The Trip to Venice
To say that our family loves Italy is an understatement. Perhaps because we carry the Petrucelli last name there is a special connection with the country. We were fortunate enough to spend our children’s October school break in Venice. I share with you the names of our hotel, restaurants, and activities. As always, a lot of research goes into our restaurant and gelateria choices, because for the Petrucelli Family it’s all about the food.
After arriving at San Marco Polo airport we took a “water taxi” to the center of Venice. We booked it right at the airport and had about a 20-minute wait. Alternatively, you can book online but there were so many companies and not enough reviews to know which company to pick from. The water taxi ride took about 20 minutes. I felt like in a Federico Fellini movie as I enjoyed the wind blowing through my hair.
Suddenly mystical Venice appears before you transporting you back in time. There is an allure and magic to Venice that captures you from the moment you step onto its streets. Our water taxi pulled right in front of our hotel, the Locanda Vivaldi.
We checked in and were delighted to discover that our room had a terrace overlooking the side canal.
Venice is a city of small islands interconnected by waterways. The islands were originally marshes that were built upon. Thousands of tree trunks were used as pilings to build the base of Venice. Then the stone and brick was placed on top of the wood pilings. Over the years the wood under the water has petrified (become like stone). However, it is believed that Venice is slowly sinking at a rate of 2 inches per century.
We soon left our rooms and started meandering through the streets of Venice, crossing bridges and canals, in search of a late lunch. With 409 bridges connecting the small islands, it reinforced why we had not visited this city when our children were in strollers. We were warmly welcomed in Trattoria alla Rivetta by the friendliest waiter in the world.
Venice is known for a lot of seafood so this was a great opportunity for our children to sample some very different dishes like squid ink pasta, calamari, sardine dishes, different local fishes, and a variety of lobster and other seafood pastas. I have to admit that this foodie does not eat seafood but the dishes were tempting enough to allow me to try them and to enjoy them.
After considerable research and discovering that some of our initial choices for dinner were fully booked, we got a table at Hostaria Da Franz. This turned out to be one of those magical Venetian moments. It was fate that brought us to Da Franz. When we first sat down, we wondered why the waiters were not giving us our menus. They started us with a complementary Prosecco. Then Maurizio, the third generation owner, came over and made us feel like we were his only and most special customers of the night. He described all of the special dishes for that evening and offered brilliant suggestions. I was a bit worried because it was all seafood. I shared with Maurizio my limitations and he said, “Don’t worry signora, our chef can make you anything.” He proceeded to give me delicious suggestions. It turned out to be one or our family’s most memorable dinners of all time, between the food, the service, and Maurizio.
We had arranged for a private tour guide ahead of time with Federica Fresch from Walking Tours in Venice http://www.discoveringvenice.com/. With Federica we did “skip the line” into St. Mark’s Church and into the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale).
She gave us such amazing detailed historical information that even our teenage children enjoyed the learning experience. Federica’s tour also included an hour boat ride through the canals. After our morning tour we were ready for lunch. We took Federica’s advice and had a very nice lunch at Aciugheta.
Venice holds an annual Carnival celebration. One of the main characteristics of the Carnival is for its participants to wear costumes and masks. Masks have become an iconic symbol of Venice. The masks can be made of leather, porcelain, glass, gesso, and gold leaf. Gesso is a combination of animal glue binder with chalk and white pigment.
Our second dinner expedition took us to Ristorante Fiaschetteria Toscana where we dined al fresco. A trip to Venice would not be complete without a visit to the island of Murano famous for its glass blowing. We really enjoyed seeing the glass master turn a ball of molten glass into beautiful pieces of art.
After Murano we took a ferry to the island of Burano. This was an amazingly beautiful village with houses painted of gorgeous bright colors. Owners of houses in Burano must apply to the local government to get approval of the paint colors they select. A delightful lunch was enjoyed at Campiello del Principe.
After Burano we returned to Venice. At the end of the day we took advantage of our day ferry ticket to explore the island of San Giorgio Maggiore directly across from our hotel and the Grand Canal. There we climbed the highest point of Venice, the tower of the church of San Giorgio to enjoy spectacular sunset views of Venice. Our last dinner was the most casual of all but also a great family dining experience at Trattoria da Jonny.
The next and final day we spent visiting the food market and looking to stock up on our supply of truffle products. We culminated our visit with an awesome lunch at Vini Da Pinto.
I was not expecting to see so many tourists in the month of October. The side walks were filled with visitors and the canals buzzed with boats and gondolas. Sometimes there was so much water traffic that big jams formed in the canals with seemingly no worries by anyone. I cannot imagine the crowds in the middle of the summer.
We saw beautiful buildings that have been restored to their original splendor contrasted against dilapidated and crooked structures. If you look very closely and deconstruct Venice, you will notice in many places messy clothes lines, cracked and moldy stucco, peeling paint, cracked shutters, and rusty wrought iron. But when you step back and take it all in, the Venetian spirits work their magic on you to alter your perception and suddenly all you see is a charming, romantic, quaint, and beautiful Venezia.
PGR: Petrucelli Gelato Report
A visit to Italy would not be complete without gelato. In order of preference the following were the gelaterias we went to in Venice: Gelateria Stefano, Rosa Salva, Il Doge, and Alaska.