Venice – Wednesday

What a fabulous change in the weather. We woke to sun and a brilliantly clear blue sky, reflected in the canal as we crossed the little bridge that leads into Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo on our way out after breakfast. We went in search of a couple of places in my Secret Venice book, but they turned out to be closed as it’s a public holiday today – for St Mark – and it’s also ‘Bocolo’ day, which seems to be a bit like St Valentine’s day and you give your loved one a long-stemmed still-closed red rose (a bocolo ). I learnt this from Sandro at the hotel and also that today is the 100th anniversary of the re-opening of the Campanile Di San Marco in 1912. The tower fell down in 1902 at 10.00 a.m. Sandro showed me an old photo in today’s paper. The huge pile of rubble in the square and in front of the cathedral made me immediately ask him if many were killed or injured. Amazingly, no one was. Sandro said there’s a story of an angel falling from the cathedral prostrate, as if praying that no one was hurt. Certainly it seems a miracle that nobody died or was injured.

While looking through the Venetian newspaper with Sandro about what was going on today, and an article about ‘Bocolo’, I also learnt that if anyone asks me to go for an ‘ombra‘ they are asking if I’d like to have a small glass of wine with them. This is a Venetian term and could possibly be of use!

Annie and I followed our route from last night around Santa Croce, past the trattoria we ate at in the evening, and on into Campo S. Giacomo dell’Orio. This is such a pretty and peaceful square and little groups of people stood or sat talking while children played.

Some of the little alleys leading off it were so low, a lot of tall people I know would have to duck! Wandering on as our fancy took us, only occasionally checking where we were on the map, was lovely in the sun. And it was so quiet. What makes this area special is its peace and tranquillity; the sight of locals shopping or standing chatting. We passed whole areas and streets where there was no sign of anyone else – a completely different experience of Venice compared to the huge crowds and noise around St Mark’s. After a while we decided to take a break and found a little canalside cafe to sit in the sun with a coffee and chat for a while.

I then realised the route we were taking would lead us to my favourite wine bar for lunch in Venice: Pane Vino & San Daniele in Campo de L’Anzolo Rafael, in which lies the Archangel Rafael’s church that features in Salley Vickers’ best-selling book, Miss Garnet’s Angel, a book I love and was given to me to read by my lovely friend Jane when I came to Venice on my own in 2006. The wine bar has become a family favourite since 2007 when I was here with my son and daughter and we came across it by chance. Since then I’ve discovered it’s well known and popular, but that takes nothing away from its awesomely good San Daniele ham – cut to order – and delicious Fantinel prosecco. Both of which I had to have today, while Annie went for Asparagus Carbonara, which was excellent too.

It was the most delightfully peaceful place to enjoy lunch, especially when you’re able to sit in the sun as we did today. When we finally moved on it was towards the Accademia Bridge. Last time I was in Venice the famous view from this bridge down towards the opening of the Grand Canal where the magnificent church of Santa Maria della Salute dominates the view, was spoilt by the church being covered in scaffolding. Today, with the sun and blue sky, this view, much reproduced by artists and photographers was at its best.

We threaded our way through the crowds back to the peace of Santa Croce. We’d planned to visit the Palazzo Mocenigo, just behind our hotel and home to a collection of lovely 1920s dresses. But before we went in, we had to have our daily dose of gelato from – again – the San Stae Gelateria. Their ice cream is so good! Today I had a delicious zabaglione with orange peel and dark chocolate and some cherry ice cream.

We’d booked a table at Vino da Gigio in Cannaregio for supper tonight. I’d been a couple of times before and Annie had been once before with Jerry on my recommendation and liked it too. It’s in all the guide books but had come to us through a recommendation from my daughter’s friend Claire who lived in Venice for a few months. It serves classic Venetian food of the best kind and excellent wines. We were fortunate to find the traghetto still running from by the Rialto market to take us across the Grand Canal. This is the cheapest gondola ride you’ll find – though only lasting a couple of minutes. It cost just 50 cents each – which compared to €3.50 for a single stop to cross by vaporetto is a bargain indeed! Sometimes you have to stand but fortunately we were able to sit this evening.

From there it was a short walk to Vino da Gigio. It’s located in a lovely traditional canalside building with low ceilings and lots of beams. It was very busy and people were waiting for tables so we were glad we’d booked. A basket of bread and taralli biscuits came and we ordered a glass of prosecco each to drink while we chose what to eat.

I had baccala manetecato – a creamy baccala – with polenta to start and Annie had scallops Venetian style. Both were very good.

To follow, we both chose turbot fillet with artichoke. Really delicious! We couldn’t resist having something with artichokes having seen so many in the Rialto market, where they are often trimmed and prepared ready to cook. We also had a half carafe of excellent house red wine to go with it.

Although we’d had ice cream already today it was hard to resist a dessert in such a nice restaurant – so we settled on sharing an apple tart with grappa ice cream. It was so good I’m glad we have such little willpower when it comes to good food! The staff were really friendly and efficient and no one hurried us once we’d finished. The traghetti had stopped running by the time we left so we took the long walk round via the now very familiar Rialto Bridge. It was much quieter than earlier so we stopped and admired the night-time view, a new moon and bright star shining brightly above, and then a walk through the deserted fish market, making a lovely end to the day.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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