Every time I go to Venice I ask myself why I haven’t gone back sooner, or stayed longer. This weekend I only teased my senses by spending a mere 24 hours in the enchanting city with a fellow ex-pat writer, Hilary Belle Walker. She has sojourned in Venice for extended periods of time and has developed a lovely philosophy toward visiting the city. She only schedules to visit one cultural site, museum or church per day, the rest of the time is spent wandering the streets, making new discoveries, getting lost, chatting with locals, sipping on spritzes, really living the city, and basically just seeing what happens. That’s exactly my kind of vacation.
Here are a few “Favorite Things” from my last 24 hours in Venice. Obviously, this is no tour guide. If it’s your first time in Venice there are a million things to see and many guide-books that can walk you through the main attractions, just make sure you reserve a few hours for getting lost in the winding alleyways and treating yourself to a spritz at a local bar.
1.) The highlight for me was happening upon a fabulous little enoteca called La Mascareta. It’s one of the only places in Venice that you’ll find Prosecco col fondo, a rare type of Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) made using the traditional method of a secondary fermentation in the bottle, giving the wine unique characteristics. We sipped our prosecco col fondo at the bar while snacking on fresh oysters and watching the sequin and bow-tie clad owner stir up a pot of enticing risotto. His secret for this delicious dish was adding a bit of rice flour toward the end of cooking instead of a traditional mantecatura of butter or oil. He claims this thickens the risotto without making it overly rich, since he didn’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavors of the asparagus and seafood. The result was divine.
2.) I’m so glad we stumbled upon the VizioVirtù chocolate shop, though we just couldn’t seem to leave once we walked in. Each time we tried we would spot another delicacy we just HAD to taste. I was honestly surprised by the quality and variety of their offerings. We shared a cup of salted caramel gelato that I’ll never forget, tasted a cold “Mayan chocolate” drink that was much better than it sounds, and were overwhelmed by the bright flavor of a mint and lime flavored gelee candy. We were so impressed that we stopped by their second location immediately afterwards, just to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.
3.) The spritz. This is my favorite summertime drink, and a Venetian classic. There are many variations, hotly contested, but if I’ve understood correctly the Venetian version is as follows (I’m sure I’m going to get myself in trouble here!): Fill a glass halfway full of ice and stir together the following ingredients: 1 part Prosecco or still white wine, 1 part club soda, 1 part Campari or Aperol. Garnish with a slice of lemon or orange and stir using one green olive on a wooden skewer.
4.) A perfect lunch. Venice is famous for its tramezzini (cocktail sandwiches), and the variety is endless. We stopped for a few quite creative tramezzini and a glass of Prosecco in Campo Santa Margherita.
5.) The Punta della Dogana Contemporary Art Centre is the strategically placed and beautifully restored 17th century Customs building. Today it houses works by contemporary art superstars that range from significantly moving to ironically playful to deeply disturbing.