Comfortable but stylish. Unpretentious yet luxurious. Welcoming not fussy. Relatively good value for money. I guess those were our requirements when we started looking for a hotel for our trip to Venice last year. Mrs. MM usually takes on the task of ferreting out possible lodging options and zealously reviews hotels, B&B’s, short-term apartments before developing a shortlist that she emails to see if they have availability on the dates requested. Mrs. MM and I have been to Venice before, and as newlyweds, stayed at a fabulous and iconic luxury hotel in the heart of the tourist trail. That hotel now charges seemingly astronomical sums for small rooms, so we opted to look for a different kind of Venetian experience. Roughly 35 minutes from the airport, most of it meandering pleasantly through narrow canals, we arrived at this anonymous looking landing leading to our hotel, Oltre il Giardino…
A rather sturdy black door in a solid brick wall was next to the doorbell confirming that we had indeed arrived at the right place. As soon as the electronic buzzer opened the door, the name of the hotel, translated meaning “beyond the garden” now made complete sense…
…because immediately within the doors you pass under the most spectacular arbor of jasmine, and when we arrived, it was heavy with bloom and a wonderful fragrance scented the air.
A very narrow passageway edged with tall evergreens led you on a stone path through the garden to the door of the hotel. The garden, all of maybe 60-80 square meters, was lush and green and so unexpected in a city where space is an incredible luxury. A full grown olive tree and lots of herbs and flowering plants seemed to be in their full Spring splendor. A clump of bamboo was another unexpected feature.
The former residence (way back in the 1920’s) of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer, the homes current owner has transformed the property into an extremely charming 6 room hotel. It’s really more like staying in a nice home than a typical hotel. There is a small reception area and sitting room downstairs that opens up to the garden.
I couldn’t resist including this photo of some blackberries I found in the yard, for me a sign that we were really going to feel at home in this place… Located near the Church of Frari, this is off the often beaten tourist path, but with a 10 minute walk and a traghetto crossing, you could be in St. Marks Square in less than 20 minutes…
The rooms are very comfortably appointed, with wonderful bathrooms, and the house is sprinkled with artwork throughout. Our room had several dark but interesting paintings that must have dated back several hundred years. It’s nice to stay in a place where the art isn’t produced to match the furnishing scheme.
We had a two-room suite, perfect for three of us traveling together. Compared with other hotel rooms in Venice and elsewhere in Europe, these rooms were generously proportioned. We had a bedroom and a sitting room that converted into a second bedroom for the Teen in the evening. A desk and internet access. A spacious storage closet with ironing board.
A comfortable enough (what is it with narrow beds in Europe?) bed laid with high-thread count linens.
But the biggest surprise of all was the incredible bathroom. We like “character” every once in a while, but a slam dunk well-appointed modern-equipped bathroom is a guaranteed ‘hit” with Mrs. MM! And this bathroom was a good 9.5/10.0 for the room prices charged! :) Old-fashioned bathtub under a small Murano glass chandelier, large sink, side tables, a separate shower and heated towel racks and several opaque windows made this corridor like space as nice as it could be.
The only drawback of our room was it must have faced a pre-school or elementary school a few feet from the bathroom windows, so pooping while a bunch of toddlers were singing nursery rhymes just a few feet away was a bit bizarre… :)
And in case you were wondering about the complimentary amenities, they were by the House of Bulgari. Nice touch. The hotel only has 6 rooms, so booking the one you want will require advance noitce. We had a WONDERFUL STAY HERE, one of the most memorable hotel stays in recent memory. There was only one person on duty in the house at most times of the day (excluding chambermaids), so don’t expect to be fussed over, but they were always quite helpful making suggestions for tourists, booking restaurants, pointing out areas of interest, and arranging for transportation to the airport. We thought this would be the perfect kind of hotel for a small Pinoy tribe or “barangay” to book in its entirety. Or maybe 2-3 close friends/couples and their kids. I suspect the 6 rooms could probably comfortably accommodate some 14 people total and would really feel like you were staying in a very comfortable home in Venice. Oltre il Giardino is highly recommended.