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 8 of 30: Martedi 3 Maggio 2011 - La Nostra Amica da Germania Arriva
Espresso and Kiefer at Ciak 1
We wake up to another sunny day and decide to buy the IHT and read it while we have our espresso and kiefers at Ciak's. Ciak's has stunning new espresso cups; they are black with a white inside and tall tapering to a narrow base from a wider top. The saucers are white with black undersides and a black circle where the cup sits.
We sip and munch and read while hordes of students on school trips tramp through the campiello; there are plenty of adult tours too. In between the huge groups, there are smaller groups of tourists and a handful of locals, some of whom we recognize. Most greet us with smiles and "Ben tornato," which gets them a return smile.
We see the usual assortment of dogs too; they seem to fall into three groups: small, beautifully groomed and nattily outfitted dogs, whose collars and leashes are often color coordinated to their owners outfits; small, scruffy looking dogs, with little bowed legs and rather shaggy coats. These guys aren't in the least awed by the more pure bred or better coifed critters and seem perfectly at home sitting or standing while their people converse.
Finally there are large dogs, handsome and powerful looking who seem to have accepted life in a Venetian apartment as their lot of perhaps their due - after all dog is only one letter short of doge. Their attitude is that of benevolent giants who could hurt us all if they chose, but happily choose to dwell in peace with these two legged creatures who think they own them.
Sadly I almost never see cats anymore; I used to see them sunning themselves on window ledges, lurking under bushes or lying curled up in a doorway or a window; now they just are gone. The only cat we see the entire trip is one who almost came into the apartment in Rome and then changed his mind.
We buy some bread in the Campo; walk to the Billa, the long way around by going through the Campo San Toma and the Frari. We stop on the way to check out the branch of Muro that is located on the Rio Tera dei Frari. We have already had sandwiches one day in the Muro located on the Campo Bello Vienna at the Rialto. The branch near the Frari is in the store that used to rent costumes. I always loved their windows which would be filled with gowns, robes, military uniforms and brocade coats and knee length trousers. I would have fun trying to decide which costume would suit me best.
This branch of Muro is a far cry from those period costumes. It is sleekly modern with a color palette of dark to light grays, and soft lighting. These colors might have been bland or even depressing but they have been combined in a way that is inviting and warm rather than stark and cold. Maybe when Eva is here we will try it for lunch.
At the Billa, we enter through the correct door, and then walk back to the exit to collect a cart. We pick up a few supplies, including mosquito coils. These weird looking things burn slowly and emit an aroma that apparently keeps mosquitoes away. We knew about them, but had never seen them in the local supermarket before, and are eager to give them a try. I have been told they are quite effective.
Back in our apartment, we discover the bed in the second bedroom has not been made up, and there are no towels for that bathroom so we call Lucia, who comes over to take care of it. She had thought our company was not due until next week, and we explain that she was correct, but our plans have changed and we are having a wonderful surprise visitor.
Eva arrives on the early evening flight from Frankfurt and makes good time on her journey from the airport to our apartment. We even have a chance to visit before walking down to Antiche Carampane for dinner. Before we leave, Martin lights the mosquito coils we had bought. We hope if the smell is too unpleasant, we might get away with burning them while we are gone, and blowing them out when we arrive home.
We thought we had become inured to seeing various shops closed and replaced by stores selling souvenirs or handbags or clothing, often made in China, but we are stunned to see Biancat, the florist is gone. Where on earth is Guido Brunetti buying flowers these days?
Antiche Carampane is in the area that had been the area for prostitutes in the 15th Century. In 1358, they had been confined to another area, a group of houses owned by the Venier and Morosini families near the Rialto Church of San Matteo. In the evening, on the third strike of the bell in the campanile in San Marco, they had to close themselves in, and were forbidden to show themselves during parish festivities. Over time they spread throughout the city and showed themselves to potential customers everywhere including near churches. In 1421, the State angered by this "lack of respect" decided to force the prostitutes to dwell in houses inherited from the Rampani family. The last Rampani had died over 100 years earlier in 1319, but according to Venetian custom the original family palazzo was still known as Ca' Rampani and before long the word "carampani" came into being as a word for the prostitutes and the area in which they lived and worked. There were endless rules and restrictions for the prostitutes including whippings if they worked beyond their curfew or on holidays. This pertained to both male and female prostitutes but apparently not to their customers. Today the area is a quiet, largely residential neighborhood with a few restaurants and shops.
Piera and Franco welcome us with hugs and kisses. It is so good to see them. Francesco is in Sicily on a wine buying expedition. In the three years since we have been in Venice, Carampane has done some remodeling. They have changed the front area of the restaurant; the bar which was on the right as you enter has been moved; it is now smaller and in the back on the left where the family table used to be. The family table is now against the front left wall where there had been a station for plating desserts and other dishes; that station is now where the bar had been so it is a bit bigger and roomier and right next to the kitchen. The same chef is still working in the kitchen and turning out miraculous food in next to no space at all.
Another change is the presence of menus. We are accustomed, at Carampane to having someone recite the day’s offerings. When Antonia, the waitress who was immortalized in Donna Leon's first book, worked at Carampane, she would recite the offerings and if you did not choose quickly enough she would choose for you. She was a larger than life one of a kind personality and although some were terrified of her, we adored her. There were menus available, but no one ever seemed to use them.
The new menus are beautiful, illustrated with delicate drawings of fish and other seafood. Ours are printed in English and French. The server is new, and I don't want to rattle her, but I am always miffed when I am handed an English menu, and I am also somewhat confused. I learned to eat fish in Venice and I know the fish I like and the methods of preparation by their Italian names. In an Italian restaurant, I prefer to think in Italian and with an English menu I have to translate everything back into Italian. After we have finally sorted out our choices, the small dark bearded waiter we recall from three years ago comes over to say hello. When we tell him we are surprised by the menus, he offers to recite the menu for us, and we tell him "next time, please!"
The amuse bouche comes in a paper cone and is now schie, tiny shrimp that have been lightly battered and fried instead of the fried vegetables of the past. They are presented in brown paper cones - a sort of play on English fish and chips, lovely and crisp and crunchy but a bit salty for my no salt diet body's palate. We order the house white, and are happy to see our favorite water, Panna is now the house water.
We begin with a sauté of clams and zucchini in moscato. The zucchini is a lovely bright green touch in the dish and the sweet earthiness of the moscato contrasts beautifully with the slight brininess of the clams. It is a hit all around the table.
For her secondo, Eva has the San Pietro with castraure, and she raves about it. Martin has the branzino with provola cheese. Any cheese or dairy - even a smoked cheese - is unusual almost to the point of being unheard of in Venice, but it is highly recommended and we are told it is very, very good. I cannot have it because of the cheese, but Martin orders it and loves it; he gives it a big thumbs up.
I have the moeche - the soft shell crabs. In the past, at Carampane, they have been served with soft polenta; tonight they come with fried zucchini strips and a slab of grilled polenta; they are also smaller than I remember their being and therefore there are more of them. I heartily applaud the tiny critters and love the zucchini with them, and I really appreciate the large number of them, but I am a sucker for the big golden puddle of soft, warm polenta and miss it. The soft shell crabs themselves could not be any better.
We all finish with sgroppino - definitely made with sorbetto. It is a fantastic meal; we leave withhugs and kisses and promises to return "a presto." We swap photos of grandchildren and learn that Piera and Franco will become grandparents one more time - in June - this time a girl - their first granddaughter. We are happy for them and feel so lucky to have had one of each.
The walk home is a bit long and tiring for me; it is has gotten extremely humid, and I never walk well when I am warm or when I am full, but despite some whining, I do make it without having to stop and rest. My feet are very swollen, and on seeing them Eva kneels down and gives me a foot massage. She is definitely a star! Eva and I both say we would love to sit up and talk, but neither of us can stifle our yawns so we toddle off to bed and the knowledge that we will have most of tomorrow to visit.
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