Our visit in Rome was one of the most fluid/flexible itineraries we’ve ever traveled on but, logistically speaking, Venice made that look like the Normandy invasion. We arrived in good health and the prospects of an excellent weather forecast, and that checked off (almost) the only boxes we really had. There’s plenty to do and see in Venice, of course, but our lingering memories of our first visit always boiled down to the mood and atmosphere of just being there, and that’s what we were hoping to find again. Happily, we did! Sure, it can feel like it’s slowly devolving into a parody of the Venetian casino in Las Vegas but that day is still a long way off. Venice is tranquil and beautiful and a little bit shabby and lords do we love it.
Now, we said we had checked off “almost” all the boxes of our itinerary as soon as we arrived, but there actually was one bit of business to attend to. After our increasingly-typical late morning alarm, we snuck (sneaked? snookered? satchmo?) down for a light brekkies and then headed out into the city. Item one for the day was lunch, which is why we kept breakfast on the light side.
Lunch was just around the corner (relatively speaking, it is Venice after all) at the Ristorante Algi Alboretti (which we picked by rating and location). This is a small restaurant that does “classic” Italian dishes very well and did not cost an arm and a leg, despite it’s excellent location. Lisa had their “signature” Tagliolini scampi and zucchini, which was superb. The pasta was tender, the shrimp sweet and the zucchini was just the right balancer. John had the gnocchi with a ragu of beef and pork in a deeply flavorful tomato sauce. Our meal (along with coperto[x2], water, glass of wine, soda) came to 56eu. Although we sat inside, there is a nice patio area in front and in back, which would be perfect for hotter weather.
Lunch achieved, we moved on to the second of our two agenda items for the day. When we last visited Venice (for real, because we’re ignoring October ’22, and we’ll stop saying that now) in 2014 we bought masks. They were amazing and provided a dramatic visual for the one costume party we attended at Halloween that year. The thing is, while Lisa went for a classic “if bank robbers were also rave kids” look, John fell in love with a truly massive affair with curling horns that gave the mask a meter-wide wing span. After the big purge of all we owned in the run-up to our relocation, Lisa still had her leather half mask but John jettisoned his, wanting something smaller and less dramatic… well, smaller. What else could we do but return to the same shop? No problem to find, not that we recognized the neighborhood or anything, but we felt like we were getting a sense of the city, enough to feel oriented as we navigated.
First good thing: the shop was still there. In we walk, and a woman looks up from the piece she is working on and says, “I recognize that mask. I made it, back in . . . 2014 I think?” BAM! Let me tell you, if an artisan remembers a piece almost ten years later you know you are working with a true crafts-person. We get to talking and it turns out that she’s taken over the shop after the original owner — her father — retired. She’s still making masks, and contracts out with a small group of other artists to make different designs, and she no longer works in leather. (Our hearts fell a bit.) But! she says, “I do have a few left, maybe one of them would work for you?” And, there it was, the perfect mask for John. Mission accomplished and we highly recommend the authentically handmade work of Sofia and her artists at Alberto Sarria Masks!
With that we donned our masks and wandered the city, enjoying the costumes and window shopping.
Dinner that evening was at Trattoria Nono Risorto. This is a typical Venetian osteria — no frills, no fussy food, and the language you hear is local. We shared a meat and cheese plate, then Lisa had the grilled branzino and John a pizza. The fish was gorgeously grilled with a little olive oil and lemon, a simple preparation that allows truly fresh fish to shine. The pizza was excellent as well, although too large for one.