We arrived at the Milan train station at 7am and arrived in Venice just before 10. I couldn’t wait to lead my family out of the train station and toward the Grand Canal where we could stand and look across the water at the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited. “Wow!” the children exclaimed, almost in unison. I was back in Venice, 19 years after I’d come during summer term in law school.
We checked into our AirBnB, a 2-story townhouse of sorts featuring a rooftop deck overlooking a canal. We left our bags and set off to explore the narrow passageways, bridges, and winding canals that make Venice an amazing place to get lost in (if you’re not in a hurry or bothered by such). We decided we absolutely must visit Trattoria Da Arturo for lunch, where Phil Rosenthal went on Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix, which we’d all watched shortly before our flight to Italy. It was hard to find; there were several dead ends, u-turns, and frustrated circular walking patterns, but we arrived at 12:15, just 15 minutes after it’d opened, and we were the only patrons (briefly).
“Is this where Phil had the giant pork chop?” I may have asked. We were in the right place. The restaurant is small and intimate; the head server has been there for decades; the proprietor since 1968. The eggplant was amazing; the giant pork chop was the best we’ve (it feeds 2-3 people) ever had. There was a photo album full of Hollywood folks who’d dined there over the years, and articles and accolades adorned the walls. It was magical.
We left to explore Venice some more, pausing to walk the Rialto Bridge and stick our heads in the shops embedded on the bridge, including the stationary shop where Neil Gaiman purchased the blank books he filled with his initial draft of “The Graveyard Book,” the audio book I loved so much that I immediately started it again upon completing it the first time on a road trip a few years ago.
We boarded the vaporetto for the island of Burano and saw a smaller, more colorful, and less crowded version of Venice, and it was all I could do to do anything but stand at the end of the canal and take it all in. We walked into a pasticceria and got desserts before entering the Lace Museum and gawking at the island’s leaning bell tower.
We reentered the vaporetto and visited Murano, pausing to buy some glass figures blown on the island before visiting the Glass Museum there.
We took the vaporetto back across the Grand Canal and entered Doge’s Palace next to Piazza San Marco. Exploring an Italian palace when the year before we explored Japanese castles (and Scottish, English, or French ones before that) provided an interesting comparison and contrast to other areas of the world we’d seen while learning how and where the monarchs for each region lived. Throughout the palace and the square, the children recognized photographs on the walls of the hallway leading to their bedrooms that I’d printed in sepia and framed before they were born.
That evening, we had dinner reservations at Trattoria Algazzetino, perhaps the most popular local restaurant on TripAdvisor. It was touristy–not as genuine as where we’d had lunch–but the food was great, and we enjoyed the experience. Afterward, we went where Phil had gelato in Venice (and is supposedly the only place where Alessandra makes it fresh onsite every day), Boutique Del Gelato. It was awesome. She appreciated that we’d found her via Phil’s Netflix show, and she encouraged the children’s myriad questions and stories from the day as we licked our spoons clean.
At 8:30pm, I wanted to have Bellinis where they’d been invented and where Ernest Hemingway had drinks, so we went to Harry’s Bar Cipriani. Walking through those narrow wooden doors was like stepping 100 years into the past; we couldn’t sit, but the 5 of us stood at the bar and had Bellinis (virgin for the children) in perhaps the most famous bar in the world, and it was a wonderful moment to conclude a wonderful day in a wonderful city.
The next day, we’d take the train to Florence.