30 September 2022 by Angela Perro
Wexas travel’s European specialist Angela Perro spent a week navigating northern Italy’s rivers on board Uniworld’s elegant S.S. La Venezia. Here she details how her most recent adventure changed her perspective on this region.
From the moment we arrived, we were made to feel completely at home aboard the beautiful S.S. La Venezia. We were welcomed with open arms and a glass of Prosecco in elegant Hari’s bar, which became one of our favourite spaces on the ship, especially during evenings where live music and opera nights brought a captivating energy and allure to the ship. The S.S. La Venezia itself has bags of character too, with impressive Murano glass and gilded accents bringing on board an authenticity and assurance that you are indeed in Italy. Another of our favourite spots was the sundeck, a bright spacious terrace where we spent many laid-back afternoons enjoying breath-taking views of the passing landscape.
The authentic Venetian decor did not end there; our stateroom was beautifully decorated and featured big windows and a French balcony looking down from the third deck. Storage space was plentiful and the beds were as big as they were comfy! In fact, the entire ship was re-decorated and revamped in 2020 so everything felt fresh and was oozing class.
Angela's stateroom aboard S.S. La Venezia
A journey with Uniworld can definitely be considered a gourmet experience. Breakfast and lunch buffets never failed to impress, and the diversity was particularly notable - delicious Italian salads, fresh seafood and the best cuts of local meat were beautifully presented, and a real culinary treat. Daily specials were also available, with a mixture of hot and cold dishes ever-present and cooked to order. Of course, we wouldn’t be in Italy if we didn’t sample the huge selection of desserts and home-made gelato too. With nightly four-course à la carte meals and locally sourced produce complimented by wine pairings by our sommelier, it was a match made in heaven for a foodie like me. But undoubtedly, the star of the show was the mouth-watering lamb rack with rosemary gravy, accompanied beautifully by a Mediterranean ratatouille and mascarpone polenta, perfectly complimented by a full-bodied red.
A fine example of the ship's excellent cuisine
I can also say that I have learnt a thing or two about real Italian cuisine. Apparently, for all my life I have been eating the wrong type of pasta with Bolognese sauce! It turns out, for natives, spaghetti is not the obvious choice. Instead, locals argue that there is no better match than pairing this famous sauce with Tagliatelle. This wasn’t the only thing I took away from our day trip in Bologna – I can now impress my dinner guests by making my very own pasta! Service was truly impeccable, with attention to detail from a start to finish. Having been to this part of Italy before, I did not expect that I would be learning so much more about its culture, food and traditions. River cruises are without doubt a fantastic and authentic way of exploring the lesser-known parts of a country – and S.S. La Venezia and her staff were at the centre of this thanks to their immensely knowledgeable guides and varied excursions, all of which have allowed me to see the country from a completely different perspective.
Learning the art of pasta making
All of our excursions were fantastic days out and as educational as they were interactive. However, the most impressive experience for me personally was unquestionably our day in Venice and the Murano glass blowing demonstration by an expert Venetian glass master. Incredibly, within seconds he was able to create beautiful pieces of art using precision techniques and his impeccable mastery of glass. What looked like pure magic to us in fact takes many years of patience and learning to master, typically beginning in childhood. To become a Murano glass master one must start young, working alongside experienced maestros, picking up unique techniques and ancient secrets, taking up to 15 years before one can start creating their own designs.
A further favourite was Burano. We all instantly fell in love with its bright colourful houses and small island charm - an absolute must-see when visiting Venice. Our local guide told us that if we were to buy a house here, there are strict rules that must be followed. By law, each house must be brightly painted in a colour different to that of your neighbour’s house. Boutique vibrant houses separated by narrow canals were picture perfect, and are definitely worth a visit for a relaxing walk, gelato and souvenir from a traditional lace maker that the island is particularly famous for. As you can imagine, Burano does get very busy with tourists during the early afternoon, however as we were docked all day, we were able to have this beautiful place to ourselves in the evening. It was these small details which really set Uniworld apart from any other small cruise liner I have been on.
The delightfully colourful Burano
We spent several days in Venice visiting the impressive Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica which is considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world because of its intricate mosaics which cover floor to ceiling. But it wasn’t all sightseeing and history lessons. We were introduced to a fantastic local market by our chef Thomas, who helpfully explained what to look out for when picking the best octopus and fresh vegetables which we then had a chance to try for lunch!
Panoramic views of the Grand Canal
To top it off, an afternoon water taxi flaunted the best of Venice’s sights. I must say, it was breath-taking to witness Venice from the Grand Canal with its famous Rialto Bridge and other iconic buildings forming a idyllic backdrop; a highly recommended and certainly memorable end to our trip.