Day 8 - Venice, Italy

12:14 AM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

I love Venice. I love Venice. I love Venice!
I love Venice! The weather is just perfect. The skies are blue, the Adriatic Sea is green. There is a light breeze and I am with my wonderful husband. There is not all that much to do in this city as far as museums and attractions go but that is what I love about this city. The attraction is the city itself. We had breakfast at the hotel because as usual, it is included with the room. I had coffee, yogurt, and fruit. This place had something a little different. They had little sandwiches already made for you. They were like teach sandwiches. I had a ham, salami and cheese with lettuce on a seeded roll. I also had a little tuna sandwich square on white bread with the crusts cut off. There were halves of boiled eggs speared to a tomato slice with an olive on top and some crostinis with chopped tomatoes and a tangy aoli. We filled up as usual and headed out the door to take a gondola ride.
Gondola ride, Venice

I had read  a lot about gondola rides before we arrived and I decided we would not take one. Everything I had read said the 30 minute ride costs about 180 Euros. That is just waaaaay too steep for us and just wasn't worth it. But once we arrived, we saw that the ride is only 80 euros and that is for the whole boat not per person so if you got the maximum 6 people on the ride, you would not be paying all that much after all. We went down to where the gondolas were loading people up. There are several places like this in Venice so we went to the one nearest our hotel. There was basically no line. You can find the places that load the gondolas by looking for the signs that show the tarrifs. The signs are all the same and all have the same cost. It is 80 euro for up to 6 people all day until 7pm when it switches to 100 euro for up to 6 people. We split the gondola with another couple that was standing there so it ended up costing us 20 euro per person and it was TOTALLY worth it. I enjoyed the hell out of that 30 minute ride. The temperature was PERFECT. The waterways and streets were quiet. It was about 10:30am and I think most of the tour groups and cruise ships had yet to arrive. In fact, when we left on our little ride I looked back and saw the massive tour group just coming in behind us. There are a lot of tour groups in Venice. There were in Florence too but it is much more noticeable in Venice because the streets and alleyways are much, much more narrow so you are walking along and all of the sudden you are locked in a sea of people, fighting to get out. Then you are on your own and walking free again.

The gondola ride took us through the city on little, narrow waterways then we came out onto the canal for a short ride before we ducked back into the little side "streets". It was just beautiful, relaxing, quiet and even better than I ever expected. I am so glad we were able to do it. We lounged in the soft little seats, looking around at the interesting buildings. We got to peek up little side alleys that were dark because they were so narrow. We passed little restaurants that had the smell of fresh fish and fried goodies. We got to hear the soft lapping sounds of the water along the walls. Our gondolier pointed out various places of interest but he was so quiet that I only heard what he was saying a few times. I heard him say that the small waterways we were on were only 2.6 meters deep. I learned that there are over 400 gondolas in Venice. We passed some buildings that were apparently interesting. The only one I heard him mention was Casanova's old home. I liked looking into people's back yards and terraces. I doubt I could handle living in Venice with all those tourists and flooding but if I did live there I would have a terrace with lots of plants and flowers and a fountain. It would be my sanctuary from all the hubbub. After the ride was over I was all happy and in love. I clinged to my husband all lovey dovey as we meandered our way to the Rialto Bridge. We had a great hotel that was centrally located between the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square.

The Rialto Bridge is the busiest bridge by far. It is also only one of a couple that cross over the main canal. There are hundreds of little foot bridges in Venice. It took some 15 bridge crossings for me to realize this and finally stop taking a photo at every single one. The rialto is really wide and goes up a bunch of steps then flattens out a little before it goes back down. All along either side of the bridge are shops. Most of the shops all had the same things for sale. There were cute little snow globes on little gondolas, there were a bazillion masquerade masks of all sorts. There were scarves and purses. And then there was lots of glass. In Venice, a boat ride away from the main part is an island called Murano. Murano is famous for it's glass so there is lots of Murano glass in all the shops. I already have a bunch of glass stuff from when my aunts and uncles have come to Venice so I didn't have to buy anything. What confuses me is how many masks there were. Masks made from plastic, some made of wood, some porcelain. They had feathers, and lace and sparkles and paint. Some covered your whole face, many just your eyes. Then there were boxes and dolls all with the masks on it. Who is buying all these masks? What do you do once you buy one? Where do you wear these elaborate masks? I wouldn't even want to display one on my wall or mantle because, well because it is a creepy mask. They had all sorts of shapes too. They had the animal ones and the spooky plain faced ones and then they had the black plague, long nose ones. So many masks! I bought some tiny fans for the kids who live above us because the family is taking in any packages that may be delivered while we are gone. I just don't have the heart to buy any of those masks. I don't want the vendors to think that people want those masks and maybe they will stop selling them. It is like walking around in a clown town. Clown and joker masks everywhere!

Once on the other side of the canal, and out of mask-central, we started just wandering around. We stopped in a little food shop and got some goodies.  I found a bottle of grappa for a really good price. We got a bag of rice and spices that is all ready to be made into risotto and a bag of dried spices and chilies that you just re-hydrate and dump on top of pasta and you have your sauce done. We poked in and out of shops not bothering to look at any maps. We turned down little streets and went over tiny bridges. I kept saying "the is ADORABLE!!" and "I love this place!!" And I was not lying. I was having so much fun just getting lost in Venice. We went down little streets that were not wider than my arms could stretch out. We were in the shade every where we turned because no matter the direction we were going, the streets were so narrow that we were never in the sun. But I could look up and see the beautiful blue sky above as the yellow and pink pastel buildings leaned over me. Sometimes we would turn down an alley and see the end that looked like there was no where to turn only to find that there is a little doorway for us to go through that leads to the next bridge or alleyway. We would suddenly pop out onto a square where there were a few tables and chairs hiding in the shade of a tree. I wanted to sit down and have an ice cream or beer in every single one of them. One thing we found odd was that there is graffiti EVERYWHERE. I can only guess that they don't remove it because of the age of the buildings. It might be uglier to have a power washed side of the building or to have that patch of obviously fresh paint that never matches the rest of the building. I don't know. But there was graffiti on every single building, no matter how residential or how tiny the alley. It isn't nice graffiti either. It isn't art. It is just people's scribbling in black spray paint or black pen. Still though, it was not enough to ruin my time or the scenery. The blue blue sky, the orangey yellow buildings and the green plants that spilled out of all the windows and terraces all made for a perfect day. I could not get over how much fun I was having. Once alley we went down had big fat red grapes hanging from side to side as it crossed the road above our heads. We tried to steal some but they were too high up.

Unlike in Florence, my husband downloaded the CORRECT Tripadvisor map and we had to use it to help us get back across the canal. We had walked all the way to the next bridge down from the Rialto which is quite a ways away. Once back on the same side as our hotel we went searching for some snack foods. We circled around trying to find this one shop we had seen yesterday that had all these wonderful olives and meats in the window. We went round and round and round but never found it. Then we realized that it was Sunday. Many places are closed in Europe on Sunday. Turned out the place we were looking for was all closed up behind metal shutters and we were passing it over and over. We gave up and got a slice of olive pizza and a veggie calzone and walked towards our hotel to get ready for the opera. Right near our hotel we found a little walkway that slipped away from the main walkways and lead to some steps that went right into the water. We sat down on the steps and had our lunch. It was a special little quiet spot just for us. We watched as the crowds passed over a nearby bridge as we ate. Every now and then a gondola would go by us but otherwise it was secluded and private. It was a lovely place to eat lunch.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest our feet for a little bit. We got ready and headed back out to the Teatro de Fenice to see Tosca. We had gotten tickets way back in April for a matinee showing of the opera. The opera house was about a three minute walk from our hotel. I didn't know what to expect when we went to the opera house, I just wanted to see an opera in Italy because I love the opera so so so much. We showed our tickets to the people at the entrance and they directed us up the stairs so we went up the stairs. We kept going up and up and up. We got to the fourth floor and showed our tickets to the attendant. The attendant then walked us to our little viewing room. In the room there were 8 chairs grouped into two groups of 4. We were sat in the back row in the center of the little room. There was no one else in the room so I took the opportunity to lean out the balcony and have a look around. The opera house is AHmazing. Every surface is covered in gold. There were ornate carvings, massive chandeliers, the ceiling was painted with cherubs with gold wings. I was just in awe. I didn't even know that a place can look that fancy. Our balcony looked directly onto the stage so we had a full view of the whole area. Before we left on this trip we watched Tosca on tv to get an idea of the story. I figured there would not be English subtitles like they have projected above the stage at the SF Opera so I wanted to be able to follow along. The orchestra warmed up and the lights went down. The curtain went up and the opera began. I gasped when I saw that there were, in fact, English subtitles projected above the stage! English was on the right and Italian was on the left. I was thrilled. The opera was incredible. We got all teary-eyed at the end. There were no speakers or microphones, just the pure, raw music and voices. What a fantastic experience. There were two intermissions. The first one we got some water. The second one we wandered around a little. They didn't seem to bother checking your ticket so we walked around to other rooms and levels. Every room we went into were just as ornate as the main room. There were all sorts of crystal chandeliers and gilt sconces. Just beautiful.
Opera House in Venice, Italy

After the opera we walked back to the hotel to change out of our fancy clothes and back into our day clothes. We decided to walk down along the canal to find some dinner. I didn't care if it was touristy or a rip off, I wanted to eat near the water tonight. I have read a lot of bad stuff about restaurants in Venice. People say that the worst food in all of Italy is in Venice. They say that the service is garbage because there is such a steady flow of tourists that they don't need to worry about repeat customers. I also heard that you should not trust the restaurants that have the displays out front of all the seafood in ice and that have the waiters hollering for you to come sit down. But that is precisely what we did anyways. I did not care. I wanted to eat ON the water, in view of the Rialto Bridge, preferably on the side that was not under construction.
Dinner in Venice.

The first place we tried said there would be a table opening up in 5 minutes. Five minutes in waiter talk must mean 20 because we waited and waited. Finally we asked for a drink menu so we could at least enjoy a drink while we waited inside for a table outside. They brought the menu and it didn't have any vegetarian options at all so we left. We walked a couple more restaurants down to the first one that said they had pizza. My husband can always eat a veggie pizza if all else fails. We immediately got a seat as the waiter threw out a couple who just sat down without asking. He sat us right on the water and in view of the good side of the Rialto Bridge. Exactly what I wanted. I got a breaded veal Milanese style with french fries. The Hubs got a quattro fromaggio pizza that was soooo good. It is that New York style that I just love: flat, floppy, greasy  and cheesy. My meal really hit the spot too. It only exactly what I was in the mood for but it was really good. So who knows what you will get from one of those restaurants. So many people warned us about how much of a rip off and how horrible the food would be and how bad the service. We decided to have dessert for the first time of the trip because we were just enjoying ourselves so much. They came with this whole dessert menu with photos and everything. Oh man, everything looked so so good. Right when we were about to order, a woman who was sitting right next to me jumped up. She said "my purse just went into the water!" Everyone jumped up. We looked over the railing and there it was, floating along. One of our waiters jumped over the railing and walked across the fronts of the boats. Another waiter started to take his shirt off but he was totally joking. At first I didn't realize he was joking and really thought this guy was going to jump in. The woman was totally distraught. She had her phone, passport, everything in there. The first waiter leaned down into the water and scooped the purse up as it began to sink as it moved down the current. What excitement! Ever since I heard about my Aunt dropping her camera into the canal I have been totally afraid of something like that happening to me. I just keep my whole purse across my chest, even when I am eating dinner. I don't want to lose anything. I have all the money, credit cards and my passport, my phone, my medication...everything is in my purse. My heart was racing after that incident. We finally calmed down and managed to order our desserts. I got a bowl of marscepone cream with chocolate syrup and macaroon crumbles on top. He got a strawberry frappe. All in all it had been a perfect dinner. We paid the relatively low price and went to take some night photos of Venice. We crossed over to the Pizza de San Marco which was considerably less crowded than the last time we were there.
Venice at night.

I had heard from many sources that the nighttime was the best time to really enjoy Venice because the tours, cruise ships and most of the tourists are gone and it seems this is true. We took a bunch of time lapsed photos to really get the twinkly lights. Meanwhile, we got to listen to beautiful live music that was coming from the cafes scattered along the square. We walked to the canal and took photos of the Adriatic Sea and all the gondolas that were parked for the evening. I was so happy and in love. Today was for sure a highlight of the trip and a highlight of my life. We wandered back to the hotel and went to bed. The only negative thing is the bed. I slept alright but the husband's back does not do well on the mattresses here. Oh well, it is our last night and then on to Switzerland!

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