Oh, I LOVE Venice. My husband and I could not book the hotel we wanted on one of our visits, so we "slept around" and had a great time exploring the hotels. My favorite (I believe it is a 4-star) is the Metropole; it's right around the corner from St. Mark's Square on the Riva Degli Schiavoni. Check it out at http://www.hotelmetropole.com/eng/homemenu.htm. It may be a little higher in price than some, but I assure you that it is worth it! The Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal is also very good, and we loved the Bauer. The Bauer is a 5-star, but there is a 4-star annex, and we got a good rate on Travelocity. We had access to a private balcony there too, and it was great. Another good alternative is the Savoia and Jolanda at http://www.hotelsavoiajolanda.com/flashen/home.htm. We also stayed in the Londra Palace but didn't think the price was worth it, as compared to the Metropole.
We've traveled pretty extensively in Europe (considering that we are in our early 40's) and hope to go back this year, and I can tell you that the Metropole had little touches that I have not seen in any other European hotel. Besides the extensive collection of antiques, we had a lace blanket on our bed that smelled wonderful. The view is to die for. The public areas of the hotel are exceptionally beautiful, and there are not a lot of pictures of that on their web site. The hotels in Venice are expensive, but they are exceedingly charming, even by European standards
As you probably know, Venice can be very expensive, so we also stayed at a 2-star called the Paganelli that was in the Fodors book for 3 nights one time. No elevator (we stayed on the 5th floor) and no frills, but it was a large, clean room and has the same views as the considerably higher priced hotels in the Riva Degli Schiavoni area. Service was good too. We had a room facing the water with a tiny balcony, and the pigeons came to eat off the balcony. Venice is so fabulous.
If you can swing it, I highly recommend the Riva Degli Schiavoni area (faces out from St. Mark's Square) because of the views and the location. It's absolutely magical. Also, we had quite a bit of luggage because we had been on a cruise when we stayed in Venice 3 times, so we were concerned about getting a room near a vaporetto stop. But there are these porters that have amazing equipment to get your luggage around if you are prepared to pay (about $25 for 5 bags about 3 blocks for us, but I guess it was worth it since we really didn't have an alternative). There is a vaporetto stop on the Riva Degli Schiavoni at Campo San Zaccaria, about a block from the Metropole, and the water bus to the airport stops there too.
The Frommers book that includes Venice has a lot of really good info.
Are you going to Rome? I highly recommend the Britannia if you do.
I'll be glad to answer any other questions you have about Venice, which is my favorite place in Europe.
You're reply made my day! We are staying at the Metropole in Venice for the last night of our week long pre-cruise in Italy. We did tons of research, but I am always glad to hear a "real" person say they liked a hotel.
Quick question. Any advice on getting to the port from the hotel? You mentioned the luggage thing, which is a concern. Our trip will be 3 weeks all told and that's a lot of stuff!!
I'm so excited for you! You'll have to e-mail me when you get back to let me know what you liked best. We have stayed in Venice pre- and post-cruise and also stayed there overnight on a ship one time, so we've never had to get to the ship from our hotel. I assume you'll be flying into Venice, and you'll take a water bus from the airport (it's on a different island) to the St. Mark's Square area. To get from your hotel to the ship, I would ask the Metropole for assistance because their service is excellent. I remember we docked in an industrial pier and rode a boat transfer to the St. Mark's Square area and back, so I assume that all the cruise ships dock there, but I do remember some of the really small cruise ships being pulled up right near St. Mark's Square. The water taxis are expensive, but there surely will be an alternative.
There's a great leather store called Marforio there (I found it in Frommers and love the selection and prices) that's between St. Mark's and the Rialto Bridge in the square with the MacDonald's. I have some other shopping stops to recommend too, so e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want details.
I will definitley let ya know about the Metropole. I actually can't wait to get back from the Med. and share all my travel adventures. I figure since we are going in early April, I'll have lots of advice for the summer cruisers! I'll also take you're advice and talk to the folks at the Metropole about the best way to get to the ship. We have two days there plus the on the ship overnight, so there will be plenty of time to figure things out.
Hi! Can you recommend any other Venice shopping? Also, based on your note, I have booked into the Metropole for our post-cruise stay in May. They have been exceedingly in their assistance to me. Thanks for thhe recommendation!
We are visiting Venice in May and currently are planning to stay at the Londra Palace. It appeared that you stayed there and we were wondering if you could tell us more about it's pros and cons. Thanks, Linda
The Londra Palace is very very nice. I believe it's about a block from the Metropole. It is very conveniently located about 100 feet from the vaporetto stop for St. Mark's, and this is also very close to the dock where the airport water bus drops off. The views are lovely. I believe the public rooms are a little more contemporary (lighter colors, etc.) than the old-world style of the Metropole and the Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal. My only concern about this hotel in the past has been that the rates were higher than for similar hotels, but with all of the bargains on the Internet currently, you probably found a great rate. I think you'll love it.
I hope you have a wonderful stay in Venice and would love to hear from all of you when you get back so I can update my Venice files to check out your favorites.
As for shopping, you'll have no shortage of that in Venice. There are many recommendations on Frommers and Fodors for shopping, but these are a few favorites that I've found in my stomps around Venice that are affordable for real people like me who aren't going to spend $1,000 on a pair of shoes. (We like value for our dollar and quality in the items that we buy, but our budget is just not that high.) If you like high $$ window shopping, there are some great recommendations on Fodors and Frommers.
I think the Marforio leather store is as good as anything you'll find in Italy. They have been family owned for decades andhave a large selection and very good prices. You know how it is with leather and a lot of things--there are different qualities, and you'll find it all and a lot of different styles there. Marforio is located about halfway between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge (this is a great walk in Venice through scenery with many lovely canals), and it's in the square with the MacDonald's.
There is also a store between St. Mark's and the Rialto Bridge named Gros Point de Venise that I love to shop that has a lot of tapestries of scenes of Venice along with lace things for very reasonable prices. Those tapestries are in all different sizes and can be made into pillows or wall hangings whatever and make wonderful mementos of Venice.
There are lots of street vendors everywhere, and they have all kinds of fun souvenirs. We love to buy those goofy velvet hats from the street vendors that look like something a clown would wear. They're cheap--about $10-15. They have a lot of fun stuff.
And there is a great stationery store on the steps of the Rialto Bridge named Rivoaltus.
Of course the glass is to die for, and you won't have any problem finding that. Small items include animals, paper weights (I love these!), angels, clowns, gondoliers, etc. My favorite glass store in St. Mark's Square is Orlandini and Zorzi. If you're facing St. Mark's Square with the water at your back, this store is in the left corner of the square. The prices are a bit high here, but the quality is excellent, and the artistry is hard to beat. Mr. Whitehead and Marco run the store, and I think you'll see what I mean when you
get there. Your eye will become trained after you examine glass in a few stores, and you can start telling the good stuff (it's all good) from the really great stuff.
I cannot find the name of the store that I think has the best prices on glass for the quality that you get, but it is easy to find. This glass store is right across from the entrance to the Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal (this hotel is near Harry's Bar and is to the left of St. Mark's Square on the Grand Canal if you're standing with your back to the water), and it is the only glass store in that area. The quality of the glass will not be as high here, but the prices are lower, so it just depends on what you want.
You will be approached at your hotel and on the street by your hotel staff and boat drivers and be offered a free ride to Murano. That may or may not work well
for you, depending on how large your glass budget is. The boat drivers and hotel staff ("hawkers") receive a portion of what you spend, usually 30-40%, and the glass factories will basically pass that cost along to you. So if you're spending $100, it may be worth it to you to receive a boat ride for free. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend that you take the time to go to Murano for a $100 purchase because that island is not as pretty and it would be a waste of precious time in Venice. The boat drivers probably won't take you back to Venice (you'll need to ride the public water bus back to Venice), but I did get a free ride to Burano because someone in my party had spent thousands on glass, so of course the cousin on the island of Burano wanted us to come over and spend some $$ on some lace but then we had to take public transportation back to Venice. If you're spending more than $100 or so or even think you might, I'd advise you to take the public transportation boat that leaves from the San Zaccharia stop right in front of St. Mark's Square so that the glass factories will be able to negotiate a better price with you (and better prices may mean that you can buy more). Also, you probably won't have as much pressure because we really got a high pressure pitch and weren't left alone at all when we went with the hawker. We had a much more enjoyable trip on our own. The reason for the high-stress pitch is that the employees know that when you leave the factory that the boat driver escorted you to, you're going to see a lot more things that you want, so they have to sell you before you walk out the door. I'm not trying to discourage you at all because I have some beautiful things in my house that go along with some wonderful memories, and I just want you to know what to expect.
By the way, if you start early one day (around 8:00 a.m. or so), you should be able to go to Murano and then on to Burano in the same day.
I bought some glasses and a couple of light fixtures from Colonna (that's the name
on the outside of the store/factory on the island of Murano), and the full name is Vetreria Colonna Fornace. We did have those shipped to our house, and the shipping was about $80 U.S., but it was the only practical way to get our purchases to the U.S. We also had items shipped from Orlandini and Zorzi in St. Mark's Square because our glasses were made for us at the factory. The light fixtures at Colonna are really unique. The artist takes Murano glass chandelier pieces that are 40-50 years old (have never been used and were stored in a warehouse and designs light fixtures using these pieces. Fabulous! And they are not too frou-frou if you know what I mean.
My favorite store for all the little things (pill boxes, paper weights, etc.) on the island of Murano is Minucci Stefano near the end of the main drag. Stefano works in the factories making the millefiori pieces and is so charming and loves to share information about the process. His wife's name is Chiara, and you would be hard pressed to find a
more charming couple in Italy.
So those are my favorites (I can't find the name of the mask store where I always get a miniature mask, but it's on the path from St. Mark's to the Rialto Bridge too), but there are little gems tucked away everywhere, so you'll see a lot.