08 Jul 2019 – Mon.
We finally arrived in Marco Polo Airport to embark on our long awaited holiday. So many people had told me that with the triplets in my belly, we might not get the go-ahead to go on such a long trip abroad, but thankfully, Dr Edwin was quite supportive and even wrote a medical note to say that I was fit to fly just in case any airline staff enquired.
The first thing we had to settle upon arrival was the pick-up of our rental car. This was our ride for the next three weeks of holiday.
We drove to our hostel for the night, deciding to go simple and no-frills because we were only planning to be in Venice for about 24 hours. We stayed at O&G Hotel and managed to park the car overnight at the multi-level carpark about 70m away. This is generally more ideal in Italy because there’s surveillance within the carpark and we could have peace of mind that the car would be left untouched.
We chose to take a straight bus from right outside the hotel, right into Venice, where I finally got to lay eyes on the floating city.
It wasn’t as filled as I’d expected – always a good thing. Flo and I meandered our way through small alleys and mini piazzas, and I was struck by the oldness of the buildings.
With the number of tourists who trod along their paths every single day, it’s difficult to imagine actually living in Venice. The fact though is, many people do!
We were blessed with the bluest of skies and the gentlest of breezes that helped keep us a shade cooler under the scorching sun. I marvelled at how roads had been replaced by water, and cars, with small boats and gondolas. Indeed, the charm of Venice is in their less hectic way of life because their primary mode of transport felt nowhere near as rushed or as chaotic as the traffic on the mainland roads.
We stopped by Cantina do Mori, recommended by Everybody Feeds Phil, for a little bite since we hadn’t had much of a lunch. We were also close to dinner so we didn’t want to fill up either.
There were lots of small bites available on the counter, half of which we couldn’t quite make up although they looked intriguingly delicious.
In the end, we settled for a Spinach Frittata, Eggplant topped with Cheese, and a Sardine Polpette.
They were served as they were – cold, but definitely tasty. For hungry tummies, it would have been nice to have hot food go down our throats but these nibbles were enough for the time being.
I also liked how there were fountains all over Venice to ensure that no one suffered from dehydration. These are free, public water fountains so those with empty bottles get to refill them, and those without bottles can just put their hands under, or head, and drink away. On hot days, these fountains also provide water to slap onto one’s arms, legs and face in order to cool down. Most of Italy has water fountains all over the place, but we found that there were a few areas had none.
Can’t go to Venice and not spot a gondola with a singing gondolia.
And no, we did not ride a gondola because I’m a cheap-skate tourist. I refuse to pay exorbitant amounts of money for a boat ride even if it should be for the experience. I was happy to experience Venice by foot and I don’t think riding a gondola would have made my visit there any more exceptional. Furthermore, Venice made sure that Flo and I didn’t leave without an experience that will be imprinted in our memories forevermore – you’ll find out what happened nearer the end of this post.
From where the bus had stopped us, it took us quite a while to locate the main Piazza. All the signs that were pointing towards Piazza San Marco seemed to lead us into a bit of a loop. Just as well because it meant that Flo could get his scoop of gelato, the first of many over our three week Italian road trip.
We did manage to reach the piazza…
And marvelled at the beauty and grandeur of the Basilica di San Marco. As well as the hoards of pigeons that possibly outnumbered the number of tourists within the piazza! I mean we marvelled at the population of pigeons, not that they were beautiful or grand. I’m no pigeon lover.
As you can see behind our wefie, it wasn’t anywhere as crowded as I imagined it would be.
We relaxed a while on one of the steps surrounding the piazza, taking in the sights, observing Korean tourists do multiple, choreographed jumps to get the perfect photo, Instagram boyfriends or husbands taking photo after photo of their partner in various poses and angles, watching children chase after pigeons… It was really nice to sit back and absorb the activity around us, until my butt began to hurt. That was our signal to go in search for some dinner.
Flo and I settled on Trattoria Al Gazzettino, a restaurant highly recommended on Google, since all the ones I’d listed were closed for the day or only opened at 8pm which was too late for our soon-to-be rumbling stomachs.
We didn’t have a reservation (should have done the typical Asian thing and made one since every other Asian did! And I won’t lie, I usually make reservations even back home because I’m one of the anomalies who hates queueing up), so we had to wait a solid hour before a table was ready for us. In the meantime, we were treated to alcoholic refreshments at the back, obviously I declined, as well as a little tasting of some kind of cold risotto.
Once we were seated, we didn’t have to wait too long for dinner to be served. I zeroed straight in for the Seafood Stew. When it arrived, the absolute joy on my face was so obvious that the lady at the next table couldn’t help but smile and comment on how excited I looked. For sure I was excited – being in Zurich and Hamburg meant that I’d hardly eaten any hot food for a week. A week may not sound long but trust me, it felt way longer than a week for me and the thought of hot food sent thrills down my spine.
The fish, mussels, river prawns and squid were so fresh, and the broth was bang full of crustacean flavour. I was in heaven. A bit of a salty heaven but still heaven nonetheless. The sodium levels were a little higher than I’d have liked but all in all, I was pleased as pie.
Florian too, was perhaps even more pleased with his dish than I was with mine. He had Tagliatelle with Zucchini and Scampi.
If you have me for your wife, you best be prepared for my fork to go into your food at every meal because I can never resist a taste of whatever Flo orders. This plate of pasta, though nothing to shout about in terms of presentation, was pure delight. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, the flavours of the vegetable and scampi all tossed and coated in a light sauce was pretty amazing. I have to admit, Flo’s dish was better than mine. Mine was delicious. His was damn near perfect! – I’d say perfect but we all know there’s no such thing as perfect.
We were stuffed after our food, so reluctantly declined dinner. Still, we were treated to a slice of chocolate cake with a couple shots of alcohol and biscotti.
We had a nibble here and there but couldn’t find any more space to pack it all in. It was an awesome first meal in the legendary land of pasta. As we went on with the rest of our holiday, we found a few places that trumped this trattoria, and others than didn’t quite measure up. You’ll see.
Anyway, we decided to take a long stroll back to the bus stop we’d alighted from, to return back to our hotel since we had a lot of food inside our bellies that needed digesting. A quarter of the way back however, we found ourselves in the midst of lots of crashing. We saw restaurants in front of us that had diners eating al fresco, battling with the sudden gush of winds that were blowing table cloths off, and along with, filled wine glasses, and tableware. It felt rather surreal.
Flo and I turned back only to see looming black clouds not far behind us. We ran over one of the bridges and turned right, into a sheltered boat stop, just as drizzle turned to a rush of water pouring down from the sky. Not long after, we could hear the wind howling and the beating of heavy raindrops against the metal walls and ceiling of the shelter. The air turned cold and rain was coming in from both entrances. Then, we found ourselves, along with the others who’d managed to find their way to the shelter, being pelted by hail. From pebble-sized ice, they quickly became about an inch and a half in diameter. Thankfully, someone managed to get the door of one of the entrances to shut so we were able to huddle in the corner, and keep warm.
It was a total freak storm and when the rain finally slowed, it was still more of a heavy drizzle and Flo and I had quite a way to go to reach our intended destination. In the end, we hopped onto a water taxi, and got ourselves a free ride back to the main station.
There, we bought tickets for the 10.15pm train back to the station close to our hotel. Only, the bad weather meant that it was to be delayed but there was little to tell anyone how long more it would take and whether there were alternative trains we could take. There were lots of passengers getting frustrated and riled up.
After an hour and a half, we finally departed.
Flo and I were knackered from our long day and fell into bed soon after reaching our hotel. We were up earlier than we’d have liked because our check-out time was at 10am. Once we had checked-out, we stopped over at a cafe nearby for some breakfast.
I had this bread roll with mozzarella, tomatoes and lettuce. It was ok. I wasn’t so impressed by the whiter than white bread but the fillings were nice if not for the slather of mayo. Haha.
On hindsight, I guess the mozzarella may not have been pasteurised but a lot of their offerings consisted of cold cuts so cheese it was. Flo had a bresaola with goat cheese panini. I believe there may have been some turmeric in the bread dough, hence the colour, and the poppy seeds on top were the icing on top especially after it’d all been nicely toasted.
Then, it was off to Modena!