When you’re flying thousands of feet in the air, you want nothing more to be cuddled by the sky. But more often than not, you’re packed into a sardine sized space and expected to dine on food that resembles sawdust. For most of us, including me, this is how we have accepted to travel.
Well for my honeymoon, I said to hell with the notion that I must slum it when I travel across the Atlantic. I chose the more expensive route and for once I can say certifiably my friends and dear readers that it was worth it. SO WORTH IT@!
And with that we begin part 2 of my journey to Italy. (If you missed part 1 you can catch up here)
The business class upgrade started with a delicious warm towel, then you get a seasonal salad, once you’ve had your fill of veggies at a thousand feet above sea level you get to choose between filet mignon, seafood, or pumpkin ravioli. THESE ARE THINGS RICH PEOPLE GET TO CHOOSE FROM! No wonder they work so hard to stay rich, money may not buy happiness but it sure can make things way more fun. So in the spirit of being a fancy person for 8 hours I decided to nosh on filet mignon. Womp Womp, the filet was not especially good, I mean it’s an airline steak. But it’s the mere notion that one can eat mediocre steak while sitting on a plane that makes it great. Lufthansa’s food overall is pretty stellar as far as airline food goes. You get a sweet cheese plate after your meal to go with a delicious dessert. And then for breakfast, you get a sweet European style mini breakfast with an assortment of meats, cheeses, and warm bread!
Following all the meals and the few hours of lie down sleep I enjoyed on this fantastic voyage through the air, we finally landed (after a connection) in Venice. And so began our journey.
We waited a few minutes and then met our driver who picked us up in a sweet Jaguar.
He then drove us to the outside of Venice, at this point you can’t drive your car anymore and you have to park. From there you get picked up by water taxis (which are prevalent throughout Venice, but totally unnecessary if you use the water ferry). Once you step down to the little dock you start to slowly get a concept for how amazing Venice is.
When you board the water taxi, the first thing that goes through your mind is, “where am I?”
Ignore anything negative anyone has told you or will tell you about Venice, go visit it. It needs to be experienced first hand. The combination of water and architecture creates a synergy that is actually breathtaking. As the various boats zip by you on the Grand Canal, the cool Italian air hits your face and you see the beautiful centuries old buildings that line the Grand Canal and the various side streets of Venice. Pictures do not do Venice justice, there are boats and bridges everywhere.
Once we arrived at our hotel, we quickly dropped our bags off and made our way to some of the touristy spots of Venice. Which leads us to our first rule of Italian travel:
Do the touristy things later in the day (5PMish).
Why? Because by this time most of the tourists have made their way back to their buses or hotels which means no lines. We barely faced a line when we visited a “tourist” trap during this time of day. I like to think of Venice like New York City in a way, the main tourist trap area of Venice is St. Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco, and just like Time Square in New York City this area is crawling with various shady guys trying to sell you things. From selfie sticks (literally everywhere is a 5 euro selfie stick) to this bizarre slingshot toy that shoots up into the air at night, Venice’s tourist traps are crawling with these types of “vendors.” But the nice thing is you can just say, “No” sort of like drugs. For the most part they will stop bothering you at that point and move on to their next mark, if for some reason they persist just keep saying no.
With that being said, you need to visit the tourist traps in Venice, these places are simply spectacular. Word’s cannot describe the vast perfection that are these buildings. From a construction standpoint, I cannot fathom how these buildings were made with such attention to detail and without modern day technology. But then again, a world without internet, t.v., and smart phones is a pretty boring place, so they had lots of time on their hands to make things right.
After we visited St. Mark’s Square, we returned back to our hotel to talk to our concierge. Which leads us to our next rule:
The hotel concierge is your biggest asset in Italy, use them wisely.
We quickly made nice with the hotel concierge, then we asked him for recommendations for eating and places to see. You don’t have to take all of their recommendations, but more often than not they won’t steer you wrong. He quickly rattled off a few places that he highly recommended and they all coincided with highly rated places that we had researched afterwards, so he basically did our job for us. This rule cannot be repeated enough, USE YOUR CONCIERGE! Which leads me to my next rule:
When dining in Italy, always have a reservation.
This rule may not apply to true blue Italians, but for us Gringos even if the restaurant is empty, the host will still make you have a reservation. We learned this trick on the first day, and we circumvented awkward stare offs by just asking our concierge to make the reservation for us. They would just call ahead and typically they always had a table available. The hotels have relationships with all the local restaurants, so most of the time they’ll make a special concession for their guests.
And with that we were off to dinner where we dined at Bistrot de Venise, which was very highly rated through TripAdvisor. The Venetian restaurants take TripAdvisor very seriously, and any restaurant with a high rating or recommendation basically will plaster it all over their front door. This restaurant was conveniently located and the staff was friendly and warm. Despite some snarky patrons who made you cringe with some of their questions that they had for the staff, the environment in the restaurant was energetic and fun. Locals would walk in with their dogs for a quick drink or appetizer, while others were dining on a fancy meal.
Bistrot de Venise was our first experience of Italian food and it did not disappoint. Now realize this, Venise is serving more authentic Venetian cuisine, not stereotypical American-Italian food. There are tons of places in Venice that do serve that kind of food, and those are pretty obvious as they all show off their menus in the front window with the menu translated in every major language you can think of. This leads to our next rule:
If your restaurants menu is showing the various flags of all the languages it’s translated into, you’re probably in a tourist trap.
Venetian cuisine blends the coast with the mountains as you’ll find seafood and rustic dishes prominently featured on every menu. We ordered the tagliatelle & veal, and it was prepared perfectly. The house made pasta was delicate and tasted basically better than any pasta we’d ever had (that’s a common thing in Italy). The porcini mushrooms and the veal complimented the dish perfectly, this was all just a first course! Which leads us to our next rule:
Ignore the courses in Italy, the first or second course alone is usually more than enough food plus it’s cheaper.
Bistrot de Venise is a must try if you’re in Venice, the service is great and the prices are reasonable for a fine dining experience. We finished the night off with gelato. We figured it was our first night in Italy, so we had to have gelato. What we didn’t realize is that, we basically used that same logic every night until we left the country. I now have gelato weight gain.
Anyways, the gelato in Italy is obviously awesome, the problem though is that EVERYONE sells it. So you have to be weary of blah gelato and get truly awesome gelato. The place we frequented in Venice is a chain, but it actually tasted better than smaller mom & pop gelato we tried elsewhere in the city. Venchi, which is a Italian chocolate company (think Godiva), served up some of the best gelato in all of Venice. Now I’m not saying I sampled all of the gelato in Venice, but it was by far Mrs. Unmanly Chef’s favorite. And my wife knows gelato people. Venchi doesn’t veer off the path of the brown color spectrum of flavors in the gelato world. So basically, every kind of chocolate, hazelnut, or cream you can think of they had.
We started with a nocciole flavored gelato, this is a hazelnut flavor. Good choice. The gelato itself was smooth and went down easy, while the flavor of the nocciole made you feel like you were biting into a sweet hazelnut explosion. Italians love their hazelnut, so they’re not messing around with their hazelnut ice cream flavors. Venchi has a polite staff and offers you all sorts of other delicious chocolates. The prices aren’t super expensive and it’s worth it if you want a delicious gelato.
Which leads us to our final rule for this post:
When in doubt, order the nocciole or gianduja flavor for dessert.
Italian desserts can sometimes leave something to be desired, but not when these two flavors are involved. Time and time again, when we ordered something with one of these two ingredients in it, we were always happy.
Gianduja or what you’d call Nutella (which used to be called Pasta Gianduja), was invented in the late 18th century when Italy was under blockade by Great Britain. The chocolatier wanted to spread his chocolate further, so he added hazelnut paste to it and VOILA! Gianduja. This flavor is everywhere in Italy, and for good reason. It’s awesome. They make pies out of this stuff (more on that later), they have chocolates galore made from this stuff (you can get those at Venchi), and they even have the spread by itself so you can literally cover yourself with it if you want (I’d advise against that).
Venice is too big and breathtaking to fit into one post. I mean Rick Steve couldn’t even fit it all into one episode! So I’ll take my cue from the big daddy of travel and I’ll continue on with Venice next week. Until then.