Yesterday we used the heck out of our 36-hour Tourist pass (the one that gets you unlimited public transport). We left our hotel in Mestre in the morning and didn't get back until after midnight!
We rode the No. 2 vaporetto through the Grand Canal and got off near the Rialto Bridge. We had a rough plan for the day: Rialto Fish Market, exploring, gelato, more exploring, lunch at a spot I found while researching online (maybe lunch before gelato), maybe more boat time, maybe an apertif, maybe going inside the Basilica at San Marco or catching the Irving Penn exhibit at the Grassi Palace, and then heading out to the Trattoria dai Tosi for dinner as recommended by our friend Barry Yeoman.
The weather was gorgeous and the island felt much more crowded than it did the previous day. (We arrived earlier in the day, too…that could have been some of it.) The Rialto Bridge (and surrounding area) is popular and crowded with tourists, lined with souvenier shops and photo ops.
The shot from the bridge…the one everyone takes. Check!
We headed over to the Rialto Market and wandered through the stalls filled with fresh fish and produce, and we wished we had a kitchen to go back to.
Oh yeah…there was live music for your market soundtrack, provided by these three friendly musicians:
Rialto Square, behind the market:
We walked up towards Piazza San Marco and this time we looked left as we headed up the waterfront and saw the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). We'd missed it when we passed by yesterday.
The Ponti dei Sospiri is an enclosed bridge made of limestone. It bridges the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle, Antonio da Ponte, designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.
From Wikipedia: The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.
A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark's Campanile toll.
This tower has a bit of a tilt:
We continued up the waterfront on our way to the restaurant I found for lunch: Corte Sconta. Here's a map for reference:
Corte Sconta, on the right where the metal sign hangs:
We walked inside and were warmly greeted and asked if we wanted sun or shade. We opted for shade and were seated out in this gorgeous courtyard:
Our waiter Alessandro took fantastic care of us and the entire meal was spectacular. We had a half bottle of prosecco, and started with the antipasto tasting. This sampling consisted of fresh clams, baby ocotopus, shrimp, softshell crab salad, a few different kinds of fish, sardines, and carpaccio of tuna and a white fish I forgot (because OMG, the tuna!)
Alessandro recomended a first course for us: a squid ink pasta with prawns, squid, mussels, and tomato and it was incredible.
For the main dish (I know! Another one!) we shared a small whole sea bass that was meticulously deboned tableside and served by Alessandro. Alessandro's recommendations at first seemed like it might be far too much food, but it was just perfect.
We left Corte Sconta and headed back in the direction of Rialto for some gelato at La Boutique del Gelato (according to some, the best gelato in Venice). We have not enough experience to judge this "bestness" but it was some darn fine gelato!
More wandering. This building is the Scuola Grande di San Marco — the hospital in Venice:
Check out the perspective relief in the archways on either side of the front door!
Our wandering ended up at water, as usual, and there was a ferry landing there, so we hopped on a different line to do a lap around the outside of Venice (since we'd still mainly just seen the Grand Canal running through the middle). We had intentions of going inside some stuff, but exploring outside on a beautiful day just felt like thing thing to do. We lapped around Venice and ended up getting off on another island: Giudecca.
This area is much quieter than Venice proper and we just had a nice stroll up and down the waterfront and past the Fortuny factory.
The Fortuny factory is the fabric factory of Mariano Fortuny (1871- 1949). This Spanish artist, painter, designer and stylist, lived in Venice during his last years and here created an exclusive fabric factory in 1919 and which is still in use today (using Fortuny's secret methods of 100 years ago).
We thought we'd hop back on a vaporetto and head over to San Giorgio Maggiore, but we got on the one going the wrong way and just flowed with it.
Look at all this traffic!
We continued on (lots of boat time today!) over toward Piazza San Marco and wandered some more.
We walked from there out toward the Trattoria dai Tosi, our proposed dinner spot. Here's another map for some perspective:
This area of Venice is much quieter and has far fewer tourists.
Side street erotic pottery, 10 Euros each:
Looking down the street towards Trattoria dai Tosi:
I'd sent an email earlier in the day to Jackie (one of the owners) asking if there was availability for tonight, that our friend Barry recommended we stop in. I said if I didn't hear back we would probably just stop in regardless and take our chances. Once there, we saw the sign out front indicating they were full for the evening, but we were able meet Jackie and convey Barry's warm wishes and see what the place was like. The food looked and smelled wonderful and it was too bad this was our last night in Venice!
Jackie was warm and gracious and apologized she couldn't get us in, but insisted we sit at the bar and have an apertif on the house, which we eventually accepted (but stood outside so as not to take up valuable space in the small restaurant). We had a spritz, which is aparently THE drink to have in Venice. A sprintz consists of white wine, fizzy water, red orange Aperol (sweeter), SanBitter or Campari (dryer) or Select which is the in between of the sweeter and the dryer (ours was made with Select). It was great! (Here's a recipe.)
We finished up our apertif (it was about 8:30pm) and now we were in the mood for pizza, so we headed for another recommended spot we had not yet tried: Da Mamo. Hey, another boat ride (I could ride around Venice indefinitely at this point!)
Water bus stops:
Passing Piazzo San Marco again:
We arrived back at Rialto and headed over a few streets toward Da Mamo. The place was packed (it was between 9 and 9:30pm) and we did not have a reservation but we were seated immediately. We ordered a bottle of a Valpolicella Ripasso, a salad, and two small pizzas (one with prosciutto and gorgonzola, and one with a white sauce, mushrooms, and truffle oil). Both were fantastic! (Thanks for the recommendation Doug Trout!)
We happened to be seated next to two women from Seattle who we eventually ended up chatting with quite a bit (Hi Janice and Nicole!). It was a blast and we stayed until quite a bit after the restaurant closed — partially because the waiters kept bringing us stuff (extra desserts, grappa, some kind of melon liqueur…). They were mainly bringing stuff to the women next to us, and we were side-benefitting from the "waiter flirting with pretty girls" phenomenon. 🙂 It was a super fun evening. We said goodnight to our dinner friends and headed back toward Rialto.
Several people told us that we really only needed one day or so in Venice, and I guess I could see that if we spent most of our time in the heavily touristed spots we might feel that way. But we don't feel that way. We both said last night we really could use another couple of days here. The smells, the water, the history, the architecture, the food…it's just so much to take in (and we haven't even gone into any buildings besides restaurants yet!)
We got back to our hotel and packed up our suitcases to get ready for the bike trip, which (we believed) started with a meeting at 8:30am on Saturday morning, and then heading south to Chioggia. When we went downstairs there was a sign up saying Eurobike Meeting 8:30am on Sunday. Today was Saturday. Ummmm? We spoke with the gentleman at the front desk and yes, this was the plan. After breakfast and a bit of confusion, we picked up the packet of information (maps, hotel vouchers, luggage tags, train tickets for the part over the Apennine Mountains) and went back to our room. We carefully went through the schedule and I realized I'd been a day off. The list of hotels started out:
8 May – 10 May Hotel President, Venezia (and a whole lot of other information)
10 May – 11 May Hotel President, Venezia
11 May – 12 May Hotel Grande Italia, Chioggia
…and so on
In the long list of hotels, I'd seen the first entry for Hotel President and had read it as if those were our two nights total. I originally booked two extra nights in Venice, not one, and the bike trip was always supposed to start on Sunday and not Saturday.
So you know how I said I could use a few more days in Venice? Well, I got one of 'em without even trying! Sweet!