If one wishes to feel like a guest in the house of an aristocratic Venetian rather than an anonymous tourist in a chain hotel, then a stay at the Pensione Accademia in Venice is a must. Formerly a patrician family residence, the seventeenth century Villa Marageve, or Villa of Wonders, became the Russian Embassy between the World Wars before establishing itself as an hotel in the 1950s. We have now known it for over forty years.
|water front entrance to the Pensione Accademia where we first stayed some forty years ago|
|the main entrance to the Hotel Accademia which continues, to this day, to be called Pensione|
Quietly positioned at the end of the Fondamenta Bollani, its leafy garden, a treasure in itself in Venice, is flanked by two small canals which flow busily on into the Grand Canal. Old fashioned and elegant, the 29 rooms are well appointed and comfortable and the most delicious of breakfasts are served outdoors in the summer months under vast sun umbrellas in the Pensione's courtyard.
|front facade of the Pensione Accademia - our room is to be seen top right, shutters closed|
|the view from our open window overlooking the garden and towards the Grand Canal|
It is hard to believe when one is enjoying the secluded peace of the Wisteria covered arbour in the Pensione Accademia garden that one is literally moments away from the bustling Accademia Bridge, the seething masses of St. Mark's Square, the crowded Vaporetto, and the heaving shops selling Carnival masks, Murano glass, Burano lace and 'I Love Venice' hats. And yet, in this green oasis, one is transported back to days of the Grand Tour when the delights of this most magical of cities could be savoured at a more refined and gentler pace.
|the piano nobile, bathed in sunshine, situated on the first floor of the Pensione Accademia|
|looking down onto the front garden of the Pensione, the arbour seen in the top left corner|
'No Fish, No Sundays' are the watchwords of Ristorante La Bitta, one of our favourite places to eat in Venice. Defiantly, and rather strangely we think, carniverous, and moderately priced, this unassuming restaurant delivers flavour in every course of its limited menu. Directed by the formidable Debora, a small flotilla of black-clad waiters navigate the narrow aisles with precision and panache. The daily menu, 'Antipasti, Primi and Secondi Piatti', appears on a miniature artist's easel. Stewed rabbit, carpaccio of beef, proscuitto with melon, chicken with lemon and basil, and veal with a mixed pepper sauce were all delicious. And the 'dolci' pannacotta with caramel sauce, tiramisu, and pear cake with hot chocolate sauce did not disappoint.
|tucked away in a narrow side street, Ristorante La Bitta is one of our favourite eating places|
Proximity to one's dining neighbours at La Bitta makes overhearing conversations unavoidably intriguing. Italian gossip left us largely in the dark but a discussion on the relative merits of psychotherapy and a debate about whether or not to inform parents about a secret engagement did amuse and add interest.
|it would be very easy to walk straight past La Bitta, hidden away as it is off the tourist trail|
On one particular late night, we were asked by a young couple at the next table if we could recommend a bar as they were planning on 'going on'. We replied that we knew of one run by a certain 'Harry', but were unsure if it was still as good as it had once been, and as we remembered it some forty years ago....