Food and I were too keyed up to be calm when flying to Venice. We had a mere 24 hours before we’d see Fiasco, our younger whirlwind of a sister, and we were also going to be spending the next five days exploring two of our favorite cities, eating a lot of great food, and, of course, consuming an inordinate amount of gelato. I actually had to put Food on a diet for the first day – ‘No gelato until Fiasco gets here or we’ll be obese when we return to Barcelona.’ Her response? “That makes no sense, I’ll just eat more when I can.” Her willpower is nonexistent.
We tried not to pack in our days too much while having some fun, a lot of food – and more than a few photo shoots. Both Fiasco and Food are trigger-happy Instagrammers. If it doesn’t get a certain amount of likes, preferably well over a hundred, it comes down. I think that’s ridiculous, yet, was happy to awkwardly pose and then move around to get the most unflattering angles possible in front of every lovely Venetian landmark and canal.
We’ll start out with the “typical” tourist places. Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Doge Palace are, lump sum, one of the most tourist-packed areas of Venice and feature some lovely views, frescoes, and history. While Florence was known for its thinkers (Dante Alighieri, Galileo Galilea, Niccolo Machiavelli, etc.), Venice was known for being one of the most politically progressive places during the Middle Ages, leading to a happier population. Not that they didn’t have their fair share of the Black Plague, inequality, and other lovely things, but they also had a rotating senate, and operated under an elective monarchy rather than the absolute power that most other states and nations chose to adopt. The Doge Palace was the home of the monarch, the seat of the Venetian political realm, and now houses way too many columns and a set of stairs on which Food wants to shoot her wedding photos.
I attempted to go through the aforementioned historical places explaining the importance of each while Food gave Fiasco some extreme misinformation such as “This is the church Kate Middleton was married in.”, “Prince William stayed in that jail cell for two days.”, and “Baby George fell down these stairs and broke his legs.” Evidently the British royal family had an interesting vacation in Venice.
Other awesome sights included the Scuola di San Rocco, featuring frescoes by Tintoretto and many other artists from Venice and the surrounding areas, Santa Maria Glossario dei Frari, where Titian is buried, and the Peggy Guggenheim collection, the private modern art collection of the wife of Max Ernst made public. Unfortunately, the Rialto Bridge was undergoing renovations, but we placated ourselves by hanging out on the Academia Bridge and reminiscing about Food’s previous encounter with the bridge (involving various levels of both illegality and undress). Prior to Fiasco’s much-awaited arrival, Food and I visited Liberia Aqua Alta, the bookstore of my dreams. The entire store was picturesque, crowded, and had an amazing view of a small canal. While most the books were in Italian, there was a selection in English and they had a vast array of genres ranging from fiction down to children’s coloring books – not to knock coloring. I still color. Stress relief.
Food’s food selections were most the time stellar and sometimes a bit surprising. We’re basically living on a study-abroad student’s budget, so we typically gear for middle of the road eats with an occasional splurge. Food likes to tell me the “dollar sign” from Trip Advisor beforehand so that I don’t give her death glares upon spotting the menu. So, it came as a bit of a surprise when one of our planned cheap eats turned out to be not that. When we walked into Osteria alle Testerei, Italian for ‘eat your heart out’, we were easily 40 years younger than everyone else in the place. Food whispered to me “The wine glasses are on the table. Uh oh…” because clearly that’s the deciding factor between expensive and not. Anyhow, we pretended we owned the place and got mussels and wine and citrus ravioli – all very good, if not at the prices Food thought.
There were a few nights we felt like walking around Venice or sitting on a bridge instead of in a restaurant, and so we hit up the two best take-aways in Venice. Bigoi makes fresh spaghetti with a choice of 4 different sauces (suggestion: the duck ragu), while Dal Moro’s has a larger selection of both pastas, toppings, and sauces. Food went with cacio e pepe there and I chose bosciola then we ate while Food tempted fate by pretending to push me into the river. However, she’s previously jumped (illegally) from the Academia bridge in Venice, so she probably actually would have done it. Another great quick – and surprisingly cheap – eat was Osteria all’Arco, which had an amazing selection of cicchetti, roughly the Italian version of tapas, and some great prosecco and wines.
We left Venice after four days having seen it all, eaten it all, and walked it all. Just kidding – I’m sure we’ll be back sometime!
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