Yesterday was terrible. We woke up at 5am, eager to catch the first of our three trains as early as possible so that we could have a good evening in Venice when we arrived. Unfortunately, in our tired haze, we went to the track number and not the platform, so even though we were there for an hour before it left, we missed it and had to wait 5 more hours for the next. Then, we had to change at Nova Gorica, which is a town split by two countries with two stations, and get across town in 40 minutes. The bus never showed up, so we had to hastily translate what we could on a phone call to a taxi, and nearly missed that one too. However, once we stepped onto the water bus at Venice, none of that seemed to matter. It was midnight by the time we reached Murano, where we are staying, but seeing this wonderful city at night was an experience I’ll never forget, and solidified our prediction that this was going to be our favourite location so far.
Today, we have tried to do as much as possible to compensate. This morning, we took in what we could of Murano, which is a series of islands in the Venetian lagoon. It’s a wonderful little place with a population of just over 5,000, which means it’s ridiculously quiet at night. It almost feels like one big village, where all of the locals know one another, and the focus on tradition and culture is high. Waking up to boats and sunshine ensured that the last remnants of annoyance from yesterday had left the system, and after a relaxing potter, we popped into “Osteria al Duomo” for some food. This place prides itself on quality, with fresh seafood, carefully curated meats, wood-fired pizzas, and homemade pastas on the menu. We were seated in the relaxing sun terrace at the back of the building, and after looking through the dishes, decided to get a “Cooperativa” house special pizza (EUR.11) with hand stretched dough, tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, and asparagus. It arrived swiftly, tasted amazing, and set us up for the day.
After paying the surprisingly cheap bill, we boarded the water bus and headed for Piazza San Marco, where three of Venice’s top attractions lay in wait. The water bus is the best public transport I’ve ever experienced, and I couldn’t get the thought of living here and getting one to work in the morning out of my head; they’re amazing. It took about forty minutes to arrive, yet we were too busy oogling at all the sights flying by to notice. Our first experience of Venice in the day had begun, and after watching the gondolas for a little while, we decided to pop into “Doge’s Palace”, which ended up taking a good few hours to explore.
This place makes most buildings look like the work of mere peasants; dating back to the 11th century, the palace is a true masterpiece of gothic architecture, and literally no words can describe how impressive it is. It’s EUR. 13 for students to enter, and in my opinion worth every penny; we started our tour in the “Sala Room”, which exhibits the original stone work of the old palace and some of the original structures. Next, we went to upstairs to the major attractions of the institutional chambers, armoury, and prison. The chambers are breathtaking, with frescoes of mythological subjects, biblical scenes, and the cities under Venetian dominion layered in gold on every wall; this was my first time seeing these as a conscious adult (apparently I went as a baby), and I understand what my Grandmother was talking about when she said there’s nothing quite like it in the world.
The armoury was actually the best and most interesting collection of armour and weapons that we’ve seen, which is saying a lot considering we visited actual military museums in our previous cities. The craftsmanship involved is staggering, and they even made intricate decorations for the horses armour, as you can’t ride into battle looking shabby, can you? The prison was a little bit tricky to get to, as I’m 6ft 4′ and the ceiling is about 5ft 2′, but it’s worth the effort. They’re a little eery, as you can imagine, and I discovered that Giacomo Casanova, the famous adventurer and author, was one of many well-known faces to have been imprisoned there (he also managed to escape).
Finishing up, we wanted to taste some of the best food Venice had to offer, and had heard that “La Boutique De La Gelato” is revered by the locals as having the greatest ice-cream and sorbets. Naturally, we rushed to get there and joined the bustling queue; there are all sorts of flavours, including vegetables, but we settled on one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of lemon. I wasn’t even aware there was such a hierarchy when it came to gelato, but this tiny little shop would be ruling over them all. It’s dead cheap (at EUR. 2.50) and fucking amazing. Get some.
Next, we sampled some Venetian finger food at “Ca’ D’oro alla Vedova”, which was another culinary gem. In proper traditional manner, a counter on the bar has fresh meatballs, octopus, calamari, fish, and salads for you to choose from, and you simply stand with a glass of house wine, eat from your napkin, and marvel at the beauty of it all. The meatballs were the best we’ve eaten, and are full of beef and creamy polenta. I’m getting hungry again just thinking of it.
After pottering around the shops and streets, which is entertainment enough, we were advised to go to “Rossopomodoro” for dinner. When we arrived, it was so packed that the queue was trailing out the door, yet after a brief wait we were seated and reading through the menu. There’s a small selection of salads, pasta, and pizza, all of which seemed to be based on the quality of ingredients and seasonal tastes; I ordered the “Diavola” pizza and was thankful we decided to stick out the delay; spicy salami, 24 hour risen dough, and fresh basil. Heaven.
We’ve just taken the water bus back to Murano and packed our bags, ready for Florence tomorrow. Hopefully, we won’t miss any of our trains, and will get two full days to explore as much of the capital of Tuscany as humanly possible. As per usual, if you know of any secret wonders, or the best places to grab some food, please comment them below. I can’t wait to get back to Venice in the very near future, and suggest you do too.