Is Venice loosing it’s Charm?
A couple of weeks ago a few friends along with Mark and myself spent a week in Venice. I had been there a few years ago but only for a day trip. That trip I didn’t have any expectations but this trip was to be more of the food aspect as it was the 44th anniversary of the Italian Chaine des Rotisseurs.
As there were four of us traveling together, we decided to rent an apartment just off San Marco Square. It was a cute 3 bedroom apartment but the big surprise were the 73 stairs to get there. Venice is not that easy if you are traveling heavy. I had been away from home for a month so my suitcase was packed with 2 gowns for the galas (one for Berlin and one for Venice), casual and dressy clothes for a month and shoes. I had acquired a few extra items of books, booze and other things in my travels so dragging a 24kg bag up those steps became a comical production.
Our first full day adventure started with a trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Living in Moscow, I have been to many museums but this one was different as it contains European and American Art from the first half of the 20th century. Some of the artists represented there are Piccaso, Pollack, Dali, Ernst, Klee, Metzinger and many more. It is housed in a single story palace in the Venice Grand canal near Santa Maria de la Salute that Peggy actually lived in.
We had a trip on a Galleonthat took us to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. They say that you should only buy you Murano glass directly fromthe island as Chinese manufacturers have come to Venice and taken pictures of the glass and replicated it, selling it back to Venice merchants to discount to the tourists. In general, Murano glass has no seams, has a polished bottom and the stylists signature. If there is a removable label on the item, it is probably fake. Burano is famous for its lace making and colourfully painted houses, and Torcello is known for being the oldest inhabited part of Italy dating back to the 400’s. On this island you find the tasty Esse cookies.
The most spectacular thing that happened was the private after hours tour of St. Mark’s. Special tour guides took us inside after the last service and had us sit in the dark. After a few moments of contemplation, the caretaker gradually turned on all the lights exposing the breathtaking 4500 sq. meters of gold mosaic work that fills the Basilica. We then had the privilege of touring the Crypt not generally shown to tourists.
I say in the title of this blog that I wonder if Venice is loosing its charm. I would venture to guess that some restauranteurs are becoming complacent and not showing the best Italy has to offer. As we were on a gastronomic tour organized by Venetian Foodies, half the meals we had were sub par. I would even say that you can get better Italian food in Moscow then in Venice. One particular restaurant ,Antico Pignolo, was just plain bad. The waite staff were doing the bare minimum, the food from the kitchen was unappealing and almost inedible. We had polenta on three of the 5 dishes, and the most disgusting was the stockfish and cuttlefish combination. The palate cleanser was supposed be a sorbet but it was soup in a glass. I could see that many of the people eating there were actually not eating.
We found that many of the regular restaurants didn’t care about the customer. You are a captive audience so tourists will go to the restaurant once and never return. The food is plain and just slapped on the plate and tossed at you. Prices are very high for poor quality and service.
There are exception but when you leave the canals and head inland to prosecco country, the food and service definitely improve. Da Celeste in Venegazzu stood out as the highlight of our week. From the appetizers in the courtyard to the juicy veal in the dining room, we had an afternoon that was themed around mushrooms. Each dish showcased a different local mushroom. The presentation of each dish and the high quality of the waite staff almost made us forget the food from the past few days. To top the day off we toured the winery of Bisol, one of the top 5 prosecco producers in the world. This 400 year old winery produces Prosecco in the traditional and Charmat method and a girl can never drink too much bubbly.
Although very expensive and short, no visit to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride and shopping at some of the top brand name stores in the world.
Is Venice loosing its Charm----- I hope not!
Is Venice loosing it’s Charm?
Tuesday, 16 October, 2012