January 20 2010
It was 1.30am when I got back to my hotel during the last Venice Biennale – my dinner had run late. “You should be ashamed of yourself,” the nightwatchman barked in Italian as he grudgingly unlatched the front door. It was my fault. I should have known better than to splash out on a fancy hotel in Venice: it’s one of the few cities where five-star prices reliably deliver one-star service (“Who cares?” the locals seem to shrug, “They have to come back anyway”).
And I’d only treated myself because my usual hotel, La Calcina, was full. It’s been owned and run by the same family for decades, on the waterfront at the Zattere a few minutes from the Accademia bridge. The three-star pensione is basic – parquet floors, antique furniture – but the 29 rooms are Ruskin-endorsed (he wrote a chunk of The Stones of Venice while staying here) and the canalfront location unbeatable. I splurge on one of the slightly pricier rooms, with views of La Redentore; but nothing is more relaxing or romantic than breakfast, which is served on a waterfront terrace.
Stuck at my grouchy hotel, I was jealous of my smart, arty friends who snagged the berths at La Calcina during the Biennale (including one wealthy, but savvy, collector). I bet they’re weren’t ever upbraided for coming home late after dinner.
Doubles from €90 in low season, Redentore-view doubles from €150.