Once again – this Four Star hotel deserves Five Stars for value and service. Our ELEVENTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR at the Hotel Sant’Elena in July 2016 was even more enjoyable than our previous ten visits, and our annual trip was, again, a wonderful experience in this, one of the most beautiful of cities on Earth. We were very upset that we couldn’t make it twelve consecutive years because I was hospitalised last year with pneumonia and unable to travel – we’re making up for it, though by staying again later in 2018 for our annual battery supercharge! We’re building another party to travel with us.
As President of an association of former students of an English art school, I invited some of our members to join us for our 2016 trip – 22 of us flew out aboard “the Moseley Art Special” for our reunion of men and women who had attended our school as long ago as 1957. An additional couple flew out from Australia joined us. It goes without saying that we had the most fabulous time – people who have studied Art all their lives reuniting in one of the greatest repositories of fine art and Architecture in the world. My wife and I spend a couple of weeks every year at the Hotel Sant’Elena and had no hesitation in recommending it for our reunion stay and special dinner on the second day – absolutely wonderful service under the supervision of Sherban, the head waiter.
The first class hotel team once again excelled in the quality of service. Personable staff, wonderful food, impeccable cleanliness, and a willingness to ensure that our every wish was catered for. We were especially impressed, once again, with the service personally provided by Francesco, the head waiter, and Sherban, the head waiter both of whom excel in their professionalism. These, and the other members of staff, especially Gabrielle, Giulia and Barbara are a real credit to the hotel. Our mornings began, as usual in bright sunshine with the warmest of welcomes from the staff and a wonderful display of food. A fantastic start to the day.
We are seasoned travellers (I’m an artist / photographer) and we’re quite demanding when it comes to service and value for money. We again upgraded to a roomy Junior Suite at very reasonable cost and enjoyed our stay even more. We’ve stayed in the De Luxe double bedrooms during our first four visits, which were perfectly fine, but our holiday dates now take in my wife’s birthday so we’re a touch more extravagant.
We were able, again, to explore the exquisite surroundings, including easy railway trips to some of the other historic cities in the Veneto and surrounding area, including Verona, Treviso, Padua and Vicenza.
FOOD: the variety of food is fine and lavishly plentiful. There is a very generous breakfast array of fresh fruit juices, milk, bread rolls, croissants, jams and other preserves, fresh fruit salad, cold meats, cheeses, cereals and yoghurts, cakes, sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, fresh fruit, tea and coffee. I’m always amazed at the quantity and range of food provided, right up to the end of service at 11am. Breakfast may be taken in the air-conditioned Dining Room, in the outdoor dining area, or al fresco at tables on the garden lawn in the quiet morning sunshine (or, if you’re feeling lazy, in your bedroom for a small additional charge).
LOCATION: Being in the only green (predominantly residential) area of the island, it's fresh, clean and very peaceful. The hotel has been created in a large former convent, and has a large enclosed lawned garden (re-landscaped in 2014) which is ideal for breakfasting, peaceful relaxation and sunbathing. The hotel is literally only 200 metres from the vaporetto (public waterbus) stop on the edge of the Venice lagoon – absolutely ideal when arriving and departing. During your stay, you’ll see plenty of distressed travellers struggling to cope with lugging their heavy baggage around for an hour or two on foot, trying to find their hotel in the bewildering maze of small streets at the start and end of their holiday in the heat of the mid-day sun.
For first-time visitors to Venice, it's a little disorientating getting your head around travel and connections. Travel agents refer to "Venice and the Veneto" - well, you'll find that the majority of hotels listed are not actually on the main island of Venice at all, but on the nearby mainland area of Mestre, which is modern, with an urban and industrial flavour.
GETTING ABOUT: The main island of Venice is just that, an island surrounded by water. You'll arrive by air at either Marco Polo Airport, Treviso Airport (both on the mainland) or by road or rail via the causeway at the north end of the island. There are no roads, therefore no cars – so don’t bother hiring one in advance! Transport is by foot or by water – even bicycles are prohibited. I wouldn’t recommend Venice to anyone with mobility issues – each year we see the odd person in a wheelchair struggling to negotiate the bridges and other obstacles with sheer exhaustion and frustration. From Marco Polo Airport (our preferred airport), you can walk to the nearby vaporetto / water taxi stop in ten minutes, or get a cab. It's a slight extravagance, but we indulge ourselves by booking a water taxi (a covered motor launch with open back) at the airport which takes us speedily and in great style direct to the hotel in around 30 minutes at a cost of £90 (you can obviously share and halve the cost). You’re allowed to share a water taxi and divide the cost – a great deal which makes the vaporetto (public waterbus) service very unattractive. For us, it's the only way to arrive. Water taxis can be ordered from the conspicuous desk at the airport arrivals lounge. The alternative is the vaporetto which is crowded, usually with standing room only. The vaporetto is cheaper but takes much longer – it will take you to the vaporetto stop at Sant Elena, from where the Hotel Sant'Elena is just a three minute stroll. The vaporetto runs every ten minutes from Sant Elena, and will take you to St. Mark's Square in just 10 minutes (*don't forget to buy your multi-day pass for the vaporetto at the airport on arrival - unlimited walk on / walk off trips.) A great way to end the day is to go to the vaporetto terminal at Piazalle Roma, re-board a fresh No. 1 vaporetto so that you can grab seats, and enjoy a leisurely 40-minute sightseeing trip along the whole length of the Grand Canal – have your camera ready!). Or, if you feel like stretching your legs, St. Mark's is only a 20 minute leisurely stroll away from the hotel along the lagoon edge, passing the Biennale Gardens and the Arsenale / Maritime Museum (both extremely worthwhile attractions) – a beautiful stroll at sunset. In the opposite direction, the vaporetto will take you from Sant’Elena to the Lido in just a single stop for a day lounging on the beach.
ACCOMMODATION: The rooms are good-sized, very comfortable and are beautifully air conditioned. The beds, bed linen and towels are superb, and the cleanliness is impeccable - I was VERY surprised to read an earlier review that criticised the standard of cleanliness - the great care given to cleanliness is one of the things that always impresses us.
The decor is modern, light, cool and airy. We've seen inside many of the other hotels on the island, the majority of which try to attract guests with reproduction Renaissance, Baroque or Rococo furniture and decoration - who would want to wake up to red flock wallpapered walls on a hot summer morning?
It's a sign of a good employer that good staff are retained, and we were again looked after impeccably by the manager and the excellent team, most of whom have been with the hotel since we began visiting twelve years ago! We enjoyed dinner at the hotel more often than in previous years. The head waiter once again reminded us how wonderful it is to be served by a waiter who takes a huge pride in his work, his professionalism adding to the dining experience. The hotel has a slightly more limited menu than the 'tourist' restaurants, but if you are a fan of fillet steak, or branzino (sea bass) cooked to absolute perfection, as we are, you'll have a great experience. We avoided visiting one of our earlier favourite nearby local restaurants, Al Diporto da Mario Baffo, for a few years, but they have now regained their ability to delight with their fish dishes, especially the spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with clams in a garlic and wine sauce), branzino (whole sea bass) and frittura misto di pesce (battered mixed fried fish). We thoroughly enjoyed a few dinners there under the personal supervision of the highly personable owner, Mario.
VALUE: The fact that we returned for our ELEVENTH consecutive year in 2016 with 22 friends says it all. The Hotel Sant'Elena is perfect for us, but do check out other 4 Star hotels for price and quality at Booking.Com or Hotels.Com, just to satisfy yourself. You’ll find, though that the prices for equivalent 4 Star accommodation ON THE MAIN ISLAND can be as much as double what we pay at the Sant’Elena. We now book direct with the hotel via their own website for best price, and the helpful staff can discuss any queries you may have by phone. Whatever hotel you choose, do make sure that you ignore all claims about close proximity to San Marco / St. Mark's Square! Venice is heaving with visitors at most times of the year (get up and see the beautiful sunrise if you want the place to yourself for a while!), and whilst the Square, Basilica and Palace are of course essential destinations for visits, if you're anything like us, you'll definitely prefer a hotel away from the hustle, bustle, noise and crowds to relax after a tiring day in this magnificent jewel of a City.
We believe that good service should be rewarded by recommendation. Great hotel, great location, consistently great service and excellent value. The mosquito we encountered in the garden at the hotel in 2007 is still the only bad thing we can say about this hotel.
I've already answered a number of specific questions via TripAdvisor - I absolutely love Venice, so if I can help, you’re welcome to drop me a line – glad to help. less