This is Part I of IV recapping my recent Italian excursion. You can also read about my tirade against American Airlines here.
We flew away on a jet plane (or three) on October 1. We didn’t actually arrive in Venice until about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 2. After gathering our baggage – oh wait, we didn’t do that, because we are crazy Americans who went carry-on-only. Seriously. It was one of the best choices we made the entire trip, especially the return portion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We took a bus from the Venice airport to the Piazzale Roma station, where we then hopped onto a vaporetto, or waterbus. Behold:
This is a food blog, so I won’t go into all the minutiae about every single thing we did and saw. However, I do want to share a few pictures and tips. Here is my favorite shot I took, of a side canal near our hotel:
If you plan a trip to Venice, you must:
· Eat at Osteria La Zucca (more details below)
· Enjoy hazelnut (nocciola) gelato at Da Nico (below, too)
· Visit Basilica San Marco – we thought paying extra for the Pala d’Oro was worth it, but if you want to save the cash, just take a free walk through the church.
· Visit the island of Murano. The views alone are worth it, but I also adored the Chiesa di San Donato. It’s free.
· Stroll along the Grand Canal at night. Bonus: take a vaporetto ride at night. Sigh.
· Check out the contemporary art at Punta della Dogana. It’s a nice antidote to all the baby Jesuses and altar pieces you’ll see throughout Italy.
As I said, this is a food blog, so let’s get on to the Venetian tasties.
Our first night, we were tired. I mean, tired. See?
I’d be lying if I said we limited ourselves to one basket. Or if I didn’t admit to eating the second basket entirely by myself. Oops. Anyway, Cavatappi specializes in cichetti, which are essentially Italian tapas popular in Venice, but none appeared to be vegetarian. Instead, I had poorly lit vegetarian pasta:
We planned to spend pretty much all of Sunday doing a walking tour, since a lot of things are closed on the holy day throughout Italy. We started it all off with a big, beautiful breakfast at the hotel:
Two rolls with light cheese (I think it was provolone – it wasn’t quite so yellow in person), cornetti (croissants) filled with I believe apricot preserves, delicious Italian yogurt, orange juice, and sadly American-style coffee. There was also jam, butter, milk, and cereal that I didn’t touch.
Then we set off on our walking tour. There were museums and bridges and churches. Most importantly, however, there was our first gelato of the trip – and my love’s first true brush with Italian gelato.
It was from Da Nico. I had hazelnut and chocolate; he had coffee and banana. We both agreed that the hazelnut was heavenly. In fact, it was one of the best I had on the entire trip. The other flavors were good but not mind-blowing.
By the end of the day – which involved getting lost and venturing past Venice’s prison – we were quite hungry but trying to save some dough, so we had takeout pizza from Cip Ciap (pronounced chip chop).
A small pizza Margherita, a slice of four cheese, and a slice of grilled veggies. The latter two were on foccaccia. We also had bottled sparkling water. I think the entire meal cost $10. We enjoyed it in the Piazza Santa Croce, where there is a grouping of picnic benches available for anyone to use:
Afterward, we had gelato again at La Boutique del Gelato that I sadly forgot to photograph. I had tiramisu and panna cotta, and he had lemon and hazelnut. It wasn’t as good as Da Nico, but I still ate it.
By this point, we were both thoroughly in love with Venice, so the prospect of leaving was not terribly enticing. However, we had one more day to pack full of fun and excitement. It began with a breakfast identical to the day before’s and then a walk to Caffe’ Florian in Piazza San Marco.
The plaque translates to, “The places and drinks preferred by 007.” Bah ha ha! And yes, that is why we went there. I live with a lovely man who spent the years he should have been reading Dr. Seuss devouring James Bond novels. He had hot chocolate, and I had my first cappuccino of the trip:
Sooooo good. American hot chocolate is basically sewage compared with the European stuff, sorry to say. We drank standing at the bar, because gracing a chair with your rear automatically triples the price. I’m not kidding.
Then we Basilica San Marco-ed it up and visited both Lido (oh oh oh oh) and Murano.
For more on the latter, keep your eye on my crafting blog. When we returned to Venice proper, we needed fuel – and by fuel, I mean gelato. Enter Alaska. This wasn’t no “I can see Russia from my house!” Alaska; it is an artisanal gelateria with a bunch of interesting flavors. (Hint: always opt for a gelateria calling itself artisanal – artigianale – or one with housemade – “produzione proprio” – stuff.) I enjoyed ginger and almond:
HOT. We had to go back to the hotel to change quickly, ‘cause I was soaked through and through. Once we approximated dry, we headed back out for one of the two best meals we enjoyed in the entire country. Hello, Osteria La Zucca:
There is meat on the menu at La Zucca, but the inventive veggie dishes are the stars, or so say the guidebooks. We were not led astray. Again, it started with bread, including these great sesame sticks, and sparkling water:
These included (clockwise from top) a potato-squash-cheese cake, carrots in curried yogurt, and Venetian artichoke patties topped with pesto. Oh, and a piece of bread and cucumber. I don’t have anything negative to say about a single one of these. The potato cake was my favorite, but I wouldn’t kick any of them out of bed.
We both ordered dessert. No, gelato earlier didn’t count; that was lunch. My taller half described his frozen limoncello mousse as one of the best things he’s ever eaten in his life. It was tart and sweet and had a wonderful consistency. Mine was really uncharacteristic for me. It was essentially a persimmon pudding with a little chocolate sauce and cayenne pepper, and it was fantastic. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. I’ve mentioned some of my food texture issues in the past, but one of my major ones is chunks of cooked fruit. This was a surprising win.
We were seated next to an older French couple. My French is limited to counting to 10, a few random vocabulary words (billet, sortie, mercredi), and the two phrases I recall from French class in fourth grade: “une boite de crayon” and “la plume de ma tante est sur le bureau de mon oncle”. My taller half, however, still understands a decent amount. He informed me that they were mostly minding their own business until I ordered our dinner in Italian. They were impressed. This discussion then led to the remark, “he is old enough to be her father.” Yes, if my boyfriend had impregnated someone in elementary school, then yes, he is conceivable (hardy har) old enough to be my father. Silly, nosy French.
Anyway, Zucca was our last meal in Venice excluding breakfast the following morning at the hotel. I’ll update with Part II: Milan/Brescia soon!