Winter In Venice
Spires and domes rising from thick fog on misty waters casting atmospheric silhouettes through which slow gondolas travel. Sparsely lit empty cobbled streets; your footsteps the only sound. Huddled in a tiny wine bar beneath your warm coat and hat brushing shoulders with the locals. This is Venice in winter. Whilst Venice will always be a city of tourists, it is in winter you can find yourself walking calmly through the vast and impressive St.Mark’s Square, able to take a clear photo of the Basilica with its breath taking Byzantine exterior. The fresh sea air invigorates you, inspiring you to walk the city searching for an intimate eatery. The various types of light change constantly with the strong winter sun, resulting in thousands of moody canalside photos. Winter really is the most beautiful time to discover this magical city.
But of course this is not just a city for art galleries and museums. The striking gothic architecture, the labyrinthine streets and array of canals and tiny bridges, dark waterways and tiny narrow streets make you feel like you have stepped onto a film set. Whilst walking is a wonderful way to explore the city, after your seventh attempt to cross a canal only to be thwarted by yet another dead end or a bridge going in the wrong direction, you realise it is time to rest your feet and relax. And whether it be in the daytime with the hazy light reflecting against the narrow passageways, or at night when the opulent merino stained glass lights up the gothic windows of all the various palaces, Venice by boat is a must. Here you can sit back and enjoy the pure romance of Venice, drifting slowly and gently down the canal ways and waters, watching the locals making deliveries by boat or couples enjoying drinks by the canal, you will discover the truly enchanting nature of Venice as well as marvelling at how a whole city can survive on water!
Living in Italy has made me a complete food snob, and I enjoy nothing more than eating out here whether it be in a causal pizzeria, a relaxed trattoria or a more upmarket restaurant. However, being such a touristic country it is important to seek out the more authentic places to eat. In Florence this is easier, it is a touristic city but there is also a long term ex-pat community as well as locals living and working in and around the centre. Whilst there are some tourist traps, in general it is easy to stumble across a small bustling enoteca and enjoy a glass of wine alongside tourists and locals alike, and the areas the such as Santo Spirito and San Lorenzo have a wide variety of high quality touristic eateries as well as some hidden local gems. However, in Venice this is not so much the case; low quality touristic pizzerias line the main streets and authentic restaurants can be tucked down quiet unknown side streets where booking is essential. As a city by the sea, there is a plentiful selection of fish restaurants and eating out can be a heavenly experience, but it is always best to research first and ask for recommendations, and then you will not be disappointed.
One seafood recommendation is the intimate and authentic ‘Osteria Alba Nova’, hidden down a side street away from the tourists this cozy restaurant is full of traditional and quirky décor where you can enjoy a simple fish dinner in a relaxed atmosphere. If however you are looking for something more along of the lines of fine dining then I would recommend ‘La Caravella’, an exclusive eatery with an intimate vibe featuring Venetian cuisine such as the classic local special ‘saor’, which is sardines cooked in vinegar with raisins and pine nuts, and the menu features also some beef dishes for the meat eaters. La Caravella is a restaurant perfect for a special occasion and it is beautifully placed near the opera house ‘La Fenice’ in an upmarket neighbourhood filled with high end designer shops with well lit streets, perfect for a bit of late night window shopping followed by a turn at the opera. However, if you finally tire of fish, I love going to ‘La Zucca’, a great little vegetarian restaurant with alpine style décor inside and a small outside area overlooking the canal. There is a vast menu full of delicious vegetables, such as pumpkin flan or tagliatelle with artichokes, and there are also some meat options for the non-vegetarians of the group.
But it doesn’t always have to be fine dining. Venice is famous for its cicchetti, small snacks served in cozy wine bars usually accompanied by a glass of Spritz or Prosecco, the more popular drinks local to the area. My favourite is ‘Bancogiro’ a restaurant near the Rialto Bridge that also has a casual bar area with a good selection of cicchetti, and whilst it can get busy it is really atmospheric with people spilling out onto the piazza in the evening, and if you can bag a barstool overlooking the canal then you’re in luck. So the motto is, when your feet are tired and you’ve seen all the art you can take, sit back and enjoy that spritz!