After a good night’s sleep it was lovely to wake up in Venice – even though it was pouring with rain! Since my last visit Walter and Sandro who run the beautiful Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo have turned a downstairs former bedroom into a breakfast room, looking out on to the pretty courtyard where breakfast can be eaten in the summer. Breakfast is simple and very good. I’m not a fan of cooked breakfast so what’s on offer here is perfect: cereals, a large bowl of fresh fruit salad, yogurts, rolls, pastries and good croissants and coffee (cappuccino if you want it) or tea or hot chocolate. Then Annie and I gathered together rain gear and set off. And once we were out and about the rain didn’t matter at all. Venice is beautiful and fascinating whatever the weather. A few minutes later, away from the peaceful location of the hotel, we were soon entering the bustling Rialto market area. This is a foodie’s paradise. The fish market is housed in a covered market, its high ceiling and pillars with heavy canopies dropping down from the high arches, make it seem like you’ve entered the set of an opera.
From here you walk straight into the fruit and vegetable market. There are courgettes with their flowers still attached, baby artichokes, magnificent tomatoes of every size and variety. There were boxes of little wild strawberries and large ripe pears and apples. It made me think that much as I like staying at the hotel it would be fun to rent an apartment here sometime.
We headed on to the Rialto Bridge itself, always crowded whatever the weather but the view never failing to impress. We were heading for the Museo Correr in St Mark’s Square to see a Klimt exhibition. Following the crowds in that direction we were met by waves of people with umbrellas. We saw a bride and groom emerge from civil offices and thought what a shame it was the weather was so terrible for them. Finally we made it to the Klimt and found a long queue. Obviously lots of others had thought going there a good idea on a rainy morning.
The Klimt was good, though only contained a couple of famous paintings so not a ‘special journey’ exhibition; however, it was informative about his place in art history. Then, as we emerged into the light again, miraculously the weather had changed dramatically for the better in the space of an hour and the magnificent St Mark’s was bathed in sun with a clear blue sky backdrop.
We made our way back to the Rialto area to head to I Rusteghi, a well known and well recommended wine bar – including by my son – for lunch. Hidden in a small little courtyard area it wasn’t easy to find – but we were very glad we did! The friendly owner Giovanni d’Este served us delicious cicchetti – small rolls filled with delicious hams and mozzarella, creamy mantecato baccala (salt cod) and excellent wine by the glass. Its reputation is well deserved.
Later, heading to Palazzo Grimani to see a Canaletto exhibition – well how could we not go to that in Venice! – we came across a good looking gelateria: Suso. Worth a try we thought. They use only natural flavours and the ice cream was wonderful. Definitely a place to go back to.
The Canaletto exhibition was quite small, as Walter had warned us, but a highlight for me was seeing one of Canaletto’s sketch books, housed in a glass cabinet but exciting to view nonetheless. The real delight of the visit was the Palazzo Grimani itself. There were few others visitors and as we slowly wandered round, almost by ourselves, we found huge pleasure in beautiful ceiling paintings, lovely frescoes and unusual fireplaces.
On the way back to the hotel, Annie suggested we find somewhere for a coffee. It was a little grey again but bright enough for the cafes in Erbaria, an open area near the Rialto market that fronts on to the Grand Canal, to have put tables out. It was a lovely and reasonably quiet place to sit for a while.
As we moved on to the hotel, we saw locals getting on a traghetto to cross the canal by the Rialto market. This is a kind of gondola bus or ferry, which you have to stand up in in busy times, and it costs just 50 cents to travel on. It’s fun in the day to see locals queuing to get on it with their large bags of vegetables and fish bought in the market.
So, where to eat supper. This was a subject of some debate with the ever helpful Sandro and Walter earlier in the day. One restaurant we want to go to is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, the local Osteria la Zucca, well recommended in guide books, full till Thursday. Sandro recommended the nearby Al Ponte del Megio. This is situated in a very pretty corner of Santa Croce, and as the name suggests, right by a bridge.
It was a lovely little trattoria and very friendly. But, above all, the food was exceptionally good and it will be an absolute must for both of us anytime we return to Venice. Annie began with a special of the day, some fresh scampi in a wonderful sauce with cherry tomatoes. She gave me a couple to try. The scampi were unbelievably sweet and tender. I had a pasta special: spaghetti with fresh scampi and courgette flowers. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.
We chose mains from the regular menu: liver cooked the Venetian way with onions and polenta for me, which I love and like to always have at some time while in Venice. It was fabulous, the liver so sweet and tender it almost melted in my mouth. Annie’s veal with Marsala was equally good. Annie had a coffee and then we were offered either limoncello or grappa on the house. So we sat there a little longer. It was such a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing place, the staff so friendly, and a perfect ending to a brilliant second day in Venice. And, from there it was also just a short walk back to the hotel. Its lit up courtyard so pretty and welcoming as we crossed the little bridge ‘home’.