Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 306: Venice For One Month
By Boleskine from New Jersey, Winter 2003
Trip Description: Every winter we rent an apartment in for one month, crossing over from December in January.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 15: Siamo arrivati - We Arrive
The new terminal is very sleek and modern. They now have jetways instead of external steps and then buses to the terminal, but there is still only one officer at Immigration laboriously checking all non-EU passports. The time we save getting to the terminal is quickly spent in the line to enter the country.
We had been undecided whether to use a water taxi or a land taxi from the terminal into Venice, but once we are through Customs, decide to enter by water. We make the arrangements at a ticket window in the center of the Arrivals Building and exit the building for the free bus to the water. One arrives as we walk out, and we board despite being encumbered with 4 bags. The bus departs as soon as those who had been waiting board it and in five minutes we are at the water's edge where Paolo, our driver leads us to a water taxi. Either I am getting better at explaining where we want to go or more Americans are renting apartments because for the first time there was no hassle over "what hotel?" "Non abbiamo un albergo; abbiamo un appartamento."
The driver calls Floriana for us, but she cannot meet us until 12:00 and it is not even 11:00 so we ask the driver to leave me and the luggage on our dock and drop Martin at the vaporetto platform from which he can walk to the apartment and open the water door from the inside. The first thing Martin tells me is that they have painted the building's front door which had always been a deep aged green with a lovely soft tone to it.
It is mild but very gray, still I find a few things to photograph while I wait on the dock. There are gondolieri working on their boats, some new masonry and sadly rather massive water damage to the heavy green wood doors - no doubt from November's terrible acqua alta. Martin gets back in record time, and we drag out suit cases in to the apartment and unpack. Floriana comes to read the meters; she is carrying an enormous bouquet of flowers from Martin - for my impending 65th (YIKES!) birthday. Once again we will have to resort to the umbrella stand since no pitcher or vase is big enough for this gorgeous arrangement of lilies, roses, iris and tulips (in December!). They are gorgeous colors too ranging from orange to apricot to ivory and cream.
While Floriana is there I look out the window to see a car driving down the center of the Canal. Floriana recognizes the driver as a man who has a shop of unusual wooden sculptures near the Palazzo Grassi. I really want a photo of the full size wooden sedan driving down the Grand Canal, but it won't happen today; my reaction time is way too slow. I do have a photo of Martin standing between 2 wooden women window shoppers - trying saying that quickly three times - near San Marco; I took that several years ago; this could be the same sculptor.
We walk to Vivaldi's in a light drizzle; when we leave the building, I discover Martin was not joking. They have painted our front door. The soft aged green with bits of paint flaking away has been replaced by a hard shiny bright green enamel. We loved the old door so much Martin has a photograph of it taken by James hanging on his office wall.
As we enter the Calle Saoneri, we see Gianni's shop is closed. He had said he might close in December, but we had hoped he would be open when we arrived, so we could have one last cup of his superb espresso and wish him buona fortuna in pensione. We not only relished his coffee and pastries, but he had been one of our first and most helpful friends in Venice. We will miss him although we certainly do not begrudge him the desire for an easier life. He was in his small shop from earlier morning until lunchtime and then again in the mid afternoon to early evening, and since his wife has died, he has had to do all the work alone. It is a tough life, but oh what espresso came from his old machine!
At Vivaldi's, Martin has lasagna and I have the pappardelle Vivaldi which is always excellent but not always exactly the same. Today it has with extremely thin slices of mushroom, zucchini, peppers and eggplant. Rolls, water and salad complete our meal in this place which is non smoking, a big plus for us. The dark beamed ceiling and furniture look warm against the white washed stucco walls and it is fun to look at the assortment of paintings, old kitchen utensils, and musical instruments that hang on the walls. The white lace trimmed lampshades add a bright touch. The huge bar in the front room is a magnet for anyone seeking a drink and cichetti.
We stroll on down to Rizzardini for some of their excellent espresso; with Gianni's closed, we have to check out all our options. We window shop our way home planning to shower and nap - briefly. We'll see!
We do sleep for about two hours, and then watch who Wants to be a Millionaire which is still going strong in Italy. We walk to Antiche Carampane where we are greeted with hug and kisses. They show us how high on the walls the acqua alta had come during November and like others, stress that what was so awful and unusual was not just how high the waters rose, but that they did this almost every day for a month.
We order from Antonia after giving her a Christmas gift for a her new grandson, and learning that in June, Piera will also become a Nonna. Martin orders his favorite scallops and I have schie - tiny brown shrimp - with polenta. We are given an amuse bouche of lightly fried leeks followed by another one of tiny fried schie. We demolish both. Martin's scallops are served au gratin in a white wine sauce with funghi. My schie with polenta is quite different from the schie we just had as a gift. Those are crispy, crunchy and lightly fried; the ones accompanying the polenta are steamed, and served very plain with the polenta to gild them. They are sweet and fresh with the polenta adding all the richness and extra flavor anyone could wish.
For our secondi, we both have Saint Peter fish fillets, lightly breaded and served with a succulent topping of radicchio di Treviso. The slight bitterness of the radicchio is mellowed by the gentle cooking, but still contrasts beautifully with the sweet mild flavor of the fish. A small mound of minced and steamed leeks adds another interesting flavor to the plate.
We both opt for sgroppino for dessert; served in tall tapering glasses they are ever bit as good as we remember their being. We make reservations for Tuesday night as they are closed Sunday, my birthday, and Monday. We walk home slowly through the misty calles; it is mild out and not quite raining. When we turn into our calle, we feel in every sense of the word that we are home.
SATURDAY 14 DICEMBRE
We manage to go to sleep and wake up at a fairly normal time. We go to Ciak 1 for espresso and almond pastries called kifer, and then begin the task of setting up housekeeping. First stop is a few steps from the Campiello San Toma to the Campo San Toma where we collect an IHT from the kiosk and rolls, crostadini, and a piece of almond croccante from the small bakery. Then we walk over to the Frari to check on whether the little Chinese restaurant La Perla Di Oriente is still there-which happily it is. Martin walks to Dorsoduro to his favorite ATM, and I walk to the front of the Frari and cross the bridge and enter the produce store. The attractive young woman who works there is wearing a Santa Claus cap on her blonde hair. She welcomes me back and I begin to order. Clementini, sedano, limone, porre, funghi, carrote, cipolle and so on until I have enough for a few meals. Martin catches up with me at the small supermercato which is no longer so small. It has taken over some additional space and now carries produce, a greatly enlarged assortment of dairy products and fresh meat as well as a new and larger deli counter.
Loaded with paper goods, cleaning products and edibles, we start home. I stop for meat while Martin goes on, but even though I only buy some veal cutlets and beef for ragu, I am more than a euro short. The kind butcher insists I take both packages of meat and pay him next time we pass the store, but as soon as I get home, Martin gives me more cash from his new supply and then brings the butcher what we owe.
While I cook to the singing of Taj Mahal, Martin keeps watch for the wooden car for me because I really want a picture of it. Eventually he dozes off, but I am doing most of my work sitting facing the canal and I don't see it. We sit down to a lunch of pasta with ragu commenting yet again how even basic Barilla pasta tastes so much better in Venice. After a long lazy afternoon necessary because my back is acting up, we go out to dinner at Poste Vecie.
We just catch a vaporetto to Rialto, using our last two ten trip tickets saved from last year. At Rialto, we buy 2 new monthly tickets using our 3 year abbonamento card. Even though the month is nearly half over it is still the best deal for us since a regular weekly ticket is triple the cost of a monthly ticket and we ride the vaporettos a lot. We will try to pay attention to how often we use the vaporetto so we can decide whether to buy another monthly ticket for January oor go back to the ten trip system.
We cross the Rialto Bridge in its Christmas glitz of thousands of fairy lights. We window shop and reminisce our way to the Pescheria. This is Sergio's shop, closed tonight; this is the produce stand at which we bought the amazing strawberries, and this is the place we got the Antinori Vin Santo at such a reasonable price. Up over the little humped bridge, we are greeted with the warmth we have come to expect from the staff of Poste Vecie; they are always molto piacevole. We are given complimentary glasses of Prosecco to sip while we peruse the menu; not that I need a menu; I know exactly what I want: spaghetti con vongole verace; coda di rospo alla griglia and for dessert sgroppino. Martin begins with his favorite-the saute of clams and mussels. He decides to try the branzino alla griglia and for his dolce, a fruit tart with an amazing assortment of fruit on top of a rich custard filling.
We both agree that the clams and mussels have the perfect balance of garlic to sea food-enough to enhance the flavor, but little enough to allow the briny sweetness to come through instead of dominating the dish so that all you can taste is the garlic. Both our secondi are excellent although I pass on the little boiled potatoes that accompany the fish, Martin enjoys his. He rates his Branzino as very good but not quite a brilliant as Carampane's; my coda di rospo bears little resemblance to American monk fish. It is much smaller and correspondingly more delicate, more tender and sweeter. No place prepares monk fish as well as Poste Vecie.
Our house wine is extremely pleasant, and the still water is Panna-one of our favorites. The rolls are good and the stubby little breadsticks dotted with sesame seeds are wonderful. Martin loves his fruit tart, and my sgroppino is sensational. It would be tough to have to choose between Carampane's tall slender glassful or Poste Vecie's champagne saucer which is thick enough to consume with a spoon. A small plate of Buranese cookies and an espresso for me completes our meal. The coffee is good but not fabulous re-forming Martin's theory that the best coffee is invariably found in bars.
Because it is a gorgeous balmy night and the bridge looks so pretty in her excess of lights we re-cross it and I photograph it from different angles. Then we take a #1 vaporetto back to San Toma and amble home full of good food and good feelings.
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