We slept past noon, which was a surprise and it felt really good. We were slow getting up and around and when we did eventually leave the hotel we went straight to the nearby square, Piazza San Marco.
We noticed one of the restaurants that had been hosting live music the previous night had a chamber orchestra set up again so we grabbed a table. We were brought a menu and a card explaining that there was a six euro per person surcharge for the music so we moved on. Not that I don’t support live music – au contraire – but c’mon, I just wanted a cup of joe to get the day started.
Right around the corner we found a nice outdoor patio overlooking the water so we sat down and ordered a couple of coffees and a waffle to share for a little snack. The waiter came back and pointed to my empty cup with a questioning shrug so I ordered a second coffee. Why not? The bill came and I gotta say I was rather surprised to see that it totalled almost forty-two euros, more than $60CDN. Turns out our coffees were priced at almost fifteen dollars each. It makes Starbucks look like a bargain. A younger me would have had a conniption and surely let it bug him/me all day, frugal as we were. However, the new me brushed it off with a promise that he would definitely be getting his morning coffees at the hotel’s free breakfast from now on.
That said, they don’t just plunk down a couple of paper cups around here. Our coffees arrived on a silver tray with decanted hot water and a side of cookies. Pretty good waffle too. Small, but good.
With no plans for the day whatsoever we started wandering, making a point to walk in directions we hadn’t already. Getting lost was the plan and we succeeded quickly and completely.
Partially by fluke and partially by design we happened upon the Teatro Fenice and stepped inside to enquire about tickets. I had looked up the opera house online and noticed upcoming performances of Verdi’s La Traviata, which seemed interesting. According to the website only the most expensive sections remained and unfortunately they were all priced at two hundred euros and up. We certainly weren’t going to be springing for those. I had noticed Rossini tickets for this evening were listed online starting at the relative bargain of fifty-five euros, but still. Once inside the box office I asked about La Traviata and whattya know we scored a pair for the following night’s performance for just twenty-five euros a ticket. Considering it costs twenty euros just to tour the building it felt like we had robbed the place.
(We pulled a similar heist at the CN Tower several years before when after balking at the thirty dollar admission fee to ascend the tower we instead made reservations at 360, the fancy-pants revolving restaurant that spins just one level below the observation deck. The ride up the tower is included with the price of dinner and of course I ordered the cheapest meal on the menu. It was three courses and absolutely delicious and priced at a mere $32. I’ll leave you to do the math. And after an hour of amazing panoramic views from our window-side table we were permitted exclusive after-hours access to the observation deck for as long as we liked. We liked long time. Follow this space for more sporadic life hacks.)
I asked the lady in the booth why I didn’t see the cheaper tickets online and was told that they only sell the less expensive seats in person so they can explain the seating situation face-to-face. Proving her point she explained that our seats were elevated at the back of the room and far away from the stage. No worries, we were just as interested in the theatre as we were in the opera and we reasoned that seats in the back would afford the best views of the room itself. Sold!
Pleased with our purchases we pressed on, crossing bridges, taking pictures and just generally being tourists enjoying a relaxing stroll through Venice. We stopped for lunch and had a curious exchange with the waitress. She asked if we both wanted a drink. M’lady said no, I said yes, but we indicated that we would both be having lunch. Then the waitress gathered up m’lady’s lunch menu and the drink menu and scurried off with them.
So the two of us decided what we’d be having by handing the single menu back and forth. When the waitress returned I ordered the lasagna and m’lady ordered minestrone. The waitress seemed shocked and explained that we must both order the same thing: either two lasagnas, two minestrones, or two orders of both. What??? We said no, we wanted what we wanted and she eventually relented, but insisted that said she could only do it if we were willing to wait. We told her that we were willing to wait.
And not three minutes later she brought our food; hot, ready, and just as we had ordered it. Weird. Very tasty though.
After lunch we wandered more and more, and every turn brought further splendour. We considered taking a gondola ride but then thought it might be nicer to wait until dusk. While window-shopping I found a coin store – a recent re-obsession that I had lost as a teenager when my childhood collection was stolen – and stopped in. I spent the next hour poring over countless ancient Roman pieces. I was interested in several pre-Jesus coins but they started at three hundred and fifty euros each. I ended up with a coin depicting Julia Maesa (mother of Alexander Severus) from the year 222. I selected it because it has a woman on the obverse and it’s in pretty good shape for its age. I bargained down from a hundred and twenty euros to a hundred and ten and though I suspect I may have overpaid (like I did with the coffees) I’ve decided to not worry myself about it (again, like the coffees). Besides, it’s both a souvenir from this trip and a nifty addition to my coin collection so it serves double-duty*.
We meandered and perused until about 6pm and then we went back to our hotel room and chilled out for an hour or so, eventually heading out to eat at a place just around the corner that had been recommended to m’lady. I had the gnocchi bolognese, m’lady had the cheese-stuffed maxi-ravioli, and we shared a half-litre of wine. It was a good meal, again not astounding (I was expecting to swoon over the food at every turn) but good, with a hell of an atmosphere.
Strolling back to the hotel it occurred to us that we had forgotten to take that gondola ride. No matter, there’s still plenty of time. We’ll certainly do it before we leave.
And there went our first full day in Venice . Not too shabby considering we spent half of it sleeping in.
*Doing a little research after the fact I’ve determined that if my coin is genuine then I probably paid a reasonable price for it. I suspect I will never find out if it’s real or not and that’s fine with me. It’s still a pretty coin and it’s unquestionably an actual real bona fide souvenir from my trip to Venice, so in that regard it’s clearly genuine.