We have been very busy since returning to Umbria the end of April getting the farmhouse rental in order, tackling the landscaping, planting flowers and getting the vegetable garden going, but we decided on the spur of the moment to take a quick trip before our first guests of the season arrive. We made the decision even before we returned to Italy this year, that we would make time for some brief trips whenever we could squeeze them in, because it can get very easy to get involved in the day to day chores and not take the time to enjoy and explore the amazing country we are living in. In other words, we need to stop every once in a while to smell the roses! We had an anniversary coming up and decided to head to Venice for a a couple of nights. Venice has always been one of our favorite Italian cities, and when we lived in Milano for 8 years we usually visited Venice several times a year. For some reason though, since we bought our property in Umbria, we just haven’t managed to get back to Venice for far too many years. Though it was a last minute trip, I was able to book a nice hotel that was centrally located and that accepted small dogs, and we packed up and headed north. We were surprised to learn that we are only a four hour drive from Venice, and after an early start we were fortunate to be booking into our hotel around noon.
Apart from being an architecturally gorgeous city, and one very unique one I might add, one of our favorite things about Venice is the seafood and we planned to enjoy as much of it as physically possible during our brief stay. Don’t get me wrong, we love living in Umbria, but it is a landlocked region, and apart from lake fish, fresh seafood is not that readily available. Folks in Umbria love their pork, in every form imaginable I might add, and though I enjoy porchetta as much as the next person, I really crave good seafood as well. For our first meal in Venice, we stopped at a local bacari, or wine bar, and had a crisp glass of the local white wine along with a plate of cicchetti, small snacks served in bacari or osterie across Venice. Venetians do amazing things with with simple baccala, or dried cod, and we sampled our way through a large plate of various seafood delicacies. For our anniversary dinner, we dined at a restaurant that has been a long time favorite of ours, but unfortunately although the food was still as good as we remembered, the restaurant has now been completely taken over by tourists and there wasn’t even a single Italian dining in the place the night we were there.
Our first full day in Venice began by meeting Nadia Danesin, a native Venetian who conducts small private tours in Venice, sharing places off the beaten track that most folks would never discover on their own. We met Nadia through FaceBook, and it was lovely to finally meet her in person. We didn’t have much time, but Nadia managed to squeeze in a brief tour for us, and we then we caught up over coffee. For lunch, we met up with another FaceBook friend who lives just outside of Venice, Monica Cesarato, and who is multi talented. Monica gives cooking lessons as well as hosts a popular food and ghost tour. Her blog is also packed with information about the area so is well worth visiting before you book a visit to Venice. Since Monica knows all the best bacari to visit, we met for lunch and she led us to a few different osterie/bacari where we shared some Venetian seafood specialties, and I think I have finally been converted to appreciating baccala myself! Who knew dried sea cod could ever taste THAT good? Monica suggested a restaurant for us for dinner called Corte Sconta, and it too was an amazing choice. They bring you a number of seafood appetizers for a set fee, and then you choose either a primi (first course) or secondi (second course). As soon as we were told that moleche (soft shell crabs) were on the menu, we both knew exactly what we would order, and I must say that they were the very best soft shell crab I have ever tasted.
Our final day in Venice started out grey and cool, and it appeared as though we might get some rain. We had debated back and forth if we should stay in Venice until after lunch and then head back to Umbria as we would have loved to try a few more bacari, but we both were hoping to make another visit (our third in three days) to the Venice seafood market and this time to actually buy some fresh specialties to take back with us to Umbria. Although it is wonderful dining out in great restaurants, when you love to cook as much as I do, and have the most amazing, freshest seafood available at your fingertips from somewhere as the amazing Venice Fish Market, all you want to do is buy everything you see and rush home to prepare it in your own kitchen. After much debate and checking out every seafood stall, we ended up buying some scallops, scampi, two whole Orate, and some fresh sardines. Not wanting our treasures to spoil, we packed them in ice and headed back to Umbria to prepare a seafood feast that evening. It was a great, though very brief trip to Venice, and despite the fact that we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, it was great to get away from the crowds and head home to our quiet little piece of paradise in Umbria. Our trip was a nice break away from our daily chores, we managed to enjoy a lot of amazingly great seafood, and I even brought back a gondolier with me!
Amazing seafood appetizers at Corte Sconta.
The Best soft shell crabs (Moleche) I have ever tasted!
Our Venetian Feast @ Home In Umbria
Fresh Orate bought @ the Venice Seafood Market
I stuffed the Orate with lemons & fresh herbs & then wrapped them in fig leaves before we grilled them.
Fresh sweet scampi.
Marinated and grilled, all these sweet, tasty scampi needed was a squeeze of lemon.
I never bought scallops in the shell before with the coral still attached!
Once cleaned, I simply topped the scallops with some seasoned homemade breadcrumbs & a drizzle of olive oil before I popped them into a hot oven for a few minutes.
Gondola Ride Anyone?
(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)