A Venetian Affair
Always in movement. Always on the go. Always exploring. Similar to a book, life has its chapters. It is in our hands whether we choose to write a black and white chapter or create a book full of multicoloured, multicultural and multi-experiential pages.
After a busy week, the weekend brings a last minute decision to pack and fly to Venice. Have been there twice before, never had a chance to explore the city properly though. Seems to be fully booked everywhere and due to not having spent the night in Venice before, I don’t have any knowledge as to what hotel to book, nor what plans I should make during the weekend. Exciting, I love this kind of challenges!
I finally find a room available in the Gritti Palace (http://www.thegrittipalace.com), a magical hotel on the Grand Canal that perfectly combines culture, history, endless elegant Venetian design with exceptional art. Worth mentioning the hotel’s terrace with alluring views of the Grand Canal, facing the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
As I arrive at the Marco Polo airport I am looking for the signage that leads me to the water taxis, however I must say that it can get quite confusing. Let’s make this easy: walk out of the airport through the exit on the right towards the parking. Follow the path on the left side, cross the zebra, keep walking for another 5 minutes and at the end you will find both shared transport and water taxis. Worth getting a cab, the journey itself is a welcoming adventure not to be missed.
I wake up early to enjoy the breakfast on the terrace which is a sublime experience. Staff is very friendly, the ingredients are fresh and the food range is wide enough to cover all tastes. Although difficult to leave, I get a map from the concierge to establish the must sees and commence getting lost around the city.
It can be difficult to imagine Venice as a lush area, but for explorers visiting in spring you will be pleasantly surprised to discover numerous corners of nature, terraces packed with colourful roses and blossoming branches overhanging all around the city. The bold coloured buildings, the preserved sophisticated facades, the relaxed rhythms – il dolce di fare niente, the narrow hidden paths in between buildings and the water movement transport me into a different dimension, away from any worries or thoughts I might have in the real world.
I stop by Palazzo Ducale which is 5-10 minutes walk distance from the hotel in Piazza San Marco (San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia, Italy) where I am once again blown away by the detailed interior and opulent painting parade showcasing on all walls and ceilings. The palace was built in the Venetian Gothic style with Byzantine-Venetian influences. Initial works started in 810 and was restructured countless times due to three huge fires, structural failures, new organisational requirements or complete overhaulings of the ornamental trappings.
The Paradiso in the Great Council Chamber is the largest canvas painting in the world! Doesn’t sound as surprising considering that the Great Council Chamber is 53 meters long and 25 meters wide, dimensions that define it as one of the largest rooms in Europe.
GROM – Il gelato come una volta
After visiting the Palazzo Ducale, I feel the urge to enjoy my first GROM gelato in Venice. The sophistication in texture, the refinement in taste and the natural ingredients make it the best ice cream in the world. GROM is 100% natural, they only use fresh fruit from the best consortium in Italy with no addition of artificial colorings, aromas, preservatives or emulsifiers.
What’s more, the idea came from a newspaper when Guido Martinetti was reading an article on ‘gelato like it used to be made’. He then contacted his friend Federico Grom and decided to buy the best raw ingredients and open up a gelateria. From one ice cream shop opened in 2003 and with no prior industry experience, the business has generated €23 million revenue and has been sold to consumer goods giant Unilever for an undisclosed fee. Talking about entrepreneurship skills!
I then hop onto a gondola and ask to be taken around the narrow canals rather than the Grand Canal which is always busy. After a very informative gondola ride on the history of Venice my stomach starts screaming at me ‘PASTA!’. I give in and post visiting and having a look at several restaurants I go for Antico Martini located in Campo Teatro Fenice, 2007, Venezia, Italy. Very friendly staff, a pleasant and cosy terrace separated from the crowded public squares and delicious food! I order a Foie Gras selection and Tagliolini with Black Truffle. BLISS!
After numerous kilometres of wondering around and an Aperol Spritz later I go back to the hotel to change for dinner. I narrow it down to two choices, both spectacular for dinner: Michelin starred Oro Restaurant with a breathless waterside terrace located in Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Giudecca, 10, Sestiere Castello, Venezia VE, Italy or something more traditional and laid back yet still elegant but less presumptuous.
Despite a late afternoon dish of pasta, I choose the second option, Trattoria do Forni, a lively restaurant with several rustic & Orient Express-style dining rooms. The atmosphere is as expected, chill-out for both the young and not so young. They use impeccable and fresh ingredients treated with simplicity yet resulting in complex tasteful starters and mains. The Scampi on raw artichokes is not to be missed!
DAY 2 – GIUDECCA
A glorious sunny Sunday is perfect to adventure the little known Giudecca, the Other Side of Venice as I like to call it. It is understandable that the mass tourism is always trotting around central Venice, however I think it is safe to say that this thin island will soon become a centre of attraction in Venice for new generations of travellers.
The breathtaking view across the Giudecca Canal to Dorsoduro, Piazza San Marco, and Palazzo Ducale, a landscape that has inspired numerous great italian artists, is the first WOW aspect that already converts Giudecca in my favourite part of Venice. Although I absolutely love the Gritti Palace hotel, the peaceful, relaxed and village vibe here makes it the perfect place to stay whilst in Venice, especially if you prefer a quite accommodation avoiding the loud crowds.
After crossing the canal in less than a minute, I first visit the alluring Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute followed by a walk around the island. It takes up to one hour at most to wonder around the whole island, although the bold colours, surreal bridges, traditional architecture might make you stop and sigh at each corner. The Fondamenta Cà Balà area (30123 Venezia, Italy) leaves me speechless, central Venice has nothing on it. I stop there for 15 minutes and stare without being able to take my finger off the shutter button of my camera.
I continue with an unforgettable visit of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia, Italy) founded by the former wife of long time favourite artist Max Ernst and niece of the mining magnate, Solomon R. Guggenheim. A must-see selection of modern art collected by herself mostly between 1938 and 1946. Amongst the great artist featuring on Palazzo Venier dei Leoni’s walls, which Peggy Guggenheim purchased in 1949 being her home for 30 years, are Braque, Léger Dalí, Miró, Picasso and Kandinsky.
With a pocket full of art inspiration I cross back to the central Venice for lunch at the traditional venetian pizzeria Rosa Rossa (Calle Mandola, 3709, 30124 Venezia, Italy). The smell of fresh bread and baked pizza, the wooden design details, informal and enjoyable atmosphere, delicious food and sublime Aperol Spritz highly exceed my expectations. BEST HOMEMADE PIZZA IN TOWN!
Despite the fact that I arrive at the airport completely soaked after someone decides to show off on the Venice’s canals I leave with the sweetest taste in my mouth, this trip has been much more than expected.