I had been to Venice once before, in the traditional city-a-day American style of European touring. Being in an ungrateful, bitchy teenager phase at the time, most of its splendor was lost on me. But not this time around. This time I did Venice right – slowly, savoring every delicious moment.
I was worried when the plane landed, all the trees had lost their leaves and the airport workers were bundled up in heavy coats. Coming from the Maldives, this was going to be a shock, an unpleasant one, to my system. My husband on the other hand had a smile slowly growing across his face. He’s a fan of winter and seasons. I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my days alternating between bikinis and sundresses.
The cold was indeed an unpleasant shock, but everything else was a delightful surprise. It was refreshing to again be in a country with transportation and sanitation standards similar to home, and perhaps most importantly, a shared alphabet. We could navigate, order food, and drink from the tap for the first time in months! And since there are no cars in Venice, we never had to deal with my new nemesis: the taxi. (more on that later)
So we slowed down to a walking pace, and sometimes slowed to the crawling pace of a gondola or vaporetto (water bus system). With a whole week to take in Venice’s sights, there was never a rush. We had entire days with no agenda at all. Simply eat, explore, eat, get lost, get unlost, eat again.
Of course we saw the highlights: St. Mark’s marvelous mosaics, the art and history of the Doge’s Palace, the colorful homes of Burano, and the glass blowers of Murano. But mostly, we walked and ate, ate and walked.
Croissants, bruschetta, panini, pizza, and pasta. We carb-loaded like marathoners! And while we never actually “exercised” per se, we probably walked at least the length of one marathon as we explored and got lost. It’s hard to know total distances since you rarely walk in a straight line. A straight line would almost certainly lead you into a canal or a building. But we walked all day every day, except when we were sitting to eat.
In a week of meals, I never ate anything bad (with the exception of McDonald’s which was purely for research purposes). Our very first taste, bruschetta with salami, mushrooms and mozzarella, was absolutely mouth-watering. Not every meal quite lived up to that one, but nothing disappointed.
A simple enough salad was one of the most refreshing things I had tasted in months. Crisp lettuces, crunchy bacon, creamy mozzarella, topped off with walnuts and pine nuts, blending into perfection. It was served naked, no dressing, which caught me by surprise at first. Then I realized the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar already waiting on the table. Infinitely better than any dressing or vinaigrette you could order in an American restaurant. Fresh ingredients don’t need to be masked by heavy sauces.
The pizza was as thin and well-seasoned as I remembered. The pastas some of the freshest I’ve ever tasted. The panini grilled to bubbly, cheesy, melt in your mouth status. And the croissants gave Parisian boulangeries a run for their money.
To wash all the deliciousness down there was the best beverage of the trip: Prosecco. Inexpensive, local, and freely flowing Prosecco. It was cheaper than the wine I’d found anywhere in Asia, and unlike those Asian wines it didn’t smell like it could remove nail polish. The best accompaniment to the best food in two months.
It was a good week for my taste buds, a VERY good week. Not so much so for my waistline or wallet….