Article and photos by Josh Steinitz
Venice is famous for many things – history, architecture, art, shopping…and crowds. While the city’s charms are justly world famous, the hordes along the Rialto or in St. Mark’s Square are only marginally less so. That’s why those who know Venice well seek out havens of peace and tranquility where, only steps from the most popular landmarks, visitors can luxuriate in the city’s history, views, and natural charms unadulterated by vendors, hawkers, and children crying in any one of twenty languages.
On a recent visit to the city, my wife Sylvia and I had the pleasure of staying at the Bauer Hotels’ exclusive Villa F property. Just steps away from the Bauer Palladio on the island of Guidecca, and a short 5-minute boat ride directly across from the original Bauer Hotels on the Grand Canal, Villa F offers an island of tranquility in a sea of activity, with some interesting and unique flourishes to boot.
Upon checking in, we were introduced to our personal butler, Robin, who would cater to our needs throughout our stay. Instead of walking through a lobby and into a typical hotel room, we were escorted directly into our luxury apartment, with an inviting high-ceilinged sitting room, a large window opening onto a garden courtyard, and an attractive bedroom. The place was ours for the next 48 hours, and we felt at home. Instead of being in a hot, cramped and musty room backed up tightly against a narrow canal or across from another façade, we had two spacious and airy rooms, with and surprisingly effective thermostat, cool drinks and fresh strawberries, and a beautiful garden around which we could ramble. Beyond the garden (more than just decorative, it had tomatoes on the vine), a small but stylish swimming pool was available. Wandering further, we reached the back courtyard of the Bauer Palladio, where we explored the spa area — one of the city’s finest. Though in view of the city’s top attractions, the waters dividing Guidecca from Dorsoduro and San Marco seemed to provide perfect isolation without sacrificing convenience.
We toured the more well-known Bauer properties—Il Pallazzo and L’Hotel—located at the prestigious point where the Grand Canal meets the main channel just before St. Mark’s Square. Like their sister properties on Giudecca, these classic properties offer a bit of tranquil luxury amidst the hustle and bustle of the area. Though we didn’t stay there, these properties offer the classic Venice luxury hotel experience, with a history and location that can’t be beat.
On our first evening, we walked through Canareggio to a small restaurant on a small side street just off the main drag. La Colombina is a small neighborhood gem, with classic Venetian pastas like tagliolini with clams and mussels, linguini arrabiata, and other “fatto en casa” (homemade) dishes.
The following day, after a bit of leather-goods shopping at Bata, we walked through some quiet side streets of the Castello district. There we stumbled upon the unique restaurant Luna Sentada, specializing in a mixture of Italian and Asian dishes – a unique combination we saw nowhere else in Venice. This wasn’t some hole-in-the-wall selling kebabs and pizza, but a unique spot that takes its food seriously. Sylvia took the owner’s recommendation and ordered the fresh pasta with black truffles just in from Umbria, which were gently shaved over her plate.
After more rambling in Dorsoduro through some of the streets full of art galleries near the Guggenheim collection, we walked along the seawall, around the customs house to watch the busy early evening boat traffic, and back to the Bauer Pallazzo, where we caught the free boat back to the Palladio and Villa F.
That evening, we decided to keep it local, and sampled a Giudecca canalside restaurant where Italian seemed to be the only other language spoken by the other diners. The restaurant specialized in Sicilian cuisine, and we enjoyed some lasagna with lamb ragu, clams and mussels in broth, and a hearty pasta with sundried tomato pesto—nothing special to be sure, but at least a nice way to dine in peace and quiet within view of the most popular areas of the city.
Venice is reachable from the U.S. via connecting flights from almost every major European hub city, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, and Rome.
The Bauer Hotels offer a variety of classically luxurious and unique properties in Venice. The Palazzo is the grand dame of the bunch, with the ultimate location of prestige where the Grand Canal meets the Guidecca Channel. Bauer’s L’Hotel provides an art deco alternative in the same location, with an impressive lobby and a rotating art exhibition of Venetian specialties. Across the channel in Guidecca via a short boat ride, the Bauer Palladio provides a similar level of service and luxury, but in much quieter surroundings, with an on-site spa, and a lush garden courtyard. Next door, you’ll find Bauer’s Villa F, where couples and families can enjoy privacy, butler service, and room to spread around, along with a private plunge pool and garden and access to Palladio’s facilities.