I arrived in Venice at night by vaporetto, the boat rocking gently as I observed the promenade. I could faintly smell seaweed as I stepped out of the boat, the cobblestones illuminated by ornate street lamps as passersby strolled past in 18th century carnevale costumes. I looked up and to my surprise, saw stars.
From the start, Venice felt both magical and bizarre, like a cross between a James Bond film and medieval time travel. And needless to say, I quickly fell in love with the surreal, sinking city.
And while visiting Venezia I didn't see one museum, because damn it, after the Midwest's polar vortex I wanted to enjoy some Italian sunshine.
Here are the highlights from my lovely week in Venice.
Staying in a Gorgeous Rental House in Zattere
Thanks to the lovely Edna‘s invitation, in Venice I stayed with her group of friends in a stunning canal-side house. The house was located in Zattere, a residential neighborhood with a wide waterfront promenade.
I think bunking up in a residential area was among the reasons I fell so hard for Venice- sipping my cappuccino while watching runners in the morning and groups of surly teenagers smoking cigarettes after school was so much more interesting than being among fellow tourists.
Also, in our beautiful six-bedroom home we were able to cook every night. When it was my turn to make dinner I prepared tortilla de patatas, a Spanish classic, and we enjoyed fresh fish, beautiful vegetables and fondue on other nights.
Joe taught us how to make spritzes and negronis too. (Which I thought tasted like cough medicine. So much for being sophisticated.)
And next to our house was a charming cicchetti bar, Cantinone Gia' Schiavi. Cicchetti are the Italian cousin of pintxos, little appetizers on bread. I particularly loved the creamy gorgonzola and walnut- yum.
Sampling the (Somewhat Dangerous) Local Wine
On the way home one evening, Lizard and I stopped at La Freschetteria, a wine bar where the owners fill up plastic jugs of wine for you for only a few euros. We opted for a prosecco and red sparkling wine (raboso).
Well, it turns out, this wine was… overly effective. After a wild night out at a Venetian club we deemed the wine to be roofie juice, devil wine and the most dangerous substance in all of Venice.
Having Fried Doughnuts and Italian Coffee for Breakfast
Apparently in Venice it's tradition to eat fried doughnuts, or fritelle, during Carnevale. As a Detroiter this very felt familiar as we eat pączki on Fat Tuesday.
Wandering the City
Venice is a labyrinth. So many times we hit dead ends while wandering (and in Venice a dead end is water), and eventually we realized it's easier to to just take a vaporetto than to navigate the canals.
But whenever we got lost we just drank more coffee, so no loss, right?
You guys know I keep it real on this blog, so I wanted to detail what I didn't love about Venetian Carnevale.
Well, Carnevale as a whole was a disappointment. While I was expecting merry-making and dancing, what I got was occasionally seeing someone walk past in a costume.
I highly recommend coming to Venice but probably not during Carnevale. It seems better suited for older people- it's not as much a young person's festivity.
And aside from the cicchetti and one venison ragù with fresh pasta, the food in Venice was the worst I've had in Italy. Plus, it was highly over-priced.
But overall I had a fantastic time in Venice. Venice made me realize how arrogant a traveler I've become- I had put off coming to Venice for years because I thought I'd hate it. And I am so glad that hubris didn't sway me from visiting this winter.