From inside the Bridge of Sighs
At the end of June my husband and I went to Venice with one of his friends/colleagues, M, who grew up in Veneto, the Italian county in which Venice lies. It was a really quick visit – we flew out on Friday night and back on Sunday night, so we were really glad to have a Venice expert showing us around and helping us make the most out of our time there.
We landed on Friday night around 10pm, dumped our stuff at the lovely holiday cottage where we were staying, then headed over to M’s mum’s house for dinner. She had prepared a huge meal for us and we felt very honoured she’d gone to so much trouble – it was about midnight! I was so distracted by the food that I didn’t take any photos (also, as I have previously mentioned, I don’t like photographing food at the table…).
It was brilliant to get to eat some real Italian food, made by a real Italian mamma! Just about as authentic as you can get.
We cracked open the Syrah and got to work demolishing a plate of black truffle bruschettini – my husband was in heaven as he loves truffles but they are so expensive in the UK!
Next was lasagne – a very simple meat ragu between layers and layers of lasagne – much more pasta than you would find in an ‘English’ lasagne, and no cheese! I’ve never had a lasagne with such little sauce but it really worked. The pasta was cooked beautifully and there was just the right amount of ragu to add flavour and keep the dish from being dry. I don’t think there was any white sauce in the lasagne either, which was new to me, but I clearly didn’t miss it as I am only just noticing it now.
We enjoyed our lasagne with some traditional Venetian bread – montasu “mountain climber” bread, so called because it is shaped like steps. I have never seen bread like it! It had a glossy, very thin but brittle crust, which cracked open to reveal white dough of a candyfloss texture. It was very light to eat with a plain flavour. M explained this is because it is used for scarpetta – basically ‘mopping up’ your plate – and the bread is really just a vehicle for other food – it should not alter the flavour of the food you are eating it with.
Montasu bread (image from Google)
As soon as our lasagne plates were empty, out came a platter full of chicken, potato and tomato. That’s it! Three ingredients. That is clean eating! There’s not a lot to say, you can imagine how good it was. The chicken was melt-in-the-mouth, the potatoes had a sticky sweet texture and the tomatoes added freshness. My kind of dish.
Then (there’s more!) – cheese! Gelato! (6 options!) And of course, coffee. I’ve never been a huge fan of espresso, finding it way too strong, but after these two days in Italy I’m a convert. A shot with a drop of milk is my new favourite way to finish a meal or perk myself up!
The next morning we had breakfast in a small bakery in Mirano before getting the train into Venice. I couldn’t resist the unhealthy option and had a chocolate croissant, which was bursting with liquid chocolate.
A water fountain display – a cute way to keep your fresh goods fresh!
After a busy morning walking the picturesque streets of Venice, crossing the ponte de Rialto and taking in the Doge’s Palace in the Piazza San Marco, I was glad to have a nice sit down and a spot of lunch at Enoteca al Volto on Calle Cavalli (Cavalli Street). I did take some photos of our dishes, but I’ll have you know I cringed while doing so! Maybe I’ll have to get over this as otherwise I will have no photos for my blogs or tweets…
The Bridge of Sighs from the ground
We had a selection of small dishes, like tapas, to start, and then I enjoyed salmon gnochetti with black caraway seeds. I was really missing my fruit and veg by this point, but my love of potato won the battle and I didn’t regret my decision. Husband had tarfuto (truffle) tagliatelle, so needless to say he was satisfied.
Both true Venetians, M and his girlfriend ate their favourite dish, Spaghetti Vongole (spaghetti with clams). I wish I had tried some Venetian seafood, as it is their speciality. We enjoyed wine and coffee and off we went to take in Basilica di San Marco and Campanile di San Marco.
In the evening, everything in Venice closes at about 8pm, so we couldn’t have a night out on the town, but that was fine by me as my feet were screaming. We went on a little cicchetti crawl instead! Cicchetti is a tradition specific to Venice and is much like Spanish tapas – a selection of small dishes to be enjoyed with drinks, perhaps as a pre-dinner appetiser or as a meal in itself. We went to about 5 different bars/restuarants and had a dish or two in each place, along with Spritz, another Venetian speciality. Spritz is a mix of prosecco, a liqueur e.g. Aperol, and sparkling water, and I rather took a liking to it!
Some chicchetti options
On Sunday we had breakfast at our accommodation, which was made by the owners Giuseppe and Anna. It was the traditional Continental Breakfast – cereal, fruit, yoghurt, bread and – obviously – Nutella.
We were then picked up by our friends and got the train into Venice and then two boats to the island of Burano. It’s funny because there is also an island called Murano (famous for its glass), and towns called Marano, Mirano and Mira! That could get confusing…
As soon as we stepped off the boat we found some gelato, naturally, then wandered around the pretty streets of the island until lunch time. Burano was refreshingly quiet after the crazy busy streets of Venice, and with its tiny canals and friendly locals it was really serene.
At lunch we had pizza – it was good, typical Italian pizza. I’m not a huge pizza fan, but it was definitely better than Pizza Hut!
While walking off our lunch we found the lace museum and shop in Burano. There was a lady, Bruna, who had been making lace for 50 years I think, and she gave us a demonstration. Then we popped into a cafe because M wanted us to try bussolai di Burano, a kind of sugar-cookie-esque S-shaped biscuit:
And then, alas, it was time to sort ourselves out for the trip home. It was a fantastic flying visit and one I wish to repeat soon!
Salami in the shape of piggies!! In a Venetian shop window :)