Day 7, Friday, March 18
We took the train from Rome to Venice and had a very nice train ride. Had a good lunch in the meal car. Expensive, but a fun experience. White tablecloths, china and silver on a train. (Much more enjoyable to travel by train than plane). We had gnocchi with tomato sauce, a choice of chicken or beef with spinach and then for dessert, cake or fruit.
We got off at the St. Lucia station and bought our 72 hour vaporetto pass. We rode the vaporetto to Piazza San Marco. Carried our luggage on three or four stairways over the canals. Just part of the experience I guess! We could definitely relate to people we saw doing the same thing later in the week. We found our wonderful hotel Locanda Orseolo and were warmly greeted by name by Matteo. We went up to our rooms to unpack a little and rest. We had two rooms. They were smaller than in Rome, but beautifully decorated with murano glass chandeliers, gold mirrors, handsome drapery and beautifully painted walls. The bathroom, while also small, had everything we needed and was quite new and very clean. Our room had a view of Canal Orseolo. We could see a lot of gondolas going by. In the mornings we watched them unload the working boats with the day’s supplies for the nearby shops. The kids had a view of the interior courtyard, which is serene and quiet.
We ate dinner at Hosteria Zorzi recommended by Matteo. It was close to the hotel and very good. Stephen & I had spaghetti and clams, Lauren gamberi with olive oil and lemons and Michael had mussels. Everything is wonderful. We walked around a bit, but most shops were closed and it is only 8:45 – much earlier than Rome. We walked around trying to find an open gelato store as we had not had any all day. We could only find a snack shop open that also served gelato. It is just okay, not worth remembering. We sat in Piazza St. Marco which is not crowded at all now.
Day 8, Saturday, March 19
I woke up to the bells of St. Mark’s ringing, which I love!! We went downstairs to have breakfast. Ah….a real breakfast with made to order crepes, omelettes and eggs by Matteo. He explained that “cooking is my passion!” In addition to made- to-order items the buffet included cereal, yogurt, fruit, bread, sausages plus tender and yummy grilled vegetables. Our hosts explained that they made us a big breakfast so we would not have to take time early in the day to eat lunch, and we can enjoy more of their wonderful city.
Basically, we just took the day to walk around and explore Venice. Walked to the Rialto Bridge then over to the Jewish Ghetto in Carnareggio. There is not much open, and despite the fact that there are supposed to be three synagogues we could not definitively locate any of them. Suddenly we realize it is Saturday, the Sabbath, which explains why things are so quiet. We walked past Ristorante Gam Gam, which is apparently a popular restaurant in the ghetto.
Walked over to the train station and took the Vaporetto #1 down the Grand Canal. We were enchanted by all the activities on on this canal. We stopped for lunch at Pier Mauro a little sandwich place. We stopped in a mask store as Michael wanted a mask. We are lucky because the first store we went in, the proprietor made the masks on sight. She starts with the papier-mache mask and handpaints the design. Michael picked a very handsome Pinocchio mask.
We headed to Fantasy Gelato (Calle dei Fabri? San Marco) recommended by Barbara, and discovered our favorite gelato in Venice. We came back to rest. While we were resting Michael enjoyed going downstairs to visit with Matteo and Barbara. He discussed the NBA with Matteo and they let him hand out the keys to guests. He was in heaven!
Walked downstairs to get dinner recommendation from Matteo. Then headed out to find a bookstore Lauren read about which had a particular mystery author she wanted in English. She navigated for us on the map. She got us really close but got frustrated at the last minute, so Dad got us there. They had a large selection of Donna Leon mysteries which take place in Venice. We bought two, as they are 15 euros each!!
Had dinner at Al Paradiso on Calle Paradiso across the Rialto Bridge in San Paolo. Another wonderful dinner. Excellent carpaccio appetizer. I had lamb chops, Lauren had lobster ravioli and Stephen had the squid pasta with the black squid sauce, traditional Venice dish. This was the first place we had been that offered to make Michael a sort of “kid’s meal”. He had grilled chicken and French fries. Everything is wonderful. Stephen in particular enjoys his dish. We ran back to make it to Fantasy Gelato before it closed. Yea! We made it!
Day 9, Sunday March 20
Woke up to another wonderful breakfast. I had eggs scrambled with proscuitto & cheese, and a crepe with berry jam. What a way to start the day.
Off to our Secret Itineraries Tour at the Palazzo Ducale. We all really enjoyed it, and found it very interesting. We were able to see a lot of different rooms and heard many fascinating stories. Then we walked around the Palace. We would recommend if you do the Secret Itineraries tour to come an hour or two early and walk around the Palace before the tour. It will give you a better feel for the place.
As we were leaving I missed a step and landed on the side of my foot. OUCH!! It hurts to walk on it. I limped back to our room and put ice on it (hard to come by in Italy). While Stephen thought I should rest it, I was committed to not just sit in my room – I was in Venice after all. So I just grinned and bore it.
We figure it was best to have a sit down lunch so I could rest my foot, and asked Francesco for a recommendation. We went to Acqua Pazza in San Marco at Campo St. Angelo 3808/10. It was awesome!! Our best meal in Italy yet. A wonderful appetizer de mare. Started with wonderful bruschetta, then a large platter of all kinds of wonderful seafood – calamari, mussels, clams, anchovies, shrimp with rocket, fried artichoke hearts, fried fish, baby octopus, wonderful smoked salmon with capers and onions, and a wonderful fried salmon and mozzarella. For 25 euros it was a lot of food and perfecto! Next we had tortellini with mussels and shrimp and a cheese & proscuitto pizza. Both were excellent – the best pizza we had! Served us limoncello after lunch.
We stopped at a gelato place at Campo San Stefano, it was okay. We were near a vaporetto stop so decided to take it back to St. Mark’s Square due to my foot. Our plan was to go into St. Mark’s Basilica, but it is Sunday so it had already closed for the day. We walked along the lagoon and went into the Hotel Danieli. It was really a very beautiful and grand old hotel.
Back to the hotel for more ice on the foot. We decided that tonight we would take a gondola ride before dinner. Barbara and Matteo both told us to be sure and bargain, but you need to be willing to walk away. Well, with the two kids (and one mom) all excited the bargaining didn’t go so well, but….it was worth it. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip. (Don’t let anyone tell you not to do it because it is so touristy. Just do it later in the day and be sure and do the interior canals). Shortly after our ride started the bells of St. Mark’s began to ring. Could anything be more perfect? We had a great gondolier who pointed out many important buildings and sites and answered our many questions about Venice. We wove around several very residential and sleepy interior canals. Then we entered the Grand Canal with all the noise and excitement. Back through the interior canals as the sun was setting. An ideal start to an evening in Venice.
Off to dinner at Firaschelli Toscana. It was very good although we found one or two of the waiters a bit curt. We frankly weren’t that hungry due to our enormous lunch, so ordered a bit light. Lauren & I shared the carpaccio, Michael had duck tortellini and Stephen had cuddlefish with fried polenta. It was late and we knew we wouldn’t make it in time for gelato so we ordered tiramisu and chocolate mouse. The tiramisu was very good.
Walked back hoping to find something open so Lauren could have gelato or meringues, but Sunday at 9:30pm nothing is open. Back to our room and to bed.
Day 10, Monday, March 21
Woke up again to the bells of St. Mark’s , watched the workers unload goods from their boats on the canal, and then Matteo’s eggs and crepes. I could definitely get used to this!!
Walked over to Fondamonte Nuovo to take the vaporetto to Murano. We walked through Castello on our way. Very quiet, more residential neighborhood. We passed by the hospital and saw the ambulance boats parked in the canal. Young kids were playing an informal game of soccer on the concrete. We realized these kids do not grow up with a lot of grass.
We arrived in Murano and followed everyone else who was following a guy encouraging them to go to a certain factory. We were all crammed in and asked to stand on risers while we watched. Not too interesting and the factory was not making very nice glass. We left and walked around Murano, surprised to see such a large residential neighborhood with many apartments. Found the “main drag” and browsed a few shops. there was one factory where they were making millefiori. We were able to get up closer and found it much more interesting. I wish we had taken a launch from one of the better glass makers so we could see their factory. Oh well, this was the biggest, and ultimately only disappointment of our trip, so we did pretty well.
Headed back to San Marco on the vaporetto. Stopped to have lunch at the little café just to the right of the gate before you enter Corte Zorzi where our hotel is. They had very good sandwiches. Lauren and I shared a mozzarella & tomato sandwich. Stephen and Michael raved about their tuna and tomato sandwiches so Stephen ordered another.
We headed over to St. Mark’s Basilica. There is no line. It is very impressive, with beautiful mosaics, although it feels much darker and more crowded than many of the churches we have been to. Next we headed over to the Campanile and waited in a short line. There were incredible views and we spent time looking from all four sides, pinpointed our Locanda, and took in the beautiful red rooftops.
Headed over to Dorsoduro, the artist’s sestiere of Venice and wandered around. It is a very quiet and peaceful area. We are getting tired, and decide the kids may not make it through the Guggenheim (we have to save something for our next trip). We headed back to San Marco/Castello to buy some things we noticed earlier in the day. Oh no the store with the glass nativity I had been eyeing was closed!! Argh!! Lauren buys some cute five euro glass rings for her friends and a glass hippo for a friend. We bought two prints at the shop of a local artist. One print is of Venice in the daytime one of Venice at night. (Itaca Art Studio Calle delle Bande, 5267/A in Castello). Stephen buys wine at an establishment where they have all kinds of wine in huge jugs and they pour it through a hose. Apparently these places are more prevalent in Tuscany. I bought a Murano glass bracelet.
We were hoping to have dinner at Acqua Pazza, but apparently they are closed on Mondays. Francesco tells us that the family owns another restaurant Ristorante Mansaniello (Campo San Stefano, 2801 in San Marco) so we went there for dinner. We were not disappointed – another fabulous meal! Buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad, pasta with seafood, fillet of beef and a succulent lobster and shrimp dish. It is 8:45pm and we try to make it back to our favorite gelato place, but it is closed. We wander around trying to find one open. Finally find one, but it is only okay.
We have to agree, the longer you stay in Venice the more you love it. Take time to visit the different neighborhoods and discover each one’s personality. The only problem with Venice is there are fewer gelateria and they don’t stay open late!!!
Day 11, Tues. March 22
Oh we must leave Venice and the Locanda Orseolo. Our last Matteo breakfast, Michael stuffed himself with two nutella crepes. Hugs and kisses as we said goodby to Barbara & Matteo. We climbed through the window into our water taxi. We left for the train station with Francesco waving back from the window.
Read more about our trip here:5 nights in Rome 4 nights in Florence