Saturday, October 24, 2009

Venice: Wandering the streets and markets

Venice was the last stop on our trip. We almost didn't come here. We heard it was overrun with tourists (true), smelled bad (not true), expensive (true), and was not nearly as romantic as everyone made it out to be (not true).

In spite of all the tourists and the obvious "Disneyland" feel that the whole city has, Venice was a thoroughly enjoyable place with great food and stunning architecture. As I've mentioned before in posts about Siena, there is something very peaceful about a city without cars. The air feels cleaner, you notice your neighbors more since you have to walk everywhere, and everything just seems to slow down a little bit. In Venice, you get all of those benefits plus canals. There's no other place like it, and as you walk around the city you are constantly struck by the opulence of it all. To build an entire city state on water at the time that Venice was built takes an extraordinary amount of wealth and no small measure of conceit.
In building there city, it is clear that Venetians wanted no visitor to have any questions about the extent of their wealth. While modern Venice may be overrun with tourists, they are all concentrated in a very small swath of the city. It's almost as if they are cattle, being herded along the widest streets and canals which are lined with shops, stands, and restaurants all selling the same thing.
If you go off these well trodden paths, however, Venice offers a maze of quiet streets full of these doorbells.
I'm not sure how anyone could walk by these and not press them. Among the many places to visit is the Rialto market. This market, which is more than 900 years old, is THE place to go for fresh food, and, when we went, it was surprisingly uncrowded.

The Rialto market is divided into two sections. One sells a large selection of seasonal produce ranging from assorted mushrooms
to squash blossoms, tomatoes, and cucumbers
and a colorful assortment of chiles.
The second part of the market is filled with tables piled high with fresh seafood, much of which comes from the waters surrounding Venice.

Fresh scallops are in abundance, and, unlike many of the scallops I see for sale here in the U.S., these are sold in there shells, so you can use the whole scallop, not just the abductor muscle. I actually didn't know you could eat the other parts of the scallop until we had an amazing scallop tasting at Sushi Yasuda, where Chef Yasuda served us every part of the scallop.You can also get octopus
freshly caught sardines and anchovies
and monkfish. I really wish I had a market like this near my place.

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