Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Veneto - from Venice to Verona

The Serene Republic of Venice dates back to 827, when the Byzantine Duke moved his seat to what is known as the Rialto. For the following 970 years the city could prosper thanks to its worldwide trade and its position as a gate to the Orient.
                the bell tower - Venice
typical Venetian house

An ideal place for great adventurer such as Marco Polo and Casanova who have travelled the world and created a longing in generations of people to explore the far away places and indulge their senses. Both characters could be also seen as as a personification of the rise and fall of the ancient metropole. 

I know that I have lived because I have felt, 
and, feeling giving me the knowledge of my existence, 
I know likewise that I shall exist no more 
when I shall have ceased to feel.
Giacomo Casanova 
the grand canal
Today most of us visitors arrive from the land side, but Venice was built to be reached from the water directly in its lively center and heart, the Piazza San Marco, with its basilica and palace where 260 years ago Casanova managed his great escape out of the Leads, the famous prison in the Palazzo Ducale. His police record became a lengthening list of reported blasphemies, seductions, fights, and public controversy. His knowledge of cabalism, Freemasonry and his library of forbidden books sealed his destiny. He had to leave this beautiful city at the lagoon which hasn't change too much over the years.
        gondola trip
mosaics of the basilica San Marco

If you read Casanova's "Story of my Life" you will realize that seduction and food are an inseparable unity for him. And also our visit to Venice was a feast for the senses. The traditional Venetian Cuisine is strongly influenced by the lagoon and by the merchants bringing spices and tastes from Far East and also the Northern Europe. A melting pot of tastes. We found the lovely Osteri ai Artisti at Dorsoduro close to the Ponte de l'Accademica for our first dinner in Venice. It is situated on one small canal and one can also sit outside by the water, though also the inside is very charming and shows a good selection of regional wines.

Some famous dishes  to try are: 
sarde'le in saòr - sweet and sour sardines
rixi e bixi - a pea risotto
peoci saltài - lagoon mussels
bovo'leti - land snails
figà a'la venessiana - veal liver with onions
za'leti and baico'li  - fine biscuits

The most famous cocktail from Venice is the Bellini which was invented at Harry's Bar. It is a prosecco drink with white peaches which you can enjoy in every bar and café in Venice. And when you travel a bit through the countryside of Veneto, you will find the prosecco grapes and peach trees in abundance. 
view from Ca' Rezzonico
On our second day we got up early to have a traditional Italian breakfast with cappuccino and cornetto at the Caffé Rosa Salva before we explored Venice from the water. I have booked us a gondola for a short trip through the small canals. Only request from my man was: please no singing! Guess we both are not that terribly romantic... 
gondolas at Piazza San Marco
I was first a bit sceptic when I was ordered to the left place and my man was ordered to the right, but I soon understood the importance of it. Gondolas are asymmetric, the left side of the gondola is made longer than the right side so that the gondola is slightly tilted. It is made for the gondola to resist the tendency to turn towards the left at the forward stroke of the gondolier. With changing the position we would be out of balance and in worst case loose our gondolier.
Venice from the water
The trip was nice and we enjoyed sliding through the busy canals and listening to the stories of our gondolier who showed us beautiful places and oddities like the first and only attempt of the city to use traffic lights on the water... AND he was not singing, just whistling a bit! 
After this Venetian experience we were curious how a palazzo looks from the inside and how people used to live, so we went to Ca' Rezzonico situated at the grand canal and could have a glimpse on what life must have been in the 18th century Venice.

Vigne Matte
In the afternoon we went on another excursion, this time by car. Aim was our first prosecco tasting at Vigne Matte (the crazy vineyard) in Cison di Valmarino, 80 km away from Venice situated on the top of a mountain. The winery is terraced into the hillside so that the temperatures are not just ideal for the conservation of wine but also the architecture is quite special and unique. Special is also the journey through the sloping vineyards in lush green which is a great experience. And the view from the mountain top is just amazing. 

             Vigne Matte
Vigne Matte

favourite places in and around Venice
for breakfast: 
Caffè Rosa Salva - Calle Fiuberta 951 - San Marco, 951
for dinner: 
Osteria Ai Artisti - Fondamenta della Toletta - Dorsoduro 1169/A
prosecco tasting:
Vigne Matte - via Tea 8 - Località Rolle - 31030 Cison di Valmarino (TV)


Another beautiful and historical place in Veneto is Verona. Whereas Venice' myth is based on the water and the influences of East and North, Verona's geographical treasures are the near mountains and the Lago di Garda. Whereas the lagoon enjoys the light, sparkling prosecco, the area around Verona is famous for its ruby red Valpolicella. We visited the friendly winemaker of Brigaldara to tell us a bit of their wine and to taste their Amarone.   The vineyard belongs to the small to middle-sized wineries of the region and has the philosophy to produce quality wines which are representative of the land in which they are produced.

But most famous is Verona probably for the Roman amphitheater and Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, the most famous love story. You might remember the prologue:

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

                  Verona - Piazza dei Signori
Verona - Piazza dell' Erbe

You can have a look at Juliet's balcony and seal your love, but the best place to enjoy the lively city is from the central Piazza Erbe, which was in Roman times the Forum. When the strong afternoon heat is slowly fading, sit down in a nice café and enjoy an aperetif to start relaxed in the evening and watch the people passing by. We have chosen the famous Caffè Filippini for a well deserved Spritz and Negroni.

As we were craving for fish we went for dinner to the Ristorante Arche with its lovely old fashioned charm and its kitchen maestro Giancarlo Gioco who made cooking to an art form. We had vanilla risotto and slightly smoked tortelloni as first course. The combination of tastes was just amazing and one might wonder how it is possible to top this but my lovely man had sparkles in his eyes when his Royal Platter of warm Shellfish arrived.
A feast of cray fish, royal crab, prawns, shrimps and mussels served with a lemon and orange sauce. And besides, you know that you have made the right choice when the guests at the neighbor table congratulate you seeing your food! I had a traditional venetian dish of fillet of Saint Peter's fish cooked in Venetian Fishermen's style with Sicilian cherry tomatoes. This culinary experience got a personal touch when the chef came to our table to make sure that we are enjoying our dinner and to explain the different taste sensations.

Castelvecchio - Verona

On our way home through the now less crowded streets of Verona, we discovered that the real romantic place for lovers, away from the famous tourist attraction of Juliet's balcony, is the river side with the view of the illuminated Castelvecchio where all lovers and romantic souls seem to gather at night to enjoy a romantic walk.

favourite places in and around Verona
for wine tasting:
Brigaldara - Via Brigaldara, 20 - 37029 San Pietro in Cariano
for aperetif:
Caffè Filippini - Piazza Erbe 26
for dinner:
Ristorante Arche di Giancarlo Gioco - Via Arche Scaligere, 6 - 37121 Verona

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