Before leaving for our trip, I’d heard a couple of people remark that two days is all you need in Venice. There aren’t a huge number of ‘must-see’ touristy items to cross off your check-list. Love it, hate it or indifferent to it, I’m sure everyone must agree that there isn’t anywhere else in the world quite like it.
I’ve been meaning to do a little reading, post-Venice trip, so to understand the engineering and structure behind this amazing little city — with my limited knowledge, I am full of wonder. How is it that a city can have canals for streets? Seriously?! Without wanting to get all ‘tourist-brochure-y’ on you: Venice is built on 117 small islands and has about 150 canals and 409 bridges. No cars. No bikes. Just foot and boat power is required to see the sights.
Do you know, there are 64,000 inhabitants in the city itself, but that it is visited by up to 20 million tourists every year? That’s nearly 55,000 visitors every day! It was crazy to think that, as we walked the streets, nearly every second person we saw was a tourist, not a local.
For me, the real joy of Venice was not in it’s gargantuan monuments and ancient ruins (or lack of), but in it’s detail. Every corner we turned, there was something quaint, colourful or beautiful.
We had some very memorable meals in Venice, too. I followed my instincts and stayed away from the trashy tourist restaurants on the Grand Canal — chatting to some other tourists on our second day, it seems that was a very wise choice. For dinner on our first day, we dined on a shin of suckling pig, very slowly cooked, until the meat fell off the bone and melted in the mouth. I knew from the first mouthful that this would be a dish I would remember for many years to come. Our other main was a barley risotto with vegetables; the barley gave the dish a different texture, but was still hearty and creamy as its rice-friend.
We had read that Venice is where tiramisu originated, so were keen to sample (despite hubby having had several in Italy already). We landed at Rosa Rossa, a beautiful and funky little restaurant in the San Marco sestieri (district). I ordered the crème brûlée and a local cocktail favourite of prosecco, soda and Campari. Oh my goodness, it was THE BEST crème brûlée EVER. The custard was silky smooth and generous — not too sweet — and the caramel top imparted a smokey crunch; paired brilliantly with the bitter orange flavour of the cocktail. We continued on into the night, Deano sipping on scotch and coke, while I had Baileys on ice. I even tried a little Italian on the bartender — ‘voglio comprare la stessa cosa’. Ha. We decided to come back the following night to sample more than their desserts and alcoholic cocktails.
The little streets of Venice wind this way and that, up and over bridges — it is so incredibly easy to get lost, even with a map. We were amazed, in the wee hours of the night and just a wee bit marinated — imagining the three gentlemen following us had bad intentions — how easily we navigated back to our hotel. Had an innate sense of direction finally kicked in? Or just pure dumb luck? Probably the latter!
Concluding our meal at Rosa Rossa the following night, I asked the barman for another Baileys on ice to finish the meal. He very politely informed me that I had, unfortunately, drunk the remaining contents of their one and only bottle the previous night — oh dear! I did, however, discover my new favourite cocktail — a Bellini — a mix of prosecco and peach puree, which originated in Venice around the 1940’s. So delish!
I would definitely like to return to the lagoon city, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in Venice. On our way back to the train station for our departing journey, I helped a little old lady off the ferry. How difficult it must be to get around when you’re frail and the only alternative to long walks up and over bridges is in the form of a rocky boat ride. I can imagine that despite this, once you’ve lived surrounded by Venice’s slowly decaying beauty, it would be more difficult to leave than to stay.