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Report 840: Venice, Carnivale 2004

By Dean from Maryland, Winter 2004

Trip Description: February 19 thru 25 A week in Venezia at Carnivale

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 8: Day 1 The Ordeal February 19-20

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Antiche Carampane

After a harrowing ordeal making our connecting flight in Paris, I woke up only as we hit the ground at Aeroporto Marco Polo in Venezia. We went to the new luggage carousel and, of course, our luggage was no where to be found! We went to the lost luggage desk. It had not made it to the flight. And there was no record of our luggage at all in their system. I finally gave the woman at the desk our e-ticket confirmation and she was able to locate a trace saying our luggage never made it to CDG or was lost there. No transit information had been entered. She gave us a claim number and then offered to call Paola, our landlord in Venezia for us. When Paola heard our voice she was saying, in a panic, that our flight was not even scheduled to leave CDG until 11pm! You could hear her relief when we told her we were standing at Marco Polo. She told us to wait for her at the San Marcuola stop of the Vaporetto line 1 stop after taking the bus to Piazzale Roma.

With only our hand luggage, we went to get a caffe, pick up our blue Venezia card and make our way to the bus station. When we found out that it would be over a half hour wait to get a bus, we took a cab to Piazzale Roma. The first part of the ride was thru a commercial neighborhood and, while we were clearly in Italy, unexciting. But then we hit the causeway for Venezia and our excitement rose. After our 10 minute trip, we were walking towards the vaporetto stop. As we walked down the steps our vista opened up to the Canale Grande. Finally, 24 hours after leaving work in Washington DC, we were validating our seven day pass and chugging up the Canale Grande.

We made it to San Marcuola tired, stinky and hungry. Paola was a few minutes late but she took us to the apartment. After the cuteness of her apartment we have rented before in the Rialto, we were a little taken back by the more utilitarian look of the apartment in Cannaregio. It had two rooms, a bedroom and a living dining room connected by a hallway entry/kitchen. The kitchen was well equipped with a good stove and oven, a fridge and a nice sink. The bathroom was large and inviting with a washing machine (and a bag of laundry soap). The heat was supplied by a trio of electric portable heaters that worked fairly well. In the end, we were hard pressed to say which apartment we preferred!

We had reservations at Antiche Carampane, for which we were already a half an hour late. Paola called over to the restaurant and they said they didn’t have any reservation for us! They checked again and our reserve was in the book for last night. We could still come by if we were there in 15 minutes. Stinky and disheveled, we took off for dinner. I was practically running down the streets. I had to stop regularly for Kay to catch up! I would be in hyper drive for the first three or four days in Venezia. I just love the energy of the city and am always in a rush when there. Not that I have anyplace in particular to go, I am just always in a hurry in Venezia. According to Einstein, time slows down the faster an object moves and I’ll do just about anything to make my time in Venezia longer!

As we were flying down Strada Nuova and thru the various Calle and across the Rialto, we were able to get our first glimpse of Carnevale. We would come across what we called “Costumi”, folk in head to toe fancy costumes complete with masks. We found out later that these professional costume wearers are hired by the city. We got to Campo San Polo in a flash and then tried to follow the instruction I had copied from Boleskine’s restaurant list. They didn’t seem to work, so we walked into a random restaurant and asked. The chef interrupted his own dinner, walked us out the door of his restaurant, up the block and pointed us off in the right direction. We still had a few dicey wrong turns before we found it.

We entered to a warm reception and sat down. We were honored to be dining with an Egyptian Princess complete in a silky blue gown, elaborate eye makeup and Reeboks and jeans underneath. I guess I hadn’t realized how practical and modern those ancient Egyptians were!

One of the owners came over and we ordered fairly quickly. I think it was the first time Kay and I have ever ordered the same meal in a restaurant! We started out with the Venica and Venica Ronco del Cima 2002 Tocai Friulano which had been recommended by Craig Camp here on the board. It was good but a little on the bitter side. Our antipasti was a misto della casa. It consisted of four items. Schie on white polenta was good; schie are little brown shrimp from the lagoon, very tasty and a little crunchy. Next up was a monk fish cheek in a slightly spicy tomato sauce and a puddle of white polenta. The cheeks are a little gamey with a plump and slightly rubbery texture, but rubbery in the sense of a scallop or lobster and not in the sense of an old tire. Tender plump small shrimp were mixed with Treviso (a variety of radicchio) in a lovely olio coating. Lastly we had a blob of baccala mantecato, a paste of salt cod beaten with olive oil and a bit of lemon juice to a mayonnaise like consistency. All were quite nice. For a pasta we ordered nero di seppie. This was two plates of homemade pasta in the black inky sauce from cuttlefish. There was a bit of cuttlefish cut up in the tangle of noodles. It is amazing how this dish is so briny and earthy and rich all at once. We used a bit of bread to get up every last drop of the sauce. Our secondo was triglie sautéed with agrumi. Triglie are little plump red mullet, maybe 6 inch long fillets, sautéed and sauced with a lemon and orange reduction with sections of fruit and a scattering of shredded zest. Desserts were a sgroppino for Kay and gelato with frutti del bosco for me. The sgroppino was tart, rich and creamy. Kay described it as the best milkshake around.

We wandered back to the apartment via the Pescheria and along the Grand Canal front to check out our old haunts. We spotted Nicola Tenderini’s art studio and vowed to return the next morning. We saw a remnant of a late night concert as well. There were hundreds of nose-pierced and heavily tattooed Goths and English biker types hanging out getting plastered. There was also a huge plastic fish. We crossed the Rialto again, and then made our way back to Cannaregio. We slept very well indeed that night.

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