The Most Serene

Trip Start Nov 27, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Saturday, December 3, 2011

Venice, Italy

December 2, 2011

"She was a fat cow and he hated her." Who could resist a book with such a compelling first sentence?!  Paul was rummaging through a stack of novels set in Venice that a friend of ours loaned us.  This one won out without having to read any further.

Approaching in a “water taxi,” our first view of Venice as buildings rose out of the water like palm trees swaying seductively around an oasis, struck us very much like that first sentence.  The closer we got to the island, the more intriguing, exciting and inviting it became:  hues of oranges, reds, yellows popping off old buildings and reflecting onto and dancing in the green waters of the Laguna Véneta (Venitian Lagoon).  The waters were lapping up onto buildings and canal walls like a dog thirstily slurping up cool water on a hot day.  Who can resist this siren of a city?  Especially weak are those from water-deprived deserts…..we were destined to fall quickly in love with “la Serennissima” from the very beginning.  She had us at “ciao”.

One thing we quickly learned was that getting around in this phenomenally beautiful city is not as easy as one might think (since, after all, it IS a small island).  NOT!  Its deceptively larger than one would infer from looking at any map.  Moreover, its “streets” (in some cases tiny alleys wide enough for two people walking shoulder to shoulder through them), twist and turn following--then crossing--canals and in some cases dead-ending into someone's home.  Sometimes, walking through these narrow alleys with 3 or 4 story-high walls, its hard not to feel like a lab rat making your way through a maze.  For us, the “cheese” was often finding that specific restaurant with the tartufo or the langostino or radicchio; or the enoteca with that special amarone or brunello; or the fish market, vegetable market or (in this case), the home of friends of a friend (thanks, Ron!) who live in Venice and whom we met for drinks one night. 

We had lovely weather the three days we spent in Venice.  The sun was out, the temperature, though a bit brisk, was not unbearable and the winds pretty much stayed calm.  This morning upon leaving, the skies finally got overcast, temps dropped to 40 degrees and the wind picked up.  Just taking the water taxi from close to our hotel to the ferrovia (train station) chilled us to the bone.  We thought about how difficult travel to (and within) Venice could be for older folks or for anyone having difficulty walking.

So, a recap on our visit.  We arrived on Tuesday morning and since our room was not yet ready for us we took a walk to get our bearings.  Our lovely hotel (Hotel Verardo) was a few mintues’ walk from San Marco square so we made our way there first.  Walking around the square grounded us into the reality of having arrived in bella Italia.  How I love this country and culture!!  I find myself understanding far more than before (and far more than I can respond to!).  I still need so much more practice with the expressive part of learning a new language.  Use of Spanish (which can help) at least gives me a sense of having some control and allows me to respond when necessary without looking too lame!  I have felt like my nephew Bobby who, when he visited Rome with me back when he was 16, was so proud that he could ask for the “bano” and have Italians understand what he was looking for!!

We found a nice little restaurant (Giardino) around the corner from the hotel for our first lunch in Italy. Radicchio is in season so I just had to go with the special that used radicchio in several ways.  First, I had sautéed radicchio in vinegar that looked like raw, whole calamari (really!).  It was hard to get the first few bites down since my brain kept expecting fishy, chewy, slimy raw calamari.  Eventually, I really got into it even lapping up all it’s juices with delicious bread.  My main meal was a pasta with radicchio which was also quite tasty.  Paul stuck to crab dishes and his were just as tasty.

Day two we made our way back to San Marco square and visited the church.  It is quite a fascinating structure.  Its Byzantine “flavor” certainly reminded us of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  The mosaics were some of the best we’ve ever seen.  Once can only imagine what Hagia Sophia must have looked like when it was covered with similar mosaics!  After the tour we found ourselves walking up to the Jewish Ghetto and having lunch at the kosher restaurant Gam Gam—which had some of the best falafel we’ve ever had (I told Paul they pale in comparison to the falafel in Israel (still working that angle!).  After a delightful lunch we walked the rest of the way to the ferrovia to get our train tickets for Friday.  For our return we decided to take a 45 minute taxi ride down the Grand Canal for our ride back to the hotel.  It was a beautiful day for making our leisurely way back for a well deserved nap (we’ve been taking lots of those).

After our 3 hr nap it was time to get ready for our next long walk to the home of friends of our friend, Ron.  We found their place, which sits on the banks of the Canale della Giudecca like a diamond set into a beautifully executed tiara.  What a perfect spot to call home.  We had a lovely visit and then made our way to their recommended restaurant: Do Forni.  Mind you, after all our walking we figured we deserved a nice dinner.  Now, this is not the place to go to if you’re saving your sheckles.  Having said that, you should save your sheckles if you’re going to be in Venice in order to have a meal here.  It was quite the experience.  The food was exquisite and the service exceptional.  I won’t bore you with the dishes (there was antipasti and pasta and veal [for me] and fish of some sort for Paul).  We got there at about 8pm and left around 11:30pm.  Whew!  I’m still carrying most of that food right around my waist!!

On the third day we made it to the island of Murano to look at the beautiful glass.  We had our share of glassware viewing…..I really liked the chandelier that cost 7,000 Euros (needless to say, I’m NOT getting it)!  It was a beautiful day to walk around the island.  Seemed like the sun just knew how to strike piece after piece to sparkle and entice us to buy it, but we resisted and fared well not to buy anything that would have been difficult to transport.

On our return to Venice we found a Rick Steve’s recommended restaurant just off Santa Maria Formosa Piazza for another quite fabulous lunch.  We had the best fried anchovies we have ever had!!  Yum.  After that wonderful meal, it was back for a nap and then a walk about the city for our last night.  We must have walked 3 or 4 miles and found a great little place (Osteria-Enoteca) Ai Artisti  their wine choices were excellent and their food was deliciously and conscientiously prepared.  The service complemented the meal to provide a wonderful dining experience.

We’ve left Venice on our way to Perugia.  It was cold and windy in Venice, as I’ve already mentioned.  And now, we are making our way through the hills of Tuscany as we approach Florence.  The grey skies are beginning to part, the fog is lifting and in the distance the promise of warm sun breaks through.  It’s going to be a beautiful day!!  More from Perugia….
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Mando on

Hermano Lelo, Que Bonito! These are wonderful indeed.

hstraube on

Keep these coming! I'm pleasantly envious and can taste the food and feel the vibe of waterways, skinny streets, and ancient buildings. Love your lobbying for the ultimate falafel in another location, you slipped that in quite charmingly :)

Tia Pete on

Beautiful as usual, I could just look at the pictures and read of your adventures, omg I just enjoy it all.
Love ya!

A Cota on

Hola Chamacos! What a wonderful interlude to share some of you journey, yet again! Enjoy the rest of the your trip! Bitter, single digit, cold here! Hasta Luego.

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