My new husband and I (eek!) just returned from twelve days in Italy. Having spent a full week of celebrations in a Luccan hillside villa with 35+ wedding reception guests we dashed off to Venice for 4 days of much needed rest and relaxation.Situated in the northeastern coast of Italy, Venice is made up of 118 islands connected by over 400 bridges and sectioned into six districts; San Marco being the district most densely populated with tourists. We arrived at our hotel, Charming House DD724, in the Dorsoduro district via water taxi from the train station.
While there are other more affordable transportation options we were both too fatigued to expend the time or energy to take a slower, more cumbersome alternative. The 15 minute journey, at a cost of 60 euros, gave us a quick glimpse of our new surroundings and eased us into temporary Venetian life.
Unsurprisingly we were both immediately charmed by the canals and the whimsical nature of Venice. The architecture, gondolas, the ochre colors that coat the city are all distinctive symbols of a vibrant Venezia that are widely admired. We quickly realized that we didn’t know much about Venice beneath the surface and sought to rectify that during our short stay.Not even the crowds of people milling about St Mark’s Square and dreaded long lines deterred us from visiting Palazzo Ducale, which is where the Doges (leaders of Venice in the olden days) lived the high life and held court, and Basilica di San Marco, a remarkable structure inside and out. (For 2 euros/person you can book skip the line tickets for the basilica, it’s worthwhile if you want to save 15-20 minutes of wait time.)Nothing prepared me for the splendor of the interior of the basilica. The gold mosaics glittered above dazzling its visitors who were all unabashed in violating the no photography rule (guilty). I was equally in awe of the maze of tiled flooring beneath my feet and could probably spend hours tracing its various patterns. For an extra 3-5 euros visitors can also visit the treasury (I was obsessed with the two water vessels on display), the Pala d’Oro (for gem enthusiasts) and head up stairs to see fallen pieces of mosaics, tiled floor plans and the Horses of St. Mark’s. In the below picture you’ll see a picture of me rocking the paper skirt I was asked to wear by the kindly guards (shorts above the knees are a no-no as are sleeveless tops) with the horse replicas behind me – the originals are held indoors).We also visited Museo Correr (admission is included in the Palazzo Ducale ticket) which houses many of the artwork that were sold to Correr by distressed noble Venetian families after the fall of the Republic of Venice. I was more fascinated with the interior and the grandeur of the space particularly in the Biblioteca Marciana. Worth a quick traipse? Yes.
Our meals in Venice were also highlights of our trip. I loved the laid back nature of the bacari and the fuss free cichetti that’s served. In Campo Santa Margherita we were rewarded with wonderful vegetarian options such as egg, spinach and potato cakes along with deep fried potato puffs. Fresh seafood and pasta was also prevalent in restaurants. Though my preference is for the simpler, rustic Tuscan meals I loved trying out the catch of the day and realized that I do not like the texture of cuttlefish (but their ink is splendid on pasta).
Linea d’ombro, on the seafront in Dorsoduro, deserves a mention for great Venetian fare and view of the Giudecca canal. So good was Mark’s burrata cheese plate on artichoke bottoms with black truffle shavings and tomato compote that he savored it in silence. Per usual my meat appetizer, beef carpaccio layered with baby artichokes & parmesan flakes and drizzled with 12 year Modena balsamic, paled in comparison to his veggie dish – though don’t get me wrong, it was deeeelicious.
As the evening approached and the sun started to set, the buildings on the Grand Canal started to glow. This is also the time when the fare to a gondola ride hikes up to 100 euros from 80. Ever the suckers, we hopped on and meandered through the canals for 40 minutes guided by a gondolier who had just started in the business two days prior. It’s apparently a rigorous process to get licensed but he was pretty tightlipped on the specifics.
On other evenings we roamed the streets on our own two feet, usually looking for sustenance (and gelato – the best can be found at Suso) but stopped to take in the light and the activities around us.If we had more time I would have loved to see the Guggenheim collection, check out the Rialto Market (we arrived too late and most of the food stalls have packed up for the day) and visit the other lagoon islands: Murano, Giudecca and Lido. Alas, London was calling and so we boarded our British Airways flight back to Gatwick wondering when we might be back and “where next?”