What do you get the person who has everything for their birthday? My other half, Alberto had his birthday last week and I had no idea what to get for him. It’s bad enough he has his birthday so close to Christmas and it’s hard enough for me to think of an original Christmas present. I have discoverd that there are parts of Italy that Alberto has never been to, so I decided that one of these destinations could be an ideal present as a weekend away for us both. Gifting Alberto a weekend away was a great idea because it meant I also benefited from his gift. I had originally thought of taking
him us to Positano… (another place Alberto has never seen), but then I decided that Positano and the Amalfi Coast should really be seen during warmer temperatures and not when many businesses are closed. Next choice was easy —- Venice! Venice because I knew that even if it was cold and foggy, Venice would always be beautiful and magical.
The first time I went to Venice, was also the last time I was there, and that was over 20 years ago when my sister Lisa and I travelled around Italy together. It was summer and I remember my jaw hitting the floor in amazement as soon as we stepped outside the train station. I’m not sure what I was expecting… but nothing prepares you for the beauty that is Venice. The same thing happened this past weekend, and at one stage my iPhone gave up and turned itself off in exasperation for the number of photos I was taking!
We were blessed with some amazing weather while we were there, even though it was freezing cold. We experienced snow as our welcome when we arrived on Friday night, a foggy start to Saturday mornng and then the sun came out and we enjoyed blue skies as well, this then repeated Sunday.
We wandered around being tourists on Saturday. We took photos in Piazza San Marco which was still showing signs of the snowfall from Friday night. We wandered along the labyrinth of streets working our way to the ‘Ponte di Rialto’, the Rialto Bridge. I told Alberto we would have a gondola ride and a first he was against it. I told him that it was part of his birthday present and so he couldn’t refuse… During the holiday with my sister all those years ago, we had decided our budget didn’t include a gondola ride, and so I really felt it had to be done this time. It had taken me over 20 years to return to Venice… Who knew how many years would pass before I came back again? Thankfully at the end of it, Alberto said how he had underestimated just how special a gondola ride was!A 30 minute Gondola ride will cost you €80 which is expensive, but I really had to cross it off my ‘bucket list’. Our ‘Gondoliere’ was Venice born and bred, (as most of them are) and acted as a tour guide as well during this time. I suppose if you got a group together you could divide the cost considerably per person, but I wanted this ride to be just for the two of us. Sunday morning we did the tourist thing and visited Palazzo Ducale. There weren’t many people at all so we didn’t have to wait in any queues and we were able to walk around and see everything comfortably. There is so much opulence to be seen here, and the visit finished in the prisons and walking across the famous ‘Bridge of Sighs’.
Food wise, we did well on Saturday night and Sunday for lunch. Friday night’s dinner was at a restaurant near our hotel that I wouldn’t recommend, as it was like many places in Venice…. Expensive for very ordinary food. Alberto booked Saturday night’s dinner at a restaurant which was recommended by friends (Chef & restaurant owners here in Rome). We had a delicious dinner at ‘Il Vecio Fritolin’ , a restaurant located near the Ponte di Rialto which offers Venetian classics with a modern, creative and innovative twist. We were not disappointed, from the complimentary welcome mini appetiser, to our pasta dishes (I chose the seafood carbonara), to our mains (I chose pork belly)…. to dessert!
Sunday lunch was a last minute decision by Alberto. Ristorante Quadri is divided into the ‘Grancaffe Quadri’, ‘Ristorante Quadri’ and ‘ABC Quadri’ which is the bistrot where we had lunch. It is situated on Piazza San Marco, and although some people braved the cold outside, we sat inside the cosy little dining room. (The chef , Massimiliano Alajmo boasts 3 Michelin Stars at his restaurant Le Calandre in Padua.) We were waited on by Roberto, the manager and he asked if I’d like to have the Onion Soup. It wasn’t on the menu but they had made it especially for another client and there was enough for me to have a bowl too. It was a decision that warmed my body and soul. Every mouthful was a pleasure to my senses and I came home intent on making onion soup. (I made it yesterday and will post the recipe asap). After lunch, we wandered around a little more, then took the vaporetto to the station to get our train back to Rome. The weekend was a success, and I think Alberto was surprised at just how beautiful he found Venice. Now I just have to start thinking about next year’s birthday present……
It has been so hard to choose a small selection of photos for this blog post….. If you’d like to see more, I have posted some albums on facebook that are available to see.
P.S. The Hotel we stayed in was HOTEL KETTE ****