Friday, April 11, 2014

Venice or La Serenissima

In Venice we had absolutely no trouble at all finding our hostel from the train station, we took this as a good sign of our ability to find our way there (but, as you will find out later, we were proven quite wrong). The hostel was pretty basic, we had a room of eight there, but it had an pretty entrance (a green door with a private bridge).

We went out for dinner only a little after our arrival, to a place called Trattoria Bar Pontini. We each ordered a pasta dish and split it, I got pasta with scallops and mushrooms, and Maddy ordered the spaghetti with cuttlefish in black sauce (which is a particularly Venetian dish, and pretty good, if a little unnerving). We headed back to the hostel for the night, and socialized with some of our roommates (two of whom were also American study abroad students studying at Exeter).

Our first stop the next morning was the Campo di San Marco to attend the sung mass at the Basilica di San Marco. The mass was beautiful, as was the basilica, every time the chorus sang (from their balcony to the side of the alter) the space swelled with sound. I do wish, however, that I had been more able to follow along. Every now and then we would come to a point that I would recognize, and I could pick out what was being said, but other times I would completely lose track of the train of the service until they came around to  the familiar again. 

The basilica is absolutely amazing to look at, the inside of every dome and the underside of every archway (and really across the entirety of the ceiling it seems) was covered in gold and mosaics (and the occasional fresco). I defy anyone to enter the chapel without a gasp of amazement at the sight.

After mass we walked along the grand channel and took in the sights, including: the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio, and the Chiesa di San Vidal, as well as many other beautiful sights. 

We eventually settled on the Campo di Santa Margherita at the cafe Margaret Duchamp, where we ordered Bellinis (a delicious combination of peach puree and prosseco) and bruschette. 

We continued our leisurely stroll around the city before resting inthe Giardino Papadopoli to read for awhile. Afterwards we walked past several more churches, and inside a few before stopping for pastries at Nobile Pasticerria and then for Latte Macchiatos and people watching at a cafe a little further down.

We headed back to the hostel for some rest and phone recharging before heading back out in search of a restaurant. The one we were looking for was not where Google said it would be unfortunately, so we found one that looked good nearer to our hostel. There we tried chichetos (the Venetian version of tapas). We had prosciutto sandwiches, bruschette with tuna, and bread with cucumber and some kind of sauce. It was all pretty delicious, even the tuna of which I was slightly suspicious.

We walked for a bit longer before making our second pastry stop of the day, where we got to fruit tarts which turned out to be heavier than expected and filled with candied fruit. They were incredibly sweet, and I could not quite finish mine.

Afterwards we ended up making another complete loop around Venice, somewhat by accident as Venice is extremely labyrinthine and we got a little lost. 

The next morning we went out for breakfast at the cafe Santa Sofia, where I had some more delicious hot chocolate with a croissant. The we headed along the long and winding rout to Campo di San Marco, in search of jewelry and venetian masks. We eventually found our way to two of the mask shops that I had heard were mong the best, Ca del Sol Maschere and Atelier Magera. I looked through several masks before finding one that was pretty enough to display, comfortable enough to wear, and not so elaborate that I would worry about it getting damaged.

On the way back towards San Marco we walked past another one the churches on my list, among many others that we saw on our walks through the city, the Chiesa di San Zaccaria (dedicated to the father of St. John the Baptist).

By that point it was time for lunch, so we decided to head back o Margaret Duchamp. We walked along the Grand Canal for a bit, taking pictures in front of the canal and in front of the Bridge of Sighs. Luckily this time we managed to find Campo di Santa Margherita without getting lost. Along with lunch we decided to try a cocktail that had been invented in Venice, the Spritz. Unfortunately it was far too bitter for my tastes, although the olive and the slice of orange in the drink were both delicious. Then we required coffee in order to continue to function, so I ordered another Latte Macchiato and sat and talked in the shade for a bit longer. 

We walked through San Marcos on the way back to the hostel, once again forgetting the way we had come and taking yet another new route (it's a miracle we ever found anything we were looking for). The walk back was also lovely, and we looked in a few more shops on the way, but we didn't end up getting anything.

Later we headed out to dinner at the Ristorante da Rafaelle, which had a gorgeous view of the canals and from which were could watch the gondolas. We shared a Caprese appetizer, Risotto with asparagus and shrimp, and a bottle of Fruilano wine. It was a wonderful last dinner in Italy, with good food and good wine.

It was definitely an interesting last day, and actually fairly relaxing. I think that, as much as I enjoy traveling, I could not have traveled for longer. By that point I was a bit exhausted and ready for a break.

The streets were practically empty on our last morning in Venice, understandable as it was still before even 6:30 as we walked towards the train station, and very few shops were open. Venice looked a bit strange and unnerving with all of the crowds absent from its streets.

We were at the airport and through security by eight, and our flight didn't depart until 9:50, so suffice to say we were there in plenty of time. The Treviso Sant'Angelo airport was tiny, only 10 gates and a couple of small stores. We browsed the few shops that were there while we waited, and I debated the merits of bringing home a bottle of Bellini (although I ultimately decided against it).

The view from our plane as we were coming into London was beautiful, so I once again took some pictures from the window. I have to admit that coming back to Exeter felt like coming home, it's hard to believe that it was a completely new place only about three months ago.

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