You may have noticed from my social media that I have just been to Venice. I loved it!!! The post picture is taken from the plane flying over the Dolomites to Venice. The views were fabulous and made me want to go there too. I had not been to Venice before and was super keen to visit so as a treat (for our first wedding anniversary!) we went for a two-day trip. Travelling as a gluten-free, vegan (who also has other restrictions) always seems challenging but it doesn’t need to be. Even though we didn’t book the hotel until a couple of days before there are a few things I always do to make my travels less stressful and I know where I can eat.
First let’s talk about Venice. I wasn’t prepared for just how amazing the architecture is, how well the renovation and restoration of buildings seems to be managed and carried out and how beautiful it was. Venice always seemed like a bit of a cliche; it would be described as beautiful, amazing etc. and I half expected it to be like a theme park. Looks amazing but scratch the surface and it’s a shallow city thriving on tourism and the people who live there are just working in the theme park. Just like the Lake District (having grown up in Cumbria I am somewhat cynical of the lack of infrastructure, education, healthcare, employment for the people that live there)! However what I saw in Venice did not reflect that (I might very well be wrong!). One thing Venice has that I think makes the city work is a well established university and other universities, this makes a significant difference to the profile of the population.
We walked for two days solid. Only stopping to eat and drink and find our hotel room. The weather was perfect. I imagine the weather in March can be unpredictable and rainy but we were lucky. It was around 15 C and bright. Even sunny on day two. There was a wonderful haze looking out to the islands which made it feel like we were really on holiday. It was beautiful. The cool, dry weather was perfect for walking without getting too hot. The other good thing going slightly out of season was that there were not too many tourists which meant we could go to all the places we wanted to without fighting crowds. I’m not a fan of crowded places so it was perfect. Any later in the season and I think I would find it ‘challenging’.
On of my favourite films is Don’t Look Now which (based on a Daphne Du Maurier short story which is brilliant), if you haven’t seen it – you should, is set in Venice and shows the city as a mysterious, fascinating place full of dark alleys and sharp corners. I imagined Venice to still be like this (the film was made in 1973) and to my surprise and pleasure – it did. Not as dark as the film but it was perfect. Another film I was fascinated by is Death in Venice (based on the book by Thomas Mann) set on the Lido. We didn’t make it there but I’m thinking about the possibility of another trip.
Anyway – on to how I plan trips.
-One of the first things I do is look up vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Most veg*an restaurants also cater for gluten-free diets too. So vegan is my starting point. Then I look for vegetarians and then restaurants that cater for vegans. I search Google and also use Happy Cow which is pretty good. Listings are sometimes unreliable (e.g. restaurants that serve meat but cater for vegans often don’t or the food is bad).
-Then I look up locations, restaurant websites and reviews. I make a short list of restaurants I would like to visit. I rarely make bookings in advance.
-I print out maps with addresses and locations of my shortlist – very useful!
-I pack my bag with food for the flight (gluten-free, vegan rolls, sandwiches, pies!). I also pack things for breakfast e.g. cereal/ energy bars and snacks such as nuts, dried fruit etc.
When I do go away for any longer than a day or two I go self catering. It is much easier. I don’t actually enjoy eating out that much sometimes. However hotels can be pretty good. Breakfasts in hotels are usually buffet affairs where you can feast on fruit. This is not a great breakfast for me so I take down my own gluten-free, vegan rolls etc. and enjoy a bit of fruit and tea and coffee.
There are relatively few places for vegans in Venice (but I did notice lots of places advertising gluten-free pizza and pasta when we were walking). So my shortlist was very short. We arrived in Venice pretty early (we left home at 0415) so we were tired and pretty hungry and decided to have a really early lunch (it was just 1200) at La Tecia Vegana (it doesn’t have a website). It is in the Dorsoduro area of Venice close to the university. A really stunning area to walk around (and relatively quiet). It is the only vegan restaurant (I could find) in Venice. There are others which are vegetarian and cater for vegans. The service was fabulous and so friendly. They described every menu item to us and were super helpful. We had a very long, boozy lunch. It was perfect and set us up for an afternoon of more walking and finding our hotel.
So after checking in to the hotel and making the most of the complimentary drinks we went in search of dinner. We decided to just walk and find somewhere that looks good. I try to take a relaxed approach when I’m away to food (relaxed re: where and when rather than non-gluten-free, vegan food). My partner eats everything and although we usually eat the same food I actually quite enjoy eating salad and chips on holiday. I love chips. So one great meal in a nice vegan/ gluten-free restaurant is good for me. So we found a really nice Venetian restaurant where my partner could try some Venetian food and I could enjoy my chips and salad. They were pretty good!
The hotel we stayed in Hotel Abadessa had a fantastic buffet (for my partner who eats EVERYTHING) and I ate fruit and cereal bars. Plus they made me the best soy latte I have had anywhere. The hotel has incredible rooms with terrazzo floors, painted beams and glorious painted ceiling plus they have a garden (unusual for Venice) which would be wonderful to breakfast in in slightly warmer weather.
The next day was more walking. More and more walking. We got lost, realised we had passed the same point no less than four times and walked some more. We found a cute wine bar and a huge, sociable square to have a (very) late lunch in. We had a kind of tapas: olives, houmous, chips (again! I was on holiday) and great wine. Then more walking. I was glad of the snacks in my bag!
We had some snacks at the airport but I was too tired to eat by the time we got to the airport so didn’t worry too much. We got home at 0100 the next morning. I was totally exhausted and had the best weekend. I loved Venice and would love to go back (out of season!).
See my Instagram feed for more photos).