Do you miss the old elegance of a fine hotel? One in which staff might learn your name? Where you might sit reading the newspaper in an elegant sitting room with the sun streaming in through the windows, the Arno river flowing sweetly right outside the door?
We're talking about Pisa's first hotel, opened in 1839. Teddy Roosevelt approved of the digs. The staff is digging through the old records, finding more famous people who've stayed to wallow in luxury while after their visit to the leaning tower.
The Royal Victoria Hotel, the elegant lobby of which is pictured above, is recommended by just about any expat who has needed to stay in Pisa for any length of time. In fact, author Susan Van Allen of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go fame clued us into it. It's where she stays when she's in town.
So, ok, you're thinking that this is going to be expensive, right? Well, the Royal Victoria is but a three star hotel. It still has a few rooms with baths down the hall! If you've traveled solo in the 70s, you know how much you can save with such inconveniences thrust upon you. Of course, you can get a deluxe room with a view onto the Arno with a big bathroom, too--and at a very reasonable price.
If it's hot out and you want a cooler, quieter room to rest in, then select something inside the 10th century tower that forms the backbone of the hotel (the place enveloped several houses and towers when it was built).
Every room is different. There are no cookie-cutter chamber of horrors here. There's a rooftop terrace where you can take your coffee or a glass of wine. The staff is as helpful as they can be, and most speak English.
Royal Victoria Hotel (more information and booking)
12 lungarno Pacinotti - 56126 PISA (PI) - Italy
Tel. (+39) 050.940.111
The Royal Victoria doesn't have a restaurant, so you'll have to duck around the corner to the market square for a bite. We have just the place.
Trattoria Vineria di Piazza is tucked under the portico in piazza delle Vettovaglie, one of my favorite little squares and still today the scene of the open air market. Shops, many devoted to food, line the piazza.
There isn't a menu. You enter, pass to the right and there's a little dining room. A chalkboard on the back wall tells you what's in the pots that day. If there is wild boar, cinghiale in dolceforte or with olives, order it. It's fantastic.
The pastas were quite good as well. The house wine was quite decent--and reasonably priced. There's a small wine list, but it was lunch so we ignored it.
On our way out I peeked into the kitchen. Sparkling clean. Big, with beamed ceilings. You can't go wrong.
Trattoria Vineria di Piazza
Piazza delle Vettovaglie 14, Pisa
Telephone: (+39) 050.3820.433 or 340 7776593