You might say this blog started here – Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo. But where does anything truly start? Where does the first seed germinate? Let us anyway begin in August 2006. Newly single, just moved house, I wanted a holiday. I’d recently subscribed to Conde Nast’s Traveller magazine as part of my intention to travel as much as I could. There I found an article on Venice – and this little hotel. I was fairly easy about dates; tried to book online and had no luck so I rang. I took the only available six nights in August. It was their smallest room they told me, no view they apologised, but a nice room. It was. It was a lovely and perfect room.
At that time there was no direct water bus from the airport (as there is now) and the quickest way was by road bus to Piazzale Roma and then a vaporetto to San Stae. However, I was in no hurry and took the long way round: water bus to St Mark’s Square – where I stopped briefly for a coffee – and then a vaporetto up the Grand Canal to San Stae. Who can fail to be awed by the sight of Venice arriving this way? The wonderful view as the water bus crosses from the Lido towards the main island? The tall campanile in St Mark’s Square apparently rising like a miracle from the water, the sparkling white and pale pink marble of the Doge’s Palace fronting the sea and then, behind it, the voluptuous curves of the cathedral itself – St Mark’s.
As I crossed the little bridge that forms the entrance to Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo and looked through the heavy iron gate into the courtyard below, I knew this was perfect.
The welcome was so warm. They’d been a little worried about me because everyone else on my flight had arrived a while ago. I explained my long route – mad dogs and Englishwomen, I thought. They, however, were polite and friendly and showed me to my beautiful room. The hotel only has two stars and this must be because it’s so small and the lack of facilities perhaps, like a large communal area … I don’t know. But the room – the hotel! – was a delightful surprise.
It was the most perfect place for a newly single woman to stay alone: small and intimate, peaceful despite its proximity to the Rialto area, but above all the warmth of Sandro and Walter who run it. I was lucky with the weather and despite dire warnings from people about Venice being smelly in the summer, it wasn’t. I loved starting my day sitting in the beautiful courtyard for breakfast in the morning. In the evening it was lit by soft lights and after I’d returned from an evening meal, I’d be brought a pot of camomile tea and could sit quietly contemplating the world or reading a book. I wished my Italian was better (Sandro and Walter speak English well) for whoever was on duty at the desk and brought me tea would be friendly and ask me about my day.
When I left, I knew I wanted to go back soon. The next April and the following one, I returned with my son and daughter – who love it as much as I do. Discussing its perfection and that we couldn’t imagine anywhere nicer, I said to Nicola that I supposed if we could ever afford it it would be nice to try the Cipriani. Yes, she said, we’d try it maybe – but then come back to Al Ponte Mocenigo the next time!
I haven’t been for three years – too long! However, my son and daughter-in-law have just stayed there on the last leg of their honeymoon. Was it the same? I asked my son, when I picked them up at Gatwick. I’ve seen it recommended in a lot of places now and was worried it might not be the same; somehow spoiled. But no. I was assured it was just the same … Walter was on holiday but they’d talked with Sandro about his coming holiday in the Dolomites … everything was as a lovely as ever. I feel such affection for the hotel and I’m longing to go back with each word I write. Now? … next spring? Maybe I can get there next April?