Friday, 17 January 2014

venice in winter

The day after the first day of the year, we caught an early flight to Marco Polo airport and travelled by vaporetto from the Italian mainland to the islands of Venice. We'd booked the trip only a couple of days before - it seemed like a very good way to start the year: with lots of pasta and art. We saw St Mark's Square, of course, on the Thursday afternoon - the Basilica with its gold ground mosaics and beautiful Italo-Byzantine architecture, the Clock Tower, the Campanile and the Doge's Palace in all its Venetian Gothic glory.

Afterwards we drank hot chocolate at Caffè Florian. Florian boasts quite an impressive interior - mirrored, marbled, stuccoed and frescoed to within an inch of its life. Rousseau, Goethe and Byron hung out here...

On Friday we ambled around the Accademia and the gardens of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. We took a tour around the incredible and ornate Teatro La Fenice and then ambled some more. We did a lot of ambling, but I think ambling is precisely what one needs to do in Venice. We ambled into churches, over bridges, down windy streets and alongside jade green canals, with absolutely no sense of direction.

Of course, when we weren't ambling, we were eating and drinking. And we ate and drank incredibly well. I mean, when in Rome (almost), right? Bellinis at Harry's Bar (a charming place, with waiters running all over the place in crisp white jackets), campari at the Gritti, but mostly just cheap and delicious seafood (Venetian spider crab was interesting) and fresh pasta in tiny, very good restaurants with brown paper placemats and groups of loud, jolly locals. We made a particular point of visiting a few traditional bàcari where we tried chichetti - small Venetian snacks and side dishes, similar to Spanish tapas, which were all delicious. Ca' d'Oro, close to the Rialto Bridge, was our favourite bàcaro; a huge influence on Russell Norman's London Polpo eateries, they served some of the best meatballs I've ever tasted...

On Saturday and Sunday we did more of the same: churches, ambling, art, canals, long lunches, naps, good dinners. The weather wasn't brilliant, in fact it was pretty wet, but we trudged on regardless and actually, in a way the rain brought the city to life and made it look even more beautiful... On Sunday evening, with heavy hearts, we took a water taxi from the Grand Canal back to the airport. It was a great way to say farewell to the city, looking up from the water, speeding past palazzo after gorgeous palazzo... Until next time, Venice.

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