And the Venice Tour Begins!

And the Venice Tour Begins!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

You know we love our markets, so we take time to stroll through the bustle of the Rialto this morning. This shopper decorated her boat to come to market.

Every guidebook on Venice will advise you to not order fish at a restaurant on Monday, since the market’s closed that day. Tuesday morning the stalls of the Rialto fish market are squirming with the freshest shrimp, octupus, eels, squid and more.

This lucky gull gets the first taste of the day.

Russell and Susan arrive right on time, gliding right up to the San Stae stop on the Alilaguna from the airport (just one of the great things about Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo – easy access to anywhere!). After the long overnight flight, on which they were able to sleep quite well, they’re ready to explore Venice, and receive a nice Benvenuto (welcome) as we glide under the Rialto.

Up and over, we cross the Grand Canal

and begin to show off the shabby chic beauty of this watery city

Explaining campos and wells, floating fruttivendolos (fruit and veg seller – one of my favorite Italian words – it just sings!) , and typical Venetian nibbles, cicchetti,

stopping for the quintessential Venetian aperitif, the Aperol Spritz (invented right on these islands), we fill the early afternoon with the sights, tastes and sounds of La Serenissima.

After a refreshing siesta, our guests are ready to continue, and we glide along the Grand Canal to dinner. In late May, the days are lasting much longer already.

Disembarking at San Zaccaria, just beyond Saint Mark’s, we smile at the sunset brushing a glow over San Giorgio Maggiore. We’ll be atop that belltower tomorrow morning.

An al fresco dinner in the garden of Al Giardinetto is as wonderful as ever – I hope they continue delighting us for years to come!

Could we  have seen this seafood

fresh at the Rialto early this morning?

A Venice Treasure or Two

A Venice Treasure or Two

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium


The sun’s sparkling a welcome as our guests land in Venice today.

We invite those who arrive early to see a few of our off- the- beaten path favorites, such as that church we can see from our hotel window, San Zaccaria. Inside is a jewel-toned Bellini with the sweetest little stringed- instrument player – always brings a smile.

We love the layers of history in this church – here an unmistakeably gothic altarpiece, richly complex, all gilded spikes and intricate detail. Last time we had to peek through scaffolding to see the wonder so it’s a pleasure to view it in all its glory, unobstructed. Above (not visible) is the first glimpse of the Renaissance in Venice, a vaulted ceiling painted in 1442 by Andrea del Castagno, with lifelike figures of saints.

Below this chapel is the original structure, a 10th century colonnaded crypt, the ancient doges’ tombs lapped by a shallow lakelet. We walk on planks across the always wet surface, in awe of the riches stacked one upon another in this small space.


This Castello district, just beyond Saint Marks, is one of our favorite areas of Venice, with a more lived- in feel, and dozens of little treasures. We take a peek at the Carpaccios lining the walls of the Scuola of St. George (no photos allowed here), stopping at a lovely corner for a snapshot.

Back on Piazza San Marco, we find a part of the facade that’s not under scaffolding (it seems like some part always is!), glittering against the blue sky.

Just in time for dinner, the rest of our group arrives,

and we kick off a Music and Markets week with platters of delicious seafood and a warm welcome at al Giardinetto.
On the itinerary tomorrow? A special surprise – can’t wait to share it!



Gondoliers for Lunch

Gondoliers for Lunch

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Next on the itinerary: Our spring tours in Barcelona, Venice or Prague

The Wine Tour is over, our new international friends are flying home, and our flight to France departs around 9 tonight, so where shall we spend the day? How about Venice? We have a restaurant and a couple of hotels to visit in connection with our May Venice and Veneto tour , and it’s a gorgeous sunny day, unlike the cold rain of yesterday – perfect for getting lost along a Venetian canal.

We leave our luggage in a storage office on Piazzale Roma, and ascend the high arch of Calatrava’s bridge near the train station. We’ve caught glimpses of Venice from afar as we approached, but our first true view comes from atop the bridge – aah, that inimical watery beauty!
A few of our May guests will arrive late in the afternoon on the opening day of the tour, so we want to plan dinner in a restaurant not far from the Hotel Concordia, where we’ll be staying, overlooking Piazza San Marco. We’ve read about Al Giardinetto, about 10 minutes from the hotel, on the Gardens of Venice blog, and call to reserve a table for lunch.
How to get there? A vaporetto (water bus) from the station, then walk…. but it’s so beautiful we decide to walk the whole distance,

and enjoy one postcard view after another as we find our way.

It’s not warm enough for a garden table yet, but the interior is one of the prettiest we’ve seen in Venice – very inviting.

A table full of locals, gondoliers all, is a sure sign that al Giar- dinetto’s a good choice!

The menu’s full of lagoon specialties, such as our granceola (crab) starter, served simply with olive oil and lemon.

Kirk’s squid ink tagliatelle with a bright lobster sauce demands another photo – a wow of a look as well as taste.


And my spaghetti alle vongole has more meaty clams than any I’ve ever had, in a garlicky sauce that’s perfection. So impressed with this kitchen…. Venice is one Italian city where we’re NOT sure of finding a great meal.

All that remains is a pile of shells!

To be continued…