7th June 2017

Note to self: Take a chance. 

I don’t think I could have scripted a more perfect day in Venice if I had tried. 

I woke up this morning at 6am, looked at my watch and rolled back over, no way was I starting the day that early. At around 9 I got up, mosied around the ‘apartment’ and eventually set off for my 10am walking tour. 

I stopped at Rosa Salva for a savoury croissant with prosciutto, which was pretty decent and the least sweet breakfast I’ve had in Europe so far. 

When I arrived at the walking tour meeting point there was already a group of people there so I signed in and stood around waiting for the tour to start. I’ve been craving a little human interaction these past few days, since leaving Izzy in Paris I haven’t really had a proper chat with anyone. I knew that I was going to have to be brave today, swallow my anxiety and strike up conversation with people while I was on this tour. While waiting there was a couple standing next to me and I said hello and we started to talk. There names were Carly and Jeff and I’ve never been happier to have said hello to a couple of strangers in my life, but more on that later. 
The walking tour we went on was absolutely fantastic, our guide Lara, though not a local, taught us so much about the architecture and design of the island while walking us through nearly every district. 

The way in which the island itself is constructed is quite genius. With the perimiter barriers, layers of mud, hundreds of thousands of support tree trunks, and Istrian stone to seal it all in, I was beyond fascinated to hear her explain this quite unique approach to building islands on top of a lagoon. 

Some fun facts from the tour:

  • There are 118 islands in Venice and over 400 bridges, meaning you’re crossing a bridge every 2 minutes 
  • The ‘temporary’ Accadamia bridge took just 37 days to build after an architectute competition for the design of a permanent bridge took too long and yielded no suitable results
  • A gondola is made completely by hand, takes 8-10 months, contains 28p pieces of wood, 13 different types of wood and costs 60-90,000€
  • Katherine Hepburn, while shooting Summertime had to fall backwards into a canal 26 times, leaving her with a lifetime of pinkeye.
  • The biggest church is 30m wide x 101.6m long
  • A bridge affectionately known as ‘tit’s bridge’ was named as such due to the courtesans who would flaunt their goods to passing Gondolieris

We stopped midway and got some gelato, a yummy cherry and vanilla. 

We continued on, having local pasticceria’s pointed out to us, restaraunts and chicetti bars (I obviously took lots of notes). Learnt about how the buildings are being renovated to release tension and torsion caused by the slow sinking of the islands. And most importantly, we were taken off the beaten path and shown parts of Venice I wouldn’t have seen on my own. 

During the tour Lara pointed out a few different spots to take a gondola ride from that are well away from the crowded St. Mark’s square area. A few people were interested in sharing a gondola ride to split the cost and so I jumped at the chance to be able to go on the gondola and not fork out an arm and a leg! (80€/half hour for 6 people total is the going rate, we had 5, so 16€ each!)

We were so thankful for Lara’s tip as we had the quitest most serene gondola ride. We didn’t pass another gondola and were alone in the canals nearly the entire time. It was so peaceful and beautiful to see and listen to such a quiet and calm Venice. 

Now this is where the day really went from great to amazing. After the gondola ride finished I really had no other plans for the day. Carly and Jeff were keen to get something to eat and were more than happy for me to tag along. 

We quickly stopped at Tonolo Pasticceria, Lara had pointed it out as her favourite to us on the tour (every pastry costs 1.10€) and I got a delicious custard filled profiterole. 

We made our way over to All’arco, a cicchetti bar, that is well known for their amazing cicchetti and sandwiches. I got a glass of pinot and a ‘fantasy sandwich’ (surprise sandwich made by the chef with whatever he felt like putting on it). The wine was awesome and the sandwich was really friggin ace. Proscuitto, tomatoes, zuchinni, capsicum, mozzarella.  Yum. 

We spent the next 2 hours exploring the San Polo and Cannaregio districts, where we had especially set out to visit the Jewish quarter and ghetto. It was crazy and upsetting to see how small the ghetto was, to think that once such a large number of Jews lived in this tiny area, and to later learn that they were locked into this area at night and on big Catholic holidays. 

By this point we were pooped so we stopped and had a couple of spritzes before heading back towards San Marco. After some accidental shopping, Jeff is a very fun person to go shopping with, we headed back to Jeff and Carly’s hotel for some drinks on their rooftop terrace. Not before trying to find the famous Harry’s bar, getting lost and then pulling up a map to find ourselves standing directly outside it. Oops.

After a few glasses of wine and some really interesting and delightful conversation we headed back out, through St Mark’s square while on the search for food. 

Stopping at St Mark’s square we could not get over the view out towards San Giorgio Maggiore church, the clouds looked as if they had been painted on the sky, it was truly breathtaking. 

After walking around San Marco looking for somewhere to have dinner we eventually stopped at Cantina Do Spade. The placed was absolutely packed to the rafters and we were told there was no way we were going to get a table for dinner but we could stand at the bar for cicchetti. We ordered the house merlot (3€/glass!!) and 1 each of nearly every cicchetti. Man, this place was under the pump but the service and the food was absolutely out of this world. The girls behind the bar made it look easy to have 60 people packed in a tiny restaraunt while still serving drinks and food with little wait. 

We ate:

  • Baked prawns 
  • Stuffed squid
  • Fried sardines ‘conserved’ with onions
  • Sardines ‘Do Spade’ style
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce
  • Stuffed olives with meat
  • A deep fried mozarella sandwich for Jeff

Everything, EVERYTHING, was absolutely delicious. The sardines with onions and stuffed olives were the stand outs.

One more glass of merlot each and we were done for the evening. A quick stroll back to St Mark’s to see how high tide raises the water into the square and it was big hugs goodbye. 

I had an amazing, perfect day today.  I honestly couldn’t have planned it better if I tried. Jeff and Carly were the sweetest, most down to earth couple, and I was so thankful that they let me spend the day with them. It was so much fun to talk and joke, laugh and share stories, learn what it’s like living in Canada and hear about their extremely interesting lives!

If they read this I hope they realise just how thankful I am for their kindness and company today, it did me a world of good and has left me feeling so positive and excited for the next phase of my trip!

Buona notte! Xx

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