Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Foodie Mini-Break Guide: Venice

As a birthday treat, my boyfriend took me to Venice for the weekend. I've heard so many amazing things about Venice that I thought it couldn't possibly live up to the hype, but it really was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Winter is low season and we had the city almost to ourselves, swapping the smell and crowding of the summer season for atmospheric morning mists and crisp clear days.

Venice isn't well regarded for its food, and apparently it can be hard to avoid the tourist traps, so we did a bit of research before we went.The preparation paid off and we were rewarded with two fantastic meals.

Our lunch at Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisto, a little bistro in the Dorsoduro neighbourhood, was my favourite meal of the trip. We squeezed into a table for two by the bar and worked our way through a basket of delicious Italian bread while we browsed the menu. To start, we decided on grilled squid and fresh pasta with Gorgonzola, both of which were exceptionally good. The squid was tender and sweet, with a perfect hint of char, while the home-made pasta in the cheesy sauce was deliciously decadent. For our main course, we both opted for cod served with fennel - the fish was butter-soft and perfectly complemented by the liquorice notes of the fennel. My boyfriend found room for dessert, a slice of dense, rich chocolate torte, while I focused on finishing off the carafe of excellent red wine recommended by the waiter (unfortunately I can't remember the name!)
[No food photos, I'm afraid - I didn't want to be the most touristy tourist ever!]

For dinner, we went to Osteria Alla Testiere, a small seafood restaurant in the Castello area. You definitely need to book in advance if you want to eat here, as it is very popular and only seats 30 people or so, in two nightly sittings. The 7.30pm sitting seemed to consist largely of tourists, while the second sitting seemed to be more local (we were slow to finish, so were still eating at the change-over). While we did find our meal to be slightly overpriced, we weren't disappointed with the food - an abundance of rich, Venetian seafood dishes, including grilled razorclams, tuna ravioli, prawns in a tangy sweet and sour sauce, cuttlefish with black ink and polenta (a bit rich, but very interesting) and gnochetti served with baby calamari in an unusual (but tasty) fishy-cinnamon glaze.

We stayed at the Hilton Molino Stucky on Giudecca, a smaller island with more of a local feel. It was a bit of a pain having to get the vaporetto back and forth from the main island, but definitely worth it for the beautiful waterfront and laid-back vibes. The hotel was lovely - situated in a beautiful converted factory building - and we were lucky enough to be upgraded to a room with an incredible waterside view.

In the mornings we skipped the hotel buffet in favour of wandering along the waterfront for breakfast in one of the many cafes. While the locals clustered around the bar drinking expresso, we grabbed a table and snacked on traditional Venetian pizzette and fantastic milky cappuccinos. Yum!

The only downside to an otherwise perfect trip was getting too and from the airport (we flew to Trevisio, which is around 40 mins drive away) - the coach takes a 2 hour lunch break so we had to get a taxi back (at Sunday prices), which cost an astonishing 100 Euros! It would definitely be better to fly to San Marco - you might pay more for your flight, but you'll probably save it back in taxi fares!

This was an amazing trip (and an incredibly lovely birthday treat) and has inspired us to return to Italy again soon - we're now planning a weekend in Rome in the Summer for more gourmet adventures. :)
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