Ever since I was a little girl I loved Venice. It seemed so inexplicable, so impossible that an ancient city was built on water that I was unconvinced it truly existed , thinking perhaps the adults were playing an elaborate joke on me. At night I’d dream of Venice with mermaids swimming under the bridges and princesses waiving from the cupolas. It was a place so unbelievably wonderful, it was catalogued along with Never Land or Alice’s Wonderland.
This year, my dream came true and I visited Venice. I steeled myself for disappointment – why surely nothing can replace a child’s fairytale ? But the city wooed me until I swooned harder than for any other. I’m sorry Paris, you were the first I oohed and aahed over but Venice – oh Venice ! It is here that magic still exists.
One of the culprits in fueling this fantasy is Ca’Sagrado ,an original palazzo , a museum and a luxury hotel with an amazing original art collection where it felt like time had stopped .I half believed I’d wake up a noble woman (or a courtesan?) in the 17th century . If the breakfast in the frescoed dining room didn’t blow your mind the views of the Grand Canal will. No wonder it won the 2011 Conde Nast award for Hotel Excellency. Venice is sweet enough without Ca’Sagrado but with it , it’s mind blowingly romantic.
No one truly knows how Venice began as there are no historical records, however most experts agree the small islands that make up the backbone of Venice were probably a solace to refugees from the Roman republic. As the city grew and the solid ground grew scarce, people just sank pylons in the mud and kept on building. The faith with which these people built elaborate heavy stone objects amazes me. Another thing I love about Venice is it’s tendency to stick it to Rome and cherish it’s artists throughout history. Gallerie dell’Accademia Venezia has many examples of this such as the huge painting by Veronese (“Lord’s Last Supper”) which was not to the inquisitions pious taste. They ordered buffoons, drunkards, dwarfs and dogs to be erased without considering the delicate balance of the glances exchanged in the painting. The artist decided to simply rename the painting “Feast in the House of Levi” instead and leave it in it’s original glory .
Venice’s alliance with art continues today in it’s many museums and galleries along with hosting the International Biennalle through which many countries of the world have a chance to display their art on a global scene. The Peggy Guggenheim museum was small but cute and I especially enjoyed seeing Peggy’s daughter Pegeen’s childlike paintings. In fact this town is so chock full of art it would take weeks to see it all and with the Bienalle on it was simply inexhaustibly cultural.
I have to admit on our 4 day trip I must’ve eaten spaghetti vongole 3 times. They are so fresh in this lagoon city and no one does pasta like the Italians ( I also ate Tiramisu 3 times but that’s another story! ) Then there is Venetian tapas , the cicchetti , which is best sampled in the little bars around the fish market. Another famous dish is the sarde in saor , sardines that are fried then marinated with onions-absolutely delicious. Any combination of scampi and prosecco risotto was great but the carpaccio was too much for me in Venice. It wasn’t that the fish wasn’t fresh, but the slight muddy taste of the lagoon didn’t appeal to my spoilt Australian fish standards.
Here are some restaurants that scored the hits on our trip:
Alle Testiere is a gorgeous little gourmet osteria where the fish is super fresh and the food delicious from start to finish. Try their perfect sardine sardo with pine nuts and raisons, grilled razor clams or bay leaf fish.
Vecia Cavana – a great restaurant off the beaten track. Lovely sitting on the street, the wet polenta with cuttlefish in squid ink is delicate and tender here and the clam pasta is awesome. A good selection of wines and appetisers.
Trattoria alla Madonna is a no frills joint doing brisk service close to the Rialto bridge which is popular with locals. The pasta is great however do not have the cuttle fish in ink sauce, it is somewhat of an in joke how intense it tastes ( we ordered it and the two tables of locals next to us laughed ! )
Algiubagio – a nice place for a spot of lunch by the water on a sunny day. Innovative dishes are delicious such as puff pastry filled with tomino cheese and topped with a thin slice of lard and honey or scampi with chicory balsamic vinegar and vanilla.Look out for the daily specials.
Do also visit Harry’s bar the legendary Cipriani’s spot where it’s fun to have a drink !
I forgot to say Venice can be crowded and when I say crowded, I mean sardine city. I didn’t mind it so much as I was just in awe of the city and happy to wonder the streets and bridges. The vaporetto (waterbuses operating as public transport) were not quaint in high heat and completely stuffed full of people, so I avoided them and walked instead. Makes up for all the pasta! However, miraculously at night the city is dead quiet and so beautiful. It’s rare to see many people on the streets after sundown as most of them go back to the mainland and Venice is the only Italian city where restaurants close early , so beware when making dinner plans.
I would love to see Venice during Carnivale and attend a ball in full costume dancing the minuetto! A girl can only dream…
I said goodbye to Venice with a heavy heart. But not without a ride in the gondola at night with my other half. Perhaps the most romantic thing in the world! Gliding past Casanova’s house , imagining him running away on rooftops from jealous husbands. Ah Venice , I miss you and your ghosts so much already !