Ciao, Venezia

Ah Venice! There is no place on earth like it. Magical, welcoming, achingly beautiful, with her arching bridges, black shiny gondolas, and endless, meandering laneways filled with the most beautiful lighted window displays of vividly-coloured glass birds, chandeliers, jewellery, diamond studded shoes, Venetian paper, masks, costumes, souvenirs…and the glorious waft of cooking smells as you wander past each trattoria.

We had a full 24 hours in Venice, and whilst I could have easily stayed longer (and will next time), we still managed to find enough time to chase the pigeons in Piazza San Marco, have a full hour’s water taxi ride around the city, go up in the Bell tower for heart-stopping 360 degree views, visit a Murano glass factory and watch a master glass-blower at work, and have lunch canal-side; an outstanding yet simple lasagne.

A highlight was stopping by at Harry’s Bar for a Bellini, and some divine (and complimentary) chocolate cake. Understated, simple yet stylish decor, with barmen in white dinner jackets complete with bow ties, looking exactly as you would expect and in a uniform probably unchanged from the time when Ernest Hemmingway used to frequent the place, it is easy to see why Harry’s has been declared a national treasure. Everyone is welcomed like a special guest, regardless of the language you speak, and their signature drink, the Bellini, is unfailingly and consistently lovely. Sigh. The chocolate cake was a knock-out too.

At the suggestion of our concierge at the Duodo Palace Hotel (which I recommend for somewhere central, without being ridiculously expensive, full of friendly, helpful staff who are keen to help you get the most out of your stay in their gorgeous city ) we dined at Beccafico in Campo Santo Stefano, sampling their fried vegetable fritters, Mediterranean eggplant, tuna with sesame and citrus, and calamari cooked 3 ways, washed down with an Italian Sauvignon. A lovely warm evening, plenty of cause to celebrate, with just the right amount of well-dressed passers-by to make for some good people watching. The service was excellent, and after dinner they brought out a Venetian version of Vin Santo, as well as limoncello to finish with. No complaints there! Buona sera!