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 4 of 30: Venerdi 29 Aprile 2011 - Settling in
La Pescheria at night
We are up and out later than I had hoped, but not as late as we often are. Two espressos and a kiefer later, we go to the vaporetto, buy a twenty-four hour pass and ride down to Piazzale Roma. Our monthly abbonamento will kick in on 1 Maggio so this should see us through until then. It is rather gray and overcast so I let Martin talk me out of schlepping the camera, but naturally, since I do not have it with me, the sun comes out. It is worth it to have a gorgeous sunny day, but ironic because the light is perfect, and I am standing with a clear, unobstructed view of one side of the canal.
It takes very little time to renew our iMob cards; we did not need completely new ones with new photographs as many have said. We simply had to fill out a one page form, and give them our expired ones and the requisite euro. The cards were returned immediately, revised and replaced with a renewal stamp. They will be activated for use on 1 Maggio. For today we have our 24 hour biglietto which is good until tomorrow morning, and then we have ten trip tickets left from 2008 should we need them.
Our next task is to renew our phone cards. This is a tiring and frustrating task because we are sent back to Piazzale Roma where we just had been, and then to Ferrovia, which we walk through twice before being persuaded we had been given bad information. It doesn't appear as though TIM is very popular anymore in Venice.
Finally we go to the Rialto and to visit Sergio. We always stop by his mask shop at the foot of the Rialto Bridge when we are in the area. Sometimes he is there, and sometimes it is Massimo, but a visit with either Boldrin brother makes our day. It was so good to see Sergio after three years. We tell him of our TIM problems, and he actually knows of a TIM store that has just opened, and it is only steps away from his shop. He tells us to go quickly because the shop closes for lunch soon.
The man who runs it is actually in the process of closing for lunch when we arrive, but after hearing our desperate plea, he agrees to stay open and help us. Part of the problem is that we had not picked up on the English expression "top up" an existing card, which means to add more minutes. After the fact we realize we have heard this in diners in reference to coffee and in gas stations as well, but somehow we didn't make the connection to telephone time.
Now we are both good to go for several days. We thank him profusely for his kindness to strangers on which we had been dependent. Somehow that sounded better when Tennessee Williams wrote it.
Our big errands completed, we have lunch at the Rialto branch of Muro, which also has a branch near us. In fact they have three restaurants the one at the Rialto, the on between the Billa and the Frari and a third one in Santa Croce. They have a full service lunch and dinner, but today, we settle for tremezzini - prosciutto and mozzarella - toasted for Martin, and two tiny squares - one turkey and zucchini and the other porchetta all Romana for me. We also share a bottle of aqua minerale, which is icy cold and absolutely wonderful after all that schlepping around.
We grab a vaporetto home so we can sit for a while and canal watch as we rest our tired feet. They and we are still in NJ mode of jumping in the car for every errand, and we have to learn how to be more Venetian and walk everywhere. We call it finding our Venetian legs.
We end up spending a quiet afternoon in our apartment. I talk to an online friend, who is here from Hawaii. Tomorrow night we will meet for dinner at al Paradiso. We will be meeting one another in person for the very first time, but we've been writing to one another for ages. Our husbands are being very good sports about going on what for them will be a real blind date.
When we leave for dinner it is early evening; we will walk to the vaporetto, and go back to the Rialto Mercato stop for dinner at Poste Vecie. When we walk out into the courtyard, we find there is a new dog in the house. Little Ulise is still with us, but he has been joined by Calypso, a jet black Schnauzer, who is very handsome, extremely energetic, and a tad assertive about whose garden it is.
After disembarking at Rialto Mercato, we walk through the deserted Pescheria; there are signs all over warning that the fish market here is in danger of being closed and moved to Mestre. Some are big banners and others are placards posted on walls and columns. What a loss to Venice it would be if the fish market moved away.
Walking through it tonight, though, with it empty of the fish mongers, their stalls and their colorful wares and the crowds of shoppers, we can appreciate the beautiful columns and arches that are part of the design. The capital on the central column of the Pescheria Nuova commemorates the year 1905 when the first part of the New Fish Market was constructed, It was designed by a painter, Cesare Laurentia, and built by the architect Domenici Rupolo. The capital of one of the side columns shows boats carrying the large baskets used to bring the catch to market; they are called vieri. The other capitals are decorated with sea creatures: fish of all shapes and sizes, crabs, octopi and even sea horses. The names of Cesare Laurentia and Domenici Rupolo are said to be engraved here too, but I don't see them. The inner columns also have symbols carved on them; they range from nautical images to flowers, and astronomical signs such as the sun, the moon and stars. The building opened in 1907 so for Venice it really is Nuova.
The State Courts, La Procuria della Repubblica, are located on the first floor of the building and are reached by a dramatic staircase. The banister has "pommels" with carvings on them that represent a squid, a fisherman's head, a shellfish and, oddly to me, a pine cone. Beneath the stairs are wrought iron gates which are now sealed shut. One has a carving in Latin of a Greek quotation dating from the 16th century it says," Piscis primum a capite foetet" or " Fish begins to stink from the head. " It is unclear whether this is a literal truth pertaining to the fish market, or a more metaphorical one referring to the courts and corruption at high levels of power.
We cross the humpbacked bridge into Poste Vecie. Orfeo welcomes us. Wilma is not here tonight, nor will she be here Sunday or Monday, but she will be here regularly after "le feste." Domenico, another stalwart, is also absent and not mentioned. We have learned from experience it is better not to ask because answers to that sort of question are often evasive. If I get a chance to talk to Wilma, she might tell me what happened.
Poste Vecie still welcomes its guests with Prosecco, and it is a very nice one. We both order spaghetti con vongole verace; it has been three years since we've tasted this amazing dish, and it lives up to our memories of it. The spaghetti is perfectly cooked; the clams are tender and sweet with just a hint of their briny beginnings, and the sauce is beautifully balanced. Some places go too heavy on the oil for our taste and others use so much garlic you cannot taste the delicate little clams. This is perfection.
For his secondo, Martin goes with his favorite, Orata al Poste Vecie, and I order il secondo del chef, which is an entire small rombo in acqua pazza a mildly spicy sauce with bits of fresh tomato and tiny olives. I don't really care for olives much, but these are easy to ignore. I am not an expert when it comes to boning fish, but rombo are pretty easy, and I don't think very much fish is left on the bones when I am done. We drink the house wine, which is a Spinelli Pinot Grigio - several cuts above most house wines.
Martin finishes with tiramisu; the Poste Vecie version is a traditional one with some extra chocolate sauce. A little extra chocolate never hurts anything. I stick with sgroppino which is superb. The last time we ordered the sgroppino at Poste Vecie it had morphed from a freshly whipped light and fluffy treat into a dessert that tasted premade and prefrozen presented in a very small glass. Tonight the sgroppino comes in a goblet and is luxuriously rich and creamy - just between a beverage and a puree. I practically lick the glass.
The walk back to the vaporettto stop is quiet although further down we can see lots of people eating and drinking outside in the Banco Giro area. We don't have to wait long for a vaporetto and although crowded, it is not crazy packed. It seems warmer than it has all day; I think it may be the combination of no more breeze and lots of good food and wine.
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