Oltre il Giardino, Venice


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.

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18 Responses

  1. Ah Alma Mahler owned it and MM and family slept there. Your Venetian post sent me rereading my copy of The Perfect House by the Canadian architect Witold Rybczynski. It’s about the villas that Palladio built in the Venetian mainland (terraferma) and the author actually stayed in one (Villa Saraceno) and visited the rest to write it. A few of these Palladian villas are available for occupancy you know and at what looks like to me reasonable rates. Staying in one of these storied lodgings would top taking in Titian and Tintoretto for me.

  2. With the exchange rate to Euro at US$1.23…. this is the best time to visit Venice Italy…

  3. Wow. I’ve been dreaming of my European adventure since I was a little girl. I hope the dream will be realized soon! This reignited my excitement; I’ll be sure to keep this on my list of hotels to consider. :-)

  4. Hi MM,

    This Venice post reminded me of my visit years ago. Fantastic, but am discovering more of this place thru your post. thank you!

    I think the berries are called mulberries. My late grandparents’ house have the same tree.

  5. Venice is one of my favorite cities in the world! Romance is just everywhere.

  6. Rediscovering all the wonderful experiences of Venice – the tourist areas and the unexpected little pleasures of off-the-beaten-track. Thank you MM, always delightful to vicariously travel thru your posts and re-live one’s own experiences of the city.

  7. I was astonished and very impressed with most of the bathrooms I encountered in Italy. They were mostly modern like in your photos above and functioned perfectly, despite being housed inside centuries-old buildings. Not for naught then are the Italians, since the days of the ancient Romans, known for their hydraulic engineering, plumbing, and bathroom fixtures design.

  8. Those are indeed mulberries, they have the feel of a slightly overripe blackberry, but the middle is a little tougher. They are sweet and mild- I would say bland. Other than the blackberry look and feel, they certainly do not taste anything like it… My neighbors have them in their front yard (the sidewalk actually), and they make quite a horrendous mess during the summer months…

  9. For three years I have been planning to Visit Italy, Spain and Portugal and something or the other comes up and God laughs at my plans.

    This year Sept/Oct for Sure !!!! Venice here I come.

  10. Such cozy place. I had a nice vacation in Venice years back. I get wistful when I see the different places in Venice in movies and photos. May I know how much per night the room costs? It’s looks so nice!

  11. This is absolutely beautiful! I must keep this for future reference. SO up my alley! The last time I was in Venice we stayed at the Hotel Gritti Palace (sister hotel of your iconic hotel:-), which came highly recommended and has whatever number of stars, yadayadayada… and I must say from your pictures,I am loving your hotel more! I now enjoy luxury boutique hotels much more than larger grand ones.

  12. I had tons of mulberry when I was in high school. Trinity College had those trees and I was probably one of the few eating them. Its sweet but stained like hell if you got it on your shirt.

  13. MM, this place looks great, would be the perfect place to stay next time I’m in Venice, God willing there’s a next time. I’ve been lucky to have visited Venice twice and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. My first visit was when I was fresh out of college on a budget European tour with my two sisters. I don’t even remember the name of the hotel we stayed at, it was arranged by the tour operators. It was decent enough and had a private bathroom, one of my minimum requirements, lol. On my second visit twenty years ago, my husband and my three-year-old toddler stayed at what was then called the Bauer-Grunwald Hotel, right on the Grand canal. It now goes by just Bauer Hotel and I couldn’t think of staying there now at the rates they charge. We had a wonderful suite with a balcony overlooking the canal and all my little boy wanted to do was sit out on the balcony, his legs dangling between the balusters, (which were thankfully safely spaced for him not to slip through) and watch the boats and gondolas go by.

    The islands of Murano and Burano are worthwhile visits if you’re in Venice. Murano for hand-blown glass from family-ran factories, their techniques handed down through generations of glass-blowers; and the island of Burano for exquisite lace.

    From my memory, food in Venice is generally superb, if expensive. I had a very memorable meal at the Trattoria al Gato Nero in Burano. Incredibly fresh seafood prepared the Italian way.

    Really enjoying these posts, MM. Thank you so much.

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