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Sarah Sun Island B&B, Venice - Review

Sarah Sun Island, at its moorings

Hotel Sarah Sun Island

Sarah Sun Island is a yacht moored over the water from central Venice, offering unusual budget B&B accommodation. Spaces are cramped, but it's a novel experience which may appeal to adventurous travellers.

> More information/make a booking

Italy Heaven Review

A 'suite' bedroom cabin

I stayed anonymously at Sarah Sun Island in August 2008, booking a 'suite' online for 125 for one night. As I booked only a few hours ahead, I gave the 'hotel' a call for directions and to ensure that I was expected. I took cash as at present the establishment doesn't accept credit cards (check their webpages to see if this changes).

I was greeted by the friendly Russian lady in charge, Nellie, and her well-behaved dog Ricky. She showed me around the yacht and explained how things worked (no paper to be put down the loo etc.). It's early days for this B&B business, and I was the only guest; my room had obviously been kept in a state of readiness. There were a few oversights, or perhaps improvements yet to be made: there were no toiletries or soap in bathroom, nor was there an internet connection as suggested on the boat's webpages.

The rooms on the yacht - cabins - are very small, as you might expect from a boat. The twin rooms have bunk beds, while a 'suite' is a double cabin. The double bed takes up the full width of the wooden cabin, with a porthole above - views of Venice over the wide Giudecca canal - and a spare metre-wide space for standing. I'm not too sure where you'd stow a suitcase, and with two occupants there would definitely be no space for anything other than lying down. There is a little half-height wardrobe, a bedside cabinet, a mirror and a cupboard containing a spare blanket and lifejackets. Towels and towelling robes were laid out on the bed. Although there was some kind of fan or air-conditioning under the bed, the cabin became intolerably stuffy during the night with the door and curtains closed - but then this was Venice in baking August temperatures.

The en-suite bathroom is a wet room with an overhead shower draining through a corner of the floor. It's a very small room, but everything seems clean and decent.

The main reception cabin upstairs is furnished with plentiful chairs and tables, and a big television screen. The best bit, though, is up another flight of steps: a panoramic sun-deck with loungers and chairs where I sun myself as a cruise ship passes along the broad Giudecca canal. In other respects this is a pretty basic and functional place to stay, but up here I'm enjoying a very unusual Venice experience. Few hotels in this crowded city can offer you much in the way of outdoors space, let alone a place to sunbathe (I don't think I've seen sun-loungers in any other establishment). And here, with the church towers of Venice over the water, I can lie back and pretend this is my boat and that perhaps tomorrow I'll set sail across the Adriatic.

The boat is moored at a corner between two canals, the very wide Giudecca canal, which separates us from the Dorsoduro area of central Venice, and a narrower canal between the island of Sacca Fisola (modern, affordable housing for displaced Venetians who can't afford the town centre) and the new Hilton hotel at the end of the long Giudecca island. Right alongside the yacht is Sacca Fisola's small park, where the council seem to have forgotten to plant any grass (apparently they have promised to improve the shady strip of earth). A few quiet local men gather with their grandsons and fishing-rods not far from where I'm relaxing in the sun; they're hauling up some pretty large fish for their supper. The boat is accessed via a wooden jetty and a narrow gangplank which gives me the jitters each time I use it.

Sundeck and the view towards Venice

After a pleasant ramble along the length of the Giudecca waterfront, I choose to wander home on foot through the dusk rather than catch the ferry. Although the Sacca Fisola park is nearly deserted (apart from a rat and an old man fishing very successfully) it's safe and well-lit. I still find the narrow gang-plank quite scary, but lighting isn't a problem. Apart from the whirring fan, the night is a quiet one. The Sarah Sun Island and Venice are both in a lagoon rather than the sea, so there aren't real waves, just water lapping and the boat bobbing very gently. Occasionally during the hot night I find myself wondering if I'll wake up, look out my porthole and find myself on the open sea, but instead I see Venice in the morning, with ferries taking commuters to work and barges transporting workmen and materials.

Breakfast is laid out in state for me in the morning, in the main upstairs cabin. My wishes were consulted the night before, but despite suggesting just a croissant and tea, I am presented with a generous choice of warm rolls, croissants, fresh fruit, orange juice and cornflakes.

Once I leave the boat, I'm relieved to return to a building with icy air-conditioning, but I'm still glad I tried this new accommodation experience. For several hours I continue to feel, nostalgically, as though I am still bobbing lightly up and down.

My view

This boat is budget accommodation with a difference - though you shouldn't expect lots of space or luxury. In 30 degree August heat it is best avoided - though the sun-deck was a lovely bonus. For the odd night or two, without lots of luggage to accommodate, it would make an intriguing addition to your itinerary as long as you have an idea what to expect. One bonus of this out-of-the-way location is that you have the incentive to explore interesting residential islands which are so different to central Venice. The vaporetto stop just yards away makes it convenient for getting around, as long as you've bought a travelcard.

Location and directions

The boat is moored at the corner of Sacca Fisola, an island which is over a canal from the much longer and more picturesque island of the Giudecca (there is a bridge connecting the two islands). The number 2 vaporetto from Piazzale Roma stops at the island en route to the area of St. Mark's Square. From the Sacca Fisola vaporetto stop just walk through the park to your left; the yacht is just a few yards away.

> More information / make a booking for Sarah Sun Island
> Look for somewhere rather more conventional

Sarah Sun Island review by an Italy Heaven editor.

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