Exploring Giudecca and Lunching at Trattoria Altanella
Spring, what a glorious season! After the darkness, the cold and the dull days, finally flowers start to blossom, people take off their jackets and the sun is warm again. I am thrilled about the new season, as if it were for me we could banish winter and cold temperatures forever. Besides, spring and early autumn are the best periods weather-wise in the lagoon, as winters are way too cold and foggy, while summer months can be harsh (last year August was fierce...). Whereas now, it's warm during the day, chillier in the evening and the sky blue and clear. Just how I like it...
Last Saturday I had planned to visit the photography exhibition at Casa dei Tre Oci in Giudecca, but then speaking with my husband it came out that he had never been on San Giorgio's tower bell, so -considering that he's always reminding everyone he's a true Venetian born in Santa Marta- I had to fix that gap! So, we took a vaporetto from San Zaccaria Monumento at about 9:30 and went on our mission. San Giorgio is always stunning, although now -like other parts of the city- it is extremely deteriorated and needs interventions. [if you are curious to learn more, I loved the article on San Giorgio by Katia The Venice Insider]
Anyway, the San Benedictine church designed by Palladio is a real marvel. Before exploring its interior, we paid the 6-euro ticket, hopped onto the elevator and went on top the tower bell. From there, the best view of Venice, much better than the one from San Marco's square (cheaper ticket, better view...). We were lucky because it had rained two days earlier and we could see the mountains just behind Venice. Vito seemed enthusiastic and we moved around the bell for a good while pointing at this and that and commenting on how well we could see everything. We took our time, then we left and, after admiring the two Tintoretto paintings placed at the sides of the main altar, we proceeded towards Giudecca.
We got off at Zittelle, the first stop, and walked in search of the sun. We turned left after Ponte Longo and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere around Campo Junghans. The building used to be a factory and if I am not mistaken, it was the first clock factory in Italy. It was turned into a residential area with a theatre between 2005 and 2008 and now it is lovely and quiet. We sat at the bar (which is also a pizzeria and self-service restaurant), leafed through the papers and ordered drinks. After a while, I left him there, so immersed in his supplements he seemed, and wandered around to take pictures until it was about time for lunch.
We had booked at Trattoria Altanella, a traditional restaurant that has been open for at least 3 generations. I went there for the fist time two years ago, then I returned with a group of British designers and another group of lovely people working in the fashion industry (once or twice a year I help organise an incentive tour of Venice for a fashion company based outside Padua) and they all loved it. Personally, what I really like are the interiors and the terrace overlooking the Ponte Longo and the Canale della Giudecca. It has the right and most authentic feel of Venetian trattoria, with nice wooden interiors, a marble bar counter, lots of painting covering the walls and a short menu featuring few but good and fresh homemade dishes.
Although still not hot, we sat outside (as everybody else did...) at the front table, the one with the best view. We drank some house white wine and, while nibbling on bread and addictive crackers, we discussed what to order.
To start, Vito asked for baccalà mantecato with polenta, while I opted for a mixed dish of boiled fish. His creamed cod was delicious and the portion generous, I could feel there was no milk and this is a very good sign. As for my starter, it had a taste of octopus salad, two canocie (mantis shrimps), boiled schie (grey shrimps), boiled squid dressed with a few drops of olive oil and two prawns. Yum...
We then continued with a second course each. Vito had a nice frittura mista, which included a mix of local fish like sardines, sole, grey shrimps and calamari. In fact, I must tell you to distrust the places where a frittura contains only calamari rings and prawns, which most likely are frozen (otherwise it would cost you a fortune!). He loved his dish, as it was exactly what he wanted and I never make it at home (I know it's strange, but I'm not that fond of fried food...).
As for myself, I ordered the stuffed calamari! I had been dreaming about them for almost a year, because the last time I went I had another dish, which was delicious, but I confess that when the girl next to me was served those babies I felt extremely envious. Well, let me tell you they were superb: stuffed with their own tentacles, chopped and ground, fresh ginger, breadcrumbs, garlic and some parsley and covered in a slow-cooked tomato sauce. Amazing! If you go, you must try them (another must, in my opinion, are their gnocchi al nero di seppia).
I was satisfied and just wanted to enjoy the view for another while, so we did... but I was unaware that the owner (who knows my husband) was about to offer Vito a grappa tasting... How could he refuse?! I think he drank three, then when they were about to bring him a fourth one I opposed and said I had no intention of going straight to bed from there! We laughed and the owner brought us some buranei biscuits shaped as S, rigorously homemade and super tasty.
When we got up to pay, I think he was afraid I was going to get angry at Vito, so he offered us a slice of their jam tart. The tart is special because both base and jam are homemade and the jam is prepared with uva fragola, the small and sweet strawberry grapes. Did I like it? Oh yes. Was I going to get angry? Impossible, all that sugar made me a lot sweeter!
From there we went for another walk. I wanted to revisit the gorgeous Villa Hériot but unfortunately it was closed. So we just wandered around until the sun went down and we crossed the canal to return to central Venice, get a few things at the supermarket and go home.
I love Giudecca and I would advise anyone seeking peace to visit it. My father was born there when the island was a lot poorer, now it's a good mixture of local families, university students and enlightened foreigners. Every year there is an art festival in September, then there is a beautiful cloister called Ss. Cosma e Damiano where local artisan make the most beautiful objects and jewellery, an awesome museum, some art galleries and a Marco Polo bookshop. Do I need to add more?