After staying in Rome for one night, we hopped on a train and made our way to Venice for the next two nights. Unfortunately for us, and this post, we didn’t get a prepaid SIM card for our phones until we arrived in Florence, which was after Venice, so I don’t have a Foursquare check-in history of the places we ate in Venice, but I do kind of remember them since we were only there a couple nights, and one of the dishes was just so insane there’s no way I could forget it.
Venice was probably my favorite of the three cities that we visited in Italy. Despite the massive amounts of people around St. Mark’s Square, the rest of the city seemed pretty calm and laid back… until you wanted to eat dinner somewhere without a reservation. But other than that minor aspect, which only happened the first night, Venice was incredible.
Upon arriving at the train station in Venice I was immediately blown away by how picturesque the city is. I’ve seen movies and pictures of Venice, but to walk out of that train station and experience the Grand Canal for yourself is just a surreal experience that I’ll never forget.
We gathered up our bags, figured out how to get tickets for the water taxi and made our way to the boat. When the boat pulled up we decided we’d stay above deck so we could see all that the Grand Canal had to offer; this was a mistake. If I could warn you of one thing if you’re traveling to Venice it’s this, don’t stand above deck on the water taxi if you have more than a backpack on. We had two large rolling suitcases and a carry-on, which apparently you’re not allowed to have if you stand above deck. After the first stop we were immediately yelled at in Italian about our luggage, but since we don’t speak Italian, we really had no idea what the problem was. It took us a few minutes to realize the small sign posted, that was only a picture, that all persons with luggage were supposed to go to the seats down below. By this point all of the seats were taken and the area was pretty cramped, so we made our best effort to get down the stairs and stood there. We still got yelled at, but there wasn’t much we could do and by that point we were getting off in two stops anyways so we just ignored them and got off when we could, apologizing as we left.
The stop we got off at was supposedly the closest stop to our hotel, but close doesn’t really mean anything when you have no clue where you are, and there’s a bunch of non-handicap accessible bridges going over all the canals that you need to drag your huge suitcases up and down, but we eventually found where we needed to be. We even met a friendly cat that would just lay on the stairs going up to our room, I named him Stair Cat.
Our lunches most days in Venice just consisted of basic deli sandwiches. I would always go for the ham and cheese panini and Celeste usually got something a little more adventurous, but none of our lunches were really sit-down gourmet meals worth writing about. Although they were some pretty damn good ham and cheese sandwiches.
For dinner that first night we didn’t make a reservation anywhere cause we weren’t really sure what we’d feel like, or at what time. We decided to find somewhere to eat around 7:30, kind of a mistake. We walked into the restaurant and were asked if we had “booked”, aka made a reservation, when we said no, the guy told us to come back in 30 minutes and they’d have a table… Ok cool. He didn’t take our name or anything, but we figured maybe it was just the fact that a tall, skinny, white american and a short asian american are kind of hard to forget.
To kill time we walked down the street to one of the many open squares in Venice and had a glass of wine and relaxed. By the time we made it back to the restaurant there were other people waiting in front of us. They were waiting for a table of two to leave so that they could push two tables together for a party of six. The owners friends were at that table of two and the dude waiting for it was not being very patient. Our table was, of course, not ready yet, so we just stood there and waited as we had no other plans or ideas. A few other couples came in behind us and decided to wait as well. One was a nice couple from England that we got to talking to, another was a very rude group of Indians that we did not talk to.
The Indian guys filed in one at a time to use the bathroom while waiting for a table. At first we thought it was just a couple, but there ended up being like six of them. And then we got pretty mad when, since they kept complaining, the owner tried to seat them all at a table for two, while we were there way before them. Thankfully they didn’t want to cram into the little table and we were finally seated, but before we could even pull our chairs out Celeste ordered a bottle of the house white wine. She was already annoyed at the situation, but figured as long as we could get wine we’d be ok… and we were. We were even more ok when the group of disgruntled Indians got pissed off and just ordered a bunch of pizzas to go and left the restaurant.
When we finally sat down and ordered our food, we were pretty impressed. I was most impressed with the fact that I found a mozzarella stick in Italy, and it was the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t technically a mozzarella stick like you’d find as an appetizer in the states, but it was a breaded friend circle of fresh mozzarella cheese with some sort of sweet glaze on it, and it was heaven. I wanted to order 3 more for my entree, but figured I’d just rock another pizza instead. The rest of the food was good, but that mozzarella stick was the rockstar of that meal and put everything else we ate that night to shame. I probably would have gotten weird looks if I asked them to put two of those things on top of my pizza, but I really wanted to ask.
Our last night in Venice we decided we’d actually make a reservation somewhere, which was actually a place recommended by a friend. It was a little fancier than the previous night, but we were on vacation, so who cares. da Rafaele was tucked back a few blocks from St. Mark’s Square, right along the edge of a canal. We had a table for two outside in full view of the many gondolas that drifted by as we were eating.
The atmosphere was cool and the food was pretty good. I got the gnocchi with tomato sauce which was one of the safest items on the menu. I enjoyed it, but I feel like it’s hard to mess up gnocchi with tomato sauce as it’s pretty basic. Celeste’s entree on the other hand, was something I never thought I would experience in my entire life, and probably won’t ever again; black squid ink cuttlefish spaghetti.
She didn’t think it was bad, but she doesn’t think she’d get it as a full meal ever again. She did manage to finish all of it and have some of my gnocchi so it couldn’t have been that bad to her. As weird as it looked, and smelled, I knew I’d probably never get another chance to try something like this again so I had to give it a shot. I’ll admit, it didn’t necessarily taste bad, but it was way more fishy than I like and the texture of everything together was a bit off-putting to me. I’m definitely glad I tried it, but that’s probably the last time I’ll have black squid ink cuttlefish spaghetti.
And that rounded out our time in Venice. The hotel was great, Stair Cat was well behaved, I found the most amazing mozzarella stick, the pizza was good, and we got to try black squid ink, cuttlefish spaghetti for the first (and last) time. St. Mark’s Square, and the Basilica, were amazing, and despite getting lost as soon as you left the hotel, the city itself was incredible. I’m not sure how any young people could live there, but I could definitely see it as a place for retirement. Definitely a must visit if you make it to Italy.