We walked and walked, saw magnificent buildings and equally spectacular paintings, but above all, we ate - and ate - and wished we could shop everyday in the amazing Rialto fish market, the luscious vegetable markets, the cheese shops - food envy at its highest!
The Rialto fish market, right on the canal with huge wooden beams and stone columns, is filled with an amazing variety of fish, some of which - like the pale yellow shrimp and net bags of tiny, almost fingernail size clams - we had never seen before. We ate both that day for lunch at La Furatola, a tiny, simple restaurant we happened upon by chance, but later found is one of the treasures of Venice. My treat was 7 different ways with shellfish, dried fish and baby octopus (see above); my husband's was pasta with tiny clams in a basil sauce (below). Both amazing.
The vegetable markets are filled with spectacular, irregularly shaped vegetables that look almost from another planet -
next to great piles of crimson sundried cherry tomatoes. The greatest luxury are the bowls of prepared artichokes in water - the hearts alone, or pared wine red/pale green baby artichokes ready for salads or pasta. Most entrancing: the artichoke gondola. Wish it stopped at the bottom of my street every day.
We ate that evening at one of the hottest tickets in Venice - Alle Testiere,
a minute bistro you could easily walk past without a second glance, but highlighted by Russell Norman, owner of the Polpo restaurants in London, and included at the top of his list of favourite Venetian restaurants in his cookbook "Polpo". The decor is humble, the tables tiny and close together, but the food absolutely wonderful. Mine was a Venetian classic - swordfish steaks with olives, lemon and capers.
Were we just lucky? Or was fortune smiling on us. The next (lovely, sunny) day we again happened upon a canal side restaurant, Megezia, where the crawfish pasta was extraordinary, followed by beautifully presented affogato, my favourite Italian ice cream with expresso.
Right by our (small, charming, very Italian) hotel we stopped for a lunchtime pasta and the menu was so interesting (very Venetian) we returned for dinner that night. Seafood ravioli, Soar di Sarde (sardines marinated with slow cooked onions, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar) charmed at La Caravella, not least as I wanted to try an authentic version of the marinated fish I had made as recommended by my friend Elaine.
L'Osteria di Santa Maria slipped into our last night in Venice - contemporary presentation of authentic Venetian dishes settled into a small, very open square (with an amazing patisserie next door). A plate of thinly sliced raw fish with balsamic vinegar and basil oil could only be found where it is fresh from the sea, and was followed by pistachio ice cream rolled in chopped pistachios with raspberry sorbet - perfection.