{Travel Tales: Malta & Italy, Part Nineteen – A Wild Boar Meat Assortment}

(The strange title of this post will become clear towards the end.)

Our final day of the trip we had a tour planned for Verona for the majority of the day, so on our last full day in Venice we wanted to make it count.  It was time to see all the major tourist attractions starting with arguably the most famous: St. Mark’s.  We also strategically planned our day to attempt to avoid a looming rainstorm, which would be the first time we saw any rain whatsoever the whole trip.

The day started on the late side, when we ventured downstairs for breakfast.  I ate the usual salami and cheese, but tried to get some fruit in there so the transition to super healthy food once I returned wasn’t so shocking.

We began the day with some good old-fashioned window shopping as we walked to St. Mark’s.  Though we had seen the outside on the day we arrived, we wanted to check out the inside, and visit some of the other sites in the area.  It was, as usual, insanely crowded, so I was glad we left it for this particular day and spent our other full day getting to know the quieter spots of the city before the hoopla that was St. Mark’s.

As we waited online to get into the basilica, we were watching another wedding photoshoot.  July is apparently a popular wedding time in Italy.  However, I was a bit confused, as it was a Monday and people generally don’t tend have their weddings on Mondays.  After seeing the extremely dressed down entourage with the bride and groom, I came to the conclusion that they were just doing a photoshoot.   I became even more certain of this when another couple got engaged during this photoshoot.  At times, the photographer would have the underdressed man and woman set up shots for the bride and groom.  I missed seeing any actual proposing, but at one point the couple had been doing the sample, and suddenly there was applauding and everyone was hugging them and looking at the woman’s hand.  My guess was that the photoshoot was set up in order to create the capture of the proposal.   Either way, it was an entertaining thing to witness while waiting on line.

There were no photos allowed inside St. Mark’s, but it was beautiful.  Almost every surface is gold mosaics.  I’m not sure what I find more impressive: this dome with the gold mosaics or the painted ones in Florence and Rome.  Upstairs, there was a museum  with a balcony that looked down over the church and gave you a closer look at the domes.  From there, you could also go outside and look down on the square.

Before the trip it was highly recommended that, instead of trying to climb the campanile at St. Mark’s, we travel across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore and climb the campanile there.  It had just as nice a view as St. Mark’s but much smaller lines – in fact, when we went there was no line at all.  San Giorgio itself is very small, consisting of the church, some gardens behind the church and it is home to an open-air theater and Cini Foundation arts center.  There’s also a private area which we couldn’t figure out – possibly residents?  There isn’t a lot to do there besides the church, though if you’re feeling so inclined you can visit the art exhibits.

Inside the church, there was an art installation that included a large circle of mirrors, somewhat similar to da Vinci’s mirror room but not closed off.  On the non-reflective side of the mirror were the words “Love Difference” in many different languages.  The exhibit continued with more mirrors with pictures of people attached to them.  I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was really confused by the whole thing, particularly the choice to install it in a church.  I literally found nothing about it on the internet to help ease this confusion.

In any case, after walking quickly through the exhibit, we got tickets and went to the top of the campanile.  The views were amazing, and I’m going to go ahead and agree that they were just as good as the other campanile (even though I didn’t try that one!).

While we were at the top of the tower, we saw some interesting labyrinths and a glass exhibit down below behind the church.  When were back on the ground, we headed over to see if we could look at them a little closer.  The glass snake, as I’m going to call it, was really cool.  It was made up of different colored glass bricks and laid out in a snake shape, shorter at one end and growing taller at the other.  The labyrinth we saw was unfortunately just for show, as I sign I found more amusing than it probably is will tell you.

The last item on our must-see list for the day was Doge’s Palace.  I had to look up what the heck a “doge” was before writing this post because I walked around the palace feeling like an idiot for not really knowing where I was.  Granted, I was able to put two and two together based on the building, but I learned that the doge was essentially the “duke of Venice,” the supreme authority of Venice.

The palace was huge, and had the most ornate ceilings that we saw – well, the sheer amount of them anyway (and not including the domes).  Not only were they painted, they were also covered in sculptures, and the walls were just as adorned.  We went from one impressive room to another, walked up the golden staircase, and saw the Bridge of Sighs, where they would transport prisoners.

When we left the palace, it was clear that the rain would soon be coming, so we wandered our way back to the hotel, making the daily gelato stop on the way (cheesecake and rum raisin) and doing a little more window shopping.  We made it back just in time for the drizzle to start and to get out of the path of the rain, hanging out in the hotel and deciding where we should have dinner.

We decided on Birraria, a restaurant located in an old brewery which was another one on the recommended list I got before we left.    The restaurant was located in the Campo San Polo, which we had not been to yet, but easily located on a map.  Although we got slightly turned around looking for it, as we often do, we found it and had some time to kill before they actually opened for dinner.  It was a really nice evening – the rain had cut the humidity and it was almost chilly (but not quite!) as we walked.

This was an AMAZING recommendation.  I chose it because of the first appetizer on the list, which involved squash blossoms.  I’ve had squash blossoms before this trip but really got into them in Italy, where they are more common than they are here.  It was delicious, and they had an extremely extensive pizza menu, and they all looked absolutely mouthwatering.  I went back and forth a lot before finally deciding on the Sospiri DOP, which was San Marzano tomato DOP, mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, wild boar meat assortment, truffle and porcini mushrooms cream.  I still dream of this pizza, and because of that I used part of the description to name this post since I feel like we did a vast assortment of things on this day.

Dessert was also at the restaurant, which was rare for us since we usually stuck to trusty gelato.  We probably should have in this case as well.  I had a chocolate hazelnut layered cake, and while it was good, I always forget that I don’t like Italian desserts all that much so I think I would’ve preferred gelato.  But it certainly does not take away from my extremely high recommendation of the restaurant!

Despite the fact that we were at the restaurant late, it still wasn’t dark when we walked back to the hotel, though it was just starting to get there as we arrived back.  It had to be an early night though, as we had our big day in Verona the next day – the last day of the trip!

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