Friday, October 12, 2007

A convent stay in Venice

I'm very partial to Castello. I've stayed there a few times recently and it suits me perfectly.

Here's where I stayed with Alessandro - in a quiet, peaceful convent hotel next to Campo Santa Maria Formosa and very near Piazza San Marco. It's called Istituto San Giuseppe. I've stayed there twice with my sister, too.

There is a landing stage outside the front door (see picture), often used to tie up sleeping gondolas, the garbage scow or the supply barge for the nearby SUVE grocery store. There's also a take away pizza place one minute away.

You buzz to be let in and out, between 7.30am and 10.30pm. The sisters and the lay staff go out of their way to be friendly and polite. Almost all conversations are in Italian though, so brush up before you go.

The rooms are sparklingly clean and very, very quiet. The bathrooms are new. There is a lot of cupboard space. The beds are firm but very comfortable. For the price, 70 euros a double, there aren’t the glossy extras like bar fridge or television. Who needs them with Venice outside the door.

There is a vending machine on the ground floor that I use often – it has soft drinks, cookies, candy – that sort of thing. There is another set up on the first floor with free tea and coffee from a machine for those who prefer it.

There are some charming courtyards. You go through a large one after the front door, then after passing through the big hall with the vending machine, there is a another smaller courtyard filled with potted plants on the way to the elevator that takes you and your luggage up to your room.

There is a Venetian “piano nobile” up on the second floor. It's a beautiful room! This convent is also a preschool. A couple of times I have watched the teachers and the nuns with the children. You never hear any sounds at all from your rooms apart from the neighborhood church bells.

Sometimes, there is the sound of a pigeon cooing on your window sill.