Dionne Christian checks into a residential Italian palace

Location:

In the Cannaregio neighbourhood, far from the madding crowds in Venice's tourist hot-spots and a two-minute walk from Fondamente Nove, a stop for Alilaguna and ACTV water buses and the gateway to the islands of the Northern Lagoon. It's about a 15-minute walk to San Marco Square.

Getting there:

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I caught the Alilaguna from Marco Polo Airport, a 25-minute journey across the Northern Lagoon then walked the two-minutes past the historic Gesuiti Church and over one bridge to Ca'Zanardi. Given the likelihood of getting lost in Venice's tangled network of alleyways and lanes, it was accessible and surprisingly easy to find.

Check in experience:

Ca'Zanardi is a residential palace dating back to the 16th century and doubles as an art gallery. It means there's no lift (or "mod cons" like air conditioning) but friendly staff were only too willing to carry my bags upstairs. Check-in was prompt and cheery and staff gave directions to local eateries as well as to Venice's attractions.

Price:

Around $170 a night.

Rooms:

There are two lodging facilities here, Suites Zanardi and Residenze Zanardi; I stayed in the latter in a spacious double room, with separate ensuite bathroom.

Decor:

Some have commented that Ca'Zanardi, with its mix of furnishings (some dating back to the 16th century) and eclectic art, is shabby, creepy and scary but I loved that it didn't feel, or look, like a standardised hotel you find anywhere in the world. It has character and, to counter its detractors, that's won them a fair few fans willing to forgive the shabby chic and idiosyncrasies.

Complimentary Wi-Fi:

Yes and it worked perfectly for me which, seeing I was in Venice on business, was vital. There's no TV in the rooms but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Bed:

Once again, there have been complaints about the quality of the beds. Too soft and springy, say some; others not that single beds are pushed together to make a double. But it was the most comfortable and peaceful sleep I've had anywhere, partly because the pillows were flatter.

View:

Across a canal to a local high school.

CHECKLIST

is on Calle Zanardi, Venice, Italy. See the website for

on how to find the property.