When my old friend Tash complained that she didn't have anyone to go on holiday with and she really wanted to see Venice, I don't think she was prepared for the alacrity with which I leaped at the chance.
My mum went when she was a student and loved it; various friends have been and loved it; I had read Helen MacInnes' The Venetian Affair, watched Roger Moore drive his hovergondola in Moonraker, and for an art exam once I had to copy a Canaletto. This was enough to convince me that I fancied a weekend in Venice too - plus the added enticement of Italian food and drink.
Here, because I'm sure you want to know, are some of the things I ate and drank:
- Fried calamari and scampi with chips and polenta
- Chocolate and berry ice cream
- A slice of pizza and a pastry from a baker's on Burano
- Maccheroni alla puttanesca, which the waiter kept trying to take away before I'd finished mopping up the delicious buttery-anchovy sauce
- Coffee ice cream
- Olives stuffed with sausagemeat and fried in breadcrumbs
- Pizza with ham, mushrooms and Brie
- Spritz with Aperol
- Bellini (bottled premix)
- House white
- Spritz with Campari
- Lots of caffe latte
Wanton gluttony aside: I got up at twenty past three on Friday morning, caught a bus to East Croydon and a train to Gatwick, and met Tash at the EasyJet checkin desk. The flight was quick and smooth and soon we found ourselves on a waterbus (vaporetto!) to Venice. We alighted, blinking in the sunshine, found our B&B with canal views, dumped our luggage and set off to explore.
We checked out the Piazza San Marco, not too crowded this time of year, and admired the views from the windy summit of the bell tower. The city is very safe, difficult to get lost in (there are signs for the Piazza and the Rialto everywhere you go) and traffic-free, which means that apart from the clothes everything still looks very much as it does in old paintings.
On Saturday we bought all-day boat tickets and visited the islands of Murano, famous for glass-blowing, and Burano, famous for biscuits. On Murano displays of glass vases, tableware, jewellery and lampshades glow from every shop and the manufacturers show off their wares with public sculptures. On Burano the stucco houses are painted much more brightly than in the city: oranges and pinks and blues.
We also stopped off at Mazzorbo, which the guidebook described as the 'pretty island of cats', but we didn't find it noticeably prettier or cattier than either of the others.
But mostly we just poked about in the little streets, alongside and across the canals, stopping here and there for coffee or ice cream, pointing at things, and turning to each other with huge grins to say "Hey! We're in Venice!"