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Report 1085: Venice For Five Weeks
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2006
Page 16 of 34: Mercoledi 3 Maggio 2006
A Few People on the Ponte Paglia
The first time I look out of our windows, it is so foggy I cannot see the other side of the canal or even the water, but by 9:00, the mist is lifting. We walk up to Ciak's with Martin going ahead to buy an IHT. Brian has already gone out and had his coffee and bought an IHT for himself and Sarah, but since they have done the puzzles - there are two today - we must have our own.
Desperate for the feel of a newspaper and the smell of newsprint, we rush right back to the apartment to sit and wallow in the news, gloomy though it may be. Sarah goes off to do some shopping, and Brian, who has a headache, rests. By the time I have read the paper and done both puzzles, Sarah has come back with her purchases, and showed them to us now she and Martin are both napping.
I hang up the wash which Martin had put in the machine earlier, and I start to read, but a nap is too tempting so I sleep for a while too. It is lovely to lie on a comfortable couch with the sunlight dappling the walls and the sounds of the canal drifting in the windows along with a delightfully a cool breeze.
When we are all awake, I make some French toast for lunch. We eat watching the canal and trying to decide if the vaporettos are too crowded to use or not so bad today. Some days they are all packed and other days less so, but today is an inconsistent one. One or two crowded vaporettos are followed by an almost empty one, or the reverse. Just as we agree that the Circolare are the most crowded vaporettos, a #1 or an 82 passes jammed with people. The gondolieri are all out today, and in the morning, the workboats were bustling back and forth. In the early afternoon, there is a lull in work related traffic but some do pass with everyone on board enjoying the mild sunny weather. We see lots of men sunbathing on wooden pallets or soft sacks, and others sitting up, but with their faces raised skywards.
We take a vaporetto up to the Giardini because I am hoping that wisteria covering the pergola will not be too far past its prime. We get on the vaporetto from Hell. No one gets off and more and more people board at each stop. I cannot even fight my way into the cabin where I might have a chance of some kind person offering me a seat. It is so bad, it is funny.
We learn the main reason why the vaporetto is so packed at Valleresso when an enormous group of students on some sort of school outing gets off. Long after the waiting passengers have started boarding, and long after the boat should have been at San Zaccaria, the students are still filing through the cabin on to the deck and disembarking. The conductor asks a woman who is waiting at the side of the vaporetto to tell them to hurry please, but her voice is not loud enough to be heard. Finally, the captain himself comes to the door of the cabin and calls out an order for them to move along more quickly; eventually they are all on the dock, and we can move on. At San Zaccaria, more people get off and I can find a place to lean against the rail, which is good because my knees are screaming after standing for so long. Near the captain's cabin, I spot a young woman with a magnificent Giant Schnauzer; he is coal black with beautiful lines and a wonderful disposition because he is sitting in the midst of all the bodies, arms, legs and feet that have been pushing past him as calmly as though he were lying in front of a fire place on a quiet afternoon.
At Arsenale, a few outside seats open up, but Giardini is the next stop so there is no point in sitting down. The Riva degli Schiavone becomes the Rive dei Sette Martiri after the Rio dell'Arsenale. The name honors seven partisans who were executed in this area in 1944, eight years after the fondamente had been created. Smaller cruise ships and large yachts often moor along here, and we pass several on the way to the vaporetto stop.
The Giardini Pubblici has been created in an area where once four convents had been suppressed and destroyed. In one corner of the gardens a Renaissance Arch taken from one of the convents has been reconstructed. Statues in differing sites of disrepair are scattered around in green nooks and crannies. Many are surrounded by flowering shrubs. There are two playgrounds in the Giardini - one for very young children, and the other for slightly older children; there are also wide walkways and paths that can be used by runners, cyclists, and parents and grandparents pushing carriages and strollers. In the far corner is the entrance to the grounds of the Biennale where a variety of buildings host the every other year art exhibits.
We find a bench and sit watching people as they come and go. Across from us, two young men and a woman are having a picnic on the grass; they have a little brown dog that alternates his time between sitting with them and chasing pigeons. A couple with a large Golden Retriever walk by on a different path; the dog who is carrying a stick in its mouth, runs up on the grass and squats before catching up to her friends; the little brown dog goes careening over the grass to check out whatever the large dog has left behind.
The picnickers pack up, and leave just as an older couple comes and stakes out a sunny spot near them. They sit down carefully and start to open a small picnic for two. An older man is pushing an empty stroller while a little blonde girl skips along side of him chattering nonstop. A young man pushes a baby carriage containing an infant swaddled in bright yellow; there is a pink parasol on the carriage and a big pink bow on top. Several small toys dangle from the hood of the carriage and the parasol.
After a while, we walk over to the benches nearer the water. We see a large Japanese cruise ship glide by and we watch as it slowly turns into the Giudecca Canal headed towards the moorings for large ships. It is several stories high, and looks very luxurious with every stateroom seeming to have its own little balcony. We sit in the sun for a while longer, and then walk back to the vaporetto stop. I pause to take a photograph of a monument to Richard Wagner that has a relief of a crane - or perhaps a stork - with a nest containing several baby birds. I am not sure what the significance of the birds is to Wagner but it might be interesting to try to find out.
When the #1 pulls in it is less crowded than the one we rode up on, but there are still no seats. We are able to walk to the back, and luckily a man gets off an Arsenale so I have a place to sit. More people get off at San Zaccaria so Martin has a chance to sit down too.
By the time we reach San Toma, it is again a very crowded boat; it is a good thing we start our forward movement at Ca' Rezzonico because we need all that time to get up to the front to disembark. We walk home noticing that while it is pleasant in the shade, it is very warm in the sun. I wonder how many people are thinking that while it is chilly in the shade it is very pleasant in the sun. Sun lovers always seem to outnumber us by a large majority.
In the apartment, Sarah shows us the results of her afternoon's shopping spree, and we sit down to watch the setting sun work its magic on the water of the canal. It is one of my favorite times of day, and tonight is the first night, we get the full effect of water turning blue and gold, cream and silver, pink and blue and black and amber. When we leave for Carampane it is not yet dark, and there is still a fair amount of color in the water, which is made even more magical as passing boats create different ripple effects. I try to capture it with a camera, but I wish I had the talent to recreate it as a painting. Unfortunately, if there is such a thing as an anti-aptitude I have it for painting.
We walk down to Carampane by taking the Calle Bianca Cappello from Sant' Aponal. We cross the bridge from which we can see the Palazzo Molin-Cappello, the birthplace of Bianca Cappello. In 1593, this young woman was actually sentenced to death for eloping with a bank clerk. Somehow, she managed to smooth things over and wound up in Tuscany, the wife of Francesco Medici. We cross the Ponte Storto and in a few minutes, we are at the restaurant.
Dinner at Carampane begins with a bit of bad new; Piera has fallen and broken her knee. She is not in the hospital, but at home with her leg immobilized in a splint. Antonia, Francesco, Franco and Marco are busy picking up the slack since Piera does so much to insure that Carampane runs smoothly.
We are brought a plate of crab balls and batter fried vegetables on which we nibble while we listen to and discuss our dinner options. Martin, Brian, and I decide to begin with the shrimp with fruit which tonight is strawberries, pear, avocado and perfectly ripened cantaloupe in a light lemon and oil dressing. Sarah starts with scallops baked in three different styles - with leeks and cheese, with curry and with pancetta. Four clean plates speak for themselves.
For this first course, Brian selects 204 Soave Classico from Vigneti di Foscarino which is produced by Inama at San Bonifacio in Verona. It is a light and lovely accompaniment to our first courses. It even has an extraordinarily beautiful label.
Sarah and Brian both choose the Pesce San Pietro with Artichokes for their secondo and Martin and I both have the rombo con salsa agrumi - a citrus sauce. Once again, four clean plates speak louder than words about how much we have enjoyed our food. The rombo - turbot - is truly enhanced by the delicate citrus flavor of the sauce. Sarah and Brian find the young Italian artichokes very different from American ones and enjoy them and their fish too.
Brian, who has not really eaten all day, is still feeling peckish so he orders some pasta to take the place of the lunch he never had. His tagliolini with crab fills the bill and with a little help from Sarah, he is able to polish it off.
With our secondos, we are drinking a 2003 blended white from Collio. The Producer is Mario Feluga, a name we have come to know and trust, and the agricola is Russiz Superior, which markets the wine under the name Col Disor. Brian tells us the blend is composed of Tocai, Ribolla, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco. We all really enjoy it and have no problem finishing off the bottle; in fact, poor Brian has practically to wring out a few drops to have with his pasta.
For our dolce, we each have a glass of a Moscato accompanied by a plate of cookies. There are esse di Buranelle, crunchy raisin cookies, croccante, chocolate salame, some fruit jellies, and an unusual nut cookie. None of us can identify the nut or exactly the composition of the cookie - it is light and crunchy, and I really hope I will see Piera and get a chance to ask her about it since most of the cookies come from her recipe collection.
Finally, we say good night and start to walk home. The pavement near Carampane is a bit torn up so we go a slightly different way making the first instead of the second right from the restaurant. This leads us to the Campiello Abrizzi. In one wall there is imbedded an Austrian shell and a plaque citing the horrors of the Austrian war and occupation. We exit the Campiello through a narrow calle - in fact, it is called Calle Stretta, and is supposedly the narrowest in Venice, although I have seen others that would give it some competition. We arrive back on the main path just before the bridge leading to Campo San Polo. We finish our walk home taking a few minutes on the Ponte San Polo to admire the crescent moon.
Martin and I decide that tomorrow all things being equal we may just try to go down to the Palazzo Grassi and see the new exhibit there. Today, when we passed it, there did not seem to be any lines at all, and we know from experience that as May progresses Venice will be getting more not less crowded.
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