A short visit to two great Italian cities

Just after Easter this year, we visited Venice for a couple of days and then took the train to Bologna (just one 1 hour 20 minutes away).

I’d been to Venice a couple of times before and was determined to stay away from the crowds this time. Tourists seems to gather around St Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge and markets, so we chose Canareggio, on the top part of the islands, where the boat comes in from the airport. Canareggio is a lovely, relaxed area and if you get up early, you’ll see the school kids making their way to their lessons and nuns catching taxi boats.

Nuns in venice

Walk along Fondamente de la Misericordia and you’ll find restaurants and cafes – some more touristy than others but mostly (especially in the evening when the tourists have gone back to the southern part of Venice) the place is filled with locals. We had breakfast at a gorgeous little French cafe run by two Italian women with delicious cake and coffee. We ate at al Timon one evening – which is a meat feast if you like lamb or steak.  Next door is a fabulously friendly place serving great cocktails. All the food we had was excellent in Venice, from spaghetti vongole with bottarga (a favourite of mine) to delicious and simple pastas with a rich tomato sauce. We did stay away from the main touristy areas as I’ve found some of the restaurants to be a bit hit and miss.

French cafe in Venice

Cake and coffee in the French bookshop

cichetti Venice

We had lunch at the sun at Algiubagio watching the boats come in – I particularly loved the beetroot fusilli. We wondered around and made it down to Rialto market, which is worth a visit to see the superb sea food and giant lemons. We spent a while at the Guggenheim and had lunch there, which was lovely. We loved Fondazione Pinault and its installation art – an incredible building.

A big recommendation of mine would be Combo, which is a workspace, reasonable hotel, bar with a huge courtyard populated by local students and tourists.  It has a brilliant atmosphere and serves coffee and pastries, wine and snacks at very reasonable prices. A great place to hang out and people watch. Everywhere serves cicchetti (various toppings on bread) and most places give nuts / crisps with your evening Aperol or wine. Such a lovely thing.

Waling to the train station, we stopped at pasticceria Dal Mas and filled up our bags with local treats and coffee for the journey to Bologna. Would definitely go back there! So much choice and all delicious.


Bologna by train

Italian trains are brilliant.  We upgraded one up from economy as it was so cheap and the lovely attendants handed our crips, biscuits and water free. Bologna was boiling hot when we arrived and we got hotter as we dragged our luggage to the airbnb near the old city.

Bologna is known as the red city – the buildings are all a shade of red or orange and absolutely beautiful. I’d been here a long time ago in Winter and it was so quiet – the Spring months are busier full of students and increasing amounts of tourists. Food is excellent. We were recommended Scacco Matto and we were blown away.  The place, the friendly owner and the food! It’s a dream of a place, with simple tables outside looking on to Nonna in the vegetable garden.

Bologna red cityscacco matto