Picking back up with the Travel Tales, let’s start where I left off – taking a train out of Zurich, making my way to Italy! So without further ado, I present to you the first stop of our tour of Italy. The setting? A unique, oft called mysterious, city – surrounded by water, masks, and exceptionally difficult to navigate alleys…Venice!
On Monday I met up with my parents successfully. It was so good to see them, and there’s nothing like getting a real hug from your mom and dad. Of course, it would have been even better if my brother and sister could be with us, too, but I’ll just have to wait a little while longer to see them in person! Our hotel was right across the grand canal from the train station and my parents got there right before I did (around 2:45). The hotel was very nice, had a friendly and helpful staff, beautiful room and view…this was especially so after staying in hostels!
The rest of the day was spent wandering around Venice and learning what a difficult city it is to navigate! We made our way to the Rialto bridge while keeping an eye out for a few particular restaurants for dinner which had been recommended to my parents. We never did find those. Near the bridge we stopped for a short snack where my dad had a chocolate bigne, and my mom and I each had a Chantilly cream pastry. But boy were we ready to sit down and rest our feet when we got back to the hotel a few hours later! Luckily my mom had paid attention to the Italian word for train (ferrovia) and we could follow signs back to the hotel. For dinner we had picked one of the closer places on our list, mapped it out, and set off.
As fate would have it, we must have missed it somewhere yet we ended up having an excellent dinner at a little restaurant (well they’re all pretty little in Venice!) in the square we eventually found ourselves in. The antipastis were good, as was the wine – I was able to enjoy a whole glass! – but what was most notable was our dinner. Originally we had different dishes picked out, but when my mom went to order first and asked for one of the fish dishes, the waiter recommended a specialty fish that would be for all three of us. So we said sure, why not? And boy was it worth it! Out came this long, silver platter with a turbot (a flounder) in an excellent, light white sauce, surrounded by potatoes and roasted tomatoes. He cut the fish and divided everything between three plates, it was awesome! Then came the amazing tiramisu for dessert, mmm. Tiramisu was created in Venice, so of course we had to get it!
The next day, Tuesday, we had breakfast at the hotel and then decided to walk around some more. We had a nice dinner place picked out, so we decided we might as well try to find it now and then make our way to San Marco square. With patience and lots if stopping to check the map (really my dad gets credit for this one), we did manage to find the restaurant. Having made our way there really helped for getting back again later that night.
San Marco Square is the huge area that you may have seen in movies or read about in scenes of books. There is a large basilica that supposedly has some beautiful frescoes; which we could tell from the few we could outside. The Basilica di San Marco surrounds the Palazzo Ducale as well. Across the way is the Museo Correr with the long buildings stretching along the piazza. The square opens out into the Canale di San Marco, a very large canal where you can see some other islands. It was beautiful, but also extremely crowded and touristy. We made our way back along the Dorsoduro area/island for something new. Lunch was at a little restaurant in another square where we split two good pizzas. We stopped in a beautiful church, the Santa Maria della Visitazione. Turns out there are 28 churches in Venice – which I thought was crazy, it’s such a small city!
Dinner that night was great as well! My parents liked the first place better, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of this place more. Both meals were excellent, regardless. While looking over the menu, they gave us these paper cones filled with little fried shrimp and spider crab legs. The three if us split an antipasti of assorted Venetian seafood. It came with tiny shrimp, cuttlefish fish, the cheek of a fish, octopus, a ground fish type thing of the consistency of crab cake, anchovies in a lemon sauce with lettuce, and sardines with these excellent grilled onions. We each got a salad as well, which came with these fresh, little strawberries!
My dinner turned out to be the winner, though all were good. My mom had a John Dory fish with artichokes, my dad a dish of cow liver with polenta, and myself a tagliatelle with scallops in a pesto herb sauce. The homemade pasta and the sauce made the dish – it was the best pesto sauce any of us has ever had! Not too garlicky, or green for that matter, and much lighter than the usual pesto. Oh it was good! For dessert we split one tiramisu (not as good as the previous night’s) and one of the desserts the waitress said was the special for the night – a torte with chunks of pear cooked in, a lemon sauce on the side, and mint leaves. That, too, was awesome!
Today we had a half day in Venice before getting on the train, where I write to you from now. My mom was kind enough to do my laundry around the corner while I got ready and awaited some clean pants to put on! I had breakfast and really got to check out my new iPad (early birthday present) for the first time. Luckily we’ve had Internet access so I could get my classes signed up for next semester at Miami. Though I still have to figure out how to get the two grad classes registered. Anyway, after packing back up and checking out, we walked along another area for a little while to kill the time. We made it to the casino and then stopped for lunch and had two more pizzas; a spinach ricotta that I picked out and a mushroom, artichoke, eggplant, peppers one that we all thought looked good. After a final stop back at the hotel for our luggage, we made our way to the train station.
Our overall impression of Venice was that it is very neat, but overrun with tourists – I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer! There are a few things we missed out on, such as touring Murano Island to see how they make the glass there, or the ever popular gondola ride through the canals. It would have been very cool to have walked the streets years ago, before the graffiti and all the tourist stands. However, I must say, it is a unique city and I find it easy to see why it features in many books and movies. (The Thief Lord was my first fictional foray into this city, sparking my desire to see the city for itself back in middle school) The narrow, maze like streets, the old buildings, the layout of canals and sparkling water all give the city a mystical quality which sparks the imagination.
Whew, so that was our first leg of Our adventure in Italy! We are approaching Firenze, or Florence as many of us know it as, as I finish this up (on the iPad!). So that’s it for now, but stay tuned for the next segment. Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…