Venice.. oh my lovely Venice…

Hotel

Hotel Riva‘s location, literally on the back side of the St. Mark’s square, made it really convenient for us to get to most of the attractions that most tourists come to Venice to see. We paid 140 Euro/night for our double-room, in-suite bathroom, A/C and a canal view. Next time, I probably would not pay the extra 20Euro to pay for the canal view. But I would definitely stay at this location again, the location is hard to beat!

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Breakfast was very basic, literally hard rolls and fruit jams or nutella. Drinks selection was coffee, hot chocolate, teas, or juice. It was very basic, but at this point, we were getting used to the continental breakfast and was fine with it.

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Hotel & train station– arrival tip
  • One thing that I wish that I would have known was that, I should plan to either arrive early in the morning, before 9AM or late afternoon, after 5PM. The crowd in the afternoon is almost unbearable; and it’s not fun navigating through the crowds while pulling your suitcase through unfamiliar cobblestone streets.
  • I also did not research enough on Venice and wasn’t aware that I could have bought my vaparetto’s (water-bus) ticket ahead of time. This would have saved me at least the 30-45 mins we spent waiting on the line getting the one way ticket to the hotel. Our hotel would have been about 35-mins walk from the train station, and was about less than 10 mins walk from the closest water-bus station.
  • The toilet in the train station is free of charge! I took advantage of it as soon as I got off the train, since I wasn’t sure how long before I was able to get to the hotel.

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Restaurants & Gelataria Reviews

Ristorante Al Conto
This restaurant was the best restaurant that we ate at in Italy. The quality of the food (the freshness of their seafood), ambiance, service, wine selection, and overall value for your money. This place is tucked in a corner of one of the small streets off the main drag of Riva degli Schiavoni and a little bit hard to find… but totally worth it!

When we first found it, it was around 1:30 in the afternoon, and the waitress said the kitchen was closed, and asked if we wanted to make a reservation and come back that evening? We said yes, and so glad we did. We arrived around 7:30PM, which was early for Italians, but early enough that we got to select our private table tucked in the corner of their small courtyard, just outside the main entrance to their restaurant.

The chef and owner Cesare Benelli and his Texas-born wife, Diane, were out mingling with guests and asked if we enjoyed our food. It was just a superb experience for us and I savored every delicious minute of our dinner that evening.

Mike ordered their chef’s specialty that night, which includes a starter of fresh pasta, a second course of meat and dessert. The first course was homemade pasta with a very delicate clam-sauce, a grape tomato, and fresh dill. The pasta literally melted in my mouth, with just enough flavoring in the broth.

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The second course, was a seared top round beef, cooked just enough to provide some crispiness to the outside edges.

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Oh, and there was a small plate of this wonderful marinated chopped eggplant that was seasoned to perfection.

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I ordered their delicious fritto misto (a sampler of fried fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables) with scampi, squid, baby red snapper, white fish, cuttlefish and fried vegetables.  This is a specialty dish that you will find in every Ventian restaurant.

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There is also a nice little mound of potato strings, crispy in the outside and soft in the inside. There wasn’t any greasy feeling that you’d typically get in fried bar-food. Everything was fried to perfection, I could not find any bits of burnt pieces.

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I asked, “What type of vegetables would I have?”

The waiter said, “Mushrooms.”

I said, “Do you have zucchini flowers?”

He shook his head and said, “Let me ask the chef, since you know… he’s the super star.”

He went in, came back shortly and said, “Yes of course, we can make those for you.”

My heart sang! Red’s face lit up! I had been dreaming about these delicate little flowers since I first read about them in one of my favorite books of all time, A Thousand Days in Venice.

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Osteria alla Staffa

This place was literally a hole in the wall, with six tables and a small bar. We found it on a rainy afternoon when we felt like we had just missed a lunch crowd, and wanted to sit somewhere by the window, and people watch. There was no menu & no English spoken. I ordered a plate of spaghetti with onion sauteed with bacon and arugula. It was so simple and delicious. When I first saw the plate, I thought, on no, there wasn’t enough sauce. Boy, was I wrong. There was a perfect amount of olive oil in this dish, and I wasn’t missing my tomato-based sauce. This dish was simplicity at its best.

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Red ordered spaghetti primavera, and it was pretty good. It didn’t have any meat in it, so I knew that he was missing his protein. But it was delicious. Our table was right by the window so we could look out and watch the rain and people go by. We ordered two beers, these two pasta dishes and two espresso. The bill came to about 23 Euro, which was an awesome deal in Venice, or anywhere in Italy really. We would definitely seek this place out again when we return!

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