Ca’ di Dio sits on the waterfront in Venice's laidback Castello district, just a few minutes’ stroll from Piazza San Marco. There’s a less hurried pace in this historic neighbourhood, where locals sip wine alfresco as the sun sets on the Riva.
Venice’s Marco Polo airport is served by the Alilaguna water bus (vaporetto), which drops you right in front of the hotel at Arsenale. Vaporetto tickets can be purchased individually, or in discounted one- to three-day passes, in case you’re planning to sightsee your socks off.
Arrivals at Venezia Santa Lucia can also take the vaporetto for the 40-minute ride to Arsenale. Landlubbers should hop off a couple of stops early for an espresso at Piazza San Marco. The hotel lies a 10-minute stroll along the lagoon from here.
Venice’s narrow alleys and waterways mean that – unless you’re rich enough to own an amphibious vehicle – your best bet is to park on the mainland, which is cheaper and less prone to traffic snarl-ups than the roads around the city centre. From Mestre, you can take the train or ferry into the centre.
Clichéd it may well be, but you can’t really say you’ve been to Venice until you’ve taken a gondola ride or private water taxi along the Grand Canal. Both will pick you up and drop you off directly at the hotel’s side entrance on Rio de l’Arsenale.
Worth getting out of bed for
Even the laziest explorer will find ticking off Venice's biggest attractions a breeze. It’s just a 10-minute waterfront stroll to Piazza San Marco, where the cathedral’s grand Byzantine domes, ludicrously opulent Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs will provide more Instagrammable photo opportunities than your last three holidays combined. If your poor beleaguered feet are equal to the challenge, you’re only about another 10 minutes from here to the Rialto Bridge and Peggy Guggenheim Collection. But if even that seems too much like hard work, simply flop into a gondola and let someone else take the strain for a while.
For a taste of the true Venice, stroll east from the hotel away from the centre, through ramshackle narrow streets where washing hangs drying between buildings overhead, and small fishing boats bob on not-so-grand canals. Here the intrepid traveller will be rewarded with artisan shops, bars and cafés along Via Garibaldi – a wide boulevard beloved of Venetians.
This is also where you’ll find the Giardini della Biennale, a parkland oasis that plays host to the Venice Art Biennale every other year. Stroll the leafy boulevards admiring the magnificent monuments and palatial pavilions that dot the landscape. Art fiends visiting between May and November in odd-numbered years can expect to experience a dizzying smorgasbord of contemporary works from across the globe, displayed throughout the Giardini, Arsenale dockyards and beyond.
A firm favourite with in-the-know locals, Osteria Alle Testiere is perhaps Castello’s tiniest seafood restaurant, seating just 22 at a time. You’re advised to book well in advance if you want to find out for yourself what the fuss is about. The menu changes daily, based on whatever is freshest at market that morning, but expect classic Venetian fish dishes like steamed spider crab and potato gnocchetti with lobster, alongside an extensive range of local wines. Desserts like classic tiramisu and Venetian cream caramel will surely have you loosening your belt before last orders. A 20-minute vaporetto ride along the lagoon will take you to Hotel Il Palazzo Experimental, whose Il Ristorante Adriatica is an upmarket, dress-to-impress kind of place, serving playful takes on Italian specialities from the coastal regions of the Adriatic. Think risotto of scallops and white asparagus or cuttlefish with lemon, rocket and almonds.
A romantic evening stroll north through Venice backstreets, skirting the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge, will take you to Vino Vero, an intimate and informal canalfront wine bar where bottles are stacked ceiling-high on towering wooden shelves. Specialising in natural wines from small, mostly local producers, this Venice institution is also famed for its cicchetti (Venetian tapas). After several platefuls and, more than likely, one glass of valpolicella too many, it’s recommended you skip the stroll back and take a water taxi instead.