Backpackers’ diaries: Venice … culture, carpaccio and cocktails

It’s arrivederci from Theodora and Zac but not before the well-travelled duo get a taste of Venice’s high life and high art

Zac and I are the only diners in Harry’s Bar, Venice, who are staying on a campsite – that is painfully obvious. We’re paying a princely £15 per night for a three-bed “tent-cottage”, which frees up funds to fulfil item one on my spawn’s travel bucket list: eat Italian food in Italy.

And since Harry’s Bar created not only the Bellini but the carpaccio, one of Zac’s all-time favourite foods, Zac, me, and my high embarrassment threshold, are ensconced in one of Italy’s most expensive restaurants. The staff are not just unfazed but positively charming. My penny-pinching order of a Bellini, a Virgin Bellini, sparkling mineral water and a large carpaccio arrives with the carpaccio plated up for two.

The Bellini is a peach explosion. The carpaccio – stripped of all that rocket, pine nut, citrus and olive oil nonsense and instead dressed simply with a mustard mayo – is, Zac concludes, after (excruciatingly) requesting and experimenting with extra mustard: “Definitely the best carpaccio I’ve had. I think it’s the quality of the meat.”

Better yet? The chaps provide another Bellini, crostini, vitello tonnato sauce and chocolate gelato on the house, leaving us extremely happy campers.

From the moment of arrival, stepping out of Venezia Santa Lucia train station onto the banks of the Grand Canal, Zac’s response has been a constant “wow”. We wander, a lot, over ancient bridges, along gondola-strewn canals, through sleepy backstreets, and alleys so narrow that two can’t pass side by side, past surprising vistas of distant islands and crumbling palazzos with motorboats parked as if they were the family car.

We eat, often and well: octopus with pesto and balsamic, ham sandwiches with 40-month-aged prosciutto, insalata caprese with dense tomatoes, fresh peaches from the Rialto market.

We explore the Accademia on Campo della Carità, soak up the art treasures at the Guggenheim on Dorsoduro, take in Saint Mark’s, the Doge’s Palace, bookshops, river buses and more. I wasn’t that much older than Zac when I last visited Venice, and neither the city nor a child’s reaction to it has changed one bit: pure wonder.

And on this note of wonder – with the joys of “Eataly” ahead of us on paper, but behind us in real life – it’s time to say farewell, readers.

• You can catch up with Zac on, where he’s in England, and with Theodora on, where I’m still stuck in Asia. Or you can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter as both of us explore Dahab, Egypt … diving in the Red Sea, petting kittens and hanging out with friends © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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