We’ve become the people we’ve always envied in Venice, sipping glasses of Prosecco at the windows of our Venetian palazzo as we survey the action on the Grand Canal down below.
People crammed on the vaporettos that pull up at the wharf in front smile up at us, while tourists cruising by on their gondola rides neglect their serenade to take snaps and shoot video of us. We’re loving it! Wouldn’t you?
Our ‘home’ away from home for two weeks is a sprawling apartment in a 17th century palazzo (palace), slap bang on Venice’s Grand Canal, at the end of a narrow lane leading to the vaporetto (ferry) stop. Despite the easy access to public transport we took a water taxi here from the train station so we could arrive in style. Well, it’s not every day we get to pull up at our own Venice Grand Canal water entrance. How could we resist?
We’re located on the border between the St Polo and Dorsodoro sestieri or quarters. It’s a brilliant location – just a 15 minute stroll to the Rialto where we go to the morning markets most days to buy seafood and fruit and vegetables, and 15 minutes to Piazzale Roma (Venice’s main transport hub) where there’s an organic market on Monday; we’ll tell you more about both in another post. It’s a 25-minute walk to St Marco or Cannaregio depending on the time of day and the crowds.
Aside from the main route that tourists take to get between the Rialto and the Accademia bridges, which is lined with trattorias, pizzerias, gelaterias, and souvenir shops most of the way, the neighbourhood is one of Venice’s most down-to-earth once you get off the beaten track. It’s home to one of Venice’s universities and nearby Campo Santa Margherita, a square lined with bars that is busy with students downing beers most nights.
In the tiny side streets are bookshops, art galleries, paper shops, antique stores, leather-makers, jewellery shops, and boutiques specialising in vintage clothes and gifts made from recycled materials. It’s one of Venice’s most interesting neighbourhoods for shopping.
The apartment itself is on the first floor of the three-storey palazzo and it has a certain faded grandeur and retro-elegance about it with its colossal ceilings, Murano chandeliers, antique furniture, gilded mirrors, and big velvet sofas. There are charming touches such as old paintings of Venice, portraits of children, and a glass coffee table covered with an old National Geographic map.
It’s a spacious apartment with an enormous open-plan living-cum- dining area and the main bedroom above it on a mezzanine level so we can hear the action on the Grand Canal below from our bed. There’s a corridor that leads to a decent-sized kitchen, two bathrooms, and a second twin bedroom.
The owners have thought of everything in terms of amenities, and the kitchens are crammed with loads of crockery, cutlery and glasses, so much that we’ve been tempted to host a cocktail party. There’s also plenty of linen and towels, and soap and toilet paper (not always provided in these places as we’ve written before).
There’s a library of books (though most are in Italian), a few guidebooks, and a small stock of DVDs and CDs, and complimentary wireless Internet access. They also provided a generous welcome package that included Veneto wine and traditional Venetian biscuits and there’s a fantastic supply of foodstuffs in the cupboards from tomato paste to spices and different types of salts.
It must be said that the place is a tad rough around the edges in spots with peeling paint, worn upholstery, and broken fittings, and could do with a bit of a renovation, but it dates to the 17th century, and the furniture is goodness knows how old, and the place makes up for its rough spots with loads of charm.
Being Venice, the floor is wonky, the windows don’t shut properly, and there are cracks on the walls that might be scary in other cities… but, hey, this is Venice. We’re in Venice. And that’s what we say to ourselves every time we walk out our door.