June 16, 2010

La Serenissima- Days 1&2

In the mad rush of tourists, it can be hard to understand why Venetians call this city "The Most Serene", but on our visit, on the shoulder of high tourist season, there were still chances to glimpse the beauty and peace that earned Venice her nickname.

We arrived at the Marco Polo airport and made the easy and relatively cheap transfer from the mainland to Venice herself. We took the ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma, and then contemplated taking a vaporetto (water bus) to our apartment, but we ended up just picking up our bags and hiking it. The only unpleasant part was that with our rolling bags we had to pick them up and carry them over every.single.bridge. But with a really great map, it only took 20 minutes {and a couple dead-end turnarounds} to get to our apartment.

the view from my seat on the bus- I don't know what M. Polo's rear had to do with the parking spot:)

We ended up renting the San Silvestro apartment from a British company called Italian Breaks, and it went really well. Since there were 6 adults in there, we didn't have much extra space, but that was to be expected. The beds were pretty comfortable, the kitchen had enough things for basic cooking {which of course we exceeded, but that's just how we roll}. The company had reasonable prices and was easy to work with- I highly recommend them. I didn't take any pictures of the actual apartment, but the pictures on the website were a good representation of what you get.

Once we were slightly recovered, we wandered the Rialto area (including the leftovers of the market) and headed towards Piazza San Marco using as many small back streets as possible {to avoid all those tourists;)} and enjoyed the beauty of the city. For a late lunch we had some cichetti at the Osteria dei Zemei (Rughetta del Ravano)- the servers were very friendly and patient, and the food was delicious! They also recommended affordable and fabulous wines to go with. For dinner we weren't so lucky, ending up at a place back near the Rialto (don't know the name) that served 'special toast'- it wasn't horrid, but it was incredibly unimaginative, and overpriced. But we were starved. And jet-lagged. And we just made do. Of course, that stupid 'special toast' {kinda like a pizza, but not?} plagued us for the rest of the week- we would turn a corner, and there it would be. Run away!!!

Our second day was a bit more exciting. We started out by grabbing breakfast Goppian Cafe (along Ruga Vecchia San Giovvani- open at 6:30am)- that became a regular morning stop because they were open early, the pastries were pretty good and the coffee was decent {and all was well priced}. From there we headed to the Rialto market, and this was a mind blowing experience!

Mr. P and I headed away from the market early to get to the Doge's Palace (and got there WAY early- Venice is tiny and it only took 10 minutes to get there, not the 30 we'd planned for!). So rather than sit around bored, we wandered along the edge of Venice down towards the Naval Museum, and then headed to the Giardinetti Reali, a small garden right off of Piazza San Marco- this is {according to Rick Steve's} the only legal place in Venice to have a picnic. It was really peaceful at 9am, and we had a nice time wandering in the sunshine.

who knew pigeons could be so pretty? There was a whole flock of these beauties in the garden

We had purchased tickets ahead of time for the Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries tour, and it was pretty darn cool. You go behind the scenes to the 'secret' rooms of the Doge's Palace where treason and evil deeds were judged, plus you see the jails and torture chambers that are closed off to the public (including Casanova's cells). I thought it was pretty cool, and if you are interested in history I highly recommend it. You need to book ahead of time online though because the tours sell out quickly during high season, and we wouldn't have gotten tickets if we had waited to buy them in Venice.

The weather was a bit stormy, but I was afraid to put away the camera- so much beauty within steps is hard to resist! After the tour we ran back to the Rialto area to meet our travel companions for cichetti at Do Spade and Cantina Do Mori. We were unimpressed at Do Spade, but Do Mori deserves its reputation as one of the best spots in Venice- the guys at the bar were friendly enough, the cichetti were good and the vino rosso was amazing {and sparkling!!!}, so I highly recommend it!

After lunch we went on a hike all around the western edge of the city. We wandered past the Frari church and through Drosduro, stopping at a place called Grom off the Campo San Barnaba for gelato- this was one of the 2 best places in Venice, and I highly recommend the pompelmo {grapefruit}. From there we wandered over the Accademia Bridge, past La Fenice (the opera house) and back into the San Marco area.

We didn't enter a single church or museum on the wander, but I felt like around each turn I saw a crumbling testament to the history and grandeur of Venice- who needs a museum when you can spend free hours walking through an open air exhibition?

After all that walking so far, I was ready to turn in and sleep for ages, so after dinner (which I don't remember?!) we headed to bed.

A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.  - Arthur Symons

*all photos by me

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