Venice for a day

After a few days in Florence we headed up to Bologna and on the way realized that since Bologna isn’t really a tourist destination that things would likely be mostly closed up on Sunday.  At this point Mark had the idea that “hey, we could go to Venice” and what the heck, it’s only an hour or so away on the high speed train, so we bought the tickets for Sunday morning and the next thing you know there we were.

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Trying to avoid the massive line at the queue for ferry tickets we walked across the nearest bridge and found a less crowded ferry dock, bought our tickets and headed out for St. Marks Square.  Rather than taking the more traditional route on the Grand Canal we went around the outside island over by the cruise ship docks which took awhile and was more than a little cold but the view was nice as we rolled along so to speak.

ven01Arriving at St. Marks square we needed a warm up and in a fruitless attempt to entice the sun to come out we sat down at one of the outdoor cafe’s for a cappuccino.  You would have thought of the €25 price tag for three coffee’s it would be the best coffee ever, but sadly it was inferior to the same product that we paid €1 for at the market in Florence.  The views not bad though.

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Leaving St. Marks we headed off down the waterfront along the canal in search of a place Mark had found for lunch thanks to No Reservations.  We found Al Covo on a little side street a few canals past the main drag.  In retrospect it would have been easy to miss it and end up a cookie cutter type place, so glad we didn’t this was by far the best meal of the trip up until today (more on that in a future post) *Credit to Mark for the photo below*

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We didn’t have a reservation for their one and only lunch seating so we were camped out and waiting when they opened the doors at 12:45 for lunch and as luck would have it found a table.  They offer a couple variations on a pre-fixe menu for lunch time; one gives you the full run of the menu and the lesser expensive one is more limited.  Mark and I went big while Dad ordered the smaller menu and had an excellent pea soup and a hamburger, which was good and completely random for a place so well known for seafood.

The amuse course came out first, a simple preparation of warm creamy polenta topped with their first crush olive oil, Parmigianino and a little pepper.  Creamy, salty, warm and so simple — a great example of how simple ingredients can shine.

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For my starter I had the Adriatic Shrimp Scampi “Crudo” AKA raw shrimp which were super fresh and very simply dressed with their house made olive oil, a little bit of chive, salt and pepper.  Simple and delicious, that plate vanished rapidly as I tore the tails off the shrimp and ate them on the provided crostini which provided some nice contrasting flavors and textures.

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Mark started off with a pretty amazing plate of Fruits de mare; shrimp, razor clams, cockles, lobster, calamari, prawns all super fresh, sweet and delicious.

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For the main course I had a braised lamb and Mark had Soft Shell Crabs that were just coming into season.  Though we were totally stuffed the pre-fixe did include dessert so I had a 100% Cacao cake with spicy chocolate sauce.  Just as good as it looks.

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Now we really needed to walk it off so we left the restaurant took a few random turns and “got lost” wandering around the city for the next couple hours.

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Eventually we made our way back to the train station, it was really weird walking through that part of town between the grand canal and the train, almost like the city was abandoned.  I came across this bridge being guarded by guess what:

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That’s about it for Venice and I really enjoyed our day there, not sure I’d feel the same way if I stayed there especially during the high season but to each there own.  We caught the train back to Bologna and arrived home around 8:30 having spent a really long day out in the cold and immediately passed out since we had an early wake up the next day.

Before I go, I think it’s probably obligatory to post a picture of a gondola and a canal so here it is.

 

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How to escape the tourists (Florence Day 3)

Getting away from the massive crowds was proving to be challenge especially while staying so close to the center of town but we found a place that for whatever reason was pretty much free of the crowds, the Central Market or Mercato Centrale is right up the street and full of great produce, butchers, fish mongers, bakeries, deli and lots of options for coffee or a bite to eat.   Cappuccino for the three of us is only 3 Euros and strong enough to make your hands shake, awesome.

WP_20130314_004 Since were in the market and dinner the night before had honestly been a disappointment of an under seasoned and over cooked, over sauced mess we thought we may as well buy some stuff and cook it ourselves since this was our last night in Florence.

After a few laps, some biscotti and another espresso we decided on some antipasti, pasta and then some sausages to wrap up dinner.  The hardest part was really just limiting purchases; everything looked good and all of the vendors we talked to handed out samples of everything so it was a hard choice but in the end we got some cheese, antipasti, excellent salami and ham and locally made sausages from one of the butcher shops.

Before heading back home to drop off our purchases we stopped in for a quick bite of pasta and some rolls with salame and mortadella.

Next up dad wanted to go to the Galileo museum which was really interesting with all sorts of old instruments for charting the motion of stars and planets, ancient globes, a map from the 1200’s showing the world as flat and oddly enough Galileo’s thumb, index and middle fingers (creepy) and a tooth.  Not sure why these were kept but I’m sure there’s a reason there someplace.

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With the shopping out of the way we walked back down to the other side of the river and found a quick sandwich and wandered around the less traveled neighborhoods then back across the river through the fancier part of downtown.  Lots of high end shops with very few customers but in an area surrounded by $500 a night hotels I’m sure they’re not really hurting.

Mark and I dropped dad off at the apartment and then headed back to the market for Olive oil, more espresso and then returned home and everyone just chilled out until it was time to work on dinner.

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