As my usual disclaimer if you just want to see some pretty pictures and a 4k resolution video that I shot using my Panasonic LX100 then go ahead and scroll to the bottom. If you want to read my random thoughts and experiences about the trip and food then please be my guest and read on. I promise I also talk less about cameras this time.
Ah, beautiful Venezia, Italia you were so amazing, beautiful, and delicious yet also a rather crappy, overpriced, and overcrowded tourist destination. Granted, we did go at peak tourist time during the summer and as tourists were also part of the problem. So thats on us, but at least for my travel preferences and at that time of the year it ended up not being our ideal travel destination. Scientists have recently discovered that the island of Venice is actually sinking and I can definitely see why with the amount of tourist bodies crammed onto every piazza, ponte, and calli every year. I am glad I am not claustrophobic because even the canals were crowded! At certain times of the day there would actually be backed up gondola traffic, which, since I was not sitting in it, was actually pretty funny phenomenon to witness.
I also cannot imagine how anyone that was not a local and completely familiar with the city managed to navigate it pre-GPS enabled smartphones, or at least without a good map. Hell, it is possible to get lost even with a map or smartphone as I, and several other tourists I encountered, can attest to. I imagine there has been the occasional tourist stuck and forever separated from anything at all familiar (or all eerily similar and forever repetitive) in a corner of Venice's endless maze of dead ends and turns.
Don't get my wrong I still enjoyed the trip for what it was and the incredibly crowded touristy aspects aside the history, architecture, and especially the food of Venice and the nearby islands of Murano and Burano are really quite wonderful. I was actually warned by an Italian colleague of my partner's to not eat pizza there since Venetians apparently do not excel in the art of pizza making. That said, pizza is pizza after all, so I definitely ignored that advice for at least one meal (or two). I have to say though if that was supposed to be bad pizza then I am rather disappointed by how pathetic my standards for the quality of pizza apparently are. I believe this also set the bar because if this was supposed to be the thing that Venetian were the worst at, then what else could I expect? ...And I was definitely not disappointed.
Since our goal in Venice was to eat as much food at as many places as humanly possible there was one thing that I was glad to know about. This is the cover charge known as coperto that is common when sitting at a ristorante, osteria, or trattoria. If an establishment does charge coperto then it will usually be displayed on their menu or somewhere else on the exterior of the eatery. If you are not careful then that refreshing Aperol spritz or quick cicchetti bite may easily double or triple in price. That is not even mentioning if you were to sit at a restaurant in the Piazza San Marco. I pity the wallet of any unwary tourist that decided to stop for a quick drink there.
We ate so much and had so many different dishes and cicchetti that it was hard to keep it all straight. Some of the best things I had were the random terrestrial and marine-related bites we had throughout the city at random places that they have become a delicious blur. This apparently was not as ideal for everyone because at one point we passed an American family with a disgruntled adult female member complaining that she was sick and tired of all of the seafood and pasta and could not understand why they could not find "some normal food anywhere". I guess she was unaware that she was currently on an island in a lagoon in freaking Italy, but luckily for her there is one single McDonalds on the island that she could visit. That would just leave more for me.
Just some tasty "abnormal" food. (iPhone 6 photos)
Anyways, my annoyance with that woman made me digress. Back to the subject of food, let's talk about squid ink for a moment and about how it is so unappetisingly delicious. I was committed on this trip to try some of these Venetian specialties. I did eat squid ink spaghetti as well, but the more memorable dish that I tried was seppie alla veneziana (Venetian-style squids) which is actually squid pieces that are cooked in their own ink and served with polenta. I was a bit skeptical at first because I think it is a bit sadistic to cook a squid in its own (failed) defence mechanism, but I was quickly won over after the first bite. How does a dish the color of tar and stains your teeth black taste so good? While I will not be adding squid ink to everything I cook from now on it was an interesting and tasty experience that I suggest anyone who is even culinarily adventurous to try at least once.
Another memorable dining experience occurred at an osteria that we just happened to duck inside for one last drink and bite or two before heading back to our hotel. Since it was late the choices were limited so we opted for one small bite and two spritz. Apparently there was a special dinner party going on there with the owner of the restaurant treating his guest to seafood risotto. From our location at the bar I could see directly into the kitchen and was watching the chef prepare the seafood risotto, which he was tasting and shaking his head at while slowly adding more stock. After a few minutes he tasted the risotto another time and instead of his previous reaction he clenched his fist and enthusiastically fist-pumped the air. As I have also done this in the kitchen before I already knew that this was the international sign for "nailed it" and asked the owner that whatever it was he was making if we could please, please, please have some. Even though I offered to pay for even just a small taste the owner was still unsure because he had to see if there would be enough for his dinner party. The owner explained to the chef who in turn appeared to also practically beg him to let us try some of what he made. To which I am immensely grateful because the seafood risotto was AMAZING. As we were departing the cook, who was done for the evening now, was also leaving and we thanked him profusely for convincing the owner to share with us and how good the risotto was. I am not sure exactly how much English he understood but he could definitely understand our enthusiasm and gave two big thumbs up while smiling. In my haste to thank the guy I forgot to check the name of the osteria, but a few days later stumbled upon it again and snapped a photo of the sign for posterity. So if you are ever in Venice then definitely stop by Osteria Ruga Di Jaffa and order the seafood risotto.
On two separate nights while in Venice we encountered at the base of the Rialto Bridge two Moscovian brothers that were apparently music student violinists that came every night to the same spot for the last two months to play to a surprisingly large audience. With good reason though because they were fantastic musicians and their violin cases clearly reflected the audience's enjoyment with both times it being over 1/3 of the way full with various Euro paper notes and coins. I made a couple photos, but it was one of those times that you just want to sit back and to enjoy, so no videos were made. Although this guy will testify to how hard the people watching were enjoying the show and partying hard:
You can actually see in the photo that he is still snapping his fingers to the music and against all odds he even managed to get up a few times and dance around beckoning female audience members to dance with him. Alas, this budding Casanova never found a dance partner that night, but the music was great and who knows, maybe those two Russian brothers are still out there easily earning their tuition and then some.
Two of the other islands that we visited were Murano and Burano, the former is known for its exquisite glass making and the latter for their beautifully colorful buildings. This is in addition to the Trattoria da Romano that is famous for the seafood risotto and was host to an incredible list of writers, artists, and celebrities. Unfortunately I was not able to eat at the restaurant... mostly because I forgot that it was on this island until on the water taxi ride home, but I did eat an excellent assortment of fried sea creatures while on Burano. So not all was lost and luckily, as I said above, I managed to have my seafood risotto fix elsewhere.
The Island of Burano is beautiful to walk around and look at all the vibrantly colored buildings, but I wonder how the locals feel (most who look like they grew up there) having me and countless other tourists trudge through their front yards summer after summer. I wonder if they will ever become incredibly frustrated and collectively decide to paint all of their colorful buildings the shame dull shade of brown. I hope not, but I guess they always have that option on the table.
Another night at another osteria whose name I have forgotten but the memory is still imprinted upon me thanks, at least in part, to a shower of alcohol and seltzer water. It was yet again another place we stumbled upon and stopped in for some food and drinks that seemed to be full of local regulars. After a couple Aperol spritz I asked the bartender/owner if there was something distinctly local that he could make me. Instead of giving me a local drink he said he would "surprise me" with his own – and extremely strong — concoction. As we were enjoying our drinks the locals were starting to get a bit more rowdy and the bartender, who was also drinking, was as well. At one point he started spraying the regulars with seltzer water by arching his fountain gun so that it lightly fell while everyone was laughing, including us. The bartender was a little overzealous though and got carried away and ended up aiming at us as well. However when he aimed at us instead of arching it like before he aimed it directly at and completely soaked me. Quickly realising that I was not one of the regulars the owner looked mortified and started apologising profusely. Laughing, I told him it was hot and I needed a shower anyways but since he felt bad he gave us some free food, which is always nice.
Okay so as much as I complained at the beginning about the overabundance of tourists and the labyrinth that is Venice it was still a decent time and definitely a "must-see" place with delicious food, which I guess is exactly the problem. It would also probably be much more enjoyable during tourist off-season when it is significantly less crowded. We actually stayed for 9 days which I think was pushing it because two days we just decided to stay at the hotel. That time was spent reading books whilst sitting on the sill of our room's Venetian windows overlooking the canal. Which actually became an interesting, albeit distracting while attempting to read, activity in itself due to the inordinate amount of Asian tourists passing beneath in gondolas that shouted to us to look at them for photos. I am rather convinced that a good amount of them thought they were getting photos of genuine Venetian locals enjoying a relaxing afternoon, but I guess what they don't know won't hurt them.
One of the days I did manage to wake up an an ungodly hour when no tourists were out to create another one of my "Living Out of a Suitcase" series photos that you can see by clicking here.
In addition to that, below are some more photos from the trip and beneath that is the video I shot there using my Panasonic LX100. If possible watch the video in 4k resolution with the volume on. Thanks for making it this far and enjoy!
PHOTOGRAPHER, VIDEOGRAPHER, TRAVELER, ARCHAEOLOGIST, AND LOVER OF FERMENTED BEVERAGES & SPICY FOODS