Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Page 11 of 30: Venerdi 6 Maggio 2011 - Savoring La Serenissima through People, Dogs and Dinner
The Rio del Traghetto/San Toma
I wake up with a start feeling as though I have overslept, but when I look at the clock it is not even 8:00am. Martin is sound asleep so I decide to do some exercises on the bed and then get up. The next thing I know it is nearly 10:00am. For me sleeping that late is a rare event although it happens more often in Venice than at home.
I have frequently heard and read that people find the noises from the canal disturbing and that they dislike the way the "water music" interrupts their sleep, but to me they are better than a lullaby. None of the water or boats sounds bother me nor do the church bells, but I am disturbed at time by loud voices of men working right outside our window or the fumes from boat engines left running under our open windows.
When we are both up we make our usual trek to Ciak 1 for breakfast. Martin buys an IHT and we sit outside at Ciak's and read and watch. At the table next to us a very attractive woman with long blonde here and a dark brown leather coat is sitting with an older man. Both are wearing wedding bands but, their body language, facial expressions and tones of voice do not convey the impression of a married couple, nor do they seem like lovers.
She has a portfolio with her, and at first she is very animated, talking a lot and using her hands to make a point. Not much later we see her wiping away tears. We don't want to stare, but it is virtually impossible to lift our eyes from the paper without looking right at them. We reach the same conclusion separately and at the same time. It looks as though it is an employer/employee or boss/subordinate relationship, and either she has been turned down for a job, had a project rejected or been fired. They are still sitting there with the man trying to console the woman when we leave - maybe it is or was a personal relationship after all.
A foursome of Brits cheerily discuss their inability to find San Rocco. I'd offer to help, but they are drinking coffee and quite happily debating the various ways they may have gone wrong. They might mean the charming B&B San Rocco, but they have no luggage with them so it is probably either the Scuola or the church and most like the Scuola with its plethora of Tintorettos. It is not very hard to find either the Scuola or the Church, and they seem to have the right idea of going behind the Frari so I leave them to their own devices. It is rather hard to miss San Rocco if one is in the general area.
As I had entered the Campiello, a small dark man with a map and guide book had asked me if this was the Campo San Toma. I had explained it was the Campiello and pointed the way to the Campo, which is just beyond it; as he passes our table coming back from the Campo, he smiles and nods: mission accomplished.
A group of Americans pass on their way to the small bridge leading to the Calle di Nomboli. A little girl of about eight or nine is saying quite loudly, "And I don't ever want to go back to Philadelphia." I actually rather like Philadelphia, but she is surely not the first one to express that sentiment.
We admire the canine procession. Today we see a gorgeous short haired brindle coated dog - quite large and quite unusual in his coloration. There are several cute fluffy little poodles still in their puppy cuts, and a gentle looking black lab. A chestnut Chihuahua either makes several appearances or comes from a large local family.
I have yet to see my friend, the big German Shepherd, who patrols the canal on the red and black work boat. It's been three years since we were here, and I had seen him so often over the previous ten years, he had become a landmark of sorts. It is possible that he is no longer up for patrolling the perimeter of the boat all day long. I'd like to think he is curled up somewhere still enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.
We walk back home. We have been having a problem with hot air coming out of what should be a completely shut down radiator. I call the always helpful Lucia, and she agrees to stop by during the afternoon to look at it and answer a few other questions we have.
I finish the Jonathan Kellerman I had been reading on the iPad and watch a little bit of an Inspector Lewis episode I had brought because I enjoy it so much. Martin gets both brave and energetic and decides to tackle our "left in Venice" bag, which had been soaked during the severe acqua alta of two years ago.
A small number of things have survived the soaking without getting mildewed. We had asked friends to check for us and already knew the pillows were mildewed and smelly, but there is one duvet cover that is in pretty good condition and the lovely tea pot and cups that our German friend, Eva, had brought us many years ago seem perfectly usable as do the scissors which surprisingly didn't rust at all.
On the other hand the socks, Martin had carefully pinned together in pairs now have big rusty areas where the safety pins that held them had gotten wet and rusted. Other things such as some clothing, our bath rug and some old dish towels, are just not worth the bother of trying to clean as they were old and worn and left behind to be used in emergencies such as a non-working washer.
Lucia arrives, and tries again to shut off the heat; we tell her that we do not need either heat or air conditioning in this weather. After pushing lots of buttons and talking to someone on the phone, she thinks she has solved the problem. We give her the clean sheets and towels she had washed in our little machine; she irons them at home and brings them back when we are due for fresh ones. She also locates the missing clothes we had had in the washer on Wednesday. She had put them in a hamper in a plastic bag, but we had not thought to look in the bag just the hamper which held mostly clean towels. Lucia is very patient with the gaps in my Italian and is very clever at finding different ways to say the same thing until I finally catch on.
After Lucia leaves we have our lunch. We usually have small lunches in the hope that we will have stockpiled unused calories for larger dinners. We always enjoy sitting at the long table and eating while canal watching.
It is a gorgeous day, and it seems as though every single gondola and sandal is out as well as an enormous number of police boats. I am not sure if the police presence has anything to do with the Pope's impending visit, the fact that it is a gorgeous day or a well orchestrated effort to keep the speed of water taxis, work boats and private boats down to the legal limit. Everything on the canal does seem to be moving slowly compared to past years. I have also seen relatively few rowers, but then I remind myself that this is a Friday, and for most people it is a work day.
Today the vaporettos are a mystery. They seem to be on a weird schedule. Often a #1 will be followed by two #2, and then another #1, but sometimes they alternate, which is the way the schedule indicates they should run, and other times they come so close together they are backed up to the front of our building waiting to pull into the pintail. Three almost empty boats will be followed by one so packed it is actually riding low in the water. The traghetto, which often has lines down the long calle that leads to it, is currently ferrying only one or two people at a time. I wonder where everyone is, and how long this can possibly last.
A quiet afternoon lets me finish the Jonathan Kellerman I had been reading on my iPad and do some writing. We make reservations within walking distance for the weekend before leaving for dinner at Vine da Gigio.
After debating whether or not I should take my camera, I decide against it and for once choose right. Although there is plenty of room on the vaporetto, the late afternoon light that is so magical fades quickly today, and I would not have taken many, if any, photos.
Vini da Gigio is an amazing restaurant. Small, always crowded with a ceiling so low the taller waiters barely have clearance, I should feel claustrophobic and almost assaulted by the noise, but I adore it. The ambiance is busy and bustling rather than frenzied, and cozy and charming rather than small and crowded.
Although they have excellent fish we almost always have meat here. We begin with the same dish - homemade tagliatelle with duck ragu. The pasta, made with chestnut flour, is perfection, and the sauce is hearty without being heavy. The Barbera di Alba 2007 that we are drinking goes really nicely with the duck, which has a more intense flavor than any chicken would ever have.
Our second course is one I have been waiting to have since our last visit three years ago - their lamb with seasonal vegetables. The veggies are a wonderful assortment of carrots, zucchini, peppers and other goodies lightly cooked and piled in a bright colored heap in a circle of beautifully pink lamb slices. No one asks how we want our lamb done, and I suppose if I had wanted it well done, I might have been upset, but for over 35 years I have been an advocate of rare to medium rare lamb. The lamb is tender and juicy with a wonderful crusty exterior. A dish has to be pretty remarkable for me to carry the taste of it in my head for three years. Happily it lives up to expectations.
Our table is in a little niche right in front of the bar where the dishes are plated and the food comes out. It is fascinating to see the different plates some with familiar dishes and others with mysterious ones streaming from the kitchen on the arms of waiters who never stop moving or smiling. I wonder what they would say if I asked for a small taste as they whiz by us.
The diners all around us seem happy and relaxed; one man, who is dining alone, actually requests two extra glasses so he can share his carefully decanted red wine with the couple at the adjacent table. I am tempted to wave and call "hello," but would never have the nerve.
Martin has the semi freddo croccante with chocolate sauce for his dolce; he is impressed by the fact that it is served at the perfect temperature; still frozen but thawed just enough so it is easily edible and not too croccante to scoop up or chew. I taste his chocolate sauce; it is dark and intense with just the right degree of sweetness. I have a grappa ribola from the Veneto; it comes in a lovely glass that encourages one to swirl it before and during sipping. It fascinates me how a particular glass or plate can improve your drinking or dining experience so much.
We pay the reasonable - for such a feast - tab and walk to the vaporetto. Our luck has changed, and we just make one instead of just missing it. A young couple makes room for me at the rail. The water swirls out from the boat like a dark silk skirt; the lights sparkle on the water like jewels, and the ripples are hypnotically sensual. Who could not love Venice on such a night? We're certainly hooked.
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