Hello friends! As I write to you on this early autumn evening, I can’t help but be distracted by the SNOW cascading from the sky just outside my office window. Thankfully it isn’t sticking to the ground, but I’m still not fully prepared, airborne or otherwise, for snow until at least late November. That being said, I figured I’d reminisce about warmer days- like the ones spent in Italy just under a month ago!
Day 1: We got lost, drank Bellinis and ate the best Cannolis ever.
What I learned very quickly, is that it’s okay to get lost when you travel. Everyone’s experience will be slightly different that way, leading to more unique stories. I can’t even count the amount of people we saw toting around their huge suitcases and bags with maps sprawled before them, aimlessly walking through the alleyways of Venice…but we were one of them, and were often going around in circles without even realizing it. Honestly the city is a massive maze if you don’t know where you are going. When we finally got to our hotel, we were exhausted from the 16 hour commute and THREE HOUR walking spree through the streets, that we napped almost immediately! We made a point to get up after an hour or so to eat. Since it was our first day and we didn’t really know what to look for, we went to the first restaurant we saw and ordered pizza. it was good, but it was the the Bellini they made that I remember best. Real and fresh peach purée with sparkling wine. Can I get an amen? I also ordered cannoli’s for dessert, and they were magnificent. Crunchy and not overwhelmingly sweet, the perfect combination.
Day 2: We took the water bus around Venice and had the best affogato ever
One thing I have to note about my stay in Italy was our hotel room in Venice. It was stunningly beautiful! It was in the heart of the city, and being just 10 minutes away from the Rialto bridge made it close enough to walk anywhere we needed to, but was just far enough removed from the tourist attractions to allow us some peace and ease of travel. It was called “Il Sogno di Giulietta e Romeo” and I know what you’re thinking, WHAT a tourist targeted place! But, to be fair, duh, this is Venice we’re talking about! 20 million tourists visit the island every year! So please, if you’re planning a trip to Venice, don’t focus so hard on what is touristy and what isn’t touristy. Nine times out of ten it’s going to be touristy. I chose this hotel because it was built in the 18th century and for the most part had all of its original architecture. Our room was right off of the dining hall, overlooked the water, had marble floors and the ceiling was a mural with carved cherubs brimming the edges. It was wonderfully over the top and I loved it. They also served freshly squeezed juices, amazing mozerella and parmigiano reggiano in full round and brick form, fresh bread, fruit, stuffed croissants, tarts, crostata…I gained 5 pounds at the hotel alone. Plus, the ever so sweet ladies that worked there made us a fresh cappuccino every morning. Bless their hearts for getting me through my jet lag.
This day was all about getting our bearings. Because of our directionally challenged first day, we quickly got familiar with where we were going. We toured around the city after purchasing a water bus pass, had a little lunch, and stopped at a beautiful restaurant called “Osteria Nono Risorto” that happened to be right next to our hotel. It was an absolutely beautiful restaurant! We ate outside on a stone patio shrouded by a huge tree that was strung with glowing lanterns! I ordered melanzana (eggplant) pizza and the crust and sauce were amazing; but it was the affogato that stole the show for me. Affogato has always been one of my favourite desserts, but when I had it with freshly made vanilla gelato and a just brewed espresso, it changed the game. This affogato ruined me for other affogatos. I’ll never be the same.
Day 3: We visited Basilica San Marco and walked along the canal, then had the best pasta ever.
The Basilica San Marco may be the most extravagant thing you ever witness in your life. I made a point to walk past it everyday so that I could take in a different detail from it’s incredible architecture. I truly think only those that are native to the island have seen all there is to see of it. Not to mention the amount of gold, treasure and artistic masterpieces throughout the interior and exterior were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Please hear me when I tell you if you are planning a trip to the church, to get there as early as possible. I believe it opens at 9:30am, and we were there by 9:15am. The line usually moves quite quickly, but it’s always nice to get there early enough that you can be one of the first people inside.
We spent about 2 hours touring the great halls, spending much of our time on the balcony facing the Dodges Palace. It was a wonderful view of the famous square, but also contained amazing architecture itself.
When we finally left the church and did a bit of snacking and walking down the canal, it was nearly dinner time. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant we went to that night. They served an amazing pumpkin Alfredo that is still the best pasta I have ever had in my life, plus the waiters were all very kind.
Day 4: We visited the San Marco Campanile (aka, a huge clock tower) for a birds eye view of Venice, bought some glass in Murano, then had the best pizza ever.
The San Marco Campanile is the best view you will get of Venice. You shoot up to the top via the fastest elevator I have ever been on, only to be greeted by the peaks of Basilica San Marco, rows and rows of clay tiled roofs and water as far as the eye could see. Plus the Campanile boasts some beauty of its own, with winding staircases caged by wrought iron gates, and huge copper bells flushed a green hue from the years of exposure to the elements.
Since we stopped off early in the day and since it was so close to the canal, we decided to hop on the water bus for a quick trip to Murano.
If you know anything about Murano, you know they are famous for their glass. If you see something you like make sure it has a sticker or tag with this symbol on it:
This symbol identifies that it is genuine Murano glass. If you can’t find it on an item, be sure to tour the island and keep an eye out for it in windows of shops. I bought these beautiful glass earrings from “De Biasi”, and I love them!
And, surprise! I forgot the name of the restaurant that had the best pizza. It was tucked away far from the major tourist attractions and didn’t have many people inside. It was a very thin crust, had smoked mozerella and arugula with the freshest of fresh tomato sauces. I’m so sorry I can’t remember the name, I was distracted by the beautiful carbs on my plate! You may hear Venice doesn’t have that great of pizza, but I believe this particular pie is the exception…Unfortunately you’ll have to find it on your own because my memory always fails me. Sorry.
Day 5: we went to Verona and saw Juliet’s castle and tomb, then had cappelletti
Day 5 was my birthday, and being the closet Shakespeare nerd that I am, I was gifted a trip to Verona for a day! We took a train from the Venezia Santa Lucia Station (that went a staggering 220 MPH/360 kmh. You couldn’t feel it though!) and we were there in an hour. Verona is a tourist area, but far less so than Venice, so be prepared to speak a bit more Italian as not all of the natives will be fluent (most are in Venice). We stood in the court yard of Juliet’s home, and I stood atop Juliet’s balcony (I know it’s not real but let me have this!), and traveled down to her tomb where we saw beautiful pieces of art (it is also a museum).
We had lunch in Verona at a restaurant…Of course the name fails me, where I ordered a scrumptious cheese stuffed cappelletti in a butter sauce. Cheese in butter? How can you go wrong?
Day 6: we took a gondola ride through the streets of Venice, then had…Street pasta?
We returned far too late from Verona on my birthday to be able to take a gondola ride, so we reserved it for our second last day in Venice. There are gondoliers always around, you can spot them in their striped sweaters and straw hats, or wait for them on one of their wooden benches or staircases.
The way they manage to maneuver around the tight corners of the flooded alleyways of Venice astounded me. We got an up close view of all of the water worn buildings, chuckled at the drying laundry hung on clothes lines outside of the windows above our heads (just like in the movies), and listened to the water close against the beautiful gondola. This is the most touristy thing we did in Italy, and I don’t regret it. You will see a lot of cynics poke fun at the practise, or call it a waste of money, but it is something you will likely only ever do once. Enjoy it.
Our 6th day landed on a Sunday, so most of the shops and restaurants closed early. We were hungry around 9:00pm, but next to nothing was open! However we happened upon a small kiosk that sold cheap and quick pasta….But let me tell you, it was good! Your choice of spaghettini, Rigatoni or Farfalline noodles cooked al dente served with a tomato, spicy tomato, duck or squid ink sauce. It was quick and yummy and portable! He placed it in cardboard to-go container and we ate it as we walked down the street back to our hotel (we were calling it “home” by this day).
7: We got ready to leave, but ended our last day with the best lasagna ever!
Our last day was bitter sweet. We were tired, I missed my cat and I wanted to get back home so I could decorate for Halloween (don’t judge me), but I still wasn’t quite done taking in all the beauty Italy had to offer. We were lucky enough to be able to eat at the restaurant I had been dying all week to visit. It was small and removed from the heaviest tourist areas, and it was named after one of my favourite things! it was called “La Zucca” which means The PUMPKIN! Holding true to it’s name, most of the plates contained pumpkin as an ingredient.
We got the vegetarian lasagna in a cream sauce and it was remarkable. It balanced the saltiness of the cheese, the heaviness of the cream and the freshness if the vegetables wonderfully. Plus our table looked out over the water.
I know that was long winded, and if you made it this far I won’t bore you with the tale of the 20 hour commute home (seriously don’t need to relive that), but if you ever get the chance to visit Italy, take it! You will not regret it.