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Venice 2013: The Arrival & Return to Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo

April 23, 2013

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It was by chance that I sat on the right side of the plane today and as my BA flight to Venice descended, I looked from my window and had a magnificent view of the collection of islands that is Venice. Bridges and canals connect them all together and as I spied the main ‘clump’ I could identify St Mark’s Square and see the Campanile soaring upwards towards the sky.

From Marco Polo Airport one can now take a vaporetto all the way to St Mark’s Square. I was heading for a stop a little before that – San Stae. I was returning to the lovely Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo for the 5th time. The fare was €27 for a return ticket. It’s quite a small vaporetto from the airport so be prepared for a bumpy ride!

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However, it’s just the onlyway to travel and it’s exciting to speed across the lagoon to your destination. I was the only person to disembark at San Stae and from the vaporetto stop it’s just a hundred metres or so to the hotel.

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It was so lovely to be back and instantly recognised and welcomed by Sandro who asked after my children, who have been here too; my son also came on his honeymoon trip round Italy a couple of years ago. I was shown to the ‘little room’ which I’d asked for, being on my own this time and it also being the cheapest room for the single traveller. It is, however, still a beautiful room and is the one I had on my very first trip here in 2006.

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I unpacked a few things and then set out to find some late lunch. I headed towards the nearby Rialto. The market was closing and stall holders tidying their things away. Just off the market area is a row of bars and restaurants and I headed for one I discovered last year when I was here with Annie: Osteria Bancogiro.

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I wanted just a couple of cicchetti – small snacks – and a glass of prosecco.

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I chose a crostini with ham and taleggio and a nera polenta with mantecato – creamed salt cod – on top.

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They were wonderful and the prosecco delicious and cool with a gorgeous nose. What a perfect place to settle and relax into my holiday here, watching the Venetian world go by: the Grand Canal just in front of me with vaporettos full of people chugging by and gondoliers trying to entice tourists on to their gondolas.

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Then I took a long walk, doing a loop that took in the main sights. First the Rialto bridge.

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Walking away and then looking back, it was a remarkably peaceful view as sometimes it’s like the worst rush hour jam of boats on this part of the canal.

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Winding my way through narrow alleyways I eventually came to the Accademia bridge and stood and admired the famous view, so often captured by artists and photographers.

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I was getting so close to St Mark’s I thought I might as well carry on and ‘do’ Venice properly before going back to the hotel. I cut down to the beginning of the Grand Canal by Harry’s Bar where you can look across to Santa Maria della Salute.

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Keeping to the border of the canal I made my way round to the square.

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Finally turning up into the square itself, past the Doge’s Palace and to the magnificent San Marco Basilica.

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I felt so lucky to have arrived on such a beautiful, sunny day. The bright blue sky made a wonderful backdrop to the cathedral. As I left the square I made my way back to Rialto, crossing the bridge again and passing the now deserted fish market before reaching the hotel.

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I had an early start this morning – waking at 5 am – to get to Heathrow for my flight. By the time I got back to the hotel I didn’t feel like venturing far for a meal so decided to try the little trattoria just behind the hotel – Osteria Mocenigo. (It’s not connected to the hotel.) I wanted to eat somewhere simple. Sandro booked me a table for 7.30. I went out of the back entrance, down the narrow alleyway and there it was.

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Inside it’s a simple but nice little local Italian restaurant. Two seemingly local older men were sitting at a table near the front chatting away over glasses of wine (in England it would have been pints of beer – but this is Italy!). I was warmly welcomed and I ordered a glass of prosecco which came with bread and the fat short breadsticks that are common here.

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I chose an antipasti and a pasta course: carpaccio of beef and then tagliatelle with prawns and courgettes to follow.

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The thin slices of raw beef were so tender and delicious. I then ordered a glass of house red – a local Raboso – to go with my meal and my pasta came.

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This was just the kind of simple good Italian cooking I wanted. The informal cosy osteria just the right place to be. While I was eating a young Australian – Amanda – came in and was sat at the table adjoining mine. We were soon talking and she told me that she and her husband were on a 6-month trip to Europe and based in Milan for a couple of months but she’d made a short trip here to Venice. We had such a great time chatting that it was 10.30 by the time I headed back to the hotel. But what a great way to spend my first night in Venice and London seems very far away.

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