The Floating City: A Weekend in Venice (Part 2)
The next day the clouds were spitting, struggling to rain. We went for breakfast at a small coffee house on the corner of our street. It is a terrible curse to visit anywhere in Italy and not be enthusiastic about coffee. It meant I missed out on a much-celebrated cultural touchstone. Then again, I did enjoy the foodstuffs they served, and they had English Breakfast tea, so it could have been worse. Arancini are wonderful little balls of cheesy goodness that I would encourage everyone to popularise, and the cured meats were not too shabby either. Unexpected that Italy would have good meat and coffee, I know.
When we emerged, it was raining heavier, and since we had to wait for another friend to arrive, we walked to the end of the Grand Canal. It was fun to stand at the edge of the city and see it end so abruptly. Venice just finishes when you reach the edge; there aren’t any docks, or wharfs, or even walkways. It was like a city at the end of the world, until you observed the middle distance and saw the great bridge connecting Venice to the mainland. I made a point of splashing in a select few puddles, a decidedly poor decision as my jeans were soaked through by the time we dipped into another wine bar/coffee shop to dry off. I didn’t mind so much.
Once our friend arrived, we dropped their bags off at the studio and struck out in no direction in particular. As we walked, the rain lapsed but the clouds stayed, which made for a moody meander through the backstreets until we settled on a place for lunch. Our table overlooked a canal which lent itself to the ambience quite nicely, even if the restaurant was nothing to write home about (I say as I write about it). Sea Bass, Octopus, and Tagliatelle were our orders. I was still wary of fish at this point, which is something I’d rectify later, but for now I was the only one eating pasta at the seafood festival.
Afterwards, we popped into a few thrift shops, tried on some leather jackets and fancy hats, then walked back home. On the way I popped my head into a church to have a look. I love visiting old cathedrals and chapels when on holiday. They’re places you can be alone, even when surrounded by other people, and have time to think on things. They’re pretty places to ponder, and nice for a history enthusiast like me, even if they can’t all be the Sistine Chapel (which I didn’t get to see when I went to the Vatican since it was under renovation! Going to the Vatican and missing that is like going to Italy and not drink the coffee!)
We were all exhausted by the time we got back, but since we had dinner plans back at San Marco our relief was short-lived. After a quick turnaround we left again. Thankfully the rain remained absent, but the evening was far from dry. The wine was the only part of the meal that any of us really enjoyed, so it was the only part of the meal we endeavoured to enjoy. We enjoyed it so much that we were stumbling around with enjoyment when we left. One of us ended up on the floor, they were enjoying themselves so much.
But the night wasn’t over yet. Melissa had been in touch to tip us off to a speakeasy in the city; the first and only speakeasy in Venice. It was inside a deconsecrated chapel, and it became a most sacrilegious evening indeed. A lofty ceiling, devilish cocktails, and a converted altar which served as a lectus (a sort of Roman couch) made the whole thing feel like Trimalchio’s after-party. We were almost alone too; for the few hours we were there, only two more guests arrived, and they left swiftly once I was on my knees singing Ave Maria and revelling in the acoustics. I felt it only fitting for the surroundings. Between the hymns, holy spirits, and salted bread-sticks, it was a truly blasphemous communion. I would highly recommend it. When the evening finally ended we walked down deserted streets until we made it home, and we all slept a deep, undisturbed sleep.