Venice is our favourite foreign city for short breaks and we’ve always flown there, but in 2018 we decided to go by rail as I wanted to see the scenery from the trains – no, not on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express – but via Eurostar to Paris and then to Geneva for an overnight stay en route (where eating out was so eyewateringly expensive I’m afraid to say we ended up having Kentucky Chicken!). We returned via Turin with a one night stay there (we should have booked two nights as Turin was wonderful). We went with a specialist rail holiday firm but in retrospect we should have organised it ourselves as we had the worst seats possible with restricted views on every leg of the journey, even in First Class between Geneva and Venice, for which we’d paid extra to ensure we had the best seats to see the scenery.
Enough of the negatives, this review is about the hotel we stayed in once we got to Venice – the Ai Mori d’Oriente. We’d seen this hotel in the past when walking around Cannaregio and thought it looked interesting. Cannaregio is a quiet area of Venice and until recently was home to many local people, with the associated shops and businesses to match; ironmongers, sanitary ware suppliers, carpentry workshops and other crafts. Casa del Tintoretto is along from the hotel on Fondamenta del Mori. Unfortunately a lot of properties are being bought up and turned into hotels and holiday homes for international jet setters so the locals are being priced out and end up living in Mestre on the mainland.
The Ai Mori d’Oriente is a 4 star hotel on the Fondamenta della Sensa. It is an ideal hotel for anyone arriving by train as the walk only takes about 15 minutes so it’s not really worth getting a vaparetto and then having the 6 minute walk from the S. Maruola-Casino vaporetto stop. The smart reception staff were friendly and we’d soon signed in, at which point a uniformed bell boy appeared to show us to our room. As the lift was small we still had to take our cases up ourselves so it seemed a bit pointless, but I’m not used to staying in places with this sort of service and other people might be impressed. Our standard room was in the main 15th century pallazo (or pallazino) with windows looking out towards a very old neighbouring building, so there was not much of a view. However, the room was beautifully furnished and decorated in what I would call an ever so slightly over-the-top Venetian-Moorish style; the curtains and soft furnishings could possibly have been made from Fortuny fabric, which is still manufactured on the island of Giudecca, and we’d visited their showroom the previous year. Our room was on the first floor – there are only the two floors – and at the end of the corridor was a seating/reading area and a small balcony from which to view the canal. Apparently there is also an annexe which has rooms overlooking the Rio di Madonna dell’Orto with some large, sumptuous suites. The hotel is a short walk from the old Jewish ghetto and it doesn’t take long to reach Rialto Bridge, or anywhere else in the centre for that matter, on foot: that’s if you don’t get lost. The hotel says on its site that it is `Handicap accessible`, but I can’t see how anyone with walking problems could get much out of a stay in Venice, although if they could get into a privately run boat these can stop right outside the hotel.
Breakfast was the usual very good buffet selection – although what will happen with buffet breakfasts when hotels open post Covid-19 is anyone’s guess. There is also an outside dining area but as we were there out of season this was closed. My minor criticisms about the breakfast buffet were that we didn’t realise we could have asked for special cooked dishes from the kitchen and the fact that there seemed a distinct lack of knives which meant each morning we had to ask the waiter for more. The hotel did not appear to offer lunches (although the bar is called an American snack bar so there might be a clue there) but there are really good restaurants in Cannaregio and we ate really well during our stay. The bar is at the front of the hotel and also has a few tables by the canal; we did have one drink there but I found the young bar staff a little condescending and much preferred to drink at local wine bars instead.
We liked the Ai Mori d’Oriente but it is quite expensive so in future I know we’ll return to our regular haunt, a 3 star hotel that’s a little rough round the edges, has character and is more within our price range. But for a really special trip, maybe to celebrate an anniversary, the Ai Mori d’Oriente would be a good choice, especially for those who could afford one of the luxury suites overlooking a canal.
“See hotel website for more details”:https://www.morihotel.com