What better excuse to go to Venice for Carnivale than to celebrate your flatmate’s birthday? This past Friday, Laura, Sara and I jumped on an evening flight for the weekend. Last time I had been to Venice was over 8 years ago when I studied abroad. The city was just as I remembered, and I was absolutely mesmerized all over again by its beauty and simplicity.. it’s so unbelievably romantic. When we weren’t navigating down one winding, narrow alley after another, we would sit outside in the sun on a terrace for a refreshing aperol spritz or gelato. We walked nearly 9 miles both days, which we figured warranted trying all the local foods. Favorites included frittole (fried doughnuts) from Tonolo, fried meatballs from Ca' d'Oro –Alla Vedova, fried mozzarella and sardine sandwiches from Rosticceria Gilson (sensing a theme here?), yogurt flavoured gelato from Grom..you get the idea. On our last night, we met and spent the evening with some locals. They brought us to several bars completely off the beaten path and in Venetian fashion, we bar hopped. We would get a small glass of wine or half pint, and have small plates at each so as to sample the best. Three genuinely amazing spots included Taverna Al Remer where we enjoyed prosecco on the dock right by the canal, the cozy Timon Bar with its timber ceilings, and Ai Promessi Sposi, where enjoyed the cabernet house red for a mere 1 euro a glass, along with a plate of artichokes and octopus. La dolca vita!
I had the privilege of attending the World Fair in Milan for work, an amazing exhibition of nearly 150 participating countries. It just so happened that my friend from home, Carlei, was visiting over this time, so we decided to extend the trip by going up north to Lake Como (ya know, where George Clooney likes to vacation) after the expo. We had our fair share of pasta, beautiful views, and adventure – see below for some of our favorite memories!
Upon arriving in Milan, Carlei and I pampered ourselves at QC Termemilano, a gorgeous spa, only thirty minutes away by foot from city centre. In between plates of fresh fruit and hot tea, we wandered about in our white robes, making our way between the various pools, saunas and napping rooms. It was pure luxury – I had never seen anything quite like it before! Later in the evening, we had a special body scrub that left our skin feeling silky smooth, which was followed by an aperitivo. Outside, tables were set out with prosecco and hors d’oeuvres, including rosemary focaccia, wheels of cheese, cucumber sandwiches, prosciutto, and fruit.
Getting to Lake Como called for an early morning. It was spectacular to see the Duomo so early (5AM), and deserted of people. To get to Lake Como, we took the metro to Station Centrale, then a train, ferry and van. We were exhausted by the time we arrived to our hotel, Borgo Le Terrazze, but were greeted with such breathtaking views, that we soon forgot the hectic travel.
The town of Bellagio is very touristy, but charming nonetheless. Steep, narrow streets are home to restaurants and specialty shops. In the mood for something extra fresh, we stopped at a grocer for lunch and had mozzarella and prosciutto sandwiches made from scratch, on freshly baked bread.
Since we had limited time in Bellagio, we wanted to make the most of it. Seeing the lake by boat was the most sensible choice, but a pricey one. After wandering a bit, we discovered a boat service that was half the price of all the others. Turns out it was a boat rental, meaning we took the boat out ourselves for an hour. The ride was exhilarating – we were surrounded with gorgeous views and the weather was perfect. A half hour in, we turned around to make our way back, when the boat turned off. We were out in the middle of nowhere, with a “map” that served us of no use. In fear of potentially getting hit by a ferry, Carlei quickly grabbed a life-vest (still laughing as I think about this) and called down a passing boat, which came to our rescue. Turns out, water had gotten stuck in the filter. It was a blessing in disguise, as we were chartered back in style just the two of us – and got a refund. Talk about a win-win.
Later that evening, we dined at Ristorante Barchetta, where I tried squash blossoms for my first time (absolutely delicious!) and had seafood pasta, which I enjoyed with wine, of course.