Venice! What a beautiful place. A picture at every corner!
One of my goals for 2014 is to travel more. Determined to stick to that, I booked this trip with boyfriend Tim on the night of New Years Eve. Not only impressed with my efficiency, early booking made the airfare pretty cheap too. Result!I had been warned about Venice; ‘enjoy the egg smell’ a friend of mine smiled cheekily as I waved my goodbyes. But no, spring in Venice is the perfect time to go. When the sun was out it was glorious with only a nip in the air in the evening. But no dodgy egg smell. Thank goodness.
Anyway, we had a blast and did exactly what we set out to do: stuff ourselves silly with Italian food and drink vats of red wine completely irresponsibly. Here are our highlights, enjoy!
Where We Stayed
You must stay at this little gem. The Palazzo Barbarigo Hotel is a dark, sultry and romantic boutique hotel with only 18 rooms, all of which have views over the canal. It’s been completely restored; the building itself dates back to 1569. It is luxurious, the staff attentive and the ambience definitely that of a couple’s getaway. With the exception of a (very nice) continental breakfast, there is no formal dining. However, the hotel does have a bar and lounge area which provides simple, delicious Italian fare; prosciutto, cheeses, breads, olives.
One of our best nights was actually spent on the tiny balcony for two over the Grand Canal, sharing a bottle of ‘vino rosso’ and a huge plate of these delicacies until the sun went down!
The hotel is completely tucked away down a winding narrow pathway which you would never believe led to a hotel; indeed we opted to get there via private water taxi which took us straight to the entrance on the water. If you stay at this hotel, trust me – it’s worth the expense! Completely hassle-free, it’s also a fantastic and glamorous way to enter the city. Perfecto!
- The first night was a disaster. We had the romantic notion of strolling the streets until we stumbled upon a nice little trattoria. But no. If there is one thing, gastronomically speaking, I have learned about Venice it is this: the food here is very hit and miss. At least in our experience. And whether hit, or whether miss, all extremely expensive. That first night, I ate a strange, muddy-coloured prawn pasta with a grainy consistency and a distinct curry-like flavour. Yeuch.
- Day two, we took matters into our own hands. Recommended by Tim’s parents who had stayed many years ago, we took a boat to the Oro Restaurant at Hotel Cipriani. This place is impossibly beautiful. Stepping off the boat, we were greeted by an immaculately dressed porter who beamed confidently, ‘welcome to the best lunch in Venice!’ He wasn’t lying. The Oro Restaurant has panoramic views over San Marco, a magical setting. And the food is to die for. After a glass of champagne, we began with an amuse-bouche of a single prawn in a pistachio sauce, wrapped in green crispy noodles. My ‘secondi piatti’ was Branzino sea bass in a squid ink Asian sauce with vegetables from the local lagoon. A palate cleanser came in the form of frozen apple, followed by a mouth-watering dessert of pure mango jelly, mango ice cream and a mango foam. Yes it was a little formal. Yes it was the most expensive meal I have ever eaten (Blue Mountain coffee after meal: €16. Yes, I choked too). But was it worth it for a special meal? Oh yes.
- Day three. Recommended by our hotel, we went to the nearby Osteria del Cason. A gorgeous, rustic little place which entices you in with jars of lavender and candles outside; this is a real Venetian seafood haven. Go for the raw antipasto of sea bream, cuttlefish, scampi and sea truffles, to name but a few. The wine cellar is impressive too; we felt obliged to share a very nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Day four, we decided to lunch on the waterfront at the Hotel Monaco and Grand Canal restaurant. A big mistake. We were taken in by the picturesque setting and views and expected the food to match, but sadly not. I ordered a Venetian seafood risotto, which was brought out on a trolley to our table. The waiter, in a rush, proceeded to slap the risotto from a serving dish to my plate, school-dinner style. The risotto splattered all over the plate, the waiter haphazardly attempted to wipe it off, but left a huge smear of greasy risotto on the side of the plate. With a flourish, it was presented to me. Now, I am not one to make a fuss, but for €36 a pop, this presentation style just, err, wasn’t for me. Taste-wise, it was ok. A bit salty, a bit stodgy…a bit uninspiring. On the table next to us I saw the same waiter desecrate a plate of fresh seafood. The fish was ripped apart with gusto before being thrown onto the unsuspecting diner’s plate. Maybe we were unlucky, but if visiting Venice, proceed with caution!
What We Did
- Got satisfyingly lost in the maze of narrow streets, tiny bridges and canals in the gorgeous spring sunshine
- Drank prosecco on the tiny balcony for two
- Got squealy excited inside a little chocolate shop (ok, so I did)
- Ate sublime homemade almond and tiramasu gelato in said chocolate shop
- Blistered our feet from all the walking
- Drank too much vino rosso and went on a late-night hunt for a Cuban cigar (mission: fail)
- Pondered on the fun of owning a gondola
- Watched the magic of glass blowing and fusing in a Murano glass factory
- Decided we would like a commissioned Murano glass chandelier. Please.
- Felt cultured at the Gallerie dell’Accademia
What a weekend! We had such a good time, experienced so many things. More of these experiences please, and yes to making this happen more in life! Where have your best weekend trips been? Where is next on your list? Please share, so we can all get inspired for our next dream trip!