Honourable Mention - Hotel Al Ponte Antico, Venice
Hotel Al Ponte Antico would have made the top end of the list of best stay for 2016 but technically Old School Travellers booking fell two days before the beginning of the new year and so didn't qualify, but I feel that this rule is a bit harsh as at least the first day of the year was spent here, but what a stay it was. It is old school personified. Set in a 16th Century palace, recently and meticulously renovated, Al Ponte Antico is everything that a stay in Venice should be. It is certainly Palatial, which considering its compact size, is something of an achievement. From the decor to the location, and from the style and hospitality everything says Venice. I would love to stay here again, but during the Carnival next time.
It's how you might have envisaged a Venitian Hotel, and its authenticity will pull you in..... and you haven't even made it out on to the terrace yet.
When you do get to the terrace, a view of the Grand Canal awaits - Chasing itself in two picture postcard directions, and with the Rialto Bridge, only a rose stems throw away to your left. Staying as we did over New Year, the terrace and it's wonder kept us occupied all night. We didn't even venture out into St Marks for the party, so content were we here, with our table serviced Aperols and Negronis. The brazier heaters will keep you warm in the winter months but I can only imagine what a sanctuary away from the bustling masses this place would be.
It's not only the hotel's location to the sights canalside either. Al Ponte Antico is just off one of the main thoroughfares to St Mark's Square and close to several bars, shops and restaurants. Because of the size constraints within the hotel, there will obviously be some noise from residence checking-in late or leaving early, and from the staff setting up for breakfast, but this shouldn't affect either your opinion, enjoyment or peace of mind whilst staying here. Complaining of such things as this, or the lack of a lift, in a building dating back 500 years, is churlish and HDT of the highest order. Entering into the spirit of Al Ponte Antico is an absolute pleasure and I feel privileged to have stayed here.
Arriving at your chosen residence by Water Taxi is something else too. Well worth the extra expense. You can soo get this money back by drinking the superb and remarkably cheap, local wine instead of the usual suspects on the menu. The staff are incredibly helpful, civilised and proud of what they have, and so they should be. Everything from the Suite's flamboyant Venetian decor to the delights of the small bar and delicious breakfast, will make this an instant home from home, and to tell you the truth, I wasn't quite expecting that from a Venice hotel. Venetians are becoming increasingly worried about the ever growing numbers of tourists packing into the narrow streets, and encroaching in to the lives of every local, trying to live their lives as normal. It must be remembered that this is a real working city.... It's not some Hollywood film set - It's far too beautiful and perfect for that to be the case. The city is suffering because of the increased numbers and the cracks are beginning to show.
At this stage I implore you not to buy and wear Masquerade masks during your stay or at NYE, as the wearing of these outside of the Carnival is diminishing the meaning and importance of them. Also the use of wheeled luggage is a grave cause for concern for residents. There are warnings everywhere about this yet HDT's (High Definition Tourists) are ignoring this, obviously feeling that their own individual requirements are far more important than the protection of this ancient and glorious city.
I would always choose to go to Venice in the Winter months. Escaping the crowds is always a high priority for me, I also love the low sun here during these colder months. Mosquitos are non-existent, and the whiff is nowhere to be sniffed. Get out your glad rags, wrap up warm, and whatever you do, stay at the Hotel Al Ponte Antico.
Hotel Al Ponte Antico, Venice - A very special place.
You can read more about this wonderful hotel and some tips about Venice here.