The Venice I Love!
I immediately had a love affair with this city while approaching our landing into the Venetia Airport and seeing the stream of water taxi’s driving in their lanes along the blue sky waters. The sun was bright and the boat’s chrome reflections bounced in the water like bursts of energy.
Luggage and all, we took a water taxi to the legendary Gritti Palace Hotel. While speeding through the Grand Canal, I see my first gondola. My heart beats as it is just like what you see in the movies! There were streams of gondolas…all pristine and shiny black, embellished with flowers and gold decoration. The gondolier is the master of the Grand Canal – fit and tan and with the recognizable black and white stripe shirt and black hat. I had goose bumps and I said to myself, “I’m never leaving.”
We approached the dock of the Gritti and were greeted by a meticulously uniformed bell captain who escorted us to the lobby. I then realized that old is precious and new is out. Venice remains, as always, committed to its past, holding on to their treasures such as San Marco square and not adjusting easily to the impressive Pinault Contemporary Art Center or the Peggy Guggenheim modern art collection.
The small winding roads that seem to go on forever are passages to the smallest of stores and ateliers where craftsman practice their trade that has been handed down to them from generations before. The streets are a maze. Along with stores, you will find neighborhood bars, established restaurants, boutique hotels and local homes. Walking the bridges over the canals brought views of geranium flower pots on window ledges, the mesmerizing canal and of course, the gondolas. It is a mix and match of old, very old buildings along with hundreds of tourists with cell phones, video cameras and other hi-tech devices walking up and down these bridges from the past.
People are more than friendly and everywhere we stopped, we struck a conversation. We had the good fortune of eating at amazing restaurants… all different but all genuinely Venetian in every way:
Osteria Oliva Nero – Our first night we were greeted with warm hospitality at this family owned restaurant. The food was traditional Venetian. Dino and Isabella create a memorable meal with their stuffed zucchini flowers. The sea bass is divine. When leaving, they present a gift of olive oil in a burlap bag. This restaurant is a must!
39-041 /099- 7565 www.osteria-olivanera.com.
Da Fiore – This barrel-vaulted, somewhat formal restaurant offers Chef Mara Martin’s deceptively simple fare: from plates of the deep-fried calamari, scampi and zucchini to a dessert of pineapple soup with mint and fresh berries. There is impeccable service from the staff that takes enormous pride in caring for you in a formal, elegant way. The best tables are on the outdoor balcony overlooking the canal. There we met a young couple on their honeymoon from Colorado. With tables so close, it was hard not to strike up a conversation…and one we thoroughly enjoyed.
Ai Mercanti – Situated in the heart of Venice, between San Marco square and Rialto Bridge this restaurant serves typical Venetian and international dishes. The menu is updated every two months and offers the freshest seasonal foods. We loved dining outside on crisp white linens in the typical and peaceful “campiello.” The staff is caring and flawless, taking great care to serve you the finest foods possible. We dined with friends and sat outside in the small square for hours without realizing the restaurant was closing. The staff continued to be gracious until we were ready to leave.
39-041/ 523-8269 www.aimercanti.com