It is so exciting to be back. We just love the hustle and bustle on the canals without a car or truck in sight – and the canals are bustling.
After passing through the passport control and collecting our luggage, we headed over to the water taxi queue to catch a boat over to our hotel. In the past, we have always taken the bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma and then walked from there to our hotel. This time we thought we’d give ourselves a treat to get a different look at the city on the way to the hotel.
What a great treat. No putt-putting along, we were cruising and dancing around the wakes left by the other boats. When we approached the city, the driver slowed down and we passed through the residential area on the way to the Grand Canal. The buildings with the sun bouncing off the water felt like they were being spotlighted for us. From the grand canal, we only had a short trip before we were dropped off on the dock in front of our hotel. What a great way to be ushered in.
For those wondering, it is much cheaper to take the bus, however YOLO.
We stayed at the Hotel Antiche Figure, located in the Santa Croce district. It is literally right across the canal from the train station. This is our third time staying here and it is a great place. In fact, we’ve had this room before – I did request it. It has a small balcony and three canal view windows. The hotel is very comfortable, the staff is extra friendly and you can’t beat the location. We can cross the bridge and hop on any of the vaporetto lines in whatever direction we want to go. Despite being across the canal from the train station, you do not hear the trains at all.
We love being in the room at night and hearing the water lapping at the sides of the canal while the few boats pass by. In the morning the traffic sounds increase and you know the day has begun.
Just a little background: Venice has 178 canals throughout the city, with some reaching a depth of more than 5 meters. You cannot swim in the canals though, nor would you want to – just read some history about the city. Swimmers can head to the beaches of the Lido, just a short vaporetto ride away.
Over the canals, 428 bridges interconnect the city’s 124 islands. There are only five bridges that cross the Grand Canal, with the most well known being the Rialto Bridge. If you watch a movie that takes place in Venice, there’s a very good chance that you’ve seen the Rialto Bridge. Walking around the city, you’ll definitely cross a few bridges and the scenery is so different you just have to take some pictures.
To celebrate our arrival, we…..
Next, feeling properly welcomed, we went to purchase our ACTV Travel card. Since a single vaporetto ride ticket is now €9.50, we decided to buy a 48 hour card, which gives us unlimited rides for €35.00. Two round trip journeys will cover the cost, so it was a no brainer. We’ll definitely get our money’s worth in jaunts for dinner and to activities, plus we like to just take a ride the length of the canal in the evening when the lights are on.
As we didn’t expect to have our room available, we planned to go for a late lunch at Osteria ae Sconte. The name roughly refers to Hide and Seek, which is an appropriate name for it. The first time we went there years ago, we got lost, couldn’t find the courtyard and ended up getting there late. Roll the clock forward, this time we had directions… but got lost and ended up getting there late. Some things never change.
For our first evening, we had tickets to an I Musici Veneziani Concert. They were performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, a personal favorite, and did so in historic costumes. It was a wonderful concert and I would definitely recommend it to others.
Breakfast at the hotel isn’t over the top, but it is nice nonetheless. As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, espresso would do me in. However, starting the day with a cappuccino is fun – just a minor surge of energy. Anyways, back on point, breakfast includes meats and cheese, lots of cakes and pastries, cereals, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, yogurts, juices and hot beverages. Standard fare in European hotels – but more than enough choices to fuel up for the day.
Walking over to the lunch and concert area yesterday, we passed by some really nice areas, so we thought we would re-trace our steps and enjoy our first day seeing the real Venice neighborhoods. We love all the bridges and smaller canals as you walk along.
You never know what you’ll see; everything from freshly washed linens and undies to a Japanese warlord and his geishas. Yes we did see them all. The undies were men’s.
We found a real nice campo during our walk – the Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio. Kids were playing, people were sitting on benches chatting in the shade (we knew they were chatting because their hands were gesturing repeatedly) and people were eating lunch at the restaurants.
Sue was looking at the menu for dinner at La Patatina, but my tummy was rumbling for lunch. And then, the waiter said the magic words “house made pasta”, so we sat down for lunch. A glass of Prosecco, a bottle of water, a bottle of Italian Sauvignon Blanc, a plate of thinly sliced prosciutto, a bowl of tagliolini with lobster and scallops and a bowl of paccheri carbonara later and we were hooked! Oh yeah: I almost forgot the tiramisu and glass of Vin Santo. Quite the lunch. We were so full we skipped dinner that night. But we did have the sense to make dinner reservations there for the following evening.
We waddled back to the hotel to let lunch digest. One of us fell asleep for a couple hours, while the other caught up on her emails. We did decide to skip dinner, but we did go downstairs to sit outside with glass of Prosecco for a nightcap on a beautiful evening.
Day 3 and I’m already pronouncing the room number correctly; there’s no stopping me now!
We enjoyed our breakfast and then headed to the vaporetto station. We’re going to be like spawning salmon today and swim against the stream. While everyone packs the boat to go down the grand canal, we are going to loop around to San Marco via the lagoon. The boat wasn’t too crowded, so we took our seats and enjoyed the beautiful views.
Tuesday evening rolled around and we headed to the restaurant for dinner. After yesterday’s lunch, I was anxious for the dinner menu. As we were approaching, the head waiter waved to us and pointed us to our table. It was a beautiful evening to dine outside – clear skies, warm with just enough of a cooling breeze.
Our dinners were delicious. A glass of Prosecco started us off, and that was followed by a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso. We shared an order of pappardelle with mushrooms and scampi that was awesome. Then Sue went with a broiled turbot with a mushroom sauce, while I had the veal marsala. Both were delicious and both were followed by their wonderful tiramisu and a glass of Vin Santo and then another glass of Vin Santo. Before you start thinking we were guzzling it down, we were sipping it while enjoying the entertainment.
You see, Tuesday night in the campo is not taco Tuesday, rather it is Tango Tuesday. We were enjoying watching about twenty couples, dressed to the nines, dancing the tango. It was so cool to watch as there was a “deejay” playing the music, while the couples danced under only the lights in the campo and the moon. There were other spectators and a few diners at the restaurant applauding after each dance.
It was a perfect ending to our day. Olè.
It’s already Wednesday and we have another full day of fun ahead of us. There were a few drops of rain while we ate breakfast that had us a bit worried, but the skies cleared before noon, so we set off for another boat ride. The seas were a little more wavy today, with water actually splashing onto the sidewalks in places. Mind you, these were gentle swales, not ‘marooning the SS Minnow’ type waves.
After our little jaunt, we decided to have a later lunch instead of dinner. We found the little pizza place we visited on our last trip and enjoyed a caprese salad and a pizza with a glass of wine. Just a pleasant lunch at a restaurant tucked down a little side street.
Back in the room afterwards, we relaxed and looked at the pictures we’d taken before getting cleaned up for our night tour at the basilica. When the time arrived, we headed for the vaporetto for a leisurely ride down to Piazza San Marco.
We passed by a few hotels that were all gussied up for parties that evening. The Venice Film Festival is currently happening, so apparently there are some celebrations and schmoozing going on. We saw a starlet arriving by boat with the cameras flashing at one hotel, but the best one was some actor with his publicity guy taking pictures of him “arriving” at his destination. I say “arriving” because he had to stage the walk and wave three times before the photos were just right.
Piazza San Marco is so much better in the evening after the day trippers leave. It’s quiet, the lights come on at dusk and it is a treat to walk around. Our tour began at 9:00 pm, so since we had some time, we visited the famed Cafe Florian for a drink and to listen to the musicians. Not being shy, we sat up close so we could see and hear better, catching the eye of the bass player and accordionist. They seemed to enjoy the fact that we were swaying happily as they played. They would even take requests, so I asked if they knew ‘Stayin’ Alive’ by The Bee Gees. Just kidding, I requested ‘Senza Fine’ and it was delightful.
Casey Kasem wasn’t there, but we sent it out to Greg in Cheektowaga!
Our tour of St Mark’s Basilica was truly special. We booked a small group night tour. No huge crowds of noisy tourists, just three groups of twenty getting a good look at the beautiful mosaics, the artwork and the story of how it came to be. Our guide Romy, who was born and raised in Venice, was perfect in her amount of information given versus talking too much. It is such a historical and beautiful building filled with spectacular mosaics. We were very glad that we took the tour.
The boat ride home along the Grand Canal was very romantic. The lights from the buildings add a magical touch and being able to peer into the buildings is a treat. Just me and my gal and fifty or so others…
Thursday morning started out overcast and chilly with a little bit of rain. Looked like we were going to have our first rainy day – until the sun came out. They were predicting some showers or thunder showers every day and instead – we had sunshine. We know Italy needs the rain, but Venice…. I think there’s enough unless the Adriatic Sea disappears.
While relaxing at the hotel, we received an email from Trenitalia. “Gentle clients – Did we mention the strike tomorrow? Sorry, your train tickets are cancelled.” Scramble time!
After talking to the desk clerk, I was able to make reservations on the regional train. Seems the strike only screws up the visitor’s plans. The cost was less, but the time to get there is longer. Just an annoyance – no worries!
With that crisis solved, we attended to the next issue – where to eat dinner tonight. Something nice to cap off our time in Venice. We decided on a restaurant called ‘Poste Vicie’. It’s located down near the Rialto market and the building has been around since the 1500’s. It has been a merchant’s office and a poste office prior to becoming a restaurant. We can’t wait for dinner.
The skies were looking pretty ominous as the afternoon wore on. We figured that rain they’ve been predicting would arrive around the time we were leaving, but we made it to the vaporetto and then to the restaurant without a drop.
The restaurant is right near the famous Venice fish market. You just had to follow your nose to the market and then walk a few steps beyond. The building certainly looked old from the outside, but inside it was charming. A unique location for our final dinner in Venice.
They start you off with a complimentary glass of Prosecco – mine said my haircut looked good. We both started with Bigoli pasta with a duck ragu, then Sue had veal cheeks with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. I went with the sea bass fillet with braised spinach. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals. We had a bottle of Bertani Valpolicella that paired well with the food. For dessert, Sue had the tiramisu and I had a almond custard tart with salted carmel sauce.
We left the restaurant happy and hoping that we might return to explore more of Venice another time. We caught the next vaporetto and we were back at the hotel twenty minutes later to relax and plan for the morning’s departure.
We woke up ready to head to Brescia. We checked out of the hotel and exchanged pleasantries with the staff, then headed over the bridge to the train station. The train station was crowded this morning – but off we go.