Monday, 30 May 2016

Restaurant Review: Trattario Alla Madonna (Venice, Italy)

Trattoria Alla Madonna

It was now evening when we ended our tour of the Rialto Bridge and it was now time for supper. We wanted to try a specialty of Venice - Spaghetti al nero di seppia (squid ink spaghetti). You can find this pasta dish in many authentic Venetian osterie or trattorias but one of the best that offers this dish is Trattoria alla Madonna, also said to have the best Seafood Risotto in Venice.  

Check out "Rialto Bridge"

It was very close to Rialto Bridge, a block off the Grand Canal but, as it was off the beaten path, we still needed to seek it out. We found La Madonna on a narrow alley far from the maddening crowd, in one of the most charming corners of the city.

This renowned seafood eatery was said to be often visited by cultural and show business celebrities who prefer an informal setting with an attentive quick service. However, their clientele is still diverse, with a mix of locals and tourists. The restaurant was opened in 1954 by Mr. Fulvio Rado but, for the last 35 years, it was managed by his son Lucio.

Upon arrival, we first noticed the antipasti counter and seafood chiller. As it was still early, we didn’t have to wait for our table. While seated, it was entertaining to watch the waiters, in their black trousers and starched white jackets, busily assembling antipasto plates and seafood dishes ordered by customers.

The dining area

The walls of the nine dining rooms of this popular and busy trattoria are all adorned with a wealth of Italian contemporary paintings of famous Italian artists. The menu was quite varied, with lasagna, spaghetti and soup but the fish dishes predominate.

Trattoria alla Madonna specializes in seafood and the main dishes in the menu of Venetian classics were fish dishes such as the Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia (squid-ink spaghetti), Antipasto Misto di Pesce, Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (seafood risotto) and the Fritto Misto (mixed seafood). They were  prepared in the most natural way to preserve the typical taste of each ingredient as well as enhance the typical flavors of each single dish.

Antipasti counter

Venetian Fried Sardines (10€)
For those who don’t love fish, they have of course an alternative menu with different traditional meat dishes such as Fegato alla Veneziana (liver), Scaloppine di Vitello (veal scaloppine) and Costato di Vitello (grilled veal chops). 

The traditional Venetian squid ink spaghetti we ordered (11, 00€) with its strong squid ink aroma, was excellent. A word of warning though.  Before leaving the restaurant, check that your lips and teeth are not stained with the black ink sauce.  

Roast Chicken (10€)
You might scare someone off when you smile in the dark. We also ordered Cutlet (breaded the Milanese way, 12, 00€), Venetian Fried Sardines (10, 00€) and Roast Chicken (10, 00€).

Though we didn’t order wine, their wine cellar offers a wide choice of wines from the Friuli region of Collio as well as any prestigious principal regional Italian wine labels such as Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Riserva.

It was not cheap but we had very good value for money.  The menu clearly states there is a 17% service fee, plus cover charge which is normal for many restaurants. Highly recommended.

Cutlet (breaded, Milanese way, 12€)

Spaghetti with squid ink (11, 00€) 

Trattoria alla Madonna: Calle della Madonna, San Polo 594, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.  Tel: 39 0415223824 | E-mail: Website:    Alla Madonna only takes reservations for tables of four or more.  If there’ only the two of you, just show up and join the queue.  It’s best to get there at 7 PM (when it opens) or after 9 PM. Tourists are ushered to the left section of the restaurant. All credit cards are accepted. The restaurant is closed on Wednesdays.

How to Get There:
Take the vaporetto (Line 1) and get off at "Rialto Mercato," a narrow street along the Rialto market street. From the foot of the Rialto Bridge, at the San Polo end of the bridge, turn left and follow the Riva del Vin along the Grand Canal. Look out for Sottoportego della Madonna, the second passageway on your right, which then becomes Calle della Madonna. Trattoria alla Madonna, with a big yellow sign across the street, is on your left. 

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Plaza Venice (Venice, Italy)

Date of Stay: May 30-June 1, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: ********
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: *******

Hotel Plaza Venice

About 50 m. across from Venezia Mestre Train Station (we did not have to walk far with our luggage), this contemporary, 4-star hotel is 9 kms. from the Venetian Lagoon (a 10-minute bus or train ride away to Santa Lucia Station) and 13 kms. from the iconic Saint Mark's Basilica. The 226 airy, elegant, spotlessly clean and spacious rooms, which range from classic and ornately decorated to sleek and modern, feature classic furnishings in warm colors. They have three different kinds of rooms: Classic (22 sq. m.), Executive (30 sq. m.) and Club (40 sq. m.).
Hotel lobby

They offer free wi-fi (you need to get a fresh user ID/password every third day from the reception), wall-mounted flat-screen TVs (about 40 channels, half of them Italian), work desk, magnetic key locks, fully-equipped bathroom with modern shower (some rooms feature marble bathrooms) and ample toiletries (they even provided a toothbrush) and hair dryer, electronic safe in the closet, coffee-making facility, and minibar.  Room service is available. The beds were very comfortable, with good quality sheets.  The carpeting was clean and the room was smoke free.

A free and extensive, Continental-style 
breakfast buffet, including eggs (scrambled or sunny side up), ham/bacon, yogurt, chocolate croissants, cereals, chocolate and cream brioche, fresh and canned fruit, tea, fruit juice, sausage, several kinds of cold cuts and cheeses, fruit salad, coffee/espresso (from a self-serve machine) and a variety of pastries, sweet pies and tarts, is served daily. 

The 24-hour trendy, eclectic ground floor Soul Kitchen Italian restaurant, with its bold, artsy d├ęcor, boasts an eclectic menu of Italian and international dishes. This doubles as bar in the evening. The smartly dressed staff, at the front desk, were very friendly, if a bit formal, spoke very good English and were professional.  Everyone, from the maid to the receptionist and the bell boy, were very helpful.
Buffet breakast

The hotel also has 3 meeting spaces, 2 small lifts and luggage storage room. There were several internet stations available for use in the lobby and the mezzanine floor. Pets are allowed with prior notice. 

Public parking is possible at a location nearby (reservation is not needed) and costs EUR 14 per day. There’s a large supermarket 5 mins down the road where you buy cheap snacks and drinks. There are several bus stops also across the street including bus #2 that will take you to Piazza di Roma in Venice. A public bus to Marco Polo Airport (a 20-min. drive) stops 100 m. from the hotel, while Treviso Airport is 25 kms. (a 40-min. drive) away.  
Soul Kitchen
Hotel Plaza VeniceViale Stazione, 36, 30171 Mestre, Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 929388.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel De La Pace (Florence, Italy)

Date of Stay: May 27-30, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: ********
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: *******

Hotel De La Pace

The elegant and refined, 3-star Hotel De La Pace, in the heart of the city, was created inside an elegant building from the late nineteenth century.  

Located in the restricted traffic zone (ZTL) of the historic center of Florence, the hotel’s 41 rooms, of various sizes (Single, Double, Double Standard, Double Superior, Family) are all very quiet and peaceful.

They are perfectly renovated and equipped with every comfort -  air conditioning, mini bar, work desks,electric kettle and coffee maker, safety deposit box, direct-dial telephone and flat-screen color plasma television with satellite channels (including a dedicated channel that will keep you updated on all events and exhibitions taking place in Florence). The only English TV channel offered was CNN. 
The spacious, streamlined rooms are brightly and colorfully decorated (some have exposed-brick hints), with warm and intimate furnishings, including soft and cozy couches. 

The private bathrooms are furnished with bath or shower (there is no shower tray though), a hair dryer, and also a complete set of towels. 

A number of upgraded rooms have sofas and balconies (must be requested when booking) where you can admire the streets of the historic center and the dome of the cathedral. There’s also a fully equipped room for our disabled guests and very spacious quadruple rooms, (including a large 35 sq. m. Family Room).
The hotel offers an extensive, sweet and savory Continental buffet breakfast (cake, fruit, croissants, cereal, natural yogurt, bread, cappuccino, cheese, ham, hot and cold milk, fresh rolls, hard boiled eggs, chilled fruit flavored drinks, etc.) served in the casual dining room, while those who wish can request to have their breakfast inside their room (available upon request and completely free-of-charge). 

Free coffee and tea is offered in the hotel lobby. It also has a 24-hour front desk, a 10-15 pax meeting room (with independent entrance from that of the hotel), an elevator (very small though) and an informal American bar (where guests are welcomed with a complimentary drink) which offers light meals, salads, snacks, and sandwiches. 

The hotel also has facilities (cozy bed, bowls for food and water, and some toys to play with) to accommodate pet dogs and cats, a parking garage (special rates) 500 m. from the hotel. The staff speak reasonable English and are extremely helpful with directions, with a good knowledge of local restaurants.
The hotel also offers babysitting (for a fee); internet point (for a fee at the hotel lobby as well as in several rooms); free wi-fi connection; Italian and foreign newspapers available for guests; daily maid service; reservations for museums, guided tours and restaurants; reservations for taxi and/or transfers with private drivers; express check-in/check-out; car rental, luggage storage; concierge service, bicycle rental (subject to availability) and laundry service (Monday to Saturday). Check-in is after 2 PM while the room must be vacated by 12 noon.

San Marco - Santissima Annunziata is a great choice for travellers interested in museums, art and architecture. The hotel is near the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Galleria dell'Accademia (a 7-min. walk) and Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (a 1-km./12-min.walk). Abus stop is located right outside the hotel, connecting you to Santa Maria Novella Train Station and other sites around Florence less than a 15-minute walk away. This property has been on since November 8, 2005.
Hotel De La Pace: Via Alfonso La Marmora 28, San Marco - Santissima Annunziata, 50121 Florence, Italy.  Tel: +39 055 577343. Fax: +39 055 577576. E-mail: Website:

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Anahi (Rome, Italy)

Date of Stay: May 24-27, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: *******
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: ******
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

Hotel Anahi

This refined, charming and very Roman boutique hotel, an annex of the larger Hotel Locarno which is directly opposite (they share a reception at night), is located in an old and elegant building along Via Della Penna a few steps from the Tridente, the road complex that branches off from Piazza del Popolo alongVia Di Ripetta, Via del Babuino and Via Del Corso (the main shopping and fashion streets).

The 16 polished airconditioned rooms (Double Single, Double Twin, Triple) are individually and elegantly decorated in the Art Nouveau style, with bold wallpapers and French vintage parquet, and include free wi-fi, flat-screen LCD TV, minibar (stocked with very reasonably priced wine, beer, coke, water), in-room safe, tea and coffee making facilities, a complimentary basket of croissants and biscuits (refreshed daily), telephone and private bathroom with complimentary toiletries (shower gel, shampoo and conditioner) and hair dryer. A top floor suite adds a private terrace, and room service is available.

The hotel also has a Front Desk.  Breakfast buffet (homemade cakes, a selection of cheeses, ham, cereal, yoghurt, fruit and hot and cold drinks) are served daily in the popular Cafeteria Locarno, just opposite the property. 

The hotel also offers laundry service, ironing, ticket service, daily maid service, luggage storage, shuttle service (surcharge) and private airport transfers (surcharge).  The staff were really friendly and helpful. 

The hotel is located 1.5 kms. from the Pantheon, 2.4 kms. from St. Peter's Basilica (a 30-40 min. walk).and is a 10-min. walk from the Spanish Steps, a 15-min. walk from the Trevi Fountain, and a 30-40 min. walk from the Colosseum. Just 50 m. from the hotel is the “Maria Adelaide” bus stop (of city bus lines number 81, 224, 628, 926, C3 and N25) and 400 m. from the “Corso-Popolo” bus stop (of the city lines number 117, 119). 

It is also easily reached on foot, by walking along Rome's beautiful and characteristic alleys, between Via del Corso and Via Condotti, also metro line A “Spagna;” and by crossing beautiful Piazza del Popolo.  
Anahi Hotel: Via della Penna, 65, 00186 Roma, Italy.  Tel: +39 06 321 6011. Fax: +39 06.321.5872.  E-mail: Website: