Venice

Venice is a city that glistens: the sunlight rippling across the topaz lagoon; the gilt ceilings of St Mark's Basilica and the Gallerie dell'Academia; carnival masks; Murano glass and sugared cakes in the windows of pasticcerie
It is also a city of shadows. They stretch across red brick and roof tiles, wrap around Corinthian columns and creep through the alleys. Even the little glasses of wine, drunk with some ciccheti or panini are known locally as ombres (shade) - dating back to when vendors in St Mark's Sqaure had to keep their wine out of sunlight.
But there is colour too. Glowing Aperol spritz (essential for restoring weary legs), gelato, doors and shutters the same blue-green as the canals and crumbling plaster the colour of tardivo - a winter salad leaf piled high at the Rialto Market. 
   And it was here at the market that I started my first day in Venice (after un caffè latte, per favore).
There the alien-like tardivo mingled with artichokes, oranges and bouquets of dried chillies.
At the pescaria, sardines shone like silver and the squid - squashed up next to coral red mullet - managed to look like marble.


Stopping at the Rialto Bridge to take in the views (and dodging people selling selfie sticks) I made my way to St Mark's Square. The place would soon be packed with people celebrating the Carnival and watching the Flight of the Angel - for now my entertainment was seeing a seagull eat a pigeon...

   I looked around the Basilica - at its ceiling the colour of an old gold watch, before walking along the Grand Canal. Without a cloud in the sky, the sun was fierce across the gondola-filled water. The nearby Royal Gardens offered, as the sign would have it, "facilities for picnickers or those who simply want to sit and rest."
   I took a short ferry ride to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and climbed (or rather took the lift up) the church tower, arriving as the bells struck - which they do every half hour. 
The views were heart-stopping: on one side the lagoon stretched for miles, on another the snowy Alps peeked behind the city, which, on the other side lived up to its old name of La Serenissima.
   It was time to refuel and so I made my way back to the main island and through the labyrinthine streets (Venice can feel like a cross between an Escher drawing and Diagon Alley) to famed bakery Tonolo to stock up on biscuits and frittelle. I grabbed lunch at sweet little Bacareto da Lele for mini sandwiches and a 60 cent glass of wine.
After a quick rest I ventured back into the streets to find a chocolate shop I read about - the smell as you came through the door was worth the trek alone. But it offered jewel-like truffles and deliciously-rich and sweet hot chocolate too.
I couldn't miss sunset at the Grand Canal so headed back there, once again walking along its edge as gondolas became silhouetted against glowing domes and spires. Delicious ciccheti (uniquely Venetian bites in the same vein as Spanish tapas) and a chilled prosecco ended the day.


It was a cooler and cloudier start to day two - and I warmed up with a latte and a frittelle di ricotta.

It fuelled my trip around the Gallerie dell'Academia - a fairly unassuming building that hides Venetian masterpieces and a stunning ceiling decorated with the faces of dozens of eight-winged angels and 24-carat gold leaf.
   I strolled around the nearby area, watching birds perch and swoop over the water, before stopping for a spritz and delicious crostini beside one of the few remaining gondola workshops in Venice.
After getting lost in the streets (again) I stopped at the hotel for a rest before making my way back to St Mark's Square. This time in darkness, the ground and chequered tiles took on a watery glow as candles and fairy lights twinkled in the night.
   Time for another spritz, which in the evenings are served with bowls of crisps and tiny sandwiches - satisfying any post-work pangs or feeding the appetites of the greedy. Some pistachio and strawberry gelato duly followed.
But I thought I'd better have a proper meal, and stopped at a tucked-away restaurant for delicious baked raddichio and polenta, which oozed with melted gorgonzola; followed by some pappardelle ragu and washed down with a red wine.
Walking back to the hotel, I paused at the top of the Ponte degli Scalzi, watching boats cruise along the viscose waters and drifting into dock, into the shadows...
They say Venice is sinking, and when I left, it was.
The alarm for the acqua alta sounded at 5am and platforms had been set up as walkways - paths above rivers and pools that might form. 
The water drained away by the time I had to go back to the airport though - I walked along the streets as normal. 
And in the rain, under the lights, they glistened.


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