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 3 of 30: Giovedi 28 Aprile 2011 - Home at last
The Grand Canal from our Window
We are up early; Venice is calling us. We had only unpacked the minimum, and it doesn't take very long to pack. Of course there are always many small items that need to be rounded up: bottles of pills, toiletries, bits and pieces, bits and bobs, odds and sods. Finally we think we've collected them all and tucked them safely into our luggage.
I make breakfast; we have tea again, and what is now stale bread toasted on a fork over a burner and topped with the last of the cheese, a pear plus some muelsi and goat milk kaffir for Martin. I do the dishes while Martin double-checks that everything we have safely stashed into our suitcases.
Just as we finish, Anna Passi calls; she has come in from Fano, and we have a chance to visit. She walks across the garden; the building in the back is the one in which she lives. She arranges for a taxi and very kindly goes and buys us two ricarica cards for our phones. She is accompanied by a very sweet little dog, who is very well behaved as most Italian dogs seem to be. We had met Anna in Venice once or twice when we first started renting her apartment there, but haven't seen her for several years now. She is as lovely and warm as we remember her being, and still looks way too young to have grown children.
We arrive at the train station early enough to make the 11:45 to Venice, but since we have reserved seats, on the 12:45 we decide to wait for that. We have no idea if there will be lots of free seats or none at all, and I want to be comfortable for the nearly four hour ride. I grab an espresso. My body is delighted to have some real caffeine in it. Martin buys us two sandwiches and a bottle of water, and in no time our train is in the station and we are allowed to board it.
Since we have purchased first class tickets, it turns out that we are entitled to a snack. We have a choice of sweet or savory plus a choice of beverages. Martin chooses the savory which is a packet of small Rosemary studded bread sticks. I opt for the sweet, which are plain Lorna Doone type cookies. We both ask for blood orange juice. We also are given some hard candy, which we will save for dessert when we have lunch.
The view outside the train window is mostly green fields with the occasional interesting building, church or hills. I keep missing wonderful photos because the train shoots into tunnels just as I am about to snap them. We have been riding "backwards," which is fine with us, but after a long stop at Firenze, we discover we are now riding forward as we head towards Bologna. They must have switched engines.
We both agree that the Rome apartment is beautiful and luxurious, but that for us the decision to stay only two nights was not a wise one. We were too jet lagged, and I am not a strong enough walker to take advantage of being in Rome, but not in the center of Rome. This would be a fabulous apartment for a long stay especially if you don't mind walking or you have a car and don't mind driving in and around Rome. For us, it would have been better to change planes and continue to Venice - our stay in Rome was both too long and not long enough, but the apartment was truly wonderful.
After leaving Florence, we eat our sandwiches; the mortadella isn't bad; the pollo is a disappointment. It is not exactly a lunch to remember, but it does fill our stomachs. I read and then watch us pull into Bologna. We used to change trains in Bologna a lot, and I remember the station as being a maze of underground warrens that connect to the different platforms by incredibly long flights of stairs up and down which we had to schlep our luggage, sometimes more than once because they would announce a last minute track change.
The next stop after Bologna is Padova, which means we are getting close to Venice. When we arrive in Mestre, I start to get really excited. Finally we pull into Santa Lucia. I had been very nervous about the train because I had not really ridden on a train since destroying my knee getting off a low plat-forming train in New Jersey three years ago. I was able to board easily enough. Now, in Venice, I am able to get off safely as well. One worry can be crossed off the list of potential problems.
We drag our three cases outside and pause at the top of the stairs. The train station is possibly the ugliest building in Venice, but it is behind us, and the Grand Canal lies at our feet. The water is sparkling, the vaporettos, work boats, water taxis and gondolas are all following their own paths through the water, and the crowds of people on the fondamente are taking photos, queuing up, buying tickets, buying food, buying souvenirs or just gaping as I am.
I could easily just stand there for a while and take the panorama in, but we want to find a water taxi and finish this journey. Getting in the taxi is a little tricky for me, but the driver is extremely strong, and he helps me. We have the usual difficulty persuading the driver that we want an apartment and not a hotel, but once I have given him six or seven surrounding landmarks he believes I really do know where I want to go.
He takes the back route which brings us out near San Panteleon. We pass under our friends, Howard and Laurie's old apartment and feel their absence. I wish I had my camera out, but Martin doesn't like it when I start opening bags on trains, let alone on a fondamente or in a water taxi so I let my eyes feast on the wonders of Venice without a lens in front of them. I have thought and dreamt so often about this return it is a little difficult to grasp the fact that we are really here.
It is easier to disembark at our dock than it was to board the taxi in front of the station. I would have thought it would be harder so it is a pleasant surprise. Lucia is there to let us in. It is good to see her after three years. During these three years she has become a Nonna with a grandson named David. She shows me a photograph of a beautiful little boy and I, of course, show off David and Eva Sofia.
We manage to get on line - at last - although I do not know if this will be something we will find easy to do on a daily basis or not. Martin tries to enter the ricarica cards Anna Passi bought for us in Rome this morning, but they refuse to take the number we have. Either we need someone to help us, or we will have to find a place at which we can buy new SIM cards - perhaps not TIM but something else. It is a little frustrating as we have no time on one phone and only three minutes left on the other. Tomorrow we must do this and also get our new iMob cards.
The first thing we do is unpack; it doesn't take long as we have brought less than usual. The apartment is very much the same; the biggest change is a huge flat screen TV which fills what was once the fire place. I am willing to bet there will still be the same dumb programs shown on it. With the dock rebuilt, the gondolas that had been moored just outside our palazzo are a bit further down the canal, but I can still see them from the windows; it will just be a little harder to take pictures of them. The important things is that the view from our windows remains the same.
By the time we have put all our stuff away it is late enough for dinner. We walk up to up to La Birraria for dinner. On the way to Campo San Polo, we stop in at Sabbie e Nebbie to say a quick hello to Maria Teresa. Just before crossing the bridge over the San Polo Canal, I also say hello to Dona Luisa of the beautiful jewelry shop.
At La Birraria we share my favorite pizza - a mervaglie with tomato, mozzarella di buffalo, porcini and salami di cinghiale and pecorino, followed by a shared secondo - frutta di mare in parchment. We feel we are ordering very strangely, but no one seems shocked by our bizarre order or even seems to notice it is at all unusual, and we enjoy both courses very much.
We walk back; I go carefully across the Campo because the footing can be a little tricky. I am happy about how little it has changed; there seem to be fewer benches, but otherwise it is very much the same as it has been for centuries. When we reach our apartment, we read for a bit but are soon ready for bed. Tonight for the first time in three years I will go to sleep to the susurrus of the water. I've come home.
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