June 22, 2010

Venice forever! Day 4&5

Once again our day started at the market. While most everyone on our trip was still enthralled with the abundance of fragrant and colorful veggies and exotic {and equally fragrant :s} seafood, but I was beyond thrilled to find a new vendor in place for the weekend market.

I was nearly drooling over the tulips- if the vendor had been around on the first couple days of our trip, those would have been immediately ensconced in a pitcher on the dining room table in the apartment. Gorgeous!!!

Despite the rainy conditions, Mr. P and I hiked down to Piazza San Marco and hopped on vaporetto line 2 from the San Zaccaria stop (again, there are 2 stops within a short distance of each other for San Zaccaria- make sure you are at the right one!) for the short hop across to San Giorgio Maggiore. The views were lovely even in the crappy weather- I imagine they would be stunning during clear weather. It was only 3 Euro to take the {slow} elevator to the top of the tower, so we paid up and were at the top with no more than 4 other people at any one time. The wind was howling, the rain gusted in from 2 sides, but I still managed to get some shots and enjoy the view! Downstairs the church is fairly nice, but not very remarkable- the big draw is the tower, which provides some of the best views of Piazza San Marco that you can find anywhere in the city/lagoon.

After lunch we wandered around behind the basilica into what seemed to be the mask district. Every few feet there was another mask shop, some of them with fantastical and intricate masks from horse heads to peacocks. *tears* Of course it was raining so I didn't get any pictures, but just know that if you wander along Fondamenta de L'Osmarin, you'll see tons of awesome shops! Around 12:30 we headed back to Campo SS Filippo e Giacomo to have lunch at Il Ridotto. Highly recommended on TripAdvisor and ChowHound forums, besides being in the Michelin guides for the last few years running, this little restaurant only has 6 tables, and don't expect them to know much English. After some confused perusal of the menu and some gesturing back and forth with the lone waitress {wife of the owner/chef}, we ordered the fixed price menus- I got the carne (meat), Mr. P got the pesce (fish). Don't bother asking for house wine- they don't have it. Instead, the wine list is about 10 pages of amazing, from 10Euro to 450Euro (we opted for the 1/2 bottle of Chianti for 9 Euro). My plate came with beef cheeks in a cinnamon sauce with a beef tortellini, while Mr. P had a grilled fish and a kind of fishy risotto (not the goh that Da Romano served us the day before). Everything was prepared superbly, and my meat plate was to-die-for tender and so fragrant that I nearly got full just sniffing. We ended with a tiramisu, but they served a deconstructed type that was pretty darn amazing. The fixed price menu was 20 Euro each (including one mineral or fizzy water), and with wine and dessert, we ended up paying around 60 Euro, and it was totally worth it. We just walked in and she sat us immediately (we were the first in for lunch), but during high season or for lunch, reservations are a must- you can email ahead for them, and then call (or stop by) the day before to confirm the reservation. If you can only have a few amazing meals in Venice, I would put this restaurant at the top of the list, especially for an amazing and comparatively affordable lunch.

After lunch we met back up with our group and wandered all the way up to the train station to get tickets for the next day, sightseeing as we went. After purchasing the tickets, despite the rain we ended up going on a gondola ride. The gondolier was very friendly and couldn't have been more thrilled to have someone ask for a ride- we were his first of the day and it was well into the afternoon when we boarded the ship. I can't believe how much skill they must have to weave those HUGE gondolas through the narrow and somewhat circuitous canals of Venice! Huddled under our umbrellas, we enjoyed a tour of Venice that was basically our's alone, and he even sang for us a bit (which they apparently typically charge for).

Dinner was another apartment-made experience. This time our chefs were a bit less overambitious and dinner came together a bit easier. Then off to bed on our last night in Venezia, with an early morning ahead of us.

We woke up plenty early, cleaned up and headed out. Once again we chose to hike across Venice (all 30 minutes of walking... we are hardcore) to the train station. Again, it was really awesome to go through Venice without the crowds of people. Of course, as early as we were up, we beat most of the breakfast spots (they didn't open until around 7:30ish, and we were hungry at 6:30). We ended up at the Santa Lucia train station early (we were aiming for the 7:40 train and got there at 7), but then someone noticed a train leaving at 7, so... we ran for it. The way the tickets we bought work is that you buy a ticket from point A to point B, and you can use it on any of the normal Trenitalia trains. So yeah... we hopped on the train with 3 minutes to spare... without validating the tickets. Oops. The kindly conductor let us know that we really should validate them, because it was worth a 30 or 50 Euro fine the next time we didn't validate before getting on the train {he validated them for us to save us any issues}. I was bit flustered from that- I don't like rushing that way! But in either case, it worked out well and we made it from Venice to our next destination, Bologna, without further mishap.

Overall, I think I enjoyed Venice the most out of our group of travelers. There really is no other city in the world like it, and I'm thrilled that I had a chance to experience it. Venice facts:

-She wakes up late- Goppian Cafe and one other place near the market were the only places open at 6:30 am for early risers like us for breakfast. Don't expect most stores to be open before 9am, and they will be closed for a few hours around lunch (except those in the tourist area).

-Make sure you wander farther from San Marco. You can't escape the crowds- Venice is too small. However, if you wander down to the tail of the fish (Sant' Elena), you will find areas that most people skip, and the peace and quiet can reinvigorate you to wander back into the hoards in search of art, history, or whatever you are looking for.

-Visit the market at least 1 morning (or every morning, like us!). Even if you don't plan to cook anything, it is amazing to see the vast array of fresh-caught sea creatures presented to you. Plus, get some of the tiny strawberries for snacking- they are bursts of springtime in every bite.

-Take some time to visit the other islands of the lagoon. They all have a different character and offer unique insights into the kinds of lives that used to (and in some cases still do) drive the economy and culture of Venice.

-Don't get caught up in museums. They have a Museum Pass that you can buy from Venice Connected which is worth it if you love art, and a Choir Pass that allows entrance into 16 churches and basilicas in Venice, but you can get into some lovely churches for free (San Giorgio Maggiore). The real history of Venice can be read in the cracks in her buildings, the worn stones of her bridges and the majesty of her architecture.

-Simply enjoy being there. You won't escape the mobs of tourists- Venice is too small. Just like you, the other tourists want to experience Venezia before the Adriatic reclaims her, so forget about them {but not about possible pickpockets, though we never had any issues} and focus on what you want to see.

If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is-- Venice is better. - Fran Lebowitz

1 comment:

Irina said...

I must say you have taken some impressive pictures Jill. Wonderful job!



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