Il Buco della Suora is The Lovely Brothers' home in Venice. Their two other projects, the conversion of an old stable in Brooklyn (Bell End) and the telephone operator's cottage in Bovina (Cottager's Bottom) are also for rent. Il Buco picks up where Bell End left off, applying lessons learned on land to the unique landscape of a city built on water.
The process of rebuilding took two years and was undertaken by hand, boat and rubber wheel, utilizing the collective talents of an amazing team of Venetian artisans.
We reclaimed an old Venetian home, dragging it up from the mire by its fundamentals. Unusually for a city steeped in disguise, Il Buco embraces nakedness. It trusts the functionality of raw materials; brick, stone, wooden beams and architraves, salvaged oak, rough plaster, hand-made tiles, iron, steel. The central flow of the apartment is retained, with rooms repurposed for a contemporary way of life. Doors and walls were removed to facilitate space and openness, whilst retaining the rough, natural textures which afford warmth and the sense of being a home. Very little is concealed or embellished. The apartment uses what is endemically beautiful in the structure, peeling back a century of remodeling to embrace the core principles of the building itself.
Walls are of brick and rough plaster, ceilings of original wood. Floors were taken back to dirt and resurfaced with hand-made Moroccan tiles, employing a perspective-enhancing design that echoes the floors of Basilica San Marco. Closets and cupboards were eschewed in favour of rough-hewn oak shelving, so the contents of the apartment - books, records, pots, pans, hooks, hats, coats - become part of its shifting visual landscape, unique to the people staying in it.
Under-floor radiant heat provides a perfect antidote to Venice's damp winter chill (there are few things more life-affirming than climbing out of bed and planting sleepy feet upon a warm floor). The city's summer heat is mitigated by air-conditioning. There is an endless supply of on-demand hot water.
The heart of the house - living/dining room - adjoins the kitchen and outdoor yard. We put emphasis upon the collective urge to gather, placing a farmhouse table in the middle of the space, chairs around it. The same in the yard; breakfast table and chairs. It's not a home we want people to feel compelled to leave. Communion and sanctuary - talking, cooking, coffee in the morning, wine at night - were guiding principles. Proximity to the kitchen, with its Bertozzoni range, farmhouse sink and array of tools and equipment, means guests can live as a family. Passing plates of fresh pasta through the kitchen window to waiting hands outside is one of the seminal experiences of being here.
The second living room (with full-size sofa bed) is the largest room in the apartment, with armchairs, books, record player and vintage records, and an eclectic array of modern American antiques, including vintage megaphones, clam rakes, old bar menus, meathooks and a bass drum from a church marching band. Iron-shuttered windows look out onto a garden. The leather couch from Spazio Boselli provides the perfect surface for horizontal dozing. However, a couple of easy maneuvers and it becomes a double bed; the space is instantly transformed from living room to bedroom, with its own en-suite bathroom (shower, toilet, sink, bidet). Roll the massive barn door shut and you’re in your own private suite. The same maneuver in reverse, you’re back to a living room.
Bedroom 2, in the front of the house, has a double bed with salvaged oak headboard, 50's Murano chandelier and antique military cabinet imported from the US. It has two large windows onto Calle Degolin for great light, and full-length iron shutters for privacy.
Bedroom 3 has a custom built oak bunk beds, crystal chandelier and large iron-shuttered window onto Calle Degolin.
Mattresses are new, cotton sheets and towels by Bassetti, blankets from a farm in upstate New York. There is a choice of down or synthetic pillows.
The main bathroom has a shower, double sink, toilet and bidet spray.
We avoided the intrusion of a large TV screen. Instead, there's an iMac exclusively for guests hidden inside a wardrobe in the living room. Open the two doors, pull up the armchairs and use it as a television to watch movies with your own subscription service. It also comes with an external hard-drive for DVD’s.
Alternatively, the apartment has high-speed wireless internet, so if you've brought your own laptop, you can work or watch stuff on that. Music plays either through a wireless Sonos system, using the free Sonos app on any smartphone, or through a Marshall bluetooth speaker connected to the turntable.
The outside yard is simple and rustic, backing on to the crumbling walls (and windows) of the catechism school. At certain times of the day you can hear the kids in the church playground on Calle Lunga San Barnaba. A single, monolithic slab of mahogany sits on saw-horses providing a planting table, along with an antique cafe breakfast table and chairs.
There's a front-loading washing machine and drying rack in the closet. And - most critically - a 'carello' with sturdy wheels for frequent trips to the supermarket and beyond. With this and a swift gait, you will be able to pass as a Venetian.
A note. We welcome children of all ages (we have two of our own) but we ask that people remember this is our home, on a quiet calle populated by Venetians, most of whom are elderly. We are 'stranieri' and as such our reputation rests upon the kindness of our guests. We don't pretend to be a hotel. If you're secretly wanting a hotel but are attracted to the home thing because of price or the number of people that can be crammed into a Volkswagen cheaply, you won't be happy here. It's a home, a sanctuary from the frenzy of Piazza San Marco and Rialto, rather than an adjunct to it. It's quiet, peaceful and private. There's always coffee, tea, sugar, salt, pepper, spices, Campari and other things; it's a nice, trusting, mutually respectful vibe, rather than the two IKEA teaspoons and a plastic plate thing.
The name of the apartment refers to a 16th century passageway - Il Buco - that connected Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Carmini to the convent at San Sebastiano. According to legend, cloistered nuns - le Suore - used this dark corridor to attend services at Carmini without being spotted by lay-folk. The Nun’s Hole, long-vanished, passed through our little corner of Dorsoduro. By adopting the name Il Buco della Suora, we've gone some way to fostering its restoration.
Calle Degolin is ideally situated off Calle Lunga San Barnaba, a narrow alleyway well-known to locals, that connects Campo San Barnaba to Chiesa San Sebastiano (with its iconic Veronese paintings). It's a minute's walk to lively Campo Santa Margherita, its fish stalls, butcher, vegetable stands and myriad of restaurants, bars and cafes. It is also close to several supermarkets, including one on Zattere, which offers great strolling opportunities while gazing across the canal to Il Redentore on Giudecca.
We're very close to Ca' Rezzonico vaporetto stop, with no bridges between (for that first and last day with luggage), as well as San Basilio/Zattere just round the corner. 10 minutes by vaporetto to Piazza San Marco, or 15 on foot. It's a short walk to Piazzale Roma for buses or Ferrovia for trains. An even shorter walk to the bridges at Accademia or Rialto. There are traghetti very close by at San Samuele and San Tomà. You can also get a water taxi to within 200 feet of our door, but nobody does.
There are countless famous attractions extremely close by: Scuola San Rocco, Frari, Chiesa dei Carmini, San Sebastiano, San Nicolo dei Mendecoli, Ca' Rezzonico itself, Accademia Museum, the famous spritz bar Schiave, endless restaurants and gelaterie, the famous pasticcerie Tonolo and Colussi, the gondola workshop at San Trovaso, the vegetable barge in Campo San Barnaba. It's a short walk to Rialto with its fish market and cicchetti bars, Campo San Polo, Campo San Giacomo, the Guggenheim and Salute. And - when you're ready for the masses - it's 15 minutes walk to Piazza San Marco, taking in Fenice along the way.
Il Buco della Suora offers a unique way to stay as a local in the best part of Venice.
The Municipality of Venice requires that we preregister guests with a small contract, stating their details, the sum they have paid, and the payment of a nominal tourist tax. Upon agreement via AirBnB, we will send this document by email, which will need to be signed and held at the apartment during your stay.