Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Venice Insider Guide for CNN Travel - The Best of Venice

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica by Canaletto (1730)

(Venice, Italy) The painting, Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, which Canaletto composed nearly 300 years ago was how I wanted to illustrate the opening of "The Best of Venice" that I wrote for CNN Travel just before the film festival, with the caption reading "Only the clothing has changed." It was not accepted. So then I took this photo:

Really! Only the clothing has changed!
Unfortunately, the Basilica is presently under scaffolding, and that photo was not used, either.

Now, of course, it is impossible to write the Best of Venice in 2,000 words, which is what the assignment was (I delivered more than 4,000 -- sorry to the editor!:) In addition, there was a format that needed to be followed; for example, two luxury hotels, two medium hotels, and a budget hotel that was not a hostel.

Years ago, my job writing for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, included finding the "Best" of Venice. Back then, I found several businesses that were exceptional. A few of those businesses remain exceptional to this day, and I included those in the CNN piece, along with some newcomers.

Since museums are the main attraction here in Venice, and there are so many, I simplified things by suggesting that you take the Vaporetto dell'Arte, the Art Boat, and follow that itinerary. In fact, I learned something new: if you buy a normal time-limited vaporetto (water bus) ticket from 12 hours to a week, and pay €10 more at the time you purchase your ticket, you can ride on the Art Vaporetto for as long as your ticket lasts. In other words, if you pay €35 for a 72-hour travelcard, for €10 more, you can ride the Vaporetto dell'Arte the entire three days. The Vaporetto dell'Arte is so much more pleasant than the regular vaporetto, it is worth the €10 just to ride it; plus you can get a bit of history of the Grand Canal with the audio tour. [UPDATE: UNFORTUNATELY, THE VAPORETTO DELL'ARTE IS NO LONGER RUNNING]

Before I even knew the article was up, there was a negative comment by someone named Vernon McClure, supported by eight "likes," which I found peculiar:

"Nice article but I have to disagree that these and (sic) not the best of Venice. Most things listed are what is dragging the city down. Overpriced hotels and bars, or trendy shops and styles is not what Venice is about. No disrespect intended."

That was a puzzling comment. Most shops I had listed were anything but "trendy;" as I said, they were veritable Venetian institutions that had been around for years. The newer arrivals -- the Aman Canal Grande Venice, the Quadri (an ancient restaurant under new ownership -- the Alajmo family of three-star Michelin fame), and Louis Vuitton Venezia are pricey, but at every one of them I found Venetian employees. In fact, there was a deliberate effort on the part of the new businesses to reach out to Venetians and become a welcome part of the community. And all the smaller shops, bars and restaurants I listed are either owned by Venetians, employ Venetians, or both.

I felt very strongly that what I listed was lifting Venice up, not "dragging the city down," and was curious to learn who this "Vernon McClure" person was. What I discovered was no surprise:

"Arriving in Italy over 20 years ago as an US Army Airborne Ranger, Vernon settled in the Veneto after retiring from active duty, where he headed up Recreational Programming in Europe for the US Department of Defense while earning degrees in History and Italian Studies. While at the DOD, Vernon earned over 20 certifications, including snowboard and ski instructor, NOLS risk management, SCUBA, American Mountain Guide, Wilderness First Responder and US Army Survival School."

Sigh. It is not the first time I have had to deal with the United States Department of Defense. In fact, on September 11, 2001, I was on the United States military base in Vicenza, brought there by Iris and Cyril Ward of the DoD to make arrangements to be the visiting author for their new library.

Back then, I had no idea whatsoever what "DoD" stood for. That is how dumb I was.

In any event, Vernon McClure, who now apparently does bike tours and lives in the Vicenza area (where the US military base is located) and I seem to have a difference of opinion as to what is good for Venice. 

Let's take the first "overpriced" hotel I wrote about, the Aman Canal Grande Venice, which just opened. It would be a seven star hotel if such a thing existed in Italy, and rooms start at €1,000 a night. I wandered over there without knowing a soul because I was curious. I was warmly greeted. Most of the employees were Venetians or from the Veneto. I was unable to see an "ordinary" suite because the hotel was fully booked, but did get to see the Tiepolo. 

While I was waiting to be shown around, an American couple arrived who said they wanted to go first to Piazza San Marco and then to La Biennale art festival. The concierge asked, "Shall I call a boat taxi?" The man replied, "No, we'd like to go by gondola." I thought, how romantic is THAT? I fell in love with the Aman Canal Grande, which was more like a home -- what it actually is -- than a hotel. It is one-of-a-kind, elegant and civilized, and, if you can afford it, well worth the price.

In my opinion, that Aman opened a fabulous hotel close to the Rialto Bridge has immediately improved the area. It allows a well-respected Venetian family to remain in their palazzo with dignity and humor; it provides local jobs and it supports the local economy -- not to mention that an ancient palazzo has been spectacularly restored. Of course, it might not be exactly what the United States military and their friends had planned for the Rialto area, but splattering the zone with Coca Cola ads and trying to force out the fish market in the heart of Venice in order to expand the Las Vegas-type cruise ship industry, to me, is what is dragging the city down.

No disrespect intended.

Here is the article. Please feel free to share.

Insider Guide: Best of Venice

On any given day, there are as many tourists in the Floating City as there are locals. With this guide, you can enjoy Venice as both





 Venetian for gridlock.

In its heyday, the Queen of the Adriatic was the world capital of publishing, banking, jewelry and trade.

Venetians established the first bank at Rialto in 1157, the first casino in 1638 and the first film festival in 1932.

These days, the local population has dwindled to less than 60,000, while the number of tourists has soared to more than 20 million a year.

But in best of Venice tradition, the culture and luxury markets are thriving.

In addition to art and cinema, La Biennale includes dance, theater and music, and it's become the most important architecture festival in the world.

You'll get lost in Venice. It's part of the experience.

Don’t worry; the best of Venice is always right in front of you.

CLICK TO GO TO CNN TRAVEL AND CONTINUE READING

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

2 comments:

  1. While I was waiting to be shown around, an American couple arrived who said they wanted to go first to Piazza San Marco and then to La Biennale art festival. The concierge asked, "Shall I call a boat taxi?" The man replied, "No, we'd like to go by gondola." I thought, how romantic is THAT? I fell in love with the Aman Canal Grande, which was more like a home -- what it actually is -- than a hotel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, you had really great experiences in Italy, congrats! And your reviews are marvelous. Keep writing.

    ReplyDelete

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