We had planned to have an early start to the day but the activities of the previous day had taken its toll. By the time we headed down for breakfast, it was close to 9 o’clock. Full breakfast was included in the price of our accommodation but being Venice, we were expecting a very simple meal. This was not the case. There was bacon and eggs cooked the way you liked. There was fruit, pastries, cakes and wonderful Italian coffee. It was great.
After breakfast, we headed out towards the Rialto Bridge. Our plan was to check out the Rialto market. Already the coolness of the early morning was disappearing with the sun shining down on our faces. The market consists of two sections – the Erberia greengrocery market and the Pescheria fish market. The array of produce on display was dizzying. The place was buzzing with activity. There were locals out with their shopping trolleys, tourists wandering about taking photos, the sellers yelling out their wares, and the fishy stench of the fresh seafood out on display in the rising temperature. The fish market was amazing. They had so many different kinds of seafood. There was even a marlin on display for sale. The fishmongers were constantly cleaning, gutting or sectioning pieces of fish for their customers. It made us wish we had cooking facilities at our accommodation because the seafood was super fresh and we could have made a few delicious meals.
Moving on from the Rialto market, we headed over to L’Atelier di Tragicomica. The shop was wonderful and jam-packed with so many different kinds of masks it was mind-boggling. A handmade Venetian mask was on my list of things to buy. Along the streets, there were many stalls that sold cheap, Chinese-made imitations of the real thing. The lady at the shop told us that one mask could take several days to create and all their masks were handmade and hand-painted and decorated. While it wasn’t cheap, they were so clearly superior in quality and beauty and just the thing to capture and essence of Venice, IMO. We bought two masks, which now sits proudly on display to remind us of our trip.
On our way back to the hotel, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a different street which led us to a wonderful shop, Danghyra. We were met by the designer and artist herself who makes beautiful ceramic pieces finished with the ‘metal look’ which contains 24 carat pure gold, platinum or copper. The colour of her pieces was so vibrant and the designs were so unique and beautiful that we struggled to limit our purchases.
Lunch was at a little pizza joint recommended by the hotel. While it wasn’t too pricey by Venice standards, it was unremarkable. By the time lunch was over, the midday sun was starting to get rather unbearable so we headed back to the hotel for a shower and nap.
By the time we were ready to head out again, it was early in the evening. We decided to visit the Basilica San Marco. As with anything touristy, there was a queue to get into the basilica. However the wait was not unpleasant as it had begun to cool down and there were lots of people wandering around the square. It was also the eve of the Il Redentore festival so there were more people than usual out and about. Il Redentore is a festival to commemorate the ending of the terrible plague in 1592. On the eve of the festival, the venetians head out to St. Mark’s basin in their boats and fireworks are set off late in the night. It is the biggest festival in Venice after the Carnevale.
We managed to just sneak into the basilica before closing time. They were very strict about attire and we saw people being turned away for not being dressed appropriately. The exterior of basilica itself was amazing enough with its statues and intricate carvings but the interior of the basilica was truly dazzling. The domed ceiling was covered in gilded gold and the walls and pillars were marble. And then there were the mosaics. The mosaics, some of them dating back to the 11th century, were inlaid with gold, precious stones and other precious metals and the overall effect is an ethereal glow that leaves you in awe.
Dinner for the night was at Bistrot de Venise. I had booked a table for us online at the restaurant’s website, requesting a good table as we were on our honeymoon. We got there early but were promptly shown to our table, which was in a corner for added privacy, but still offered us a good vantage point to people-watch. The mâitre d’ was lovely. He spoke perfect English and when we told him we love wines and would love to try all the different wines they had (their wine list was the size of a book), he suggested we have wines by the glass and offered to select them for us to go with our meal. True to his word, he brought glass after glass out to us with each course, explaining to us where the wine came from and the different characteristics.There was a French couple seated next to us and I was amazed to hear him launch into fluent French conversation with them while explaining the menu. Lots have been said about the crappy, overpriced food in Venice and we had experienced some of that during our stay but the food here was amazing! We were at A Beccafico the day before and while Bistrot de Venise is a little pricier than A Beccafico, and the meal at A Beccafico was not unpleasant, Bistrot de Venise blows it out of the water in terms of service, selection of wines and food.
I have never been a fan of risotto. I’ve always found it stodgy and boring but the risotto I had here was to die for. The rice had just the right amount of bite to it, everything wasn’t so starchy that they all stuck together in lumps, and the flavour was so rich and earthy. Now every time I venture to order risotto at a restaurant, I always compare it to Bistrot de Venise.
The wines we had here were so good and when we told the mâitre d’ that we cellar our wines and would love to try and source them back here in Melbourne, he wrote down the names of all the wine we had for us to take away with us.
This was one of the most enjoyable restaurants we’d been to during our entire trip. And this is in comparison to some amazing 1 to 3 Michelin starred restaurants that we visited the week before in France. A few days later we were in Milan and met another couple who were travelling to Venice. We couldn’t stop raving about this restaurant and even gave them the restaurant’s business card which I had been carrying around in my purse the whole time.
After that amazing meal, we realized we were still too early to head out for the fireworks so we wandered back to the hotel and had another bottle of wine (from our stash from Bourgogne). Around 10 o’clock we headed out to the Piazza San Marco. The square was already filled with people. Everyone was in a festive mood and locals and tourists alike wandered around trying to find the best spot to watch the fireworks. The fireworks came on not long after we got there and it was beautiful. It lasted for over half an hour and there was lots of cheering from the crowd. After the fireworks ended we decided to walk out to the waterfront to see if the boats were still out in St. Mark’s basin but it was clear that everyone was heading home.