We returned from our short Dublin break Tuesday evening and had to hit the ground running. Considering that I'll be working for the entire weekend, yesterday I decided to take a free morning, to give me the chance to 're-familiarise' with Venice and remind myself why I love this city so much. Although mid October, the city is still hyper-crowded and, living in San Marco, I was feeling the need to escape from the crowds and find peace.
So, I headed towards Dorsoduro, via Accademia Bridge. I stopped to buy a book for Vito at Libreria Toletta (it's three years he has a fixation with Italian crime stories, so I got him 'The Eye Stone' by Venetian author Roberto Tiraboschi), crossed Campo San Barnaba, Campo Santa Margherita and then Carmini. This area of Venice is always relatively quiet and, in addition to being incredibly beautiful, it is also rich in things to do. When I was at university I used to go to the Carmini church quite often to study the painting of The Nativity by Cima da Conegliano (1509), but in general it is a little jewel: not much visited, small, and with that very magical atmosphere typical of places of worship. Next to the church there is also the Scuola Grande dei Carmini, where you can see works by Tiepolo, Padovanino and Piazzetta (the ticket is only 5 euros and it is really worth it). Just after the Carmini, along F.ta del Socorso, there is Ca' Zenobio degli Armeni with its beautiful garden, often rented for weddings and private parties and now open to the public for a temporary exhibition, which will end shortly.
From the fondamenta, I decided to take the long way and turned left at the end of the street, crossed the bridge, passed in front of the San Sebastiano church, also called the temple of Veronese (which I highly recommend visiting) and walked through one of my favourite squares in Venice: campo Angelo e Raffaele. Here time seems to stop, the pastel colours of the walls, the stone well and the small details that remind me of a very normal life, like the laundry hanging outside, the plants on the window sills and the small tricycles for the kids. An area that exudes tranquility and peace. Here there is also a very good quality restaurant called Trattoria Anzolo Raffaele, a place I would recommend to wine lovers for a gourmet experience.
I think I had already mentioned in some older post that my mother adores the Angelo Raffaele church and the story of Tobias and the fish, in fact she always brings her foreign friends there and she often gets as a present the book 'Miss Garnet's Angel' by Salley Vickers, which is largely set in that area. I have to say it's not my type of book, a bit too romantic... so, if I have to choose a book set in Dorsoduro I usually opt for 'The Comfort of Strangers' by Ian McEwan, although the area that is more recognisable is the one close to Toletta.
Anyway, going back to my relaxing morning, I was on a budget so for my lunch I walked a little further and reached Caco Nero, one of my favourite bistros in Venice. I just love this place, the sort of spot I'd expect to find in a city like London or New York. The atmosphere is arty, the people very friendly and the food honest, hearty and good!
Caco Nero is located off the beaten track, in fact it is very quiet. It's open for lunch and early dinner (it closes around 9 pm) and the menu is creative, short and based on local seasonal ingredients. The value for money is brilliant, as the dishes range between 8 to 10 euros and the portions are generous and filling. It doesn't have traditional dishes, but honestly I don't care! This sort of cuisine is much more similar to my home cooking than the one offered by most typical restaurants (largely addressed to tourists) and their menu always includes options for vegetarians and vegans. I love the whole furniture and objects. The cups and saucers are all from flea markets, vintage and very stylish. The decorations change over the seasons, so now it's all about pumpkins, squashes and red and orange flowers. Beautiful.
The part in the front is very bright and overlooks a canal, while in the back area of the restaurant they have just set up a winter garden, so on the red brick walls you will see little birds, ivy and other leafy branches. The glass lamps have a contemporary design, and then all over the place you will meet little animals like the two monkeys, one white one black, the black cat and the hungry dinosaur. So cool! Not to mention the background music and all the design and contemporary art magazine available for clients. How could I not relax in a place like this?!
The food, as already mentioned, is good! You will usually find two first courses, two/three salads and two warm second courses. The people that come here are mainly locals, university students and professors. If I was still at uni, I would definitely go more often, as the menu is never the same (something rare for budget places in the area...) and the ingredients healthy. The cook is a lovely woman, really petite size-wise but with a huge passion and willingness to do well.
For lunch I had a vegetarian curry with vegetables served with basmati rice on the side. Not only did it look wonderful, it was also delicious (by the way, I think it was vegan, as the milk was coconut milk)! I sat on my own, leafing through the papers first and then quickly glancing at my book ('Understanding a Photograph' by John Berger, bought in Dublin). I ordered a pot of green tea and enjoyed the view of the students sitting on the green area opposite to me while waiting for my lunch to arrive. When Antonio, one of the managers, brought me the dish, I was surprised by the marvellous yellow colour and the inviting perfume. So good! Exactly what I wanted.
After lunch I went for a brief walk along Fondamenta Rugheta, relaxing in the super quiet streets that preceded the faculty of Architecture and the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli. Consider that this was a popular (meaning poor) area once, while now it seems one of the few places where one can really find peace.
What a lovely morning I had and how nice it was to stop at Caco Nero for lunch! In fact, if you are the sort of person into authentic/real life experience and look for laid back and easy going places, I think you really ought to come here and spend a morning at the discovery of contemporary Venetian life!
Bye for now and talk to you soon! have a great weekend!
Caco Nero Address: Dorsoduro 2344, 30123 Venezia VE Phone: +39 041 524 6042 Opening times: Monday- Friday 9 am - 9pm / Saturday 9 am - 3 pm (only brunch) / Sunday closed