Ciao Venice, we are back!
It has been 3 years since our first time visiting Venice back during our honeymoon. While I was planning our Spain trip, I saw firework photos of the Festa del Redentore (a big festival in Venice each year during the third weekend of July, it celebrates since the end of the plague of 1576, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festa_del_Redentore) and I found out that we'll be in Europe during that time. How can we miss this right? And another excuse to go back to Venice which is our #2 favorite place on Earth! For every big events while traveling aboard, the most important things to secure first are hotel and flight! I started to look at both 4 months prior. I found an incredible deal in Hotwire, hot rate for a 5 stars hotel in the island of Giudecca (where the fireworks will take place) for $138 per night that weekend!!! How can you beat that! That rate is less than a 3 stars hotel in San Marco area. The risk of booking a hot rate hotel from Hotwire is that the identity of the hotel will be revealed after you make the payments and no cancellation. I have searched the net for 5 stars hotel in Giudecca and only two so can't go wrong with either one! I made up my mind and booked right away and turned out to be the Hilton Molino Stucky!
After 18 hours of flight, we finally made it to Venice (7 hours from Boston to Madrid, then a long layover from Madrid to Rome ~2.5 hours and Rome to Venice ~ 1 hour). We were tired but worth every effort to get back to Venice! We arrived at Marco Polo Airport around 5:45 pm, first we went to the Tourist Information Desk (on the right side after you get out to the arrival hall) and bought our museum passes and water bus (ACTV) travel cards. The museum pass is 24 euros and reduced is 18 euros (with Rolling Venice card for tourists aged between 14 and 29 for 4 euros), the 32 hours travel card is 25 euros and the reduced 72 hours pass is 22 euros. Then we headed to the left side to counter 71 to pick up our shared water taxi service to our hotel. I booked this ahead from Venice Link, it was 100 euros round trip for 2 of us. We got a ticket and the guy instructed us to follow the white canopy all the way to the end to get to the water taxi, the walk was around 5 minutes and the path was okay with our luggage. When we got there, three pairs of couples were already in the taxi so total 8 passengers.
I was praying for the water taxi to go through Grand Canal route and it came true! It was an amazing ride down the Grand Canal! We got out of the cabin and took photos, that's already worth every penny of the ride!
Our water taxi dropped one pair of couple off after the Rialto Bridge then headed to San Marco!
Another couple got off San Marco square and then four of us left headed to the Hilton. There's no need to tip the driver, I heard someone was asking this question at the service desk at the airport. Check-in was quick, we got an upgrade since hubby is a Hilton Honors Diamond member with free breakfast and access to the Executive Lounge, what a deal!
We got to our room, boy the hotel is huge, with different towers! The room is small but it's Venice which I already expected (still bigger than our Paris room). The decors are new with marble bathroom and a nice Murano glass chandelier!
After we dropped off our luggage, we headed out for dinner, we were pretty starving by then (we had a sandwich at the airport in Madrid for lunch). We walked down and checked the menu out from each restaurant with outside seating. We passed by around 6 restaurants and picked Ostaria ae Botti to have our first dinner at Venice. Service was very slow as expected since Italians will not rush like us LOL! We got seated on the 2nd row by the lagoon, the view of Zattere was amazing!
We ordered the 2 appetizers: soute mussels and clams (15 euros) and shrimp cocktails (12 euros), and main courses we ordered the steak fillet grilled (22 euros) and the "Fried Mixed Real" (mix of seafoods) for 25 euros, a liter of water was 4.5 euros. The shrimp cocktails were excellent; I like the sauce which is not the cocktail sauce we used to have in the US, soute mussels and clams were okay, my grilled steak was great quality, and hubby's mixed fried seafood was the best! The fried shrimps and clams were my favorite! The total price of the dinner was 91.50 euros, they automatically added 12% service charge which is not bad for a great dinner in Venice with excellent view!
After a great dinner, it was a very nice walk back to the hotel. We stopped by the Executive Lounge, it was still open till 11 pm, with free water and drinks and fruits throughout the day. We had a bottle of my favorite Fanta and went back up to our room.
Good night Venice, it's the only the beginning of our trip and we already enjoy every single second of it!