The thing about an Italian getaway, you can never come back satisfied. There is just so much to see, so much to do and way too much to eat. Italy has so much to offer in every aspect, I feel I would probably need nine lives to really absorb and process what the country has in store. My time in Venice was limited, I had all but one and a half day to explore one of the most romantic cities in the world. I wasn’t expecting much actually. I remember being told to skip Venice and pick Milan instead when I was planning my trip. Too dirty, too smelly – this was the usual response when I’d ask someone about their visit to Venice. But being the closeted mushy-romantic that I am, I was very adamant on sitting in that gandola, even if it meant being in Venice just for a day.
So like I said no expectations whatsoever, just there for that gandola. As I walked around, over old-world bridges, across the teal blue waters of the Grand Canal, I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be. The first day was, like with every other place, reserved solely for wandering aimlessly and that’s pretty much all we did. Walking to St. Mark’s Square was like walking through a maze adorned with the most beautiful masks and porcelain dolls – gelato in one hand, my friend google maps in the other, I remember feeling so lost and so found all at once.
Venice is a city of the night, this we figured the first day. The city comes alive in the evening and St. Mark’s Square is a dream by the night with the lights and the music. The second day we spent at a random tratoria, eating absolute filth, the evening we kept for dessert at Caffe Florian and a late night coffee at Caffe Quadri. When in Venice, do not skip dessert and coffee (wine if you will) at these places because why would you want to deprive yourself of heaven. I don’t know how true it is, but I was told that the two caffes maintain a centuries year old rivalry. Back in the 18th century, when Italy was under Austrian domination, Florian became the hub for the nationalist Italian and Quadri was apparently quite popular with the Austrian folks. They say a true Italian wouldn’t so much as step in the shadows of Quadri (Strictly unverified information, a good story nonetheless.)
The live music at the Square takes the whole dining (read wining) experience to a whole new level. The Godfather soundtrack, James Bond, Sound of Music play on a loop till the fag end of the night and people literally throng around the caffes to enjoy the best of the classics. Personal tip, being high makes it quite the joyride. The trick to enjoy (anything) is to always have a glass of wine on your table.
If you want to go broke in Venice, dine at Harry’s Bar. Owned by Cipriani, the man who invented a nasty nasty drink (bellini), Harry’s Bar has been visited by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and so on. We went there to try out the bellinis and boy are those pink little things deceptive, they hit you like a meteor! Two bellinis down we finally had the courage to order food, I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (like my true Indian self) all the while dying just a little looking at their prices.
After being slaughtered at Harry’s we had a quick coffee at Quadri and decided to finally take that much awaited gandola ride – keeping the best for the last. So the gondolier tells us it’ll be a 100 Euros and instantly we turn and start walking back home. And to think I came all the way. But well, maybe another time or in another life if Venice is still afloat.
Nonetheless, I absolutely loved Venice. I don’t know what it was – the music, the carnival-y feel, the surreal water, the bridges or the wine – but I left wishing I had more time.