Topic Wiki

Venice Overview
Venice is a gorgeous and romantic city that doesn't disappoint. It's a fantastic place to spend Shabbos because there are several points hotel options, a Chabad with several meal options, the ability to carry and because the biggest attraction of Venice - just simply walking the streets and bridges - is a perfect Shabbos activity which will keep you from just be sitting bored in a hotel room.

Trip Reports:
Dan, Avid Reader, MnM1130, ChAiM'l, aj26, Yosers1, jj1000, Hudi, Cbs, Eli, steve L, jmansour, VacationLover, Yehoshua, Mech, yg99, yls2011, ABC, AharonInIsrael, @Yehuda, shlonx  dvol, @Mootkim

Getting there and getting around:

How long should I go for?
There really aren't too many activities to do in Venice, so a 1-2 day trip could cover the must see/do sights, but the city is so beautiful that you won't regret a longer stay! Because the sights are mostly just walking around the streets, checking out the shops, etc. many people find spending just a Shabbos/weekend in Venice is enough to get their fill. Arrive on a Friday and leave Sunday evening and you'll get your fill. (Again, a longer stay rocks too!)

Travelling around Italy/Getting to Venice
Most often, if you're making a trip from USA to Venice, you're not just going to see Venice, but rather a few cities in Italy. When visiting Italy there are a few ways to travel around - trains, rent a car, or if you're going directly from one end of Italy (let's say Rome) to the other end (let's say Milan or Venice), it could be you'll want to fly.

Air:
If Venice is your first stop in Italy, then you'll likely be coming via air. VCE is the airport code, and the airport is not actually in Venice proper (no, the planes don't land in the canals). Rather, you'll have to take a water bus or water taxi from the airport to Venice proper. The water buses to/from the airport are run by a company called Alilaguna (buses here aren't run by the city), take around an hour to get to San Marco Square (the main points hotel location) and cost 14euro. You can buy a roundtrip in advance for 25euro. Private water taxis take around 1/2 hour, but are a lot more expensive. Because people arrive at VCE from many different locations, it's not practical to discuss the different routes you can take to get here.

Train:
If your Italy trip starts in a different city in Italy, then you may want to look into travelling via rail. There are 2 main train companies in Italy - TrenItalia and Treno Italo. Rates vary on a bunch of factors and neither site is fantastically designed, so check them out and ask for some help here if you need. Alternatively you can use loco2.com which is an easy to use site all in English it has all the options and they donít charge anybooking fees. The express train Rome-Venice takes about 3:45 hours and the overnight takes 5.5-6.5 hours. As opposed to the airport, St. Lucia Train Station is actually in Venice proper. Once you arrive, you can take a Vaporetto to your desired location (again, likely San Marco Square). See "Getting around Venice" below for Vaporetto prices. You can also take a private water taxi, which won't have any stops, but will cost a lot more.

Car Rental:
If your Italy trip starts in a different city in Italy, then besides for taking trains, you may find that a car rental suits your needs better, especially if you plan on hitting up several cities along the way as taking a train usually means having to get a cab or bus to/from each train station from your hotel. That time/cost plus the cost of the trains may cause you to decide on a car rental instead. Since it's Europe, expect a manual car unless you pay more for an automatic. Driving in Italy may bother you if you're not super comfortable driving, but in terms of driving in Venice, don't be concerned. You'll be coming from a highway (which is just like highway driving back home), you'll get off onto normal sized/paved roads and within a few minutes, will likely be at your car rental dropoff - outside of Venice proper. There are no cars in Venice (although there is a Hertz in Venice proper that you could actually drive to and drop your car off, but rates at that location are super expensive), so you will likely drop your car off near the Venice-Mestre Train Station - not the St. Lucia station that's actually in Venice - but a second train station that's just outside Venice proper. From Mestre station, a 10 minute, 2 euro train ride will get you into St. Lucia station and from there you can follow the options listed above to get to your hotel.

Getting around Venice
If you're staying in the Jewish Ghetto or near San Marco Square (we'll get to where to stay soon), you'll be within walking distance (max 1/2 hour) of all the main sites in Venice. Even still, many people like to take a public water bus, known as a Vaporetto, to travel down the canals. You can buy tickets at many Vaparetto stops. An individual one way ride costs 7 euro, but there are also 24/48/72 hour passes that cost 20/30/40 euro, respectively. If you're between the ages of 14-29, you can buy a 72 hour Youth Pass for just 20 euro. It's possible that you may need to first purchase a "Rolling Venice" guidebook (should be available at the ticket counter) for 4 euro before they'll let you buy the Youth pass, but you can find that out at the ticket counter and even 24 euro is a great deal. There's also a special roundtrip beach ticket to Lido that costs 10 euro. Do some math to see what kind of pass will work best for you.


Where to stay:

There are 2 main areas where people normally stay: 1) The Jewish Ghetto, which is where the Shuls/restaurants are, as well as some Kosher hotels, but no points hotels and 2) San Marco Square, about a 1/2 hour walk from the Ghetto, but where most of the points hotels are. The walk is very nice, and helps you accomplish the "activity" of seeing the streets while on the way to your destination. The 30 minute walk may hinder your desire to make it to Shul for all Tefillos. YMMV ;)

Here are some places that are discussed in this thread:

NameAreaMore InfoComments
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Pardes RimonimJewish GhettoWebsiteKosher hotel
Carnival Place<10 minute walk to the GhettoWebsiteNicest hotel near the Ghetto
Locanda Del GhettoJewish GhettoWebsiteKosher hotel
Westin Europa and ReginaSan Marco SquareWebsiteSPG Cat. 6; 20-25K/night. Beautiful hotel with marble lobby and a luxurious feel.
Comfort Hotel DianaSan Marco SquareWebsite10K Choice/night. Definitely dated, but kinda rustic in that regard. Cheapest points hotel option in the points hotel-lacking city of Venice.
Grand Hotel Dei Dogi, Autograph Collection<10 minute walk to the GhettoWebsite45K Marriott/night.
JW Marriott Venice Resort & SpaNOT able to walk to the Ghetto, But Free ShuttleWebsite40K Marriott/night.
"Get your own place"AnywhereAirBNB, VRBO, HomeAwayRenting an apartment can be a great option in Venice especially if your family is large enough that you would otherwise have to get a few hotel rooms. You can find apartments near the Ghetto, and with meals at Chabad, this can definitely be a cheaper option than a hotel.

There are 2 other SPG properties, Hotel Danieli and The Gritti Palace, but there are some downsides to them. Both are SPG Cat. 7 which means you'll be paying a premium to stay there. Danieli is in the Square, but in Dan's TR you'll see that he pointed out there's no manual door, which poses an issue on Shabbos. Dan also writes that Gritti is 10 minutes away from the Square. The Gritti has  undergone extensive renovations and is now fresh and on par with Aman. Many consider it worth it the distance from Chabad. There are very few base rooms, so upgrades are easy to come by.


What to do:

As said a few times so far, the highlight of a trip to Venice is walking the streets/canals and checking out the boundless shops that line the streets. But, there are of course some actual activities that one can do, although it's hard to say that any are "must-do"s.

Attractions & Activities
NameMore InfoComments
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Doge's PalaceWebsiteYou can get a classic tour of the palace, or you can opt for the Secret Itineraries tour, which will take you down to the dungeons where the prison was and up to the top floors to see offices, a torture chamber, and a court room while listening to the story of Casanova's supposed escape. The Secret Itineraries tour does not cover the main rooms in the palace, but you are free to walk around afterwards on your own.
Jewish Museum/ Ghetto TourWebsiteThe Jewish Museum offers tours of the museum and Ghetto. While the tours of the Ghetto in Rome are highly recommended by DDFers (and many would say a trip to Rome without a tour is nuts), there is not too much talk on DDF about the tours of the Venice Ghetto. Take that as you will. The tour is closer to an hour and costs 10 euro. Without the tour, you can't get in to see the nice Shuls that are not open that season.
Gondola RideN/AYou'll see gondolas everywhere you look. There are a few places where can get one that will take you on a 5 minute ride just going across the width of the canal for a couple of euro (called a "Traghetto"). There are options to get a private, 45-60 minute ride that usually costs around 90 euro. And finally, there's an in between option where you'll be in your own gondola among a group of others that are in their own gondolas. Some companies offer music and a serenade. Do some Googling to see different prices. A gondola ride will give you an additional "real feel" of Venice, but passing on it to save some money isn't a crazy idea. Walking the canals yourself is quite amazing.
San Marco SquareN/AWhether your hotel is in this area or not, this is a nice stop on your walks. A huge, open square with restaurants and shops overlooked by the large church and clock tower. During the day, you'll see people feeding pigeons, and at night, you'll see plenty of street vendors trying to get you to buy a rose for DW or a light up flying saucer. You can go up the bell tower for 8 euro for a beautiful view and you can get the very interesting audio guide for an additional 4 euro.
Lido BeachN/AIf you're in Venice for a few days, perhaps you'll enjoy a quick Vaporetto ride to Lido, where a 10 minute walk will get you onto a free public beach. Warning: Remember that this is a European beach.
Padua                ??                 Synagogue and cemetery dating to the 1500's.

Luxury Launch's Venice Guide nice list of different things to do in Venice


Shuls/Shabbos:

NameMore InfoComments
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Jewish Community of VeniceWebsiteIn the Ghetto, there are 2 community Shuls - one used during the summer and the other during the winter - that are both right next to each other. There are daily Minyanim.
ChabadWebsite


Google Doc to sign up for meals
In the Ghetto, Chabad has their own Shul/Beis Medrash that acts as the Yeshiva for the Chabad students as well as a Shul during daily Minyanim. They also own a storefront that acts as the Chabad house. Chabad owns the fleishig restaurant, Gam Gam, as well as the pizza shop, Gam Gam Goodies, that are described below. On Shabbos, Chabad hosts several meal options. First of all, you could order takeout in advance and pick it up or have it delivered to your hotel. But where's the fun in that? For meals at Chabad, the options have changed as of June 1, 2015:

1) A Meal is offered after Davening both on Friday night and Shabbos day Kiddush - no reservations necessary. This is similar to the previous "free meals" that Chabad used to offer. The meal takes place in the Shul after davening. The meal provides the opportunity to sit at a big meal with Jews from all over the world with all different types of backgrounds, which many found to be an awesome experience. Please note that the "free meals" may be a little more limited in terms of options and quantities of food.

*Pre-reserved meals*
In the old system, there was only 1 way to reserve your own table, but now there are 2 ways. Meals can not be divided between the two locations and are served at any time you want after Davening. Reservations for both options can be made by emailing info@jewishvenice.org and including the calendar date of the Shabbos you will be there and the names/emails of each attendee, as well as choosing one of the below options:

2) Shabbos in the Gallery - This option existed under the old system. Three meals at a private table in a storefront near Gam Gam that normally functions as an art gallery. 90 euro per person

3) Luxury1 Shabbos at Gam Gam Restaurant - Three meals at your private table, with more of a luxury atmosphere & meal, including more food choices, than the Gallery. Minimum donation is 126 euro per person.
Ghimmel GardensWebsite


Food:

NameMore InfoComments
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Gam GamWebsiteA nice fleishig restaurant, owned by the Chabad Rabbi. Some food is better than others, the service is pretty classic, and the prices are a bit above reasonable. But hey, it's Kosher food in Venice! You can eat outside literally at the edge of the canal, which is pretty sweet unless it's cold at night. Reservations are recommended as it can get crowded.
Gam Gam GoodiesN/ALocated just a few steps from Gam Gam, this is a small storefront that serves as a pizza shop (no seating unfortunately, but you can find benches further along in the Ghetto and are welcome to sit in the Chabad house storefront to eat). You might also find other foods like falafel, chocolates, packaged deli and fresh baked goods, which can be great for breakfast (and deli and rolls can be great for a cheaper dinner or to take food with you to your next destination that might not have Kosher food). Pizza is priced fairly and is tasty.
Volpe BakeryWebsiteRight across the alley from Gam Gam Goodies is a bakery serving fresh breads and pastries. According to the link, it's under supervision from the Chief Rabbi of Venice (not the Chabad Rabbi), however, DDFers question the Kashrus here. As of July 2014, the Chazzan at the Italian Shul said he goes into the bakery to light the fire every morning and therefore you can eat there. The place is open on Shabbos, but it must be owned by a non-Jew (or else how could it get a hashgacha?) So, there are some concerns and you may want to check into the Kashrus before you go, but the locals sure make it seem like it's fine.
FrulalaWebsiteFresh fruit smoothies that the locals will tell you are Kosher as long as you get the water-based versions. There are 2 locations - a storefront and a kiosk - that are both on the main walk from San Marco Square to the Ghetto. The drinks are tasty and refreshing, while being reasonably priced. They also offer free shotglass-sized samples, which are a great way to get a quick thirst quencher while walking!
Ghimel GardenTheir FB pageFrom Hershelsdeals Gimmal Garden is a real restaurant, Gam Gam goodies doesn't even have chairs, and is officially a bakery, not a restaurant. so you can't even compare. GamGam goodies opens at 7AM and sells breakfast, Gimmal Garden only opens at 10AM and closes 10PM
Gimmal Garden also offers Shabbos meals, Friday night is meat and Shabbos day is dairy.The food at Gimmal is excellent, they have Pizza, Fish dishes, Pasta, salads, Falafel  ETC....

« Last edited by Mootkim on December 10, 2018, 02:59:51 PM »

Author Topic: Venice Master Thread  (Read 438217 times)

Online yg99

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1380 on: August 26, 2014, 12:13:18 PM »
True, I forgot to mention the great Air Conditioning and spacious table.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1381 on: August 26, 2014, 12:30:31 PM »
Trip report:
Arrived Friday afternoon by train. We didn't take Trenitalia, but Treno Italo, a new-ish private competitor. Definitely nicer than Trenitalia: ...
I never heard of Teno Italo. I assume it went to Ferrovia S. Lucia in Venice, not Mestre?

You're lucky you got a Grand Canal view at the Westin. When we were there last month they were all booked, so even as Platinum members we didn't get a canal view, just an upgraded room with absolutely no view. Still enjoyed the hotel though. Did you get to visit Murano/Burano or did those fall in the category of things you planned to do but didn't have a chance?

Offline yls2011

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1382 on: August 26, 2014, 12:48:28 PM »
I never heard of Teno Italo. I assume it went to Ferrovia S. Lucia in Venice, not Mestre?

You're lucky you got a Grand Canal view at the Westin. When we were there last month they were all booked, so even as Platinum members we didn't get a canal view, just an upgraded room with absolutely no view. Still enjoyed the hotel though. Did you get to visit Murano/Burano or did those fall in the category of things you planned to do but didn't have a chance?
Yes in Rome you can either leave from Tiburtina or Ostiense, and it does stop at Mestre, but we got off at S. Lucia. It stops in Florence too.
It's been around about 2/3 years: http://www.italotreno.it/EN/Pages/default.aspx
Prices were better than trenitalia.
Murano/Burano were on the list, but we saw so much blown glass in all the souvenir shops that it was enough for us. I know that a lot of it is artificial, made in China, but we didn't want to dedicate an entire day to it. Once you factor in Shabbat and transportation time, we really only had Sunday and then Monday morning.
One thing we did do that wasn't on the list- planned on taking the traghetto from san marco to dorsoduro, but then we walked all along the southern part which looks over giudecca (island where hilton molino stucky is). The waters were much more open and clear, and barely any people. Very nice and unexpected. 

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1383 on: August 26, 2014, 12:55:16 PM »
Yes in Rome you can either leave from Tiburtina or Ostiense, and it does stop at Mestre, but we got off at S. Lucia. It stops in Florence too.
It's been around about 2/3 years: http://www.italotreno.it/EN/Pages/default.aspx
Prices were better than trenitalia.
Murano/Burano were on the list, but we saw so much blown glass in all the souvenir shops that it was enough for us. I know that a lot of it is artificial, made in China, but we didn't want to dedicate an entire day to it. Once you factor in Shabbat and transportation time, we really only had Sunday and then Monday morning.
One thing we did do that wasn't on the list- planned on taking the traghetto from san marco to dorsoduro, but then we walked all along the southern part which looks over giudecca (island where hilton molino stucky is). The waters were much more open and clear, and barely any people. Very nice and unexpected.
Nice to know about Italo, although I don't have plans to go back anytime soon.

Offline DG

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1384 on: September 01, 2014, 11:22:48 AM »
Could be because I haven't read any other reports like yours.

Now re Shabbos @ Chabad.
They need a major expansion in the shul. Could not breath in there. Most of the people actually made a minyan Friday night on the street. Unless you daven in the Spanish shul (about an hour earlier) you will have to wait for the second shift, at least. We ate in the Gallery and when we finished about 11:30, there were still people waiting for the third shift.

Now, about the Chabad Shabbos Food. Totally not what I expected and a disappointment. Fish was a tuna can with tomato sauce. Soup was a quarter of a bowl and plain chicken soup. Main was a bowl of rice with two small pieces was meat and 3/8 of a chicken. Dessert was 2 tiny pieces of cake. This same amount was served for 2 or 4 people. Shabbos day: Fish was half a slice of salmon, No eggs/liver, Chulent consisted of Overnight potatos and some slivers of meat. No beans. Included a burnt taste.
Didn't bother going back for Shalas Seudos. Was told that we were smart.

I heard that the Rebizin was in America, so maybe that's why it was like that. I don't know. Everyone raves about it. I don't have a clue why.


I had been to Venice once before for Shabbos several years back - this was my experience this time:

Gam Gam provides a tremendous service to the Jewish community at large who have the desire to come from around the world to visit the truly unique city of Venice. They do not charge and feed hundreds of people every Shabbos. Conceptually it sounds amazing but logistically it understandably proves to be quite challenging.

Only Jews would go someplace, eat for free, and then complain but many of the complaints I heard were more the pleading type to simply tweak the experience to make it easier for everyone.

On to Shabbos - we arrived in Venice via train from Rome at ~3:45pm. We had no problem getting to our San Zaccaria/San Marco area hotel, got ready for shabbos and walked over to the Ghetto area a bit early in order to light candles for Shabbos. Chabad provides candles and place for women to light which is very helpful as it can be a challenge to do in hotel rooms. The lighting takes place in Gam Gam but there is no semblance of order there. I walked in and asked where to go and was pointed in the general direction of the back where the kitchen is. Shkiyah was still 25 minutes away but pandemonium would be the word to describe the scene. Women were pushing and yelling to get candles, matches were nowhere to be found, and some were even taking others candles apologizing that they had to light so everyone should step aside. I rummaged around, found two candles for my wife, and we quickly scampered away as the yelling got louder behind us.

This experience certainly foreshadowed the craziness of the upcoming Shabbos.

This brings us to davening - there is something that the world should know before traveling to Venice for Shabbos; Chabad does not get along with the local Italian community and the community doesn't get along with them (see here - http://www.jta.org/2010/06/16/news-opinion/world/in-venice-a-jewish-disconnect-between-locals-and-visitors). Their feud goes back to when Chabad arrived and it is so unfortunate that everyone does not get along. The relevance of this is because Chabad - neither on their website or typically in person - does not provide information on the Italian shul's zmanim, non-chabad kosher establishments, and minimizes the historical Jewish attractions besides small mention of the museum.

Italian Website: http://www.kosherinvenice.com/
Chabad Website: http://www.jewishvenice.org/

The negative ramifications of this feud are far reaching. One aspect is the monopoly type power that Chabad wields over competing kosher establishments. The last time I was in Venice there were other kosher choices for food - good choices in fact. I ate a restaurant called Le Balthazar (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d1841097-Reviews-Le_Balthazar-Venice_Veneto.html) which is now closed. It was a most delightful experience, was in the ghetto right across from the Yeshiva, and garnered high praise (see e.g. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/13433736-post5.html) as compared to Gam Gam.

Le Balthazar is no longer open and several kosher hotels have opened and closed. A large part of this is Chabad's unwillingness to publicize other options. If it were a business, I would understand but it isn't; ask them and they will tell you they are merely there to provide place and a Shabbos environment for the traveling jew etc. and to spread yiddishkeit. Closing off other options are the actions that speak louder than words and contribute towards the opposite effect.

This rant is necessary to provide a backdrop to the next part of Shabbos. Davening was in the Yeshiva. To illustrate the size of the Yeshiva, I would humbly estimate that an American fire inspector invited to estimate the capacity of said Yeshiva would probably allow for ~30-40 men and ~20 women and even that would be pushing it. The number of estimated (might be a little high) people in Venice for Shabbos the week I was there was said to be around 600-800!

Mincha began (I believe) at around 8 and the shul filled up while people continued to arrive. After Mincha, someone announced that Kabalas Shabbos would be around 9pm and the second shift would begin at 10pm following Maariv (apparently the first shift began at 830 - not sure where they davened). Unsure of what was going on and with no room to move, scores of men and women gathered in the ghetto courtyard and someone started a minyan. Before long almost all the tourists were davening outside at the minyan approximately 15 men remained inside and waited for the second minyan. My understanding is that most people were confused and figured that they can begin eating as soon as they finish eating. Davening in the courtyard was beautiful (despite someone who lived in an apartment above the courtyard blaring music to try and drown out the singing of kabalas shabbos) - the weather was perfect and there is ample room for all. There was dancing and singing and davening finished at ~9-915.

As soon as the breakaway minyan ended, a chabad bochur stood up and announced that despite the fact that everyone had completed davening, the first shift would not be done until 10pm and everyone should kindly wait in the ghetto courtyard as opposed to congregating near gam-gam. He made the point that it wouldn't speed things up and is not fair to those in the first shift. Despite the announcement, within five minutes, the courtyard was empty, and everyone was waiting by gam gam. At approximately 945 a bochur announced that the line is irrelevant because they don't do seating based on the line - whatever that is supposed to mean. That and the lack of clarity as to whether there was going to be room or food for everyone lead to a literal mob-like scene.

There are chabad bochurim who come from various yeshivos to spend the summer in Venice and help out. They were helpful for the most part but you could tell some were exasperated and could not help themselves from getting aggravated. Asking how many shifts there were yielded the response that there can be up to four - 830, 10, 1130 and 1! No one - with the exception of some bochurim who were enjoying the chaos and drinking - wants to eat a Friday night seuda at 1am.

At 955pm a crazy game of musical chairs ensued. We won and made the second shift but there was at least a full third shift and possibly a fourth. We sat next to a non-religous couple who mentioned that they were not planning on coming back the following day as they would not resort to fighting for food like vultures when they can go elsewhere and have a respectable (albeit non-kosher) meal. We assured them that many people only come for Friday night (this is true - the combination of non-religious people who come for the experience and families that have their own food lead to Shabbos day being a lot less crazy) and they indeed came back the next morning.

I can not and will not complain about the food. It was fine and it was free. My advice would be to fill up on bread in case you don't like the main courses but I did like them and was full. We ate alongside the canal and enjoyed spending our meal in the company of others from all over the world. The meal is served efficiently and moves along at a comfortable pace. They have Zemiros with a quick dance as well as a Shtikl Torah from one of the bachurim. I thought it was very clever that he spoke generally about the concept of the Shiva D'nechemta Haftoras - a speech that he no doubt repeated each week (since they go for seven weeks) and at each meal. Pretty sure he had it down pat...

It was a bit disconcerting that there were many people standing around waiting for us to finish eating. When we were done, one girl about to start her meal at the third shift, said loudly something like "I can't believe we had to wait all the way till 1130pm to eat since we weren't old and didn't have any young children." All the people around us undoubtedly felt comfortable because we did not fall into either category either yet we had all managed to snag a second shift seat.

We made it back to our hotel and passed out. We were appalled at the animalistic behavior that we no doubt had become a part of in order to get seated. As we walked back with several other couples, we were all convinced that there has to be a better way.

Shabbos morning there are two minyanim - Italian shul and Chabad. The first shift begins 1130/12ish and the second one is at 1pm. We were not in a particular rush and didn't even go to GamGam before 1245 since we had no desire to see all the fighting again. We were again lucky to be seated for the second shift - inside this time - although there was a third shift and people were waiting there until 215ish when we were done. The food Shabbos morning was a bit rougher - the cholent seems parve and they sprinkle some coldcuts on the top for the Bassar component and the fish is limited. Again, filling up on Challah is the wise move and I am not really going to complain.

Walked back to our hotel and took a nap. Came back for Mincha. Shalosh Seudos is served at the Yeshiva. Again, small and difficult to fit many people. Not a lot of women and certainly not much to eat. The Italian shul has shalosh seudos in another building that they own which is on the way from the Chabad Yeshiva to GamGam in a nondescript door.  I followed some people walking in and I found out later that people who came later were unable to get in. Once the door closes, its closed. The building has a nice-sized courtyard behind it and a social hall/rec room type building in their backyard where they have shalosh seudos. They serve pasta which is fine and the Rav speaks in hebrew. The actual reason I went there is because they daven maariv 10 or 15 minutes earlier than Chabad does. Davening was in the courtyard and was packed with Americans who I hadn't seen all Shabbos who had presumably eaten in the Gallery or in their hotel rooms and who had davened with the Italians all Shabbos.

Walked back to my hotel and took the Vaporetto back with my wife. In the Chabad yeshiva is the candle/wine/Bsamim that they used which I was able to use to make Havdala.

We ordered and waited an hour or so for our pizza from Gam Gam Milky but the pizza was good and there was plenty of people to socialize with. We took the Alilaguna to the airport the next morning from San Zaccaria to Marco Polo airport which was straightforward and relatively inexpensive.

I think that Gam Gam should require reservations and assign shift numbers before Shabbos like Breslov does in Uman Rosh Hashana (at least according to my understanding). If I knew that my Friday night Seuda was going to be at 1130pm I would have been fine with it and planned accordingly. However, we were basically told that whoever sits down fastest gets to eat first. Which is ridiculous.

Alternatively, if Chabad got along with the current Italian community, perhaps they would be able to make shabbos meals in the Ghetto courtyard that could comfortably fit everyone in one sitting.

Another point - if Chabad were to get along, perhaps everyone would be able to join together for davening in the beautiful Italian shul that is in the ghetto.

I don't know the internal politics so it might not be entirely fair to fault Chabad - it could be the Italian community isn't willing to get involved however they were there first and as such the burden lies on Chabad to make Shalom with the matzav.

tldr - Chabad provides a wonderful service for free but many would be willing to pay if they became more organized which they should have been able to do over the course of the twenty years (or more) that they have been there. Know what you are getting into - during the summer months it is often quite chaotic!


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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1385 on: September 01, 2014, 03:00:26 PM »
Happy I went in May when there was just a single shift, sounds like a nightmare.
Why didn't you make the gallery reservation like everyone here has said to do?

You seem content with the politics explanation, but the non-chabad bakery for example is open on shabbos and that itself is a can of worms and reason enough for not accepting a hashgocha...frankly I have no idea, nor do I really care much.
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1386 on: September 01, 2014, 03:12:43 PM »


I had been to Venice once before for Shabbos several years back - this was my experience this time:

Gam Gam provides a tremendous service to the Jewish community at large who have the desire to come from around the world to visit the truly unique city of Venice. They do not charge and feed hundreds of people every Shabbos. Conceptually it sounds amazing but logistically it understandably proves to be quite challenging.

Only Jews would go someplace, eat for free, and then complain but many of the complaints I heard were more the pleading type to simply tweak the experience to make it easier for everyone.

On to Shabbos - we arrived in Venice via train from Rome at ~3:45pm. We had no problem getting to our San Zaccaria/San Marco area hotel, got ready for shabbos and walked over to the Ghetto area a bit early in order to light candles for Shabbos. Chabad provides candles and place for women to light which is very helpful as it can be a challenge to do in hotel rooms. The lighting takes place in Gam Gam but there is no semblance of order there. I walked in and asked where to go and was pointed in the general direction of the back where the kitchen is. Shkiyah was still 25 minutes away but pandemonium would be the word to describe the scene. Women were pushing and yelling to get candles, matches were nowhere to be found, and some were even taking others candles apologizing that they had to light so everyone should step aside. I rummaged around, found two candles for my wife, and we quickly scampered away as the yelling got louder behind us.

This experience certainly foreshadowed the craziness of the upcoming Shabbos.

This brings us to davening - there is something that the world should know before traveling to Venice for Shabbos; Chabad does not get along with the local Italian community and the community doesn't get along with them (see here - http://www.jta.org/2010/06/16/news-opinion/world/in-venice-a-jewish-disconnect-between-locals-and-visitors). Their feud goes back to when Chabad arrived and it is so unfortunate that everyone does not get along. The relevance of this is because Chabad - neither on their website or typically in person - does not provide information on the Italian shul's zmanim, non-chabad kosher establishments, and minimizes the historical Jewish attractions besides small mention of the museum.

Italian Website: http://www.kosherinvenice.com/
Chabad Website: http://www.jewishvenice.org/

The negative ramifications of this feud are far reaching. One aspect is the monopoly type power that Chabad wields over competing kosher establishments. The last time I was in Venice there were other kosher choices for food - good choices in fact. I ate a restaurant called Le Balthazar (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d1841097-Reviews-Le_Balthazar-Venice_Veneto.html) which is now closed. It was a most delightful experience, was in the ghetto right across from the Yeshiva, and garnered high praise (see e.g. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/13433736-post5.html) as compared to Gam Gam.

Le Balthazar is no longer open and several kosher hotels have opened and closed. A large part of this is Chabad's unwillingness to publicize other options. If it were a business, I would understand but it isn't; ask them and they will tell you they are merely there to provide place and a Shabbos environment for the traveling jew etc. and to spread yiddishkeit. Closing off other options are the actions that speak louder than words and contribute towards the opposite effect.

This rant is necessary to provide a backdrop to the next part of Shabbos. Davening was in the Yeshiva. To illustrate the size of the Yeshiva, I would humbly estimate that an American fire inspector invited to estimate the capacity of said Yeshiva would probably allow for ~30-40 men and ~20 women and even that would be pushing it. The number of estimated (might be a little high) people in Venice for Shabbos the week I was there was said to be around 600-800!

Mincha began (I believe) at around 8 and the shul filled up while people continued to arrive. After Mincha, someone announced that Kabalas Shabbos would be around 9pm and the second shift would begin at 10pm following Maariv (apparently the first shift began at 830 - not sure where they davened). Unsure of what was going on and with no room to move, scores of men and women gathered in the ghetto courtyard and someone started a minyan. Before long almost all the tourists were davening outside at the minyan approximately 15 men remained inside and waited for the second minyan. My understanding is that most people were confused and figured that they can begin eating as soon as they finish eating. Davening in the courtyard was beautiful (despite someone who lived in an apartment above the courtyard blaring music to try and drown out the singing of kabalas shabbos) - the weather was perfect and there is ample room for all. There was dancing and singing and davening finished at ~9-915.

As soon as the breakaway minyan ended, a chabad bochur stood up and announced that despite the fact that everyone had completed davening, the first shift would not be done until 10pm and everyone should kindly wait in the ghetto courtyard as opposed to congregating near gam-gam. He made the point that it wouldn't speed things up and is not fair to those in the first shift. Despite the announcement, within five minutes, the courtyard was empty, and everyone was waiting by gam gam. At approximately 945 a bochur announced that the line is irrelevant because they don't do seating based on the line - whatever that is supposed to mean. That and the lack of clarity as to whether there was going to be room or food for everyone lead to a literal mob-like scene.

There are chabad bochurim who come from various yeshivos to spend the summer in Venice and help out. They were helpful for the most part but you could tell some were exasperated and could not help themselves from getting aggravated. Asking how many shifts there were yielded the response that there can be up to four - 830, 10, 1130 and 1! No one - with the exception of some bochurim who were enjoying the chaos and drinking - wants to eat a Friday night seuda at 1am.

At 955pm a crazy game of musical chairs ensued. We won and made the second shift but there was at least a full third shift and possibly a fourth. We sat next to a non-religous couple who mentioned that they were not planning on coming back the following day as they would not resort to fighting for food like vultures when they can go elsewhere and have a respectable (albeit non-kosher) meal. We assured them that many people only come for Friday night (this is true - the combination of non-religious people who come for the experience and families that have their own food lead to Shabbos day being a lot less crazy) and they indeed came back the next morning.

I can not and will not complain about the food. It was fine and it was free. My advice would be to fill up on bread in case you don't like the main courses but I did like them and was full. We ate alongside the canal and enjoyed spending our meal in the company of others from all over the world. The meal is served efficiently and moves along at a comfortable pace. They have Zemiros with a quick dance as well as a Shtikl Torah from one of the bachurim. I thought it was very clever that he spoke generally about the concept of the Shiva D'nechemta Haftoras - a speech that he no doubt repeated each week (since they go for seven weeks) and at each meal. Pretty sure he had it down pat...

It was a bit disconcerting that there were many people standing around waiting for us to finish eating. When we were done, one girl about to start her meal at the third shift, said loudly something like "I can't believe we had to wait all the way till 1130pm to eat since we weren't old and didn't have any young children." All the people around us undoubtedly felt comfortable because we did not fall into either category either yet we had all managed to snag a second shift seat.

We made it back to our hotel and passed out. We were appalled at the animalistic behavior that we no doubt had become a part of in order to get seated. As we walked back with several other couples, we were all convinced that there has to be a better way.

Shabbos morning there are two minyanim - Italian shul and Chabad. The first shift begins 1130/12ish and the second one is at 1pm. We were not in a particular rush and didn't even go to GamGam before 1245 since we had no desire to see all the fighting again. We were again lucky to be seated for the second shift - inside this time - although there was a third shift and people were waiting there until 215ish when we were done. The food Shabbos morning was a bit rougher - the cholent seems parve and they sprinkle some coldcuts on the top for the Bassar component and the fish is limited. Again, filling up on Challah is the wise move and I am not really going to complain.

Walked back to our hotel and took a nap. Came back for Mincha. Shalosh Seudos is served at the Yeshiva. Again, small and difficult to fit many people. Not a lot of women and certainly not much to eat. The Italian shul has shalosh seudos in another building that they own which is on the way from the Chabad Yeshiva to GamGam in a nondescript door.  I followed some people walking in and I found out later that people who came later were unable to get in. Once the door closes, its closed. The building has a nice-sized courtyard behind it and a social hall/rec room type building in their backyard where they have shalosh seudos. They serve pasta which is fine and the Rav speaks in hebrew. The actual reason I went there is because they daven maariv 10 or 15 minutes earlier than Chabad does. Davening was in the courtyard and was packed with Americans who I hadn't seen all Shabbos who had presumably eaten in the Gallery or in their hotel rooms and who had davened with the Italians all Shabbos.

Walked back to my hotel and took the Vaporetto back with my wife. In the Chabad yeshiva is the candle/wine/Bsamim that they used which I was able to use to make Havdala.

We ordered and waited an hour or so for our pizza from Gam Gam Milky but the pizza was good and there was plenty of people to socialize with. We took the Alilaguna to the airport the next morning from San Zaccaria to Marco Polo airport which was straightforward and relatively inexpensive.

I think that Gam Gam should require reservations and assign shift numbers before Shabbos like Breslov does in Uman Rosh Hashana (at least according to my understanding). If I knew that my Friday night Seuda was going to be at 1130pm I would have been fine with it and planned accordingly. However, we were basically told that whoever sits down fastest gets to eat first. Which is ridiculous.

Alternatively, if Chabad got along with the current Italian community, perhaps they would be able to make shabbos meals in the Ghetto courtyard that could comfortably fit everyone in one sitting.

Another point - if Chabad were to get along, perhaps everyone would be able to join together for davening in the beautiful Italian shul that is in the ghetto.

I don't know the internal politics so it might not be entirely fair to fault Chabad - it could be the Italian community isn't willing to get involved however they were there first and as such the burden lies on Chabad to make Shalom with the matzav.

tldr - Chabad provides a wonderful service for free but many would be willing to pay if they became more organized which they should have been able to do over the course of the twenty years (or more) that they have been there. Know what you are getting into - during the summer months it is often quite chaotic!


i expected gam gam to be packed in august, so i brought along food to my hotel to eat after the meal..
i davened in the italian shul friday night and shabbos morning, so i made both first shifts, i met someone who told me he started his meal at 1am
i  think that chabad/gam gam wants the crowding around by gam gam as that would attract passerby attention to check out whats going on here, (after the last shift shabbos day, they had a farbrengen by gam gam) i belive thats why they would rather set up the meal on the main rd instead of the square by the gehtto so that there should be action the whole shabbos by gam gam
 gam  gam milky was packed motzei shabbos, i only came after 1am and got from the last pies being made, i dont know why they dont open up the fleishig one motzei shabbos, plenty of people wouldve gone there...

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1387 on: September 01, 2014, 03:47:20 PM »
Happy I went in May when there was just a single shift, sounds like a nightmare.
Why didn't you make the gallery reservation like everyone here has said to do?

I tried for the Gallery but it was apparently sold out for months before...seems like that is definitely the way to go in the summer months.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1388 on: September 02, 2014, 01:53:17 AM »
Can anyone help me to decide between the westin and the Bauer hotel both are in St marks sq. Anyone with info ? I'd appreciate tnx

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1389 on: September 02, 2014, 08:23:58 AM »
It's so interesting to me that I had a very different experience at GAM GAMs this summer. I made reservations at the Gallery expecting all the chaos predicted. In the end I was somewhat disappointed because for some reason the Shabbos I was there was not busy at all and I missed out on the "GAM GAM" experience of eating outside and sitting with strangers from all over the world. I still had a nice meal and great Shabbos but I guess it's really hit or miss in the summer.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1390 on: September 02, 2014, 08:24:57 AM »
Can anyone help me to decide between the westin and the Bauer hotel both are in St marks sq. Anyone with info ? I'd appreciate tnx

Haven't been inside the Bauer, it looks nice from the outside. I have stayed at the Westin, it's very nice and very comfortable.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1391 on: September 02, 2014, 09:30:49 AM »
Can anyone help me to decide between the westin and the Bauer hotel both are in St marks sq. Anyone with info ? I'd appreciate tnx
Same here. The Westin was great, so I'd recommend it if you have the points.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1392 on: September 02, 2014, 09:34:05 AM »
Haven't been inside the Bauer, it looks nice from the outside. I have stayed at the Westin, it's very nice and very comfortable.
Location of the Bauer is good I can have it for half the price
Same here. The Westin was great, so I'd recommend it if you have the points.

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1393 on: September 02, 2014, 05:02:13 PM »

i  think that chabad/gam gam wants the crowding around by gam gam as that would attract passerby attention to check out whats going on here, (after the last shift shabbos day, they had a farbrengen by gam gam) i belive thats why they would rather set up the meal on the main rd instead of the square by the gehtto so that there should be action the whole shabbos by gam gam


thats a pretty ridiculous suggestion
why on earth would it help chabad to have random passerbys gawking?

maybe they have it on the river because its a beautiful location to have a shabbos meal

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Re: Venice Master Thread
« Reply #1394 on: September 02, 2014, 05:38:21 PM »
Location of the Bauer is good I can have it for half the price
Or enjoy the Comfort Hotel Diana for a measly 10K MR a night.