Neal and I decided to belatedly celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary and his 30th birthday with a trip to Italy. We’ve talked about wanting to travel to Europe together since we’ve started dating, so it was so exciting for us to make this trip a reality!
We were able to take 12 days total and decided to visit Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and Rome. We left Indianapolis on November 30th and arrived in Venice on December 1st. After getting lost several times trying to find our AirBnb, feeling tired from lugging my rolling suitcase up and down bridges (Neal totally had the right idea by using a backpack for this trip), and as we were both feeling jet-lagged from the flight, we decided to have a quick nap–which turned into like a two hour nap! After showering and getting ready, we were ready to explore Venice at night!
We walked around and explored the Cannaregio neighborhood we were staying in. It was a quiet residential area, with clothes hanging to dry strung between homes wherever we looked up.
Once the suitcase was gone, exploring the maze of bridges was very picturesque and magical. We made our way to a bacaro (italian wine bar) for a glass of local wine and cicchetti (basically the equivalent of snacks. Those who know me know I LOVE to snack). I read this article from Walks of Italy that turned me onto the Venice tradition. We snacked on crispy fried mozzarella, marinated artichokes, prosciutto wrapped goat cheese, and shrimp skewers. My favorite was the prosciutto wrapped goat cheese and I can’t wait to make a gluten-free version of the fried mozzarella for entertaining at home! The food was so good. I went into this trip deciding to eat whatever was available and not limiting myself to only gluten-free foods, and I don’t regret it (though by the end of the trip I was ready to get back to my regular way of eating).
It was fun to take the camera out and experiment with slowing the shutter speed and playing with aperture. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to bring a tripod and so we were limited to any surface (mainly bridges) where we could steadily prop the camera.
After a little bit of shopping in the souvenir shops and checking out Saint Mark’s square, we headed home for the night to rest up for a full day of exploring!
Since we only had one full day in Venice, we decided to spend it exploring without any concrete plans besides our dinner reservations. We started the day early and checked out the Rialto bridge and the market.
The view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto bridge was beautiful!
We must have started the day during Acqua Alta because parts of Venice were flooded that weren’t the previous night. When we walked back later in the day the flooding had disappeared!
We grabbed chocolate croissants and cappuccinos for breakfast and continued walking. Apparently it was trash day, and it was interesting to see how they handle that without vehicles! As you can see in the photo below, they have these carts that they push all around the city and up and down the bridges. It looked like quite the workout. Venice was the cleanest city we visited in Italy!
The architecture in Venice is beautiful. Some of the buildings and churches have such incredible detailing! I feel like I was walking around in awe the entire day!
Glamour around every corner!
Neal the explorer!
Neal’s mom went to Italy in 2016 and spent a day in Venice. She had found this leather shop, Il Grifone, located in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. We had to stop in and check it out. There were so many beautiful things and the owner was so nice. He was making a new purse as we walked in and we could peer into the back to see another man creating goods. If he doesn’t have a bag or briefcase ready in the color you want, he said he is able to make it in a few days–which is pretty cool!
After the leather shop, we stopped in another bacaro for a panino, a glass of Chianti wine, and a chance to rest our feet (by the end of the day we had over 16.5 miles according to my tracker). I had a delicious sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, and basil. Neal had one with salami, tomato, and mozzarella. After the break, we were ready to check out St. Mark’s Basilica and the square!
Though we didn’t go inside the Basilica or Doge’s Palace, it was so incredibly beautiful on the outside. Had we another day, we would have explored both.
We made our way to Tragicoma to look at venetian masks. They had so many amazing ones which are all handmade by local artists. We walked out with one with purple and gold paint as a souvenir–I can’t wait to display it in our new home!
We found a Christmas market, explored the stalls, and had the best hot chocolate of the whole trip. Sadly no pictures of this market!
We found a leaning tower of Venezia!
As the sun set we made our way back to our apartment to relax a bit and freshen up for dinner.
Before our 9:30 reservation, we went for a glass of wine and stopped by the Christmas tree at St. Mark’s square. It was so beautiful at night! Neal hates selfies (and to be honest we’re not good at taking them) so this is one of the few pictures we have together from the trip.
Now for the culinary highlight of the trip! I had researched restaurants in Venice, and Osteria alle Testiere, located in the Castello neighborhood, came up in all my searches. OH MY GOODNESS! It was so good. The food was so incredibly good. It was the best meal of my life. It is a very small restaurant (24 seats to be specific) and only have two seatings for dinner, so reservations are highly recommended. I had made reservations about a month and a half before our trip. The menu changes daily depending on what is fresh at the market. It was fun to see some of the seafood we saw at the Rialto market on the menu for the day. We started our meal by sharing razor clams, which I had read rave reviews about. They were very good and I had never tried them before. We might have had the last order for the night as I heard the table next to us say it was crossed out on the menu right as ours got to the table. I assured them they were very delicious–which maybe they didn’t appreciate knowing!
Next we shared the pumpkin ravioli with tuna ragout–phenomenal!! Neal doesn’t like Tuna, but he actually liked this. It was a perfect mix of savory and salty all perched atop fluffy pasta pillows.
For the main course, I had the herbed turbot. IT WAS SO GOOD!! I don’t know what voodoo magic they were doing back in the kitchen, but it was so amazing and perfectly prepared. With every bite, more and more flavors appeared. It was seasoned with caraway seeds, fennel, dill, lemon, olive oil, and berries. I told Neal I’ll try to make it at home, but I don’t think I could ever make anything taste as good as that turbot. Neal had the prawns with sweet and sour sauce, and he said it was good but not as good as my fish (my dish was the winner!!!) If you go to Venice, you HAVE to go to this restaurant! Best meal of my LIFE!
We planned to get gelato on the walk home for dinner, but as it was 11:30 at night, all gelato places were closed.
We left Venice the next day on the 10:00 am train and made our way to Florence!