In Venice, I ate like a celebrity. But seriously. My husband was not on the same page as our concierge (not quite sure what happened down at the concierge’s desk, but it couldn’t have gone well), so he decided he would make all of the dinner plans on his own from then on. Best thing to have ever happened because we found ourselves having really fantastic, memorable meals. Aside from dining at A-listers secret spots and eating fine Italian steaks, Venice was surreal. The most beautiful (and most expensive) city where no cars are driven and everyone gets around by foot, water taxi, water bus (also known as vaporetti’s), or the fancy way…. gondolas. It was out of a story book where glittering teal canals peeped through every angle and the buildings date back to the twelfth century. It couldn’t have been a more romantic spot to mark our final stop in Italy. We arrived by train early Sunday afternoon where we then jumped into a water taxi that glided us right through the canals to the tip of our hotel. Our hotel sat right on the water just steps away from San Marco Square. San Marco Square was a little scary to me – not only because of the massive crowds and wandering tour groups, but also because of the birds. The bird situation was not normal…when reading about Venice in a few of my nerdy travel books, they warn you about the birds. They also advise you about what you’re supposed to do if a pigeon poops on your head…… Yes, this part takes up almost an entire chapter of a book (for those of you who are curious (I was too) – you’re not supposed to wash it out right away, you need to wait until it completely dries and then shampoo it out of your hair, washing it out while still wet will only make it worse). I took this chapter very seriously – wearing my little red riding hooded Patagonia windbreaker with the hood up every time I’d walk through the Square. I got a lot of strange looks from fellow tourists, and I knew the locals were making fun of me… But if only they knew… Sunday was a bit gloomy and damp, so we found ourselves tucked away in a cozy Italian restaurant close to our hotel – Vino Vino – and just a rock skip to shops like Miu Miu, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, and so on… We shared an afternoon bottle of wine from the region and each got a big plate of pasta. I ordered the special – pasta with meatballs. It was so exciting because this was the first time we’ve seen meatballs on any menu since we’ve been in Italy! How ironic is that? They were really good too! We roamed around the cobblestone roads, crossed a lot of really neat, old bridges, and took a big cat nap. We woke up rather late for Venetian folk to still be serving dinner (9:30pm), so even though our concierge informed us that there would be nothing open, we went on a voyage to prove him wrong (if you can’t tell, he was my husbands arch nemesis). Lucky for us, we happened upon the cutest Italian restaurant right along a back hidden canal. And they were more than happy to serve us! Watching the gondolas and opera singers float by while eating a late dinner was a real treat. You don’t get those experiences anywhere else, so we made sure to take it all in and enjoy our time there. We then found a snazzy little bar hidden amongst a dark cobblestone alley where we enjoyed expensive cocktails, felt fancy for a moment, and headed back to bed.
Monday took a lot of concentration. We would be spending a lot of time in San Marco Square, so I needed to be on full bird alert (they seriously attack/harass you, it’s not a joke). We started our day by touring the Doges Palace, which held a ton of history. We got to walk through old prison quarters and see true artifacts. It was fascinating. We then took a stroll through the perfect streets to a place we read about, the happiest place of all…. Sandwich Row. It was an entire row of sandwich shops and it was an absolute dream come true. I had been craving a good sandwich for weeks now, I typically eat sandwiches all the time back home, and the only time we have stumbled upon a sandwich shop in Italy has been in Florence. So this was a grand moment. My husband and I were dancing in the streets due to a serious sandwich high. Granted, the sandwiches weren’t that good, it still felt satisfying to eat them and remember that they really do still exist. We then made our way to San Marco Basilica – the awe-inspiring church in the middle of San Marco Square. I got in a few fights with herds of pigeons and some ridiculously obnoxious and oversized seagulls, but we made it in the church safely. It was so beautiful.
Monday night was the night of our Hollywood dinner. I challenged my husband to find me the best restaurant in Venice that would serve me a true Italian steak. He was dead on. He read about a place that was hidden in a back alley, extremely hard to find, that served incredible steaks – Trattoria da Arturo. It didn’t have a very robust range of reviews on Trip Advisor because it is rarely ever visited by tourists. After getting completely lost in the dark back streets of Venice, we finally stumbled upon the restaurant. Upon our arrival we got some strange, but welcoming looks from the two owners. One of the owners, who I believe also helps in the small kitchen, was the cutest old Italian man. With white hair and the warmth of any sweet grandfather, I immediately fell in love with him. The other owner was an adorably sweet and eager to please little Italian man. You could tell hospitality must have run in his family, for he had the charm and wit that made us want to stay and hang out with him all night long. Mike and I were the only two customers in the restaurant. It felt so intimate in the tiny space, almost as though we had planned a private romantic dinner in a dark, hidden, Italian house in a secret alley of Venice. The owners seemed confused and baffled as to how we found out about their restaurant. Embarrassed to say my husband did some extensive google research and that we love secret spots in hidden alleys (sounds weird, but they’re always the best!), we told the men we heard about it from a friend. After hours of drinking wine, eating pastas and indulging in unbelievably huge steaks in the most savory of sauces (my husband’s came in a green peppercorn cream sauce and mine in what almost reminded me of a vodka cream sauce….both unbelievable), we became fast friend with them. They hesitantly began telling us tales of their restaurant. One tale being…. Ten years ago, an extremely successful Hollywood Producer (Producing the movie The Matrix and many other blockbuster hits) was on holiday in Venice and stumbled upon this hidden gem, much like Mike and I did. This Hollywood hot shot started telling his “friends” about the restaurant, and it has now become a favorite amongst stars such as Barbara Streisand, Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Cruise, and the list continues. It has become such a Hollywood favorite that every July, the Producer flies the two owners and their head chef out to LA for two whole weeks to cook for him and all of his A-list celebrity besties. Causing the restaurant to shut down the entire month of July. We were soon smitten’d by two incredible Italian men, sitting at a table together, sipping (martini glass sized) glasses of grappa, looking through these awesome genuine photo albums of them with their celebrity buddies, and all sharing stories and experiences with one another. It got really late, way past our bedtime, and it was time for us to hug goodbye and be on our way until our paths crossed again. Because of all the grappa, we were a bit loopy when leaving the restaurant. It took us entirely too long to get back to our hotel, we chased a fat rat down a dark, narrow street, and I fell asleep on top of the comforter in my dress. I think we can all agree it was the best night ever.
On Tuesday, we slept in (for obvious reasons) and then decided to get lost on the quieter streets of Venice. But before that, we were led across the huge bridge and took a stroll through the farmers market, where we tried the juiciest strawberry’s and witnessed fresh sword fish being filet’d and oysters being shucked. We then went to the coolest lunch spot Mike had read about. It supposedly is known for having the best Italian styled tapas in the area. It was a super tiny, closet sized place, that had a couple stools along the one wall. We were lucky enough to snag two stools. We got two of everything so we could try it all – my favorite being the meatballs and the fried eggplant, prosciutto and tomato tiny sandwich, Mike’s favorite being the raw swordfish carpaccio with apples and cheese. We then walked all over the quiet, more residential streets along the canal. Everything was so beautiful. We ended our day with a Bellini from Harry’s – Harry’s is this super old, swanky bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out. Also known for their clever invention of the Bellini! Because of this history, the Bellini’s there are not cheap! But well worth it. We then took a sunset gondola ride through the canals, which was so romantic and so much fun… We got to see where Mozart bunked when he spent his time there, and where Napoleon lived! It was really neat. We ended with dinner at a seafood restaurant our two Italian friends from the night before had recommended. The dishes were so different there, which was really cool. Unlike any seafood dish I’ve ever had. It was the perfect way to end our trip.
Moments like these that we had in Venice cause me to take a step back and realize just how amazing these unforgettable memories Mike and I are making together really are. I feel lucky every single day to be sharing such experiences with the love of my life and can’t wait to share all these stories with our kids one day.
Wednesday is a day of travel. Venice to Vienna! Ciao for now, Italy! And servus, Austria!