Monsieur and I were certainly getting our feet wet in more ways than one, as I guided him around Venice. Having visited the Guggenheim Collection, where I’d once spent my days as an intern, we then headed for the Rialto area – famed for its market and covered bridge. In fine weather, this would have been a lovely walk, but the rain was pelting down and the afternoon was already dark so we tried to keep dry by hopping onto a vaporetto. Unfortunately, the crush of smelly and sopping tourists forced us off at San Silvestro, a couple of stops earlier than we’d anticipated. From there we followed the lonely, narrow calli (alleys) reminiscent of Death in Venice, towards the bustling Rialto, the more frequent appearance of mask and souvenir shops once more indicating that we were approaching a tourist zone. In between the tee shirt vendors and the snow shaker shops were windows filled with an enticement of pastries and boxes of Baci; others displayed strange assortments of clothes that older Italian mammas might buy, the large, natural-coloured undergarments making Bridget Jones’s ‘big knickers’ look small. A few pairs of pants and a couple of bras later, Monsieur and I found ourselves in the thick of Venetian tack-dom: Rialto. This is the place to look for a stunning polyester scarf covered in blurry prints of gondolas and yet more masks. Perhaps it’s the I LOVE VENICE tee shirt that you’ve always craved, or the miniature gold plastic model of St Mark’s Basilica with the teeny ‘Made in China’ sticker on its base. Whatever your memento of choice, it’s all right there in Rialto.
Shielding the lens from the rain I stopped to photograph the market stalls which remained bravely open beneath the bridge. Their brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables provided a shot of optimism on such a dull evening. Up the bridge we went, then down the other side and through to Salizzada San Canciano, where we ducked into a bar, wrapping our ice block hands around the warmth of our coffee cups, the strangers at a corner table whilst local men lounged against the bar, mid-passionate discussion with the proprietor.
The grocery shops across the calle lured us out of our toasty haven and into a couple of delightfully well-stocked delis. The shelves were filled with fascinating arrays of grissini (bread sticks) flavoured with herbs or rock salt, pastas of all descriptions including shapes I didn’t recognise, thick pear juice in little bottles, apricot nectar and the omnipresent cans of coke. Side by side stood containers of artichokes and clams and the couple behind the deli counter dished out slices of prosciutto and fresh buffalo mozzarella from a large white bowl of milky liquid. Monsieur and I so love our food that visiting the Venetian version of a corner store is as much a pleasure for us as gazing at a famed work of art. Dazzled by the options before us, we were unable to choose anything more exciting than bottled water for the hotel room before heading back to the windswept Fondamenta Nuove.
It was time to rest our feet numbed from a long day’s walking in the cold and we were grateful to walk into our cosy room, a wall of warmth blasting us as we opened the door. Even so, it took us ages to warm up, shivering yet fully-clothed, beneath blankets. For this reason, we decided to ditch the idea of walking back to the restaurant at Tre Archi, opting instead to dine again at Algiubagio.
For returning to Algiubagio so immediately we received a hero’s welcome at the door and our waiter of the previous evening poured us glasses of complimentary prosecco to show his appreciation of such budding loyalty. Then he put us into the capable hands of his sommelier colleague, who helped Monsieur choose a bottle of red wine. The label on the 2001 merlot told us it was Piovene Porto Godi, by Fra I Broli, a pleasant drop on a winter’s night. Then the deliberation over what to eat began.
We started with handmade pasta twirls tossed simply with cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley and small chunks of buffalo mozzarella. To this the waiter added a drizzle of the sought-after Sicilian olive oil called Planeta; the result was a plateful of springtime which we demolished all too quickly.
As a main, Monsieur tried the house specialty of Angus steak. He could have chosen the chocolate sauce to go with it, an absolute delicacy to many carnivores, but the conservative in him favoured the pepper sauce. He mmm-ed his approval throughout.
I went for the duck with mango salad, small, soft slices of meat in a fruity sauce. Although an intriguing blend of tastes, it wasn’t really me, and I silently wished I’d had another portion of that twirly pasta. Once more, we decided to leave without dessert. Perhaps if we came back we could try something sweet?
Once more we sleep heavily and I dream strange scenes of drinking Campari with Monsieur at a bar behind the train station. I don’t even DRINK Campari. How strangely the subconscious works.