Our goals for the day were to do grocery shopping at the Rialto Market, try to get rush tickets to La Fenice, visit T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, El Grande Canal, and Campo San Barnaba where a scene from Matt’s favourite Indiana Jones movie was filmed. However, we spent most of the day lost and trying to dodge the crowds, which didn’t quite work out for us…
Our first morning in Venice
I got up around 6:30am, leaving around 7:00 to go in search of breakfast and groceries. The streets were vacant for people but for people walking their dogs and street sweepers brushing the pavements with wicker brooms. The occasional boat ferrying produce and boxes of goods passed through the canals and pigeons looked down from their roosts.
I had a hard time finding the local bakery even with Google Maps! I’d be absolutely hopeless in this city without data. I got us a custard croissant, an apricot croissant, and a raisin pudding, and olive bread for 5.80€. A couple produce grocers were opening by the time I exited the bakery with my arms full of goodies, but no one sold milk.
The doors to the supermarket were open so I walked on in. A shopkeeper gave me a harsh word in Italian which I took to mean “We’re not open yet!” I googled the hours and they didn’t open for another hour!
I returned home, plated our pastries and put the kettle on. Matt got up and opened the shutters onto the street, feeling like a real local! CBC radio was blocked and the Italian radio we found was awful disco music, so we put on Apple Music while we ate our breakfast.
Teatro La Fenice Opera House
With Matt being such a fan of opera, no trip to Venice would be complete without a visit to La Fenice for him! The venue is famous in the world of theatre, however the building itself is quite new. It had originally been built in 1792, burned down a couple times, before being rebuilt to its current state in 2003 in the style of the 19th century. Apparently the last fire was arson from an electrician who didn’t want to be held responsible for long delays on his work!
We had ruled out pre-booking opera tickets for a show as they started at $200 a piece. However, we read online that you could get rush tickets for 50€. The opera Otello was playing that night at 7pm. If we couldn’t get rush tickets, we thought we could do a tour of the building instead in order to view it from the inside.
We got incredibly lost trying to find La Fenice. Both the GPS in Google Maps and Apple Maps had trouble located us and navigating us through the Venetian streets. Eventually we found our way. The ticket office didn’t offer last minute tickets, but sold us two obstructed view tickets for 25€ each to this evening’s performance of Otello.
We went on a self guided tour of the theatre. We were given an audio guide and meandered through the theatre behind a tour of German tourists. The theatre was much smaller than we expected. It was tiny! But what it lacked in size it made up for in splendour. The interior was covered in gold guild. The seats were pink and cream. The walls were soft teal or gold velvet with Phoenix motifs with paintings and sparkling chandeliers!
Rialto Food Market
Of all the destinations we had preplanned for the day, I was looking forward to the Rialto Food Market the most. I love grocery shopping in foreign countries (and at home too!), so the idea of shopping at a historic market in Venice was quite thrilling! I read it closes by 1pm at the latest, so we wanted to get there early to do our grocery shopping for the next two days.
We visited the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal then made our way to the Rialto Market. It was very underwhelming compared to St. Lawrence Market! However, we got a kick looking at all the exotic fish and the little dogs milling around for treats!
There wasn’t much in the way of variety – all the sellers seemed to sell the same stuff, at the same price, and displayed in a similar way. We had hoped to find fresh pasta, sauce, bread and veggies to bring home for dinner, but nothing caught our eye. The fish was pretty impressive, but neither Matt nor I were in the mood for fish that evening. We had an opera to go to and knew we needed something we could make quickly and with confidence. No learning how to cook exotic shellfish or unknown yummy looking fillets.
I was getting peckish, so we went in search of pizza. We didn’t find any, but found an unassuming cafe in a quiet square with an accordion player. We sat in the wrong cafe’s table, then the server ushered an old lady out of a table in the sun so we could sit down. It was extremely awkward but none of us spoke the same language!
We split half a mushroom and ham sandwich between us and Matt had an espresso. Afterwards we went in search of a washroom. The public washrooms here cost 1.50€ – the same as our sandwich!
We made our way back to the Grand Canal with the intention to follow it to more tourist sites. It was the long way but we couldn’t trust Google to navigate us anywhere! However the crowds were too much, so we ducked into the alleyways again.
Matt was hungry, so we followed signs to a pizzeria. We ordered a margarita pizza to share and Matt had a beer. The staff were much more interested in chatting with their friend than serving customers – even when it came time to pay!
Everyone else in the restaurant was eating pasta – we should have taken that as a warning sign! The pizza was horrible! It was definitely from frozen. The crust was like cardboard and the dribble of cheese and sauce on top was bland and greasy. I wouldn’t have chosen to pay 1€ for it, let alone 26.50€ for the meal.
In Co-op Grocery Store & Dinner at Home
After our horrible restaurant experience, we went promptly to our neighbourhood supermarket: In Co-op. There we got fresh pasta, sauce, pear juice, cheese, Nutella, and other delights for less than a horrible pizza at a Venetian restaurant. We were going to eat well tonight!
We went back our AirBnB to unpack our groceries and have a nap. Our neighbour across the courtyard was cooking with the windows open, signing along to death metal at full volume. I slept from about 2:00-4:00, awaking to the sounds of children playing outside.
Matt made a lovely dinner of fresh pasta with olive bread from the bakery to sop up the sauce. We’d chosen one of the more popular sauces from the market as we couldn’t read the labels. It was almost sold out, so it must be good! The mystery sauce we’d got from the supermarket turned out to be eggplant tomato! Matt enjoyed a glass of Italian wine with his dinner and we had Milka chocolate for dessert.
An Evening at the Opera: La Fenice
While I’d slept, Matt had been researching the sight-lines of the obstructed view seats we had bought tickets for La Fenice. Apparently you can get “Listen Only” tickets for 15€! He wanted to prepare himself for the worse – but actually our tickets (Seat 118-119) on the top floor weren’t so bad.
We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the theatre, both to account for getting lost and due tot he fact I am not used to wearing high heels on uneven flagstone pavement. We got to the theatre 20 minutes ahead of doors opening, so went to the cafe next door for an espresso.
To avoid the 3€ service fee, we ordered from the bar instead of sitting at a table. Most people were doing the same, including musicians with their gear! We expected they must be heading to the same performance.
Matt got a mini chocolate cannoli to go with his espresso and I ordered a decaf with a custard mousse that was crimson red – like a phoenix for La Fenice! Staff was very friendly and quick to serve. We ate at the counter like everyone else before going on our merry way.
We had been a bit concerned about the dress code, but had no trouble getting in with Matt wearing black jeans. I had my ‘opera outfit’ on – my black sheath dress with pearls. I think I’ve worn it to every show we’d been to abroad together: Palais Garnier in Paris, the Met in New York, the HARPA in Iceland, and now here!
Our seats were in the very back row with no one behind us or in front. Part of the stage was hidden from view, but we could stand without disturbing anyone if we chose. I was content to sit. Despite having the cheap seats, we still sat on pink velvet with cream detailing – luxe!
A young couple arrived late, taking the seats on either side of us. The man got out his phone to film the performance and the woman went between texting on her phone at full brightness and snapping her fake nails. Fortunately they left part way through the third song!
Then there was a constant chatter down the aisle who would not be quiet despite plenty of audience members hushing him. It climaxed in a bit of a commotion – I have no idea whether someone got through to him finally or he was thrown out! Even at the finest opera houses in Europe, you find the poorest theatre etiquette!
I enjoyed studying the costume and set design through the binoculars we’d brought. The story was predictable and easy to follow along. The second half was much more dramatic than the first. We were quite pleased we went!
Walking through Venice at Night
We walked to Saint Marco Square after the performance. The square was practically barren of people but for a rose seller desperately trying to force roses on any couple who passed. The square was gigantic and bordered by stately buildings. Our route took us past high end boutiques and fancy restaurants, but for the most part the streets were dark and lonely. The city seems to shut down at night!
Back home, I made a snack of olive bread and cheese. Matt caught up on the news and I tried to figure out the ferry timetables. Tomorrow we tour the islands – but I have no idea when the first boat goes! We want to head out early to avoid the crowds. Wish us luck!