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 15 of 30: Martedi 10 Maggio 2011 - East Side - West Side All Around the Town
Calatrava Bridge as Seen From Below
It feels warmer this morning than it has been. The passengers in the traghetto - our favorite weather reporter - are all wearing short sleeves. We have our espresso and kiefers and then walk over to Billa. You can put off food shopping almost indefinitely; in fact, making a meal out of next to nothing is one of my favorite challenges, but when we are down to our last roll of carta igenica, it is definitely time to hit the supermercato.
In addition to the carta igenica, we pick up some fresh tagliatelle, two boxes of pomi, some toothpaste and a small piece of watermelon. On the way to and from the Billa, we check out the pocket books in the shop windows. There are an amazing number of shops selling pocket books, but nothing grabs me - too big, too small, too bright, too boring; no strap, too short a strap - I guess I am either picky or not in the right mood for pocketbook shopping or more likely out of step with what is in fashion-no surprise there.
Martin walks ahead since he is carrying the grocery bag. Once we are home, we read the IHT AKA The Global NY Times, and then I read a little more of The Lincoln Lawyer. Next thing I know, Martin is asking about lunch.
I put on a pot of water and while it comes to a boil, I heat the Pomi adding fresh herbs, little julienned salami and wine. The fresh pasta needs only a minute to cook so I wait until the water is boiling, "buttata la pasta" and then, after removing the pot from the heat, I crumble some of the mozzarella di bufala into the tomato sauce. I stir it until it has melted in and by then the pasta is ready to be drained.
We eat leisurely. From our table we can eat while looking out of the window at the canal - busy or quiet it is always fascinating to watch. The door buzzer surprises us; it is a day too early for Sarah and Brian and who else would be coming to visit. It is Lucia who had rearranged her schedule to come today so that everything will be ready for Sarah and Brian when they arrive tomorrow. She is terrific - helpful, obliging and always cheerful.
We leave the apartment so as not to be in her way. We take a #2 all the way around past Tronchetto to San Marco. There are no outside seats so we sit inside in the last two seats before the doors, figuring sooner or later some of the people who are sitting outside will leave, and we will be in the best place to grab their seats for ourselves. When we had boarded at San Toma there had been only one empty inside seat, but the man in the other had graciously moved so we could sit together.
The only flaw in our plan is that today no one gets off - not at Rialto and not at Ferrovia. We have a great view and plenty of fresh air coming in through the large partially opened windows, but we both prefer to ride outside. Of course being outside make picture taking possible too.
The same thing happens at Piazzale Roma where several people do get off, and there is now one empty seat in the rear. I tell Martin I'll wait until there are two seats - surely people will disembark at Tronchetto - but he urges me to go out and says he can stand outside. When I go out the man in the seat next to the empty one offers to stand and let Martin sit with me. I always find that very thoughtful and kind although my paranoid side wonders if I am so awful looking people just prefer standing to sitting next to me.
I am able to get a few shots of the Calatrava Bridge from directly under it. The bridge is rather interesting viewed from below. When people are walking across they look almost like pressed leaves or flowers or even ink blots seen through the glass "floor." One side of the bridge is wrapped in plastic; it is apparently already being repaired.
The old wooden shack that had been alongside of the water near the train crossing is now gone; I had photographed it at least once on almost every trip because it was so tumble down and ramshackle; I found it quite appealing and beautiful in the way decrepit structures sometimes are.
With a roar of the vaporetto's engine, we pass under the causeway for cars and swing around towards Tronchetto where we see the shining silvery metal teeth of the new people mover - a type of monorail to move people from Tronchetto to the Piazzale Roma. Just before we round the bend to cruise ship area I spy a little black caterpillar moving across the silvery structure; it must be the people mover at work. From the vaporetto it looks all toothy and jagged and makes for interesting photos.
The sun feels summertime hot on our faces, and we are in the protected part of the stern sitting against the rear of the cabin. The "ocean" part of our trip is over and we turn into the Giudecca Canal. I know the little stretch we just crossed through is neither ocean nor even the sea, but it is more open and the vaporettos always pick up speed here creating the illusion we are in a large body of water.
We stop at Sacca Fisola, where unfortunately the beautiful flowering trees, a favorite spring photo op are all well past their prime. Then the vaporetto crosses the Giudecca Canal to San Basilio where we have so often left the vaporetto to eat at Riviera, which has now been sold. It is sad to see a favorite place all boarded up even though when it was simply closed for the day it would have looked the same.
The Zattere is an interesting place with many brightly colored buildings and two churches: The larger of the two is the Gesuati not to be confused with the Gesuiti in Cannaregio. At one time there was a canal that passed under the church, but like so many other canals in Dorsoduro and San Polo, it has been long since filled in. Some say as many as 30% of the canals in San Polo and 25% in Dorsoduro are now "rio ter" a phrase which indicates they were once canals.
We cross back to the Giudecca side of the canal, and the vaporetto moves along slowly making stops at Palanca, Redentore, and Zitelle. Most of the restoration work they had been doing along the water front has been completed, and it looks really fresh and pretty now with freshly painted building and lots of small bars and cafes; most have outside tables with brightly colored umbrellas offering shade to patrons.
San Giorgio di Maggiore is out of its scaffolding too; I love this Palladian Church. Inside it is filled with a serene clear light, and the pure white facade make it look like a stage set when seen from across the water. It too has often been under scaffolding but now it looks pristine and is begging to be photographed.
Finally we roll and heave into San Zaccaria where everyone must disembark. The water here is almost always extremely rough, and it makes stepping onto the dock a little challenging. A strong young man, one of the vaporetto workers, who is either coming or going is ready with an extended arm before I even have to look for help.
The Riva degli Schiavone is mobbed. The sun is very strong, and there is no breeze at all. Souvenir stands are selling every imaginable item and lavishly dressed mimes are posing for pictures; most people stop to take their picture and then throw some coins in their boxes as a thank you for the photo op. I have often done this, but today I just want to reach the #1 platform before the next vaporetto, which we can see approaching in the distance, arrives. If it were a little earlier or a lot later, we could have taken the #2 back around in the reverse direction of our trip here, but at this time of day the #2 does not stop at San Toma so we would have to change at Rialto. I know in either case taking the Numero Uno will mean a slow standing trip so we might as well take it from San Marco.
There seems to be a plethora of elderly or lame men and women crossing the bridge that takes us to the #1. I wait for several people to come down so I can go up holding on to the left side. They thank me, which is sweet, since technically it is their side of the bridge, and I am the one in the wrong place. I also thank the people who step aside or make room for me. It is a lot easier to forgive being bumped into or delayed when someone expresses regret or sympathy for the situation.
We pile on to the #1 which arrives when we do, and Martin finds me a spot against the luggage rack where I have something to lean against and hold onto. Dozens more board the vaporetto at San Marco, and we lurch across to Santa Maria della Salute. Looking at the steps that lead to the church I am impressed once again that the Pope walked straight up them; they are rather unforgiving in their narrowness and steepness. I always go up on one side or the other where there is a hand railing.
A young man and a small boy are standing near us. Suddenly the boy lowers himself to the floor, slides into the bottom section of the luggage rack and curls up. We exchange smiles with the father; I couldn't get down that low and if I could, I wouldn't fit into the space, and if I ever got down that low and managed to crawl into the space, I would need a crane to lift me up, but it is a very tempting idea. Smart little guy.
We walk very slowly from the vaporetto to our apartment; the shady areas are lovely and cool, but the sunny areas feel too hot for me. I am very thirsty, but do not give into the temptation to stop off at Ciak's for a spritz; instead I plod home. Lucia is just finishing up some ironing. Martin pours me some water, and we both rather gratefully sink down onto our couches. It was a lovely excursion even if we did have to stand for the last leg of it.
All the fresh air and hot sun have made us both sleepy so we wind up napping. Around 8:00, we take a Numero Uno down to Accademia to go to dinner at Cantinone Storico. When we get off the vaporetto, we see that despite all the work that is going on there, it is really quite easy and safe to walk about. We turn right on to the Rio Ter dei Foscarini and pass the most elegant Bancomat in Venice and then we go left towards the Rio San Vio. When we were last here, it was a mess with dredging equipment all around it, the canal itself partially drained, and piles of wood and machinery all over. Now it is clean and serene; from the bridge you can see the Grand Canal to your left and the Giudecca Canal to your right. Had we continued down the Rio Ter dei Foscarini we would have been on Zattere in just minutes.
We cross the bride and turn right to finish the short walk to the restaurant. We used to eat there often, but I don't think we visited there on our last trip three years ago. They have just reopened after being closed for three months for renovations. The back area has been opened up and the whole kitchen is now visible from the bar area. We are surprised at how warmly everyone welcomes us; it has been four years, and they must have had hundreds and hundreds of customers in that time.
We are given complimentary glasses of Prosecco to sip while we order. Martin goes for the mussels and clams which come in a casserole with a garlicky broth. I opt for the tuna carpaccio served over a bed of arugula with crostini. We have had them before and enjoyed them, and we do so again tonight. We are both happy with our choices.
For our secondo, we share the rombo Arlecchino, roasted in the oven and served with potatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini. It is excellent - the fish is tender and delicate and perfectly boned, and the vegetables add color and zest to what otherwise would be a bland looking plate. It must have been one big rombo because we are both full and pass on dessert settling for a grappa instead.
The grappa is lovely - mellow and warming not at all burning or sharp or overly perfumed as it can be if you don't get a good one. During dinner two women from Australia, who are telling the waiter about their 26 hour flight to Venice entertained us - 26 hours on a plane is definitely an oh my God! They are doing a garden tour which will take them to Tuscany, the Lake Area and into Switzerland; I think it sounds quite lovely if you can survive 26 hours on a plane. Martin isn't so sure he wants to see that many gardens, but when I think of the flowers and greenery my fingers start itching for my camera.
Then a family comes in with an adorable Chihuahua puppy; we ask what sort of dog he is because he is long haired; the Chihuahuas we see in the US are more often smooth or short haired. It is clear he is a puppy. When we ask, we learn he is only three months old. He is really very well behaved for such a young puppy. His owner is carrying him in a large purse from which she withdraws a bowl so he can have some water. He is very eager to explore the table, and she is being strict though gently so in discouraging him. We both prefer larger dogs, as a rule, but he is really cute.
We walk back to Accademia; as we cross the bridge we can see that we will have just missed a vaporetto so there is no rush; we have 20 minutes to walk a relatively short distance. We study the store windows; many are the same, but as usual there are some favorites that have gone and some new ones to check out.
We sit on the platform and wait for a vaporetto. Accademia has two pontili as do many of the stops including ours, San Toma. It is always entertaining to watch people try to figure out if they are on the correct platform; if it seems appropriate we offer help, but we have learned many people enjoy figuring things out for themselves. Martin's rule of thumb for two pontile stops is "Think left, go right, and vice versa."
The lights on the water are especially dazzling tonight; it is lovely to stand at the railing and watch the water glisten and sparkle as we glide over it. We have had a lot of acqua bassa, and that always reveals some sights better kept submerged, but in the dark all the less than beautiful bits are hidden, and we are sailing on black glass surrounded by a mysterious beauty.
In the middle of Campo San Toma, we see two people standing with some luggage; I don't know if they need help or not, but as we pass we hear them asking another passerby for San Rocco. At this hour I assume they mean the lovely B&B, but they are being taken care of so we just meander on through to the campiello and then over the bridge and down the call to our apartment. Sarah and Brian must be at the airport by now; for the next ten days we will be a foursome.
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