Tuesday, January 2, 2018

About a solo dinner and a most interesting vaporetto ride from Marco Polo Airport to Venice

There are many ways to travel to Venice, and I've done most of them, including sailing through the Grand Canal on a Silversea cruise ship, hiring a private speedboat, and sharing a vaporetto (which is a water taxi in Venice) with strangers. The vaporetto ride from Marco Polo airport to the Danieli Hotel, one of the loveliest and most historic hotels in Venice, certainly takes the cake for being the most interesting,

Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy

Some years back, I spent one week alone in Venice, this hauntingly beautiful lagoon city, in between holidays with friends. I always take one solo trip a year to either a favourite destination or a new one; and although I'd visited Venice twice as a child, I'd never set foot there again. So I thought it was high time for another visit to this beautiful city, one of the most romantic places and popular destinations in Italy.



A VENICE FULL OF RICH AMERICAN TOURISTS



The boats of Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy
It was at the height of a European summer and a strong global economy, and Venice was full of prosperous and confident tourists – many of them Americans pursuing culture and other pleasurable diversions. I had flown in from Rome on my own after a holiday on the Amalfi Coast with friends; eager to rediscover this hauntingly beautiful city.




Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy
After so long, suddenly the idea of exploring Venice’s maze of canals and alleys called out. I still remember how the inspiration to visit Venice came about. 

I was in Rome, having breakfast at the Hotel Hassler in Rome, when the idea hit me; and within that same day, the concierge at the Hotel Hassler in Rome had booked my flights and hotel in Venice and the next day I found myself landing at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport and waiting for the hotel's private boat to take me to the Danieli Hotel in Venice proper, one of the best hotels in Venice.



Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy

WEALTHY (OR MAYBE ANGRY?) 
AMERICANS ABROAD

From the start, my Venetian adventure was full of vignettes of the wealthy American abroad.

Upon arrival in Venice, I spent about 30 minutes at the landing station waiting for the Danieli's hotel boat when an unhappy couple dragged their suitcases next to me. I watched slightly fascinated as the couple exchanged furiously angry glances at each other, and then finally the man kicked one of the bags so hard it fell into the water and had to be retrieved with a stick.


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I guess they'd been fighting either on the plane or just upon landing at Marco Polo Airport. We then spent a wordless 10 minutes together in the heat, until I finally lost my patience waiting for the boat transfer in this unhappy atmosphere. So I walked up to one of the boat porters and asked him in my best travel Italian:

"Where is the hotel boat?"


A vaporetto in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy

Of course, this being Italy, he didn't know. Or he didn't care and he thought we were just being OC tourists for wanting to check into the Danieli as soon as possible. This was Venice, after all, where time has stood still for centuries. In this context, what's another hour of waiting for a water taxi, right?

"What time is it arriving?" I continued, already feeling this was going to be a useless conversation. But I persisted anyway. This is very uncharacteristic of me, by the way, because, if you know me, you'll know that I never indulge in anything useless. Life's too short.

The Italian gave a shrug. And this was when the male half of the sullen couple piped in, in English: "Isn't there a schedule for the boat?" I realized then that they were Americans. The Italian boat porter again gave his already predictable shrug.


SHARING A VAPORETTO INTO VENICE


A vaporetto in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy


I then turned to the couple and said, "We can share a taxi if you want. The water taxis can be notorious rip-offs for tourists, but if we split the bill, the costs won't be too bad and it will be better than waiting around here."

I could think of better ways of reaching Venice than sharing a private vaporetto (which is a smaller and faster water taxi compared to the public vaporetto, which is more like a bus) with a feuding couple; but I was tired and eager for an aperitif and a proper dinner. I'd booked a table with a view at the rooftop restaurant of the Danieli, and I'd already made up my mind to have a four-course dinner with a bottle of good local wine, and to eat alone with an engrossing book.

Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy


FIRST VIEW OF VENICE


After so long, my first view of Venice from afar, with its intricate palace roofs and church spires rising dramatically out of the water, filled me with wonder. I could not imagine why I had stayed away for years.

And the historic and ancient Danieli Hotel, at the mouth of the Grand Canal and next to the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, was magical.


The lobby of the famous Danieli Hotel in
Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy


The Danieli Hotel is a lovely place with a Moorish-inspired lobby straight out of a fairy tale. Even now, I never fail to walk through the lobby of the Danieli Hotel and catch my breath at the gorgeous spectacle in front of me.

That first time at the Danieli, I got a suite in the main building with French windows and a little terrace that overlooked a canal. I flung the windows open just in time to hear the peals of the nearby church bells and a gondolier’s lyrical shouts from below. It was at this moment that I felt my Venice adventure had begun.

GOING SOLO IN VENICE




Anyway back to my story.

That same evening, I booked a terrace table for a solo dinner at the Danieli’s rooftop restaurant. I could’ve ordered pasta from room service and stayed in with a book, but I figured Venice alone had to be done in style.

I sat down to dine just as the summer sun was setting and ordered a plate of linguine with Venice clams in a white wine sauce and a bottle of local wine. The rooftop restaurant of the Danieli was the perfect place to enjoy views of the city as it settled into its evening routine. In fact, it turned out to be an incredibly long four-hour meal.


The rooftop restaurant of The Danieli in Venice

DEBUTANTES AT DINNER

Next to me was a long table of East Coast debutante-types being chaperoned by an elderly matron, who also took it upon herself to educate the young ladies on the charms of Italy.

She read aloud poetry on Venice and a chapter on the history of St. Mark’s Basilica and the surrounding areas, before starting a discussion on fine dining deportment and good manners.

It was very good entertainment to eavesdrop on this dinnertime lecture, on my first evening in Venice, living a #Travelife. As for the feuding couple, well, upon checking into the Danieli, I never saw them again.



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