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Venice
photos © Sam North 2007

Venezia
Sam North


I am not sure whether you go to Venice for the history, the romance, the idea you can go everywhere by water or you just want to see it before it crumbles but we all have reasons to go there and go there one must. Certainly you need a lot of cash. Eating out is a huge experience, not just as a consequence of an over-inflated euro but the simple fact that every scrap of food has to be delivered to all the many restaurants by water. In fact, everything has to be delivered by water and it is not surprising to see cargo trucks being transported by barge around the canals and backed up to huge doors of warehouses. This is, in essence the magic of Venice, it is completely different to your city and mine.


Image: View from Giudecca Island

Venice City Cat and view from the Molino Stucky Hilton
Back to the food, a simple dinner for two in a modest restaurant, salad, pasta and half a bottle of wine could set you back 85 euro. Sixty quid in real money and you wouldn’t even be impressed. So here’s my first tip for visiting Venice, breakfast usually comes with your hotel room, eat heartily. That said, there are some amazing places to eat and even little nondescript cafes do wonderful lunches with fresh salads and pizzas at 10 or 12 euros per serving. If Italians are eating there, then go in, they appreciate their food.

My new favourite hotel is the wonderful and stylish Molino Stucky Hilton.
(Average nightly cost via Hotels.com is around £200). The Stucky is the former flour mill on La Giudecca Island and is now, 250 million euros later, one of world’s best hotels. No marble has been spared and the Skyline rooftop bar affords the best views of Venice, day or night, in fact one of the very few places where you can get an overview of the city and the islands beyond.
Views of the
Molino Stucky Hilton
© Carine Kit Thomas 2007

1: View from Venice
2: View from Skyline bar
3: Skyline Bar exterior
4: Sam peering out across city

You can dine at the Aromi restaurant ion the waterfront or il Molino inside (where a home cooked hamburger will set you back 24 euros but the service is excellent). Whilst we were dining 20 pretty young girls came down for dinner, all flown in from Columbia for a sixteenth birthday. That's style. Take a drink in the Skyline bar at sunset, a good glass of Malbec Argentinean will cost around 9 euros a glass, not so bad in Venice and there’s an Irish barman who’ll take good care of you. You have to be a guest to use the rooftop swimming pool but it is uber-cool up there.

There are nine floors, 380 rooms, a vast downstairs bar, new conference facilities opening in September and their own fast boat, I suspect the Venice Stucky Hilton will be the hotel to stay and be seen in future. Congrats to Hilton International for rescuing a ruin and making it such a stunning landmark view in the city.

Venice:
View from Accademia Bridge

Every alternate year Venice experiences the Biennale and this year it is the 52nd International Art Exhibition under the slogan - think with the senses, feel with the mind- art in the present tense. It is open in the Giardini and Arsenale main exhibition venues, and in other venues dotted throughout Venice.

At the time of writing 70,000 people have visited since it opened on June 10th. It runs until November 2007 and encompasses art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, theatre…you name it. It’s a bit like an expo experience with art (the second visit for me having been there seven years ago). You’ll need to set aside a whole day just to see the art and it is exhausting. Sadly quite the worst exhibit the British pavilion with its pile of sticks and crudely executed scribbles of a man’s penis by Tracey Emin. Truly an edifying example of the crassness of Brit-Art.

The best, and strangest exhibit is by Sophie Calle in the French Pavilion. Entitled ‘Take Care of yourself’, Sophie had a Dear John, from a lover and you get a ‘hint’ of why she got it, but it is impressive. She handed the letter over to 101 females to ‘reinterpret’ in dance, mime, words, act, and song- even clowns! Jeanne Moreau and many other famous French names as well as one Brit are involved
Never has a reject letter had such intense scrutiny


Follow this link to the whole show: http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition/en/73805.1.html
In the Arsenale, surely one of the best art venues in the world, (the former armory) the art takes on an altogether more dramatic mode and it’s impressive, both in the space and the art on show but most impressive is the restaurant where tired feet can rest under the roof without glass. Good prices too and excellent food. Fully restored, check out the archive building next door to see images from the previous 52 Biennale’s. The image above is a vast curtain made up of labels from tins and jars - it shimmers as if made of gold.

From Ukraine with love - still from a digital movie at Biennale
Sadly this being July, we shall not be there for the 64th Venizia Film Festival (August 29th-September 8th) the Chair will be held by Zhang Yimou and judges feature Jane Campion, Paul Verhoeven, Catherine Breillat and more
It’s been an important film festival since 1932 and this year Italy’s own Bernado Bertolucci will be awarded the 75th Golden Lion and Tim Burton gets a lifetime achievement Golden Lion. Key filmmakers represented will be: Woody Allen, Ken Loach, Paul Haggis, Ang Lee, Wesa Anderson, Miike Takashi, Brian de Palma, Peter Greenaway, Kitano Takeshi, Eric Rohmer, Kenneth Branagh and Andrew Dominik.

Although one does a hell of a lot of walking in Venice, it’s also a great place to rest your legs on the very regular waterbus’s that pull in all over the city and let you take a breather. Tourists spend a fortune on taxis or visitor boats, but the best deal (if there for five days or more) is to get the Venice Card (78 euros that will give you the Alilaguna boat just 7 minutes away from the airport terminal – you can walk this, it’s a doddle and you get the return trip as well). The Aliliguna boat takes you quickly through Murano Island to Venice proper and will deposit you at San Marco pier or Zattere (just opposite the Hilton and they will come and get you if you are staying there). More importantly the Venice card gives you a free ride on every waterbus for an entire week (don’t lose it!) and discounts to all the museums, which is a big bonus if you go to around five museums and the Biennale.

I was uncertain about the Venice Card at first as I though 78 Euros expensive, but now I have done it and realized just how often we used the waterbuses, it’s a terrific bargain. You buy it the moment you arrive at the airport. You can go right around Venice, trot over to Murano Island glass museum or go swimming at Lido. More importantly, if staying on Giudecca Island, as we were, you have a boat coming and going every eight minutes in both directions.
So, take a trip at random, right around to the other side of Venice to the stop after the Hospital and just walk the streets. You’ll miss the crowds, find delightful shady restaurants that won’t rip you off and you will begin to enjoy Venice a whole lot more. Get lost, it’s truly the best way to enjoy the city and eventually you come across the Rialto, or Basilica San Marco or Accademia bridges and the next waterbus to another destination.

Discover the Peggy Guggenheim museum (wish it was just a house really would be more fascinating to see it as Peggy left it I think). Find La Chiesa del Redentore and whatever you do, don’t use a Gondola – it’s just too naff and costs a fortune. We saw one guy miming to a tape as he took his tourists through the canals.

Instead, grab your towel and swimming costume, jump on the 82N going to Lido and when you land, walk up the main street, (some amazing buildings to see on the way) and stop at the free beach at the top. (If you really want a hut, well it might set you back 225 euros for a day, so free beach it is. The swimming is fine, there’s a shower to hose off and a bar and restaurant and no stink of fish and chips…a big plus. The Italians love their beaches but they like it comfortable too. (The sand was so hot I still have blisters, so take flip-flops).

That’s the beauty of Venice, you can tire of staring at ruins and canals and the crowds – so it is always worth taking a swim suit along, just to escape, even for a few hours. The season runs from May to end of September. The hotels are huge if you feel inclined and won’t be cheap. (A one-bed apartment sells for around 500,000 euros on Lido, so it’s not cheap).

Bored of the Venice and the beach, well Murano Island is just a short hop from there and the glass museum beckons. Remember it might look colourful there but will it fit with your décor at home?

I leave San Marco till last. It’s a nightmare to be honest. Packed out all day and what is so special about feeding pigeons? Best to see the place at 5am I think at first light. And yes avoid the restaurant s and coffee bars. Hemingway wouldn’t be seen dead there now, so think about that as you pay 20$ for a coffee.

For Kit, pictured right, this was her first visit and she was blown away by the city - it is unique and this from a girl who has lived in Amsterdam. More than five hundred years of history packed onto some small islands and when you think it's heyday was at least four hundred years ago it make you realise that Venice is a survivor.

Venice, full of art, history, hard to take a bad shot, the pastries are fine, they, unlike the French totally understand what a Café Latte is and each café has a toilet, something else the French don’t comprehend. It’s a beautiful city and perhaps if planning a visit, go slightly off season, it’s less crowded, they’ll be more pleased to see you and you will less stressed. But go. Everyone should go at least once, do it soon before global warming takes it away forever.

Kit and I stayed on Giudecca Island at the Domina Giudecca Hotel Corte Ferrando
check out dominahotels.com
We highly recommend it. Anna behind the desk is a delight and the breakfast was brilliant.
The Ferrando alleyway is hard to find – ask them to repaint the sign and opening your curtain in the morning to see a huge cruise ship sail by your window is just plain astonishing. (Or you can stay on the canalside). *Catch the Zattere waterbus to the island 82N

You can fly there via Easyjet from Gatwick (It was fine and uncomplicated the check-in staff were great.)
You can also catch a train there from London’s Victoria station but the price is murder at £1800 sterling. (But would love to do it). http://www.orient-express.com/web/vsoe/holidays/3_970.jsp

And here’s the Hilton site: via hotels.com
Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
Giudecca 810, Venice, Italy 30133
Tel: 39-041-2723311 Fax: 39-041-27234900
http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/VCEHIHI-Hilton-Molino-Stucky-Venice/index.do


© Sam North July 17th 2007
Editor of Hackwriters.com


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