I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked where’s my favorite place I’ve visited. And, for those of you who know me personally, I don’t really do favorites. So why, you ask, am I posting Venice as one of my favorite places? Well, I must shyly admit that it is. Right now it’s the number one tourist destination in the world. That’s big.
The city is unique, like none other, perhaps one reason why it has earned a coveted spot as a favorite. History, architecture, canals, bridges, water taxis, gondolas…those are just some of the things that make Venice unique. Add music, food, wine, romance and ambiance, and you know exactly why so many people have the city on their bucket list.
Cathryn and I had both been there before we met each other, but last summer we spent five memorable days there together. We re-visited our favorite places, and explored -discovering new places, that have become our favorites. The city can be overwhelming to the uninitiated, with it’s summer heat, crowds and confusing streets.
The smartest thing we did for ourselves before visiting Venice was to book a guided food tour. It was the best tour we’ve ever been on. Maya and Adam Stonecastle are two U.S. ex-pats who run a company called, Venice Bites. Taking their food and drink tour was the perfect way for us to acclimatize ourselves to the city.
We started our tour with a grappa-spiked espresso and pastry. Adam, a logistical expert, led us on foot through the maze of streets that almost every tourist manages to get lost in. We did, the previous day. The eclectic couple took us to see a gondola factory, giving us a better understanding of the expensive and unique conveyances. Then we sampled fresh fruit from a floating market.
Adam pointed out things in back alleys that we would have passed by without a second glance – like the barrel door, urination stations, and crooked buildings. Maya was like our personal food critic, explaining our choices in tapas and sandwiches. We ate more than we walked off. Seafood risotto with a glass of Proseco was our lunch. There were goodies for desert and then samples of gelato, in case we still had room.
It was great to walk into little cafes and restaurants, where we were welcomed and catered to, like celebrities. Adam steered us around the tourist-clogged traps and busy streets, giving us a better idea at how to navigate the city. We finished the day with gastronomic guides, sitting on the Grand Canal, watching life go by. They were perfect hosts for what was a perfect day.
The difficulty for Cathryn and I now, is how to fit Venice into one of our next trips. Hopefully, we’ll get back soon and be able to hook up with our new foodie friends.