We almost didn’t make our Vatican tour. We had slept poorly the night before because our hotel gave us the worst bed and the noisiest room imaginable. Throughout the trip, we’d heard horror stories about the Vatican. The crowds. The stairs. The scale. These stories, fatigue, and some ambivalent feelings towards organized religion almost meant we missed out on our tour. But I’m very glad we soldiered on to see the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s, and the Sistine Chapel. We had a semi-private tour and while initially I pre-judged the blonde girl from Alabama guiding us, she did know her art history inside-and-out and told compelling stories.
We spent most of our time in the Raphael Rooms, as well as the Sistine Chapel (sadly, no photos allowed.). It’s horrifying amazing what centuries of unchecked wealth and privilege allow you to amass.
The size and opulence of St. Peter’s boggles the mind. Gold, mosaics, and beautiful statuary everywhere you look. It’s impressive, but I can’t help thinking that the carpenter Jesus, champion of the poor and downtrodden would want any part of that rich-man dick-swinging nonsense.
After our Vatican tour, we rode to Termini station for our train to Venice. Exhausted we grabbed cheap deli sandwiches, abandoned all pretense of hygiene, and ate them sitting on the terminal floor. This wasn’t exactly by choice—we seemed to have found the only train station with zero seating options.
We arrived in Venice and were awe struck by how pretty and novel a city can be when it has no cars. Of all the sites we’d see this trip, Venice, like many before us, claimed our imagination.
We boarded the vapporetto (public water bus) to our hotel and sat next to a drunk Californian named Scott. He was a nice enough dude, but thick as a brick. He had been to Germany and was blown away by the Holocaust. “I didn’t even go to the concentration camps, man, but I was still blown away. Like those were the people who killed 11 million Jews. I’m such a proud American that we didn’t do that. Like even though I was drinking, like it got me.” There was so much wrong with his understanding of the past and the present, I didn’t know where to begin. There’s only so much you can clear up about one’s ignorance in one vapporetto ride, so we decided to focus our energies on enjoying the scenery instead.
We docked, departed, and began searching for our hotel. Our hotel was near St. Marks as we achieved whole new levels of getting lost trying to find it. After many failed attempts, we called the hotel, Locanda Orseolo, and the amazing Lorenzo stayed on the phone and provided landmarks until we found our way there.
Locanda Orseolo was, hands-down, the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at. We were very disheartened to learn that they recently were forced to close when their current lease expired. We’re planning a trip back to Venice within the next year or two, but it just won’t be the same without this amazing hotel and its wonderful staff.
Lorenzo’s superior assistance did not end with getting us to the hotel. He also recommended a stellar place for dinner, Ristorante Trattoria Cherubino. The meal at Cherubino stands as one of my top 5 meals anywhere. I could eat there every day and never tire. We started with a refreshing spritz and appetizers. Their cicchetti plate boasted the entire sea—whitefish, squid, octopus, shrimp, and sardines. The seafood tasted like it had been caught minutes before it landed on our plate, dressed with a light coating of lemon and olive oil.
Clams in a tangy, spicy broth helped round out our appetizer tour of the Adriatic. So far, everything we ate had been magical, but the best was yet to come.
The cuttlefish ink pasta proved to be my “revelation” dish. Tender rounds of cuttlefish studded through pasta coated with briny, mossy, savory ink. Like eating something from the land and the sea all at once, your taste buds are on high alert trying to discern the complex flavors found in such simple ingredients. Eating it, you look a fright with blackened teeth, but it’s so worth it.
Tremors of delight still coursing through my system, we enjoyed a post-dinner walk through St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge savoring the relative absence of tourists at night. We capped the day with gelato. Lemon for Paul. Mascarpone and fig for me. After all that travel, walking, and eating, it was time for a comfy robe and slippers!