I will just preface this by saying that I am downright terrible at getting a travel story on “paper” in a timely fashion. This trip was in September. For shame.
Apologies and scolds aside, on mere whim my mother and I decided to head off to Italy. It was last minute and I was under a lot of stress (like I’m not now! Ha!), so we decided to do what we had always prided ourselves on not doing: we booked a tour. Now before the more adventurous of you start tutting, we also decided to tack on a few extra days sans guide and bus because we are fiercely independent women, mind you. And it made the flight cheaper.
Let me just tell you this: only a fool books a flight from the midwest to DC to Reykjavic to Paris to Venice. I am that fool. Did it knock about $300 off our total flight cost? Yes. Did we fail to notice in-flight entertainment and food were not provided? Yes.
We flew Southwest to WowAir to some tiny French airline to Venice. Pony up the money, readers, it ain’t worth it. But why not fly to Venice from WowAir? Whelp…no flights. And for some reason, there were no reasonable flights from Paris to Milan (where our tour bus was) and no reasonable trains either and also, inexplicably, my mom up and decided way later that Venice sounded better so…whacky flights for us. Fast forward….
One not-very-picturesque bus ride into town later, and we’re pulling a classic Venice. We’re lost. We’re hungry (no food on WowAir!), it’s dark, we’re schlepping backpacks through the train station. I’m on GoogleMaps watching us pass the same hotel dot five times over. The hotel, it turns out, is hidden behind a restaurant on the second floor. We drop our things, take the hotel map with restaurant marked and trudge across town. Again, lost. 45 minutes of wandering go by until we realize that the hotel clerk marked the wrong street. We re-route.
Osteria Anice Stellato is nestled into to an unassuming street corner overlooking a canal. Red cloth umbrellas careen over wide-plank wooden tables, candlelit and glowing. Inside, a series of small tables and a communal farmhouse table sit empty. It’s warm enough that everyone wants to be outside, lounging amongst glasses of wine, little plates, and friends.
At the bar, we enquire. The restaurant is full, we are told, surrounded by empty tables. We can have a reservation for 6:30pm tomorrow. My mother starts to argue with German sensibility. “Let’s just go back to the plaza,” I say. “There was that little place you liked. We’ll come back tomorrow- now that we know where it is.” She gives everyone an exasperated, stricken look.
“It’s empty,” she protests. “There were even tables along the canal!”
We pass a bridge covered in twenty-somethings spilling out from a small bar. My mom comments on how this must be the old wooden bridge the clerk was talking about, one of the few left in the city. The lighting is low along the passageways. Its deeply yellow hue filters down the stone blocks and glows along the pavement. Couples pass with dogs in tow; a nightly past-time.
Tucked down a private avenue is Osteria Bentigodi di Chef Domenico. We are seated outside next to an open window. Inside, a quartet plays modern American rock on violins and fiddles, slowed down, romantic and relaxed. Our waiter is boisterous with wild, curly grey hair down to his shoulders. He is wiry in his fitted jeans, leather loafers, and waist coat. We settle in to the house red which is dead-cheap, deep and spicy. “I wish I knew what this was,” my mom whispers, leaning across the table.” But no one seems to know- it’s merely The House Red they say with a shrug.
I order gnocchi with pears and pistachios in gorgonzola cream. She orders fish with a myriad of micro-greens and a saffron broth. We dabble and swap and sweep soft bread through vinegar and oil and sauce. More wine. Children play tag in the streets.The chef comes out and chases them for a bit before coming over; he is wonderfully warm and congenial. He clasps our hands and wishes us a beautiful trip before bringing us ricotta cheesecake and panna cotta.
We stumble back to our tiny, glamorous little room. A splurge for our troubles. Spicy and rich Cavalli soaps line the vanity. Glutton that I am, I snag a few for the trip home before falling asleep in a deep feather bed with Murano and Burano on the horizon.