Last Saturday Vito and I wanted to take it easy, so we didn’t go very far from home and spent a wonderful morning in the Saint Mark area. First we stopped at the Studium bookshop to buy a couple of books on Tintoretto I need for the photography workshop starting in March, then we crossed the Piazza and went to the Correr museum.
The entrance is located beneath the Napoleonic Wing, where once stood the suppressed San Geminiano church. The museum extends along the Procuratie Nuove, on two floors, and it originated from the collection bequeathed to the city in 1830 by Teodoro Correr, a Venetian nobleman. Before beginning our visit, we stopped for a coffee in the museum’s cafeteria, opened in 2013, probably one of the coffee bars with the best views in Venice.
We sat next to the window and could see the Basilica and the Tower Bell straight in front of us. The walls are richly decorated with grotesque figures, the furniture is in Empire style and the lighting is soft. Lovely! Consider that the cafeteria has the same opening times of the museum and is open also to non-visitors, so it could be a great solution for a coffee (3 euros) or a spritz (5,50) in Saint Mark’s!
The visit starts with the Neoclassic rooms and a striking collection of works by Canova, then it continues on the first floor with several collections documenting many aspects of Venetian history and the archaeological museum, while on the second floor there is the picture gallery, with works by Antonello da Messina, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio, Cosme Turà, the Vivarini and Lorenzo Lotto, just to mention a few. I used to come here a lot when I was following the modern art history course with Augusto Gentili (the best professor I ever had) to examine the “Two Venetian ladies” by Carpaccio. This is just a portion of the painting, the missing top portion of the panel, entitled “Hunting in the Lagoon”, is at the Getty Museum in California and, believe it or not, one day I will go to California and see it with my own eyes!
To exit, one needs to return to the first floor and cross the imperial rooms, which have some really incredible views of the Saint Mark’s basin and the Giudecca island, and finally the –absolutely marvellous- ballroom. All these museums are incredibly rich and have so many works of art that I find it difficult to concentrate on everything, so I suggest to prioritize what interests you most otherwise you will need to spend a full day in there!
When our attention span dropped and our brains started craving sugars, we left the museum, took the second portico on the left (the one next to the Olivetti showroom) and had lunch at Basara Milano, a sushi restaurant I reviewed last year (see post). Vito couldn’t wait for 2017 to end so that we could start going to the usual places again, to re-test them and make sure we still like them, and he was really looking forward to savouring a tempura.
As the name suggests, the original Basara restaurant opened in Milan, but I imagine its Venetian sibling to be quite similar. Located in campo San Gallo, where there used to be a cinema (eventually transformed into theatre for tourists and currently a supermarket), this restaurant extends on three floors and I think it’s really one of the best options for a seated meal in the Saint Mark’s area!
Quality sushi restaurants, in general, are not cheap, but if you book at Basara for lunch there is the possibility to have the set menu, with offers that range between 14-20 euros. In fact –beware- at Basara you will find mostly locals, especially the gondoliers that work in the area, the sales people from the various nearby shops and very normal people like Vito and I. The design is minimal, functional and soberly stylish. The best time of the year to eat at Basara goes from spring to autumn, when it’s sufficiently warm to dine in their top floor terrace; I also like the first floor, where you can see the making of your sushi live! If it’s not so busy, though, you will be seated –like us- in the ground floor, which is still nice and beautifully illuminated by the big windows overlooking the campo and the reflections of light due to the mirrored walls.
Vito wasn’t able to stick to the set menu, he had wanted to return to Basara for so long that he had to have his usual fish tempura, crispy, not greasy and always served with sea salt and wasabi paste. He drank a Japanese beer, while I had some toasted rice tea.
As a main, I ordered a warm dish with rice sautéed with soy sauce, vegetables and prawns, a grilled sea-bass fillet and a salad, lovely as usual; while Vito had some spicy tuna uramaki rolls which were incredibly good (I ate at least two) and kept mixing his wasabi paste with the soy sauce (so embarrassing…).
Everything had been just right and we were ready to leave. To make our day perfect, before going home we stopped at Pasticceria Bonifacio to buy some frittelle, the traditional fried donuts eaten before and during Carnival. We only buy the Venetian ones, made only with the dough and covered in sugar. Many people prefer the ones stuffed with cream or eggnog, which is fine, they are really delicious! Just be aware that those are a modern and much richer interpretation of the traditional -and extremely poor- fritoe (recipe coming soon).
So, I hope I have been able to prove that spending a morning and early afternoon in Saint Mark's can be extremely pleasant and that it's possible to have a great time without spending a fortune and without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds! Let me know what you think and... talk to you soon!
Correr Museum Address: Piazza San Marco, 30124 Venez