Adrienne Smith, the Constant Traveler: A Problem with 'Pensiones' Print

Written by Adrienne Smith


Jan. 14, 2015: In the spirit of auld lang syne, and because I haven't been anywhere lately, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane and describe a trip I took with my two youngest children twenty or so years ago.

It was the summer of my discontent. Money was in short supply, but I had to go somewhere. Somehow I convinced myself that, despite years of staying at the crème de la crème Gritti Palace in Venice, lodging at a pensione there might be "quaint" and an "experience."

The children were too young to protest, so off we went, combined with stays at other equally modest hotels.

I selected a place called Pensione Seguso in the artsy Dorsoduro section of Venice. Its locale, near the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, seemed opportune.

We arrived by train, took a vaporetto to the stop nearest the pensione, and lugged our heavy suitcases up, over, and down several intimidating bridges.

Arriving at our destination, we found the lobby slightly dark and depressing, but, hey, this was part of the experience.

We were shown to our triple room, two beds and a rollaway, a nice size but sparsely furnished in, what might be called by some, Salvation Army rejects. In some version of a lottery, my 10-year-old son won the cot. Tired from our suitcase lugging, he plopped down on the bed and instantly became an Italian version of an Oreo cookie as the head and foot sprang up to enclose him. We instantly extricated him in what I view as a family version of renaissance.

It was now time for the dinner included in our hotel rate. Walking into the dining room, looking left and right, we found ourselves surrounded by a bevy of what appeared to be impecunious and depressive English widows. No problem. Sitting at our assigned spot, we nibbled on the tiny Wonder-Bread-like rolls we were given.

Our first course, an ersatz pâté, had more in common with Spam than I care to remember. The rest of the meal was a blur, perhaps because of the copious amount of wine I drank in an attempt to see the bright side of our adventure.

After dinner, we repaired to our triple, only to be greeted with gulping sobs emanating from an apartment directly across from our room. A couple was having a furious fight. Being a naturally curious bunch, the kids and I crawled guerrilla-style to the window, and from either side, looked surreptitiously over to our querulous neighbors. To our surprise, we saw that it was the man who was weeping so piteously. Only in Italy!

Having had our share of excitement for the day, and enervated by the Venetian summer heat, we threw open all our windows and fell into deep sleep.

We awoke with what appeared to be triple cases of the measles. We had all been attacked by an army of very inhospitable mosquitoes.

Enough was enough!

I instantly dialed the number of the glamorous Cipriani hotel and secured a reservation, at no small price, for the night. Out of a desire not to offend the proprietors of the Seguso, I decided to keep our room for the full length of our contracted stay.

Arriving at the Cipriani at eight in the morning with little more than the shirts on our backs, I'm sure we were taken for unusually ugly Americans. But we were given a pleasant room, and the children proceeded to frolic merrily in the Olympic-sized pool for the rest of the day. We stayed until the latest possible moment the next day, returning to the Seguso for only one painful last night, hermetically sealed in our room.

At the very least, I feel that The Guinness Book of Records should take note of us for having booked, perhaps, the cheapest and most expensive rooms for the same night in Venice, truly a remarkable feat!

Note: In the interest of fairness, I must report that the aforementioned pensione has apparently undergone extensive renovations since my visit. However, I do not plan to make another visit to confirm this detail.

Pictured here: Pensione Seguso in Venice.

Photo by Adrienne Smith