I’m reading a wonderful book called Venice is a Fish by poet, playwright and novelist Tiziano Scarpa who was born and brought up in Venice. ‘Throw away your map! Why do you so desperately need to know where you are right now?’ he urges early on. It’s true that sometimes we become so obsessed with maps and plans we fail to really absorb and notice what’s going on around us. Sometimes it’s good to just wander and go where instinct or interest takes us. I know Venice so well that I don’t need a map when I set off from Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo to a specific place like St Mark’s Square, the Rialto bridge or any number of major sights in the city. But to simply wander the city’s labyrinthine calli – alleyways – and cross its hundreds of bridges, from the magnificent Rialto to tiny little bridges that take you over yet another small canal, is asking to get lost! It’s often hard to keep a sense of direction and signs don’t always help: This is a common sight: go this way. Or maybe in the opposite direction! I found a boat selling fruit and vegetables:
A typical Venetian shop – Il Pavone – in Dorsoduro selling wonderful paper goods: beautiful notebooks with marbled or decorated covers: For quite a while I’ve been reading about a bar near the Rialto market, All’Arco, selling some of the best cicchetti in Venice. Last time I was here two years ago I stopped by a few times but it’s a tiny place and was always packed and I went on elsewhere. Passing it today just before 12.30 it was virtually empty. Well I couldn’t let the chance be lost. It’s a great place. It soon filled up and it seemed there were more locals there than tourists. Francesco Pinto is known as a maestro of traditional cicchetti and his son Matteo – who served me – for his more modern approach. I can never resist some baccala mantecato – mashed cod with garlic and parsley – and, of course, a glass of prosecco. They were wonderful cicchetti and I liked All’Arco – but it’s worth bearing in mind it’s very small with a few seats outside; inside I stood like the locals. I wandered on and found coffee later at Caffe del Doge. I’d read it was one of the best places for coffee in Venice. Their tiramisu looked fantastic so I ordered some of that too. My Italian friends will have to forgive me for ordering cappuccino after 11.00 and after a meal but I wanted more than an mouthful of espresso.
As it turned out the Italians get the last laugh. The coffee wasn’t great – too milky – but the tiramisu was one of the best I’ve ever had!