by Monica Conrady
ow romantic was the unanimous response when I told friends Id be meeting my husband in Venice. Over-touristy, crumbing away and slowly sinking into the lagoon Venice may be, but the romantic images persist:gondolas gliding through the canals at sunset, young lovers lingering on old stone bridges, charming little piazzas around every corner Venice just spells romance.
The logistics for our rendezvous were daunting. Ray, my husband, was flying in from San Francisco via London with a change of airports. I was commuting from Montenegro via Croatiaby car to Dubrovnik, bus to Split, an overnight ferry to Ancona, Italy, then a train to Venice, changing in Bologna. Whew!
The chance of a major glitz in these arrangements was huge, but fortunately all went smoothly. We met up at our hotel, tired and travel weary, but happy to be successfully reunited.
The Hotel Abbazia is a charming place tucked away on a side street, just steps away from Venices Santa Lucia train station. It adjoins the Church of the Scalzi, and is part of the monastery complex of the Barefoot Carmelite friars. Their 50 rooms have all the modern conveniences bathroom, satellite TV, air conditioning (or heating) and telephone with some overlooking the private inner garden, where guests may take breakfast and relax on comfy armchairs.
After catching up on all our news, we set off for Piazza San Marco (St. Marks Square), the spiritual heart of Venice.
Boarding a vaporetto, or waterbus, we sailed off down the Grand Canal, the citys main thoroughfare, busy with water taxis, police boats, garbage barges, ambulance boats you name it as well as the graceful, black gondolas Venice is famous for. Passing some grand old palaces, we came to the Rialto Bridge, lined with shops and jammed with tourists. Reaching the Square, we made our way to St. Marks Basilica and took a self-guided tour. The gilded mosaics covering the walls and ceiling literally took our breath away.
We then made our way to Teatro La Fenice, Venices Opera House. Originally built in 1774, it was burned to the ground three times, the last fire being in 1996. The present Opera House was re-built in 2001 in the 19th century style; the first opera staged there was La Traviata in 2004.
Back at the hotel, we headed to the lounge for an evening aperitif. The ancient refectory of the Carmelite Brothers has been transformed into an elegant sitting room, complete with bar. The original wood pulpit from where the friars read the scriptures while eating their meals is still there, providing an ideal spot for a souvenir photo.
The way to really discover the romance and beauty of Venice is to walk. Forget maps; no matter how much you plot your route, you still get lost and no matter how lost you get, you will make delightful discoveries.
And walk we did. For the next few days, we wandered around, visiting ancient churches and interesting museums, sipping a glass of Prosecco and dining al fresco in canal-side cafes.
It was hard to say ciao to Venice, but we promised ourselves wed be back, sooner rather than later. Venice has that effect on one.
Interlude in Venice
Monica Conrady photo
Hotel Abbaziz Lounge
Monica Conrady photo