Hotel Doni inhabits a Gothic-style palazzo built in 1700. Family-run by the Doni family since 1946, the hotel is perfectly situated: a few minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, but tucked down a quiet canal where few tourists venture — at least on foot. At dusk, the tiny river is tip to tail with a floating parade of gondolas.
Often, we are in our room at that hour, changing for dinner. We lean out the third story window and wave to the giddy tourists below. Singers stand at the front of the gondolas, serenading everyone with predictable, but lovable, Italian songs, sometimes to an accompanying accordion. “Ciao! Bella vacanza!” we shout down to them. Laughing, we take pictures of each other. The tourists beam, drunk on the city of Venice.
Upon our arrival today, we flung open the window, assuring ourselves the view was as fabulous as ever. It was, of course.
With plenty of day still left, we were anxious to get back outside and reaquaint ourselves with our beloved friend.
Of course, when in Venice, whether for the first time or the tenth, the natural first sight is the city’s heart: Piazza San Marco. Even though this gigantic square at times is as crowded with tourists as a mound of ants swarming a piece of watermelon, it is still a perfect starting — and ending — point for all visits. From there, branch out in any given direction, including the sea, to discover more treasures.
Noticing there were far fewer pigeons in Piazza San Marco than ever before, we learned this was due to a ban on seed-selling in an effort to diminish these pests. The plan was obviously working, to my relief. I find it creepy when tourists encourage these “flying rats” to swarm onto their heads and arms and was glad to hear the city was earnestly trying to control the pigeon population.
Before veering off into the labyrinthine maze of Venice’s less-visited alleys, we gazed around at one of the world’s most beautiful and historic piazzas.