Just boarded the train for Rome and we’re pulling out of the station. Went for first class – not as glamorous as I’d hoped, but what’re you gonna do?
Yesterday was quite a full day. Started off early and headed to the Accademia (with a quick stop at the American Express office – actually, not such a quick stop, as Chris just pointed out while reading over my shoulder. And talk about not glamorous – it’s also a Western Union office…)
Anyhoo, we took a quick tour of the Accademia. I have to confess, I was still a bit jet-lagged and tired (and maybe a little hungover), so I was at my most Philistine-ish. I enjoyed looking around, but was anxious to move on.
Next stop was the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This remains a really delightful oasis of modern art in the center of Venice. We looked at most of the small and very impressive collection, plus made a really quick run through the special exhibition of mid 19th and early 20th century art. And of course, the sculpture garden is as lovely as ever.
From here we did our usual “try to find a particular restaurant and get completely lost in the process”. But since we know this would happen, it was fine. We were in a part of the city we hadn’t seen before, so just wandering up and down the narrow streets and along the canals was great fun.
We did eventually find the Locanda Montin, with it’s large garden patio out back (we were the only patrons when we arrived, though a French couple showed up a bit later). The food was very tasty. Caprese salad with OK tomatoes and absolutely delicious mozzarella; then, for me, house-made tortelloni, filled with cheese and arugula in a tomato-basil sauce; and for Chris, meltingly tender and fluffy gnocchetti with shrimp and asparagus, served gratineed.
After lunch, we headed to the Frari church. We’d brought along a Rick Steve’s podcast audio tour – nice to have, though the commentary veers into “cutesy” sometimes. Titian’s altar piece was incredible – and it’s always much nicer to have a little historical context when looking at great art. Apparently, his portrayal of Mary as very human (even sexy) was quite shocking at the time.
Home for a nap, then off to dinner at Ristorante Riviera. Since we’d already reconnoitered it earlier, we thought finding it again would be a snap. Hah! Got more lost than usual, in a part of town we hadn’t seen before… So, I had to practice my Italian – I asked a lady (who’d just finished up yelling her conversation to her friend leaning out a second-story window. Molto Italiano…) how to get where we were going. She walked us most of the way, taking us along a dirt path behind the military barracks (along with her beagle, Paco), keeping up a stream of conversation, about half of which I was able to understand and respond to. She was a real savior and so very kind…
So, we finally found the restaurant. Things got started off well when the brought us each a glass of Prosecco before we’d even gotten our menus – surely the way to our hearts is with free booze.
At the recommendation of our waiter, we shared scallops served atop artichoke hearts to start. They were very nice – Italian scallops are typically served with the “cord” still attached, the orange muscle that I assume is attached to the shell. Chris and I were both a bit trepidatious, fearing that some sort of substance would come shooting out of it when cut. But it turned out to be tender and delicious.
Next, we had an excellent risotto with shrimp and asparagus. Tender rice and fresh juicy shrimp – my only quibble was that it was a bit undersalted.
For dinner, we had a grilled branzino, brought whole to the table where our waiter expertly removed the head and bones before serving us. The fish was wonderful – simply prepared, impeccably fresh and delicious. Along with this, we had fritto misto: calamari, more scallops, sardines. This too was very good, everything crispy, hot and very fresh.
The only disappointment? They’d run out of dessert! They did offer biscotti and sweet wine, which actually sounded perfect. And the wine was – but the biscotti were essentially the Italian version of Keebler’s. Oh well – our waiter further ameliorated the situation with a round of limoncello.
During dinner, we did our usual eavesdropping and then attempting to analyze the group. We thought it was a bunch of Americans all from the same cruise ship (and, we guessed, McCain supporters), based on the extensive discussion of cruises and their various pros and cons (one woman was going on and on about Princess vs. Carnival… “If they could see me now…”).
On the way out, we chatted a bit with them – turned out they’re all on a tour together… And they all support Obama, including the lady from northern Viriginia and the two Canadians (who told us to look them up if we’re forced to flee to Toronto when President Palin starts rounding up the queers…). So, as usual, even though we’d had fun jumping to conclusions and mocking them, they turned out to be as nice as can be.
We also chatted a bit with the couple on our opposite side. We’d heard them say they were from Atlanta – but turns out only of late. She was Brazilian, he was from upstate NY, and they’d also lived in Walnut Creek. And like me, she is something of an amateur travel writer. I don’t think we exchanged names (or was I too in my cups to recall?), but I did give her my website. So, if you’re reading this, Signora Atlanta-Brazil, buongiorno e grazie!
Back home to pack up for our early trip to Rome. As much as I’m looking forward to getting there, I’m very sad to be leaving Venice – there’s so much still to see and do…