Venice: Agents Weigh in on Magical City



As Venice runs almost entirely on water-taxis and vaporettos, its quiet streets are left to pedestrians


Mention Venice, and people immediately begin to share memories of their experiences in the city. They swoon about the canals, rave about the museums and smack their lips when talking about the meals. And not just tourists—travel agents, too, speak in superlatives when talking about Venice.

“I love Venice for the uniqueness it has with the canals,” says Barbara Vitella-Howell of Cruises & Tours by Brennco. “There is no other place I have been to that has this appeal. No cars, stoplights, traffic or honking—just the quiet of the streets with people walking.” Once an urban explorer wanders off the proverbial beaten path, she says, all one can hear is one’s own footsteps—“which is something that we don’t hear anymore.”

“The early morning hours of Venice with people cleaning, sweeping and washing the sidewalks is such a pleasant sight,” she continues. “All the little walkways over the canals [and] the little streets are so picturesque [that] you always have to stop and take pictures.”

Another fan of the city, Stacy Small, president of Elite Travel International, says, “I just returned from Venice a few weeks ago, it’s one of my favorite cities. It’s totally fascinating to see how the entire city operates around the canals, via water taxis [and] vaporettos [the public ‘bus’].”

She goes on, “I love to just walk around and explore the city and its alleyways filled with interesting shops—small boutiques to high-end designer stores, cafés and pizzerias.” (The best, she says, is Ponte del Rialto, near the famous Rialto Bridge). She recalls the fun boat trip over to Murano to see how glass is made although the mainland has better prices. And if your clients want a beach day, Small suggests Lido Island—“just a short boat ride away.”

Small’s tip for agents: “Pre-arrange airport transfers for clients, as it’s very confusing and time-consuming if you haven’t been to the Venice airport before.” She recommends J&J Services ([email protected]).

Where to Stay

One of the newest hotels in Venice is the Hotel Centurion Palace, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The hotel is a former convent of Palazzo Genovese, and maintains its historic details beautifully.

For rooms at the hotel, we hear the most popular are the Bilevel Suite Deluxe and Junior Suite Deluxe, both of which overlook the Grand Canal. Butler service is available upon request in all rooms. For a truly romantic experience in the hotel’s restaurant, request one of the five exclusive tables on the terrace, which also have views of the Grand Canal. (Try to reserve these as far out as possible.)

Although General Manager Paolo Morra (011-39-0413-4281) is available to answer agents’ questions, they may prefer to get in touch with Reception Manager Giulio Torelli ([email protected], 011-39-0413-4281).

Then, there’s Design HotelsPalazzina Grassi, a 26-room boutique hotel created by artist Philippe Starck. We hear Johnny Depp stayed in one of the Gran Canal suites—which are the only rooms in the hotel with a view of the canal. (Be sure to request these when making reservations; at least your client should be able to see over the city’s gorgeous rooftops.)

For a swank event, head to the private Krug Lounge, where guests can taste the best Krug paired with seasonal food. (We hear the handmade gnocchi are especially delicious.)

Travel agents should contact Sales and Marketing Manager Simona Veronesi (011-39-0412415818) for details.

Where does a luxury travel specialist stay while in Venice? Small “stayed at the newly renovated Hotel Cipriani, which is a destination in and of itself. The property is just across from St. Mark’s Square, a five-minute boat ride away.”

Fortunately, she adds, the hotel has a complimentary 24/7 shuttle service for guests. The property has an “amazing” swimming pool, a spa and tennis courts—all of which make it “a resort within the city.” Another good touch? It has the “best bellinis in the city!”

She also suggests The Gritti Palace “for its private residential feel, amazing service and canal views.” For dining, she recommends the Restaurant La Cusina at the Westin Regina & Europa, which serves Venice-influenced tapas and seafood. Best part? Diners can sit canal-side. She praises the Luna Baglioni for its Venetian feel, especially the beautiful Murano glass chandeliers and pieces.

What to Do

There are lots of wonderful museums throughout Venice where art aficionados can lose themselves for hours. The Academy Galleries house the major collections of Venetian painting from 1300 to 1700; the G. Franchetti Gallery has the important paintings, while the Guggenheim collection has international works of contemporary art. In the Palazzo Grassi, exhibitions of international interest are organized every year. There is also the museum of 18th-century Venice with tapestries, attire, furniture and paintings; the National Gallery of Modern Art; the Oriental Museum; and the Correr Museum, which is reserved for Renaissance masterpieces.

What should Venice-bound travelers bring with them? “A pair of comfortable walking shoes—plus a light jacket with a hood,” Vitella-Howell says, noting that the weather can be damp.

Most importantly, she adds, “you must be prepared to be lost. I haven’t found a map that really works. If you picture Venice as a fish, this will help you find your way around. I prefer to stay away from St. Mark’s Square so I can have quiet, which means I stay up by the railway station. It is easy to get around taking a vaporetto, [which is] not too expensive. Water taxis are nice but can be pricey.”

While Venice appeals to people at different levels, for Vitella-Howell it “is just a quaint place to visit, an area where you can leisurely walk around and enjoy. You can’t rush anywhere, because you only have your feet to do the walking—so what is the hurry?”


room in Hotel Cipriani in Venice

A room at the recently renovated Hotel Cipriani in Venice



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