European hotel breakfast. It’s quite possibly the best thing on earth. Let me set the scene for you. You wake up. You’re jetlagged (possibly hungover, although not in my case) all you want is a delicious easy meal without having to think.Well the European hotel breakfast is everything you could hope for and more.
You literally walk downstairs and there is a whole room filled with various cured meats, eggs, fruit, cheeses, and a delicious variety of breads. On top of that there are pastries and all sorts of spreads to eat your fresh bread with. Oh did I mention this is all you can eat? And did I mention it comes included in your stay? It’s literally heaven on earth when it comes to breakfast.
So this leads us to our first rule of this part:
ALWAYS eat breakfast in your hotel. Because the hotel breakfast is incredible.
The Italian breakfast was a work of art, for me the most riveting thing of it all was the cured meats. It was prosciutto, mortadella, salami, and ham arranged together with fresh mozzarella, this was literally at every hotel. So suffice to say, I ate a ton of these meats.
I could go on and on about the hotel breakfasts, but eventually we would always start our day (somehow). Venice was the perfect city for me, I’m not a big city person as I prefer the quaint small town atmosphere that Venice can provide. The best thing about Venice is the fact that you can literally walk everywhere (granted you have enough time), and it’s almost impossible to get lost. Well let me caveat that, it’s a certainty that you will get lost because there is no stinking rhyme or reason to any of the streets or the signs. BUT, as long as you know where a few major landmarks are, all you have to do is work your way back to them (in relation to your hotel, if you’re going home).
Which leads us to our next rule:
When traveling in Italy and especially Venice, remember where all the landmarks are and use them to gather your bearings.
As we meandered our way through Venice we came upon beautiful tiny piazzas at every turn. We couldn’t take enough pictures, as we wandered we came upon a tiny bakery. After I fumbled my way through ordering something in Italian, I came away with my language prize. A nutella pie.
The nutella pies in Italy are amazing, and this was no different. The creamy nutella/gianduja filling was perfect, meanwhile the sweet shortbread crust was out of this world. The nutella pies are something you MUST get when you go to Italy. They are perfection.
After dessert came the next logical choice, lunch. Lunch in Italy is a quirky thing for American travelers. Why? In America you are typically used to always being able to order food from any time between 11AM to 4PM for lunch. In Italy, if you’re not eating lunch by 2:30PM you’re going to have a hard time finding a solid meal until dinner time which doesn’t start till 7PM. We made our way to Muro Venezia San Stae, this tiny little bistro is located near San Stae which is an 11th century church in Central Venice. It’s close by and worth taking a look at before you venture off for the rest of the day. Muro Venezia is a trendy looking restaurant with a great pizza menu, we ordered a porcine le bufaline pizza which is a mushroom pizza with mozzarella di buffala. It. was. awesome. The pizza was everything you want out of a pizza and the restaurant has a friendly staff that is very helpful. This restaurant also led to one of our favorite moments of the trip, where a tourist requested olive oil with her bread after they questioned their waitress why she had forgotten to give them olive oil with their bread. The waitress politely said, “it’s not typical Italian.”
After we got our fill of pizza, we made our way to the various sites of Venice. I wont bore you with the details. Although, I will say this. Go to San Giorgio Maggiore and prepare to see the best views of Venice. It’s spectacular.
All the tourist sites in Venice are worth seeing (at least just once), even if you just walk past the buildings, the architectural wizardry of this city is spectacular. Any good guide book will give you a listing of all the sites. You can knock most of them out in one or two days, we just wandered around the city and quickly did the museums. The real takeaway of my idiot savant meandering through Venice was the ease of getting around by using their public transportation. Instead of buses or a metro, they use water taxis called vaporettos. The best way to navigate these is to buy a pass for the duration of your stay in Venice. You can then use these to get around the entire city with ease. They ran through all hours of the night so you can get around fairly cheaply and safely. Which leads us to our next rule!
In Venice, use the public water taxis. They’re cheap, safe, and reliable.You can also use the water taxi if you get lost. Just hop on and follow it to a landmark that you’re familiar with.
After all of my idiot meandering, we worked up an appetite, and that led us to our next fun destination. Osteria Mocenigo. The atmosphere in here is the best, the Owner/Host is a wiry bearded Italian man who is gregarious and kind. The smallish restaurant serves up flavorful fresh seafood that melts in your mouth. We had ordered a Venetian classic, squid ink pasta with shrimp, but alas they had ran out of the squid ink pasta. Fortunately, the regular pasta was still perfect and the shrimp melted in your mouth. Meanwhile, the bolognese was unlike anything I had eaten before. Unlike the bolognese I’ve had back home, the light usage of sauce was a breath of fresh air as you were actually able to taste the sauce and pasta working together to make some culinary magic happen. Osteria Mocenigo is a great spot to visit if you are in San Stae, it’s conveniently located right off the San Stae water taxi stop. The food is above average, the pricing is very reasonable, and the staff is warm and kind.
As our journey continued on into the next day, I stuffed my face again with delicious European breakfast. Following my daily regiment of mortadella bologna and cheese, we saw what I thought was the coolest aspect of Venice. The Rialto Market. This is a must for any food lover, it’s a tiny strip of land that is covered with every fresh ingredient you could ever want. Fresh fruit, veggies, and everything else lie at your fingertips just waiting to be purchased. I wish I had a kitchen to cook with in Venice, just so I could buy some of these awesome looking ingredients. Many of the restaurants in Venice will source their ingredients from the Rialto Market.
Then as we knocked things off of our list, one thing remained. The gondola ride. Now first let me preface this by saying, the gondola ride is not cheap. In fact, a half hour ride will typically cost you 100 euro during peak hours and 70 euros during off hours (which is when we rode it). With that out of the way, let me say that it is worth it. At least once. To experience Venice from this slender maritime masterpiece is a once in a lifetime experience. The gondola drivers are friendly and will drop tiny anecdotes as they slowly take you through the city. You know what’s next. ANOTHER RULE!
When in Venice, do one gondola ride. It’s worth it. Plus it will make your wife very happy.
As our journey through Venice was coming to an end, we finished our culinary journey in what had to be the most trendiest restaurant I had dined in, in all of Italy. Ai Mercanti.
The restaurant was recommended to us by our concierge and it was highly rated on TripAdvisor. It’s not Italian feeling at all, rather you think you’re somewhere in Manhattan or D.C. with its trendy decor and modern atmosphere. The menu is Venetian but entirely modern. Everything has a funky spin on it and the menu options are very unique and original. I ordered a simple pasta with garlic and cheese sauce, the outcome was something that had the same addictive properties of crack cocaine. It was that good. The subtle garlicky flavor and the smooth cheesy taste made this pasta to die for. The saffron swordfish with noodles was light and delicious. The saffron creates this floral flavor to the fish that marries perfectly with the noodles.
I would be remiss to add that I got to try a cannolo (cannoli is plural) and it was divine. The American version has nothing on these bad boys. The filling was light and delicious with a flavor that was subtley sweet. Not overpowering like the ones back home.
As we finished up our last night in Venice we returned to a familiar waistline increasing haunt. Venchi, the gelato place. It was heavenly again, we then returned to our hotel, packed our CARRY-ONS! And watched in awe of Italian T.V. as the Italian version of Big Brother (our favorite guilty pleasure) was on. I’ll leave you with this about Venice:
“I cannot write about Venice; I can only write about me, and the sleeping parts of myself that Venice has shocked into wakefulness.”
Florence is next.