Sunday, May 30, 2010

Si, Venice

Yes, we went to Venice. And it was great.

In an attempt to curb my usual long-windedness, I will do my best to sum up the trip as efficiently as possible.

First, the sights. We saw just about everything: St. Mark's Basilica, the Correr Museum, the Doge's Palace with the Bridge of Sighs, San Giorgio Maggiore, La Salute, the Campanile Bell Tower, Frari Church, the Scuola San Rocco (which houses an amazing collection of Tinterretto paintings), Ca'Rezzonico, the Accademia, the Jewish Ghetto, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. We also went to Murrano to check out the glass factories, spent an afternoon sunning on the beach at the Lido, and even saw a Regatta.

Second, the weather: amazing. The temperatures ranged from between 60 to 70 degrees and it was sunny every day (we did have a spot of rain on Thursday afternoon but otherwise the sky was blue and perfect). Italy gets really hot in the summer so this was a great time of year to go, just before the worst of it. Best of all, we got really tanned.

Third, the food: for the most part it was good but sadly our last night's meal was lousy. Venice is not known as a great restaurant town but most of the places we hit were pretty good. There are lots of places and finding a good spot is all a matter of luck. We also ate tons of pizza and even cooked some fresh pasta one night (we stayed in a little apartment with a kitchen).

Our favorite restaurant was called Trattoria de Marisa ai Tre Archi located on the Fondamenta San Giobbe in the Carnnaregio district. This is a small place where they have no menu and instead serve a multi-course meal consisting entirely of either meat or fish, depending on the night. It costs 35 Euros per person and includes dessert and wine. We came on an all fish night and had squid, ocotopuss, various fried fishes, and a delicious pastichio. If you are ever in Venice, you must treat yourself to this restaurant, it's charming and the food is excellent.

We also coughed up some money and treated out selves to drinks at Caffe Florian. This is a legendary cafe that has existed in Venice, right on St. Mark's Square, since 1720. It is very elegant and swanky and drinks were amazing (I had a Florian Martini and my wife had the Anniversiro Florian). Among Florian's customers over the centuries: Goethe, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Wagner, Ernest Hemingway, and countless others. (Talk about celebrity clientele.) It has also been featured in some great literature too, like Henry James' "The Wings of the Dove" and Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." It's a truly legendary place.

Fourth (and finally), the city itself. Venice its a beautiful, stunning place. Building and after building, separated by a maze of canals and narrow alleys, is a feast for the eyes. The architecture of Venice is so unique and each structure was built with such care and attention to detail, with so many different flourishes, that after a while your eyes begin to melt from overload. Sadly, over the years, Venice's economy has shrunk to the point where there is practically no other business in town except tourism. Every place you go there are lots and lots of tourists and all the businesses exist to serve them. While this is convenient (and, speaking as a tourist, it would be hypocritical of me to complain), the city has become so "pimped" out to tourists that it only seems like a Las Vegas version of itself, not the real the thing. That said, I'll still go to the real Venice over the Venetian any day.

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