December 14, 2015

Venice, on Our Own

As much as I appreciate all the sights that are squeezed into an organized tour of Italy there were times when I wished I could wander off down a picturesque alleyway or stop for a closer look through an intriguing shop window. Our tour was over but I wasn't ready to go home yet. It was time to slow things down a bit and explore the city of Venice on our own.

A Quiet Canal in Venice

We packed up our bags, boarded a crowded vaporetto with the locals, and moved on to the neighbourhood of Dorsoduro. Only a short boat ride away from the crowds in Piazza San Marco, Dorsoduro is home to modern art at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Renaissance masterpieces at the Accademia Gallery and the Museum of Eighteenth Century Venice at Ca’ Rezzonico.

A Vaporetto, or Venetian Water Bus

When I venture out on my own in Europe, I rely on the advice of tour guide author Rick Steves and Pensione la Calcina is another one of his winning recommendations. This small, family-run hotel combines the charm of a historic building with modern bathrooms, air conditioning and free wifi (but no elevator). British art critic John Ruskin stayed here in 1877 while he was writing The Stones of Venice.

Pensione la Calcina, Venice

Our clean, comfortable room on the top floor overlooked the Giudecca Canal.

The View from Our Room

I started each day with cappuccino and a view at La Piscina, the floating terrace that serves as the hotel's breakfast room.

La Calcina's Floating Terrace, La Piscina

Breakfast with a View

I also enjoyed a dinner here that looked as good as it tasted. The Rossini is a version of the Bellini cocktail made with strawberries rather than the traditional peach.

A Rossini, or Strawberry Bellini

After my Rossini I dined on sea bass and grilled vegetables, followed by my favourite Italian dessert, panna cotta.

Sea Bass with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers

Grilled Vegetables

Panna Cotta

For more information on this charming hotel, visit the Pensione la Calcina web site.

The hotel's central location on the Zattere waterfront promenade made it possible for us to explore the neighbourhood for an hour or two, return to our room to escape from the heat, and then venture out once more refreshed.

The Zattere Waterfront Promenade

 Santa Maria Gesuati

Santa Maria della Visitazione

There are plenty of restaurants nearby (including several Rick Steves' recommendations) as well as a handy Billa market where I was able to replenish my supply of sunscreen.

Gelati Nico

Ristorante Terrazza del Casin dei Nobili

Seafood Risotto

Venice is not known for its pizza but in the hometown of Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, Pizzeria OKE serves up a good Quattro Stagione (Four Seasons). This pizza is divided into four quarters and the toppings on each section represent the seasons: artichoke hearts for spring; olives for summer; mushrooms for autumn; and prosciutto for winter. 

Pizzeria OKE

Pizzeria OKE Outdoor Terrace

Quattro Stagione, Four Seasons Pizza

Dorsoduro is also home to the Squero di San Trovaso, a gondola workshop where the iconic boats are built and repaired. 

Rio de San Trovaso Canal

Squero di San Trovaso Gondola Workshop

A little further down the San Trovaso canal is Enoteca Cantine del Vino Già Schiavi, a tiny wine shop where you can sample the delicious Venetian bar snacks called cicchetti with a glass of Prosecco sparkling wine. You can stand at the bar or take your snacks outside.

Enoteca Cantine del Vino Già Schiavi

A Plate of Venetian Cicchetti

Prosecco Sparkling Wine

Crossing the canal and heading west we discovered a convenient spot for a quick sandwich, the Toletta Snack Bar.

Toletta Snack Bar

I was surprised to discover how easy it was to get from La Calcina to the Grand Canal and Accademia Bridge along Rio Terrà Foscarini. 

Rio Terrà Foscarini

Chiesa Sant'Agnese

Accademia Bridge

The tradition of attaching love locks to bridges has spread to Venice and the Accademia Bridge. I first came across these locks on the Pont des Arts in Paris. 

Love Locks on the Accademia Bridge, Venice

Love Locks on the Pont des Arts, Paris

View of the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

Bar Foscarini, near the Accademia Bridge

Accademia Gallery

La Calcina with its convenient Zattere vaporetto stop was an ideal home base for exploring more sights of Venice like Piazza San Marco and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. But those are stories for another day.

Zattere Vaporetto Stop

Next:  Piazza San Marco

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  1. Prosecco, risotto, ciabatta... Oh, my mouth is watering. Looks like a lovely place to be.

    1. Yes, we certainly weren't in any danger of going hungry! Have a Merry Christmas, Denise!


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