10 November 2015

Hotel Amba Alagi, Venice (Marghera) - Review

Hotel Amba Alagi: exterior
I usually advise travellers to stay in central Venice, but there are times when lodging outside the city - on the nearby mainland, for example - may be be a practical option. Or indeed, the only option. I visited Venice in October at short notice, when all the decent and affordable central hotels were booked up. Not wanting to stay in a hostel nor to spend hundreds of euros per night, I broke my own rules and tried out two cheap mainland hotels. First of the two was the Hotel Amba Alagi, where I paid just €55 per night for a double room.

I found Hotel Amba Alagi very decent for a one-star. It's in Marghera, on the Venice mainland, and on the far side of Marghera for Venice. That's the disadvantage – but that's also what makes it a budget option. With car parking and easy road access, it's a practical idea for travellers with a car who want to go into Venice once or twice by public transport, or for travellers on a tight budget.

Marghera was designed as a kind of 'garden suburb', across the railway from Venice's sibling town Mestre, and separated from the Venetian lagoon by a large industrial port area. It's composed of wide modern streets radiating out from roundabouts with leafy parks in the middle; nowadays it's a combination of respectable and down-at-heel side-by-side. Buses and trams connect the suburb with Mestre and with Venice.

The hotel is around the corner from a tram stop. Named 'Beccaria', the stop is on line T2. This runs quickly to Mestre railway station and on into the centre of Mestre. You could travel there and change to Line T1 which crosses the lagoon to Venice, although this would be a circuitous route into town (I didn't time this, so it's possible it would be quick and more comfortable than the buses). More directly, ACTV bus 6L runs from Piazzale
Double bedroom
Concordia, a few minutes' walk away, into Venice. From the hotel door to Piazzale Roma in Venice I'd allow 20-30 minutes. At the time of writing the tram service continues until 9pm and the 6L runs its full route until around the same time. As an alternative, bus service 6 has its nearest stop at Piazza S. Antonio, which is walking distance of the hotel, and on the route of the tram. This bus also runs into Venice and continues until after midnight. At night, therefore, you'll need to get a bus back as far as S. Antonio and then walk (easy as you can follow the tram tracks, but a bit creepy if  you're alone).

I booked a double room at the hotel. It was on an upper floor (room 8), was a reasonable size and better than I would have expected from the one-star rating. The only negative points were that the room wasn't terribly bright, and the paint on the walls was a bit marked. Otherwise, I was impressed. The décor was fairly neutral, with a hard tiled floor, rugs by the bed, a small table to act as a desk, a wall-mounted TV, a couple of chairs, a suitcase stand, coat hooks and two bedside tables and plug sockets: everything you'd need and extra too (coat hooks are welcome but rare in Italian hotels). The complimentary hotel slippers and little bag of local speciality biscuits were an unexpected and hospitable touch. 

To control the temperature there was a fan above the bed, an air-conditioning unit and a radiator; I didn't need any of these during my visit, although the room was quite cool in the evenings (early October). During my first night I took the spare blanket from the cupboard and pulled it over me; when the cleaner visited the next day, he/she carefully remade the bed to include the blanket between sheet and coverlet: good service, I thought. The room and bathroom had windows with the kind of external slatted shutter you pull down using a strap. Not elegant, but it saved opening windows and leaning out at the mercy of the local mosquitoes.

En-suite bathroom
The en-suite bathroom was small but again, fine. The shower was decent, and there was some space for toiletries. The only niggle was that the towel rail was squeezed in rather close to the toilet seat.  Toiletries provided were soap, shower sachet and a shower cap. There was a hairdryer in the bathroom attached to the wall – a good one with different settings and a directional nozzle, although inconveniently placed for right-handed guests.

The hotel's location was very quiet. The rooms/doorways weren't soundproofed though, and I did hear other guests talking and using the TV, (ear plugs fixed this) and there was a very faint smell of cigarettes a couple of times. I slept very well. The bed was two singles put together; the mattresses were comfortable enough. 

The people who run the hotel were friendly and helpful – I'm not sure how much English they could speak, as we talked in Italian, but they provide guests with a map indicating the nearest bus and tram stops. Breakfast wasn't included in my room rate. 

Welcome biscuits
I would say this hotel is a good option if you're looking for cheap and practical, and are prepared for the travel required to get into Venice. I found this a drawback at night; though if you aren't alone or aren't staying late in Venice, this won't be such an issue. An advantage of being a bit nearer the start of the bus route means you've a fair chance of getting a seat on the busy service to Venice. There are hotels in Marghera which are nearer to the lagoon city; though these tend to be either significantly more expensive or poorly-reviewed (and you'll generally have to stand on the bus). I later switched to one of the nearer hotels, and I missed the Amba Alagi; the décor may have been tired but the room's amenities were better.

Getting to the hotel by public transport from the airport is fairly straightforward. On festivi - i.e. Sundays and public holidays - the ACTV bus service 15 runs all the way from the airport to Marghera. Check the latest information, or ask at the ACTV desk at the airport, as previously this bus used to run every day, and it could change again. In the absence of a direct service, take the ATVO express or the ACTV bus 15 to Mestre FS (the railway station) before changing to the tram T2. The tram stop is in an underpass beneath the bus parking area; there are stairs and a lift, labelled with the direction: Marghera. Alight at the Beccaria stop.

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