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Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Page 26 of 30: Sabato 21 Maggio 2011 - Sirocco Sickness
Balloon on the Canal
It stays warm all night, and when we walk up to Ciak, we are surprised how hot it is outside; usually the mornings have been comfortable if not downright cool. When I go to buy bread, Michela tells me there is a sirocco. That means a wind from Africa has blown in air that is very warm to hot with high humidity in the mornings and nights and with hot but less humid afternoons. I remember as soon as she says sirocco that the two or three other times I have experienced a sirocco my body has been very unhappy. Michela says it will surely last through the weekend and probably through Monday maybe even Tuesday which will be our last day here. Not what I wanted to hear, but hardly her fault.
Sarah and I had both noticed that since Wednesday or Thursday, Venice seems to have grown much more crowded than it had been. A sirocco and hordes of people - I wonder if Venice is trying to make our leaving easier. Our apartment gets very warm at night with the windows closed, but during the day, with front and back windows open there is a cross breeze that keeps us comfortable. For most of our visit we could walk to the end of our calle and step out to the right or left almost at once. These days we have to wait for a break in the flow of passersby, and dart out as though we were merging in heavy New York City traffic. It is a short stretch from the bridge over the Rio San Toma to the Rio Ter dei Nomboli, but it is packed with interesting sites and photo ops. We have the Casa di Carlo Goldoni with its spectacular wellhead and internal staircase. The museum on the upper floors is quite interesting and charming mainly detailing the development of marionettes, but the ground floor through a wired gateway, with openings just big enough for a camera lens to peep through is a show stopper.
Across from it is the mask shop Tragi-Comica. Their windows are a jumble of beautiful and fascinating masks, dolls and other items, but they prohibit photography in the shop and are not too friendly to people taking photos of the windows or asking questions without buying. It is understandable that they don't want their time wasted, but so many other shopkeepers, artisans and artists are more tolerant of the tourists interest in their work even if they don't always make a purchase.
Next to the mask store is a new woman's clothing store; once it was a wonderful little hardware store, then briefly a flashy lingerie shop and now it has apparel that drew in both Eva and Sarah, neither of whom left empty-handed.
Across from that store is my favorite Sabbie e Nebbie with it windows that are so beautifully arranged. Maria Teresa not only stocks lovely and fascinating items but her eye for color allows her to arrange the most tempting windows imaginable. It is easy to understand why the narrow calle leading to and from San Toma is often backed up what with passersby, window shoppers and photo buffs.
Last night as I was rounding the corner from Ca d'Oro to the Strada Nova a man. who was obviously in a great hurry nearly knocked me off my feet. I was annoyed that he didn't slow down to apologize or ask if I was all right. This morning a cute little boy on a scooter nearly ran into me. His mother told him to be more careful, and she and he apologized to me. I didn't feel any sense of annoyance or feel a need for an apology at all. I found his exuberance very appealing, and I wonder if my reaction is a question of the other person's age or my mood?
We see a few rowers and some kayakers practicing on the canal, but overall it seems quiet. No brides have passed our windows in either a water taxi or a spectacular wedding gondola. A beautiful water taxi made of gleaming wood pulls up to our dock, and an older man steps onto effortlessly. I guess if you live your whole life in Venice and you learn your way around boats as a child and your body never forgets what to do. We see dogs everywhere, and they seem to universally well behaved, but I am most impressed by the way they behave on the vaporettos and the traghettos. They seem to understand and accept that in such close quarters good behavior is essential; their biped companions sometimes have trouble learning the same lesson.
During the afternoon, the weather, as predicted, improves; the air feels lighter and drier. We have been noticing all week that more and more of the vaporettos are "wrapped" in different colored papers advertising the Biennale. So far we have seen at least three different ones.
For the first time this trip, we also watch them setting up for a wedding next door at the Pisani Moretta; Brian mentions he had seen a bride go by in a water taxi and nearly lose her veil to the wind. Watching the brides pass our windows has always been one of the pleasures of our spring visits, and I have missed it this year. I am glad we will get to see at least one.
A water taxi decorated with white flowers pulls into the dock at the Pisani Moretta. A bride and groom are standing in the back. Brian says it is possible it is the same bride he had seen early, but she had been on the far side of the canal so he can't be sure. We watch as the bride and groom gracefully exit the water taxi; there are photographers and the rest of the wedding party waiting on the dock and many photographs are taken before everyone goes inside.
As usual, the late afternoon light is intoxicating, and Brian and Sarah add to the sense of intoxication by opening a bottle of excellent Prosecco for us to share before we all head out for our final dinner. We had made an earlier than usual reservation at the Birraria because Sarah and Brian have decided to stay at a hotel near the airport since they have such an early flight to Frankfurt followed by a long layover before they continue on to Newark.
They walk ahead of us and miss a chance to say good-bye to Maria Teresa, who is still in her shop and to Sergio whom we meet on his way home. I am annoyed with myself for forgetting to tell him how much I like the new violin masks he and Massimo have created.
At the Birraria, we sit in the little courtyard or garden. We have never been seated here before, and it is very pleasant. Because it is semi-indoors, there is no smoking which is good for me. We even feel a little breeze which Martin says is created because with the open roof, air comes in from the ground and goes out through the open top forming a chimney effect.
Sarah and Brian order pizza, but since we will probably be having pizza tomorrow with Pasqualina and Gianluca, we order from the regular menu. Martin orders a plate of the Birraria's excellent prosciutto, but sadly there is no melon to go with it. The plate arrives studded with green olives. Brian happens to love green olives, and the rest of us are not olive lovers so he gets to OD on them. I have bucatini with Amatriciana sauce. It is very good; there are plenty of small pieces of pancetta and the sauce is lovely, but the thicker pasta is very slippery and harder to twirl neatly than regular spaghetti is.
For his secondo, Martin has half a young rooster, a dish he has enjoyed here before. I order the lamb chops, which are one of the rare disappointments I have had at Birraria. They are very salty and very fatty. The plate is piled high probably because there is so little to eat on each one, but that much food on a plate always makes me lose my appetite. I should have gone with the rooster or the steak both of which I know are excellent.
Brian finds an extremely nice 2008 Fattoria di Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano priced at a fraction of what we've paid for other less good reds here. Brian is a whiz at finding treasures on a wine list. We always take notes on his selections for future reference.
We run into Shannon, Kim and two members of their Grape Hops tour which has just finished. Shannon and Kim are off to Spain where they have another tour lined up; their two Australian "tourees" have just moved into the studio across the hall from us so we will probably get to see them during the week. They are cheerful and friendly - perfect neighbors.
We walk home and then must say good-bye to Sarah and Brian; we really enjoy having them come to stay with us. I hope we will all get to spend a week or two together here next spring. We find that for some reason we relate to our adult children on an entirely different level when we are away from home together, or at least when we are in Venice. I wish they could all come, but for different reasons, I doubt that will ever happen.
We are barely in the apartment when first Martin's and then my mobile ring. Sarah is calling from Piazzale Roma. There don't seem to be any taxis around at all, and there are many people looking for them. They are concerned since they are not sure if a rumored train strike is in effect already.
The other call is from Pasqualina and Gianluca. They confirm that there will be a train strike tomorrow but they will come anyway - driving all the way from Bologna. It will be a short visit because Sunday traffic is always bad and with no trains it will be worse, they say. I'm glad we will get to see them even if it is for a short time. I really appreciate their coming because we have not seen them for a long time.
I am somewhat distracted by the lack of taxi problem and how to find out quickly if they have the option of taking a train to Mestre should no taxis show up. Sarah had said there were dozens of people milling about looking for taxis, and that there were no buses around either. Then Sarah calls back; they are in a taxi. Apparently, there had been a sudden lull in taxis at the same time there had been a sudden spate of taxi seekers. Then taxis had started arriving and the problem took care of itself.
The apartment feels very empty even though Sarah and Brian are quiet people. I think part of the problem is that we are accustomed to being out to dinner at this hour. Martin tries to find something to watch on the new flat screen TV. I hear English and look up to find they are showing "The Jersey Shore" on Italian TV in English with Italian subtitles; I'm not that homesick! I'd much rather read.
It seems as though the wedding is a very quite one until suddenly at well after 11:00, the music starts. This could be a long loud party. We don't just hear the beat of the bass tones we can feel them, and there is constant chatter from people who have stepped outside for fresh air or to smoke. Eventually launches or water taxis will come to collect them and there will be an endless series of good-byes, and finally there will be the cleanup crews and their attendant sound effects. This could be a long loud night.
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