Sunday, February 15, 2009

GETTING THERE: Iberia, Lufthansa, Northwest and United offer connecting service from Washington Dulles to Venice, starting at about $550 round trip.

GETTING AROUND: Water buses, called vaporetti, ply established routes on the main canals. A single fare costs about $8.50, but tourist cards allow unlimited travel for periods from 12 hours ($21) to seven days ($65). Fare covers one piece of luggage. Motorboat taxis are very expensive. Figure about $130 from the airport to the Rialto Bridge, or $72 from the train station to the Rialto. Gondola rates are set at 80 euros (about $104) for the first 40 minutes for a maximum of six people and 40 euros for every subsequent 20-minute period. After 7 p.m. the rate goes up to $130 and $65. Walking, at any hour, is quite safe.

WHERE TO STAY: Hotel rooms in Venice are higher than elsewhere in Italy, and Carnevale rates are the highest of the year.

Al Ponte Antico (Calle dell'Aseo, Cannaregio 5768, 011-39-041-241-1944, with its decor, stunning views on the Grand Canal and central location in the Cannaregio neighborhood, gives you the real Venetian palazzo experience. Double rooms from $380 per night.

Hotel Al Sole (Santa Croce 134/136, 011-39-041-244-0328, has 62 large, tastefully furnished rooms with great views on the small Canal Tolentini and Venice rooftops. It's in Santa Croce, a quiet area and an easy 10-minute walk from the train station. From $240 at Carnevale, from $160 at other times.

Pensione La Calcina (Dorsoduro 780, 011-39-041-520-6466, is in Dorsoduro and known for its service and great location, near the Accademia bridge, a 15-minute walk to Piazza San Marco. Some rooms have views of the Giudecca canal. From $195 at Carnevale, from $140 at other times.

WHERE TO EAT: Venice is known for its seafood.

The six-course tasting menu at Trattoria da Fiore (Calle delle Botteghe, San Marco 3461, 011-39-041-523-5310, comes to about $160 per person without drinks and may include sea bass tartare with marinated pumpkin or turbot on potato crust. Book well in advance and ask for a table next to the window by the canal for a more intimate feel.

Anice Stellato (Fondamenta de la Sensa, Cannaregio 3272, 011-39-041-720-744), a small restaurant hidden in the back streets of Cannaregio, has simple decor and friendly and informal service. Try the homemade pasta with scampi and the almond-and-pistachio cake with pine-nut ice cream. About $55 per person.

Trattoria al Gatto Nero (Via Giudecca 88, Burano, 011-39-041-730-120 is worth the trip to the nearby island of Burano for its phenomenal scallops antipasti, fried baby octopus and tiramisu dessert.

CARNEVALE TIPS: The masks will start really appearing this year on Friday, Feb. 20. On Sunday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m., the prize for best mask will be awarded in the Piazza San Marco. Carnevale ends on Feb. 24. For this year's program: For a gallery of Carnevale images and iconic Venetian cityscapes online, go to

-- M.W.

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