europe is on holiday in August.

If you are arriving by car, you of course cannot drive right into Venice, and you actually park your car inside indoor Parking Garages, and then take a water taxi or the public ferry to your hotel.  The parking system is quite organized – and very simple.  You enter one of the garages, they tell you what floor to go to, and then you get a ticket for your car – and that’s it.  San Marco Garage is the one that we parked at in the Piazzale Roma where they are all located.  I would definitely recommend this one, and it was 30 Euros per day.  Do not leave anything in your car, so keep that in mind if you have lots of luggage.

Whether you arrive in your own car or by taxi, you are getting to your hotel via the water.  You can either take a water taxi – which is the same concept as a regular road taxi…but it’s a boat, or the public ferry.  The water taxis are private, and will run you about 60 Euros.  The public ferry is the like the Venetian subway system, and costs about 6 Euros per passenger.  Your choice.  We took a water taxi to have a more direct route to our hotel – and we thought it would be fun – which it was. watertaxi

 Where to Stay:  Hotels are quite costly in Venice, so expect to pay minimum of 250 Euros for anything decent.  I found this hotel on TripAdvisor called Ca’Sagredoand the reviews were amazing.  We chose one of the Junior Suites – for about 330 Euros per night (in June).  But – we really wanted a water view.  So…here’s a tip – if you join Small Luxury Hotels of the World at no cost to you, you can actually get a better rate on this hotel, breakfast included, and a room upgrade (if available).  We reserved and paid for the Panoramic Suite, and we were upgraded to the Grand Canal Junior Suite (which was about 150 Euros more per night) – and they guaranteed this before our arrival.  The room was gorgeous!  So plush and large – with a couch, chairs, and desk as well.  Big bathroom and great water pressure in the shower also was an added bonus – plus very comfortable beds with down pillows – a rarity in Italy.  This was definitely

View from hotel room
View from hotel room

one of our favorites on our entire trip.  The view was spectacular…and no, this is not a postcard – it’s a real photo taken from our hotel room window.

Ca’Segredo  is a 15th century castle and National Monument – with the ballrooms and rooms still decorated from that era, and is home to important artworks by Venetian painters of the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Palazzo was originally owned by the Sagredo Family – who were, at that time, one of the most prominent families in Venice.  There are 42 magnificently decorated rooms and suites with stunning views onto either the Grand Canal, Ca’ D’Oro, Campo Santa Sofia, or the Rialto Market.  There is also a beautiful restaurant in the hotel, and a great outdoor bar where you can sit along the Grand Canal and have a Bellini.

I absolutely loved this hotel – it was a perfect spot to spend a few days exploring Venice.


Where to Eat:  Venice is apparently not known for its cuisine, but you would not have known that from the two restaurants that we frequented.  They were in our top 5 meals of the 2-week stint in Italy.  On our first night we went to Antiche Carampane which I read about in the April 2009 issue of Travel & Leisure Magazine – a great article all about Venice.  We had trouble finding it, but through the winding streets we finally came upon a small restaurant with about 12 tables – it was packed!  Everyone was speaking Italian (a good sign), and the manager, Kiko, took excellent care of us – and he spoke English.  Each course was better than the next…we had a mix of cold seafood to start which included Mediterranean Prawns, then homemade linguine pasta with porcini mushrooms, olive oil and garlic, and then a John Dory fish with grilled vegetables and polenta.  Deeelicious!  Everything from start to finish was perfect – service, atmosphere, and of course – food.  We were so full from the dinner that we skipped dessert and opted for gelato…again.

We visited Alle Testiere  on our last night in Venice, and it was definitely worth the wait.  With only 6 tables in the whole place, this restaurant is known as one of the toughest reservations in town.  It’s also written up in the same Travel & Leisure magazine article.

We chose to do the wine pairings – which was the right choice, and owner, Luca Di Vita, knows his wines.  As for the food, the seafood was incredibly fresh – and we started with something I’d never had before – razor clams.  They are long and skinny and look like old fashioned razor blades.  They were fabulous – simply grilled, very meaty, and amazingly flavorful.  Then we had a homemade pasta with tiny clams – yum!  To finish off our meal, we shared the sea bass which came with an amazing array of vegetables – including perfectly seasoned eggplant.  This time we did have dessert – a homemade apple tarte, baked by Luca’s own mother.  We left Italy with fond memories and full bellies.”

Ca'Sagredo Hotel, Venice

Campo Santa Sofia 4198,
Venice, Italy

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