Our visit to Rome was exciting and a little too short and I’m sure we’ll return someday but it was also sweaty, crowded and confusing and we boarded the train to our country retreat in Venice quite happily. The train journey wasn’t in our original plans but turned out to be our cheapest option.
Somehow we lucked out and our cheapish train was pretty swanky with comfortable seats, free wifi and movies showing, sadly in Italian without subtitles, our four hour journey was smooth and easy. We arrived well rested in Mestre and stopped at a café to steal more wifi and triple check how we would get to our next Airbnb, which we knew was going to be a challenge.
We couldn’t afford Venice’s posh hotels and instead of staying in a boring cheap hotel outside the city we had opted for a wooden wagon on an organic farm. A classic Airbnb special. We’d been given detailed instructions on how to get there but only just managed to spot the supermarket we’d been told to disembark at.
It was early evening and we had a basic printed map but our backpacks were heavy and as we commenced the predicted 20 minute walk from the bus stop to the farm we wondered if we were actually crazy for booking this place.
On the train I’d looked at trip advisor and seen some really bad reviews of the place, saying it was smelly, filthy and ‘never again!’ etc. Airbnb had had a much more positive set of reviews when I’d originally booked it weeks before, Giz had been apprehensive even then, and I was starting to panic.
After some wrong turns we finally found it, we were greeted by a slightly tipsy lady who spoke virtually no English, eventually being introduced to a fluent English speaking young guy who gave us loads of info about Venice, buses etc. As we approached our cabin I began to feel better, it was so cute, and inside the sheets were clean and I felt safe.
We were shown a kitchen with crates of organic fruit and veg but it was apparent that the organic wine and food that were mentioned online weren’t going to be available, at least this evening, so we legged it back to the supermarket (just in time before it closed at 8pm) to pick up wine, cheese, crackers, pickled veg and snacks for dinner. Walking back in pitch darkness with just a small torch to light our way was somewhat creepy, but we had a really nice chilled out Saturday evening in the cabin, despite being joined by a large hornet with whom we had to make a truce, we won’t bother you if you don’t bother us.
The next day we arose early and caught the bus to Venice, we had no real plan here, just to see the place, so we didn’t get a map or think about it too much as we had in Rome, we just walked. Within minutes we were hopelessly lost and hopelessly in love with this beautiful, beautiful city.
The winding streets are EXACTLY what I imagine when I daydream of romantic Italy and as we hit many dead ends, found countless shops selling eccentrically dressed cat dolls and ornate masks and wandered down seemingly never ending, twisting and turning, narrow, pastel coloured roads we felt like we were in one of my favourite films, Labyrinth.
At one point we came across a busking duo of old blokes who to our delight started to play a Django Reinhart classic as we approached, it was a perfect moment and we watched the whole number and appreciatively chucked them some euros.
We found an AMAZING gelataria and sat on a bench in a square which seemed only populated by locals with kids, soaking up the sun and groaning with pleasure at the delicious creamy delight (me: dark chocolate and fig & walnut, Giz strawberry and hazelnut).
We got lucky with lunch too, stumbling upon a great little fish restaurant Osteria Trefanti, which offered a lunch deal of delicate sea bass with bean puree, bread, a glass of wine and cheesecake and coffee for 15 euros each. It turned out to be the best meal we had in Venice.
Apart from a quick visit to St Mark’s basilica in Piazza San Marco which we came across by accident, and where a beggar looked me in the eye and called me ‘diavolo!’ in the queue, we kept off the tourist trail here.
We sunbathed in quiet corners, wandered around the Jewish ‘ghetto’ and soaked up the atmosphere. And no, we didn’t ride a gondola, at 80 euros to be bumper to bumper in a sea of shameless selfie stick-ers it didn’t seem remotely romantic or desirable.
We took a few photos and rode the ferry to the Lido the next day to scratch our sailing itch instead. It wasn’t the most beautiful beach in the world but I swam in the lovely warm sea and it did the trick.
After our beach day we shared a ricotta gelato and headed back to the city, we found a place serving authentic seeming ciccetti, which I was dying to try but ultimately found a bit disappointing and greasy, you can’t win em all! That evening we shared our cabin with a pea-green grasshopper and our short but sweet Venice break left us feeling lucky and with big smiles.
Currently (still) reading – A fork in the road – tales of food, pleasure and discovery on the road (various authors)
Title lyric from Moon River by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer