Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 86: A Month in Venice
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2002
Trip Description: One of the authors of Chow! Venice spends a month in Venice every winter and every spring. This report chronicles her travels in the spring of 2002.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Venice
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 11: Part One
It is April 22nd - D-day. Off we go on the trek to JFK to catch the Delta Direct flight. JFK is a zoo and the trip there is always a schlep and a half, but there is a method to our madness. We make it to the airport with 3 hours to spare. Of course, if we had left half an hour later the traffic on Satan's Parkway would have been such that we might have missed our flight. Such is life when you choose to fly out of JFK, but for the Delta Direct flight to Venice, it is worth it.
After checking in we start the hike to our gate - 28 out of 30. A friendly woman driving a golf cart offers us a ride. We happily accept. First we drop of two other passengers at their gate - elderly ladies, who are probably, actually, our age. They are flying to Nice, and we wish them a nice trip to Neece or a neece trip to Nice. They giggle accommodatingly.
On the way back to our gate, I whisper to Martin we had better not get our driver angry because if she dumps us off we really would have a long walk now! Back at gate 28 we settle in for a long wait and watch the small dramas around us. A delicate looking Asian woman misses her flight to LA by more than 10 minutes and reacts in a decidedly indelicate way. A man arrives in a wheel chair and is helped into a seat by an attendant who then pulls a row of four chairs over to block a nearby stairwell. It becomes obvious he is also visually impaired. She asks him if he needs help going to the bathroom, and he tells her in a voice tinged with gratitude and something sadder that he is fine. She assures him someone will come to wheel him down the jetway at boarding time and that he should just stay in his seat. He doesn't; for next two hours we see him periodically making a slow, hesitant but determined tour of the gate area. Two Italian women - not young-casually dressed, but very charming arrive. One asks me "Venezia?" "Si, si, Venezia" I say, "Ma non per un oltre due ore." The other one asks me if I know where she can get a sandwich. She can smell food she says. "Facciamo un piccolo giro a cercare cibo," I tell her, and she accompanies us. She tells me I will enjoy Venezia because I speak such good Italian. I don't, but I thank her and tell her we love Venice, and that whenever we go someplace else in Italy, we think it is beautiful, but it is not Venice. She smiles and pats my hand in approval.
We sample the goodies at Wok and Roll; the food is not fantastic, but nowhere near as bad as it might have been. Then it is back to the gate for more waiting, and playing with the QuickPad. The Cincinnati flight is down and the passengers have cleared out; the 6:30 Moscow flight has been moved to a different gate to the dismay of several agitated Russians so we are up next - at 8:10. Boarding should begin soon-time to pack my new gadget up.
Miraculously, we board on time, leave the gate on time and take off almost immediately. The pilot warns us to expect a lot of turbulence, but the flight is not all that rough; I have had much worse with no warning.
The man who had needed the wheel chair is sitting across the aisle from me. He is an Italian and a very kind and solicitous Italian speaking male flight attendant helps him get settled, offers him assistance in going to the bath room and then tells him how many rows forward and back the toilets are. He brings him some wine. The man has lived in California for many years although he frequently returns to Italy. His Italian is wonderfully clear, easy for me to understand, and is English is equally precise and only slightly accented. He tells me he lives in one of the Bassano towns - not di Grappa but another one - near Venice. He travels back and forth from California to Italy several times a year; he likes California but not the wine - he will only drink Italian or French wines, and he is not fond of American coffee. He and his wife drink only espresso and cappuccino. I tell him we drink only espresso.
The woman sitting on the outer seat of the three center sets tells him she has been reading a series of books about a Venetian detective named Brunetti; my ears come to attention. She has been reading them for years, and is now rereading them so she can follow his footsteps through Venice and visit the different places mentioned in his books-the restaurants, bars, etc. Part of me wants to tell her that we have done the same thing and part of me feels she is delighted she has come up with this wonderful idea - telling her we have done the same might seem less like sharing the fun and more like raining on her parade or saying, "Been there, done that" and besides she was not talking to me so I say nothing.
The male flight attendant is taking very good care of the Italian man; I wonder if they are trained for this because I notice when he eventually does help him to the bathroom he lets the man take is arm instead of taking his which is what most people try to do. My mother was virtually blind in her last years, and I remember how many times she would tell me and others, "Let me take your arm! Don't grab or pull me."
Because of my mother, and because I have already lost a significant amount of vision in one eye myself, I can't help observing by the visually impaired This man must still have some sight left because he comments on the fact that he is brought his dinner before anyone else is served. Again the male attendant explains to him in Italian what food there is and where on the tray everything is located. I was very impressed with the consideration shown this passenger, and the efforts made to see he was comfortable and cared for without taking away his dignity.
Our dinner is decent plain food - beef tenderloin with a tomato glaze that is served slightly rare instead of cooked to death; veggies that are also not over cooked-at least not beyond recognition and a palatable salad. The rest of the meal is dairy based - pureed potatoes, cheese, and a chocolate and cream dessert so I cannot have them.
Amazingly, I sleep for about 2 hours; the in-flight film starts before dinner is served and the rest of the flight is filled by TV shows and documentaries which don't hold my interest. We make good time and are offered a breakfast of juice, soft, warm bagels and fruit before making a smooth descent to Marco Polo.
It is positively balmy; on the tarmac even the Italians are pulling off their coats; most of the Americans are down to shirt sleeves by the time the buses head to the terminal. We are herded into the Immigration area like so many sheep; dazed from sitting for 7 1/2 hours - a really remarkably fast flight - and being up at what our body clocks tell us is 4:00 AM. We stumble through the process and then stand dumbly and numbly waiting for luggage. One load of luggage is already down and circles endlessly. Why does the early arriving luggage always belong to late arriving passengers? It seems hours before more luggage appears, and we are among the last dozen or so to find ours. First on last off Martin always says.
We have the usual job of convincing the water taxi people we do know where we want to go and that I do mean San Toma and not San Marco, but finally we are ensconced in a taxi heading for Venezia. There seems to be a single sea gull perched on every one of the pilings leading into the open channels of the lagoon - an honor guard of sorts - until the boat picks up speed, and we travel in a cascade of sea spray. We both sit outside in the back - one of the advantages of arriving in April rather than December. Like flowers we turn our faces up to the sun - blue skies and fluffy white clouds-I'm in heaven!
Horrors-the water door is not open when we arrive. I put down my camera and get out on the dock while the driver phones Floriana; he hands me the phone; she is at the Rialto and will be here in 5 minutes. We tell the taxi driver he can go, and he does after making sure we have all our bits and pieces piled around us. The sun is strong, and it is far from unpleasant standing there, but one does feel a bit odd as gondolas - including one with a bride and groom, vaporettos, and working boats go by. We try to pretend there is nothing we rather do than stand on a dock on the Grand Canal with all our luggage and enjoy the day.
It is not long before Floriana creaks the giant water door open, and we are able to enter the sunny but comfortably cool apartment. On the glass shelves there is a lovely flower arrangement in one of the blue and white pottery pitchers that match our dishes; Floriana says she thinks it is from the landlady; on the table is an even more spectacular arrangement - from Martin - arranged for via Floriana - for our 41st. Anniversary. WOW!
With the meters read, Floriana is ready to leave, but wait! We cannot find the black duffle bag with pillows and some of Martin's clothes and other odds and ends which we left here in January. Floriana helps us hunt and finally calls the land lady who tells us it is under the bed. It is a tight fit, but Floriana and Martin manage to drag it out. We start to unpack it; except for a bottle of balsamico which leaked - fortunately mainly onto the stored rolls off toilet paper - no great harm was done. The few articles of clothing that were soaked in the vinegar should be fine once they are washed.
Martin showers and I unpack. We go to the Campo San Toma to have lunch - The Trattoria San Toma is serving in the campo under umbrellas. The sun is very hot, but the air is still cool, and it is very comfortable in the shade. We order only water-non gasata and pizzas. Martin has his favorite-the Margherita - which is delicious but lacks any fresh basil for the green of the Italian flag, and I have the vegetariano - sense formaggio. There is a great assortment of veggies including spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, string beans, egg plant and zucchini. Neither of us can finish our pizza, but we do make a sizable dent. The water has brought us two small bottles of water one frizzante and one naturelle - we could return the frizzante, but it is already opened so we invent a new beverage - acqua mista and gulp them both down. I am always desperately thirsty after a flight.
At the table next to us a young Asian man is giving an art lecture of sorts to several tourists. He switches effortlessly from French for the people nearest us to English for the people at the far end of the table. I hear him talking about the Scuola San Rocco, and also telling stories about Casanova and an artist whose name I never catch, but whoever he was, he was renowned in Venice by the age of 16. He went to Paris to work and was so insulted by whatever he was asked to do there that he returned to Venice making and keeping a life long vow never to return to Paris again. I am dying to ask about whom he is talking, but the young man never even looks in our direction, and many guides do not love an eavesdropper.
We walk back through the Campiello San Toma' which is mobbed; I am not sure if it is the bella giornata or the approaching Liberation Day or simply a tour that had lunch in the trattoria there, but I have never seen so many people in the tiny Campiello. We walk to Gianni's for an espresso but he is c losed so we go home. I stop to photograph the window of the beauty salon which is filled with butterflies - some on a mannequin and other drawn painted and pinned all over the window.
After a shower and a nap which I had not meant to take, I gradually come back to wakefulness. It is early evening. We watch the boats and lights moving on the Canal and enjoy the cool breezes coming in through the apartment windows.
We walk to Antique Carampane for our anniversary dinner. We are greeted warmly with "Tante auguri" for our anniversary, which I had mentioned when I made the reservation about a week ago from New Jersey. Antonia is away in Roma where her daughter just presented her with her first grandchild un ragazzino. Bravo! Piera, like us, has adult children but no grandchildren. e both say "Speriamo!".
Our favorite scallops are available so we begin with those. The chef does something a little different from time to time; tonight the gratin contains not just scallops and artichokes, but also some prawns. They are heavenly. I wonder why East coast restaurants never serve the pink part of the scallop; it is so delicious. There is only one Branzino so we order that plus a San Pietro-mezzo e mezzo. Tatania, our attentive and efficient waitress divides the fish for us. The Branzino is perfectly grilled with just oil and lemon. The bottom layer of crisp skin is delicious. The San Pietro is lightly breaded and sauteed with artichokes. Due sgroppini finish a perfect meal.
We walk back home enjoying the balmy night. As often as we make the walk there is always something different to see-a building now free from the scaffolding which covered it for years, new shops, a wall plaque, a sign or a statue I somehow have never before noticed, a beautiful window box brimming with brilliant or lushly delicate flowers, a cute dog. Tonight it is a lovely white cat sitting in a window watching us watch him or her.
Back home we climb past a stack of wheelbarrows; some sort of renovation is going on in the palazzo because the marble floor is covered with plastic and during the day we had spotted other signs of workman - tools, hard hats, etc.. We check in with Martin's mother to let her know all is well and then settle down to try to convince ourselves it is nearly time to go to bed and not, as our body clocks are telling us only late afternoon.
MERCOLEDI 24 APRIL 2002 Breakfast at Gianni's - warm croissants and his very good espresso. We have to get used to paying in Euro, and pronouncing it the Italian way too. Business before pleasure so after a quick hello to Massimo in his mask shop we head to the butcher's. Tomorrow is a holiday - for all of Italy, it is Liberation Day, but in Venice, San Marco takes precedence. In any event the butcher shop will be closed for the feste. I buy chicken cutlets and veal cutlets as well - enough for two meals of each, and four eggs. At the supermercato we stock up on basics: water, cookies, paper goods, tomato puree, olive oil, balsamico, pasta, etc. Martin totes everything home while I go for produce - blood oranges, carrots, celery, onions, cucumbers, insalata, lemons, and tomatoes - which actually smell like tomatoes do in NJ in the summer instead of the dreaded green slime tomatoes of winter and spring. The string beans, asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini and zucchini blossoms look fabulous but we are only two people and I can and will come back Friday for more.
Once everything is put away, we go to the Piazzale Roma to pick up our 3 year cards which will allow us to buy monthly vaporetto passes at less cost than the usual charge for a weekly ticket. We buy one way tickets and board the Number 1 for the first of what will be many leisurely cruises down the canal. We are on the newer model with no front outside seating, but we find seats outside in the back. I am amazed walking through the inside cabin to see how many people have not only chosen to sit inside, but how many are bundled up in heavy winter weight jackets and coats. Martin is in a long sleeved cordon shirt and a khaki vest which he likes because it is light weight and has a multitude of pockets. I am in a short sleeved tee shirt and feel perfectly comfortable. The back of the vaporetto is pretty sheltered; a French couple is sitting there too; the man is studying the buildings with binoculars. Every time I take a photograph he looks at the direction of my camera and then trains his binoculars in that direction. I am tempted to tell him I take some weird photos. I like the color of wisteria draped across pink or sand colored stone, a cat sunning itself on a window ledge, an open water door giving a glimpse of an interior courtyard, and so forth. Almost always what catches my eye are small and not famous buildings. Beauty is n the eye of the beholder they say, and my eyes are pretty strange to begin with.
At Piazzale Roma, we disembark. Behind us we hear the conductor clapping is hands as he tries to get the attention of those who do not realize that everyone must get off. Some of the newer vaporettos have recorded announcements for each stop, and at the end they will say in English, "End of journey." Our little plastic 3 year pass cards are waiting for us in a box at the Actv office. We both look like rejects from someone's idea of the usual suspects-not quite vicious enough to be dangerous, but far too disreputable to be trusted. I think I might be able to snare a part as the warden if someone makes a film called "Bad Girls in Prison."
At the ticket kiosk, the seller tells us it is too late to buy the monthly ticket for April; he suggests we buy a ten trip block for the rest of the month and then get the monthly ticket for May. This is very economical, and we know from past trips that at the outset we usually do a lot of on foot exploring around the San Polo/Santa Croce and Dorsoduro sestiere. We ride home on a #1; the air in the front is noticeably cooler, but I never mind being chilly. We see a sign for a # 4 and pass a vaporetto with a #3 on it; we will have to investigate our newly purchased orario to find out where they both go and when. We suspect they may be some sort of semi-express to take tourists to San Marco.
Martin dozes while I cook lunch-very simple fare - chicken cutlets breaded lightly and sauteed in oil then drizzled with fresh oil and lemon juice, and panini integrale and insalata verde. We share a small pastry which Martin had bought with the rolls, and then I read while he cleans up. A better deal I couldn't ask for - getting to do the cooking but not the washing is my idea of heaven.
In the afternoon it is always gelato time. We go to our favorite place - Tarciso's Mille Voglie behind the Frari. Martin has a double dip of an old favorite and a new kind while I opt for my favorite sorbetti-mele verde e melone. I notice a sign saying they now have soy ice cream, and I will definitely try that on our next visit, but I have been waiting since last spring to try to taste my two favorite sorbetti again.
A small dog follows us from the entrance of a shop in the campo San Toma; he sees us sitting on the well head with ice cream, and he clearly has high hopes. Martin, who has a cup of gelato, is not about to share; I am near the bottom of my cone and have run out of sorbetto so I can afford to be generous. I offer him a bit of cone, and he pounces on it, watching me warily. I toss him the last bit of the cone. He snatches it up almost at once. Then he races back to his shop disappearing through the open door bearing his treasure to a safer place than an open campo so he can devour it in peace far away from the bright eyed pigeons who also patrol the area.
This morning we saw one wedding gondola and three funeral boats pass our windows; this afternoon it is a wedding motoscafo-the front is almost completely covered in pale pink roses and the bridal white is just visible in the cabin. A flotilla of gondolas come along with a singer and accordion player. The gondolieri, who sing, all seem to be doing "Volare" this year; I sing along with them all - sotto voce, of course - no point scaring off the tourists.
Tonight's dinner is at Da Fiore. It is a lovely thing when a place lives up to and possibly even exceeds its reputation. We have passed the unprepossessing entrance of this restaurant many times, and have tried on several occasions to get reservations without success. They are closed during most of our winter stay, and in the spring whenever we have called they have been "completo." This time I called from New Jersey a week or more in advance, and so tonight we fund ourselves not sauntering past Da Fiore but waltzing in.
From a small bar area we pass into a waiting room of sorts in which there is a desk with an attractive woman on guard duty. She checks our name against a list and then whispers to the maitre d' who escorts us to a comfortable table - big enough for four - in the center of a softly lit room. The decor is simplicity itself, but every detail is done well and done right. Small bouquets of fresh flowers decorate every table; the napery is white and spotless; the glasses sparkle in the soft light of the shaded candle on each table. The walls are covered with a woven straw fabric; the plates are ceramic in a gentle brown and white pattern.
There is one touch I have never before encountered and which wins me over completely. Next to each table - at the place the woman is seated, there is a low stool woven from rushes; it is there to hold purses, cameras, canes, guide books - whatever it would be inconvenient to have on three table, leaning on the wall or hanging from your chair. Brilliant!
The service is impeccable but in a friendly Italian way - as compared to what I think of as the haughtier French style. The wine list is large and leather bound, the menu is small-4 or 5 antipasti-two soups, two salads, four or five primi and four or five secundi. It is completely in Italian and mine has no prices. The staff is fluent in English and more than willing to translate and explain dishes to non-Italian reading customers. I hear them do this several times during the evening as by far the greatest number of diners are Americans who could not decipher some or all of the menu.
We are not familiar with rossette scottato which turned out to be baby red mullet sauteed and served with oranges and a salad. I loved the red mullet I had had a New Year's Eve and cannot resist trying that dish. Martin opts for the second dish I could not decipher which turns out to be a made up name for spinach papardelle with mussels and other mollusks - a creation of the restaurant.
Before our first courses come, we are presented with an offering from the management - a very generous amuse bouche consisting of a small puddle of creamy white polenta; a scattering of batter dipped and lightly fried baby shrimp - the largest is about the size of a thumb nail, and a small stack of tiny battered and fried zucchini circles. Although the man at the table behind us finds it weird and bizarre - he objects to the tiny crustaceans needing to be eaten whole, and just doesn't get the white polenta, Martin and I make quick work of ours. The shrimp which are sometimes called ballerine de mer are delicate and crisp. If you asked me coolly and logically whether I would want to eat shrimp brains, bowels and eyes, I'd probably saw, "EWH," but presented as they were, I have no problem devouring every last one. The polenta is smooth and as soft and rich as velvet and the little bits of zucchini bear little resemblance to their large seed-filled cousins.
My rossette are delicious - something like a very mild crab meat - tender and juicy - warm in contrast to the sweet tart blood orange pieces and the crisp but tender arugula. Martin raves about his pasta - besides the mussels and small clams - all carefully removed from the shells several other mollusks decorate the green papardelle which are magnificent and perfectly cooked-the epitome of al dente. An unusually good assortment of rolls accompanies the presentation of the amuse bouche; we try three different kinds and they are all outstanding.
For our secundo, we both have chosen the rombo al forno in a potato crust. It is a generous piece of fish - Martin says it must have been boned by a master because neither of us finds a single bit of bone or cartilage anywhere. The outer coating of thin, crisp potato slices is a revelation; they are not too thick, not too thin, not too soft, not too crunchy-they are just right! An ambrosial green pool lies next to the fish-perhaps thyme-perhaps rosemary-it is a lovely herbal infusion that sets off rather than dominates the dish. Our Soave Classico goes extremely well with both courses and neither of us leaves a shred of food.
I blush to say we have room for dessert. Martin tries the crema con zucchero flambe - creme brulee - and pronounced it the second best he has ever had; top honors still go to Chef pierre when he was at Stage Left in New Brunswick. I had green apple sorbetto with a perfume of grappa. This is a spectacular presentation - a flower made from ice held the sorbet which is topped with a fringe of green apple slices. It is the perfect end to a perfect meal. BUT WAIT! A small plate of cookies also appears - "only" three each but two are rich and buttery and the third is about the most perfect meringue I have ever tasted. How do they make such outstanding meringues in such a damp climate? I have made many a meringue cookie in my day, and I know humidity and dampness are natural enemies of the crisp light quality a good meringue most possess. Maybe I can find a baker or pastry chef to share his secret. Regretfully, we pass on coffee; we tend not to drink espresso at night anyway, and right now we want to get to sleep on Italian time so that hopefully we can wake up on Italian time.
Our waiter, when I ask him, tells me that while Da Fiore is not officially no smoking, they do not put out ash trays. If a patron insists on smoking and requests an ash tray, they will provide them; we are lucky; there was not a single cigarette lighted the entire time we are there.
Da Fiore is far from inexpensive; it is definitely expensive, and it is definitely worth it. You leave feeling you paid a lot for a lot- I am talking quality here. Add this place to your slit of romantic sites for special occasion dinners, and if your pocketbook allows it add it to your list for the best of Venetian food.
We stop in Campo San Polo on the way home; it is positively balmy, and it seems a shame to go inside. We watch apartments all around us go dark for the night. I don't think everyone is going to bed, but by pulling down their shutters they are effectively shutting out the world. Eventually we too go home and draw our curtains.
There is a party going on next door at the Pisani Moretta. Earlier we had seen and heard the tables, chairs, flowers and boxes of china and glasses being unloaded. The docked is draped with greenery. As parties go, it is fairly subdued; in fact all the noise comes from the collection of waiting motorscafi and launches that will collect the guests and bring them home. At one point I sense rather than actually feel of hear something right outside our window; drawing aside the curtain I see a water taxi at one of our mooring poles. Presumably he is waiting for his fare because he soon moves along the front of our building to the side of the dock. By 11:00, he and all the other waiting boats are gone, and the Canal is quiet, but it is not dark; in fact, it is more brightly lit than on previous visits. The extra light is mainly from one building-a new hotel which has opened directly across from us. Last winter, the dryer repairman had told us about it. It is the Hotel San Angelo, and it is just across a narrow canal from the Palazzo Garzoni. I think it will be interesting to go and check it out so I add it to my ever growing To-do List.
GIOVEDI 25 APRILE 2002 After coffee, we walk to Campo San Polo for an IHT and some post cards; Martin also finds a new map to replace ours which has fallen into several pieces from years of being unfolded and refolded in every imaginable sort of weather. .It is a bellissima giornata - sunny and bright-with that clear light that drives painters and photographers into a frenzy and just enough of cool breeze to make it comfortable in the sun- clearly San Marco has an in with the weatherman.
We meet Massimo walking to his shop and then a few minutes later we bump into RIta. It is a delight to be walking in Venice and meet people we know. It would be a delight to meet Rita or Massimo anywhere. Almost every man we pass is carrying one or more red roses - a San Marco Day tradition is to give the women in your life a red rose. I lvoe hte idea that it is not just your girl friend or wife, but also your Mother, daughter, etc. Since it is already late morning, we decide to go home and have an early lunch so we can get out while the afternoon is young.
After reading the paper and writing some post cards I start to cook. I dust the veal cutlets I had bought yesterday with flour and freshly greated lemon zest. I saute them quickly in oilvie oil, add a handful of chopped tomatoes, let them cook down a bit and then squeeze in fresh lemon juice. With the addition of rolls and freshly cut, marinated cucmbers we have an easy and tasty lunch. Instead of recorded music to accompany my cooking, I opt for the sounds of the gulls, water and different water craft outside our open windows.
We walk to Mille Voglie. Martin has one scoop of pistachio and one of hazelnut while I have hte melon sorbetto and try the soya gelato which is available in chocolate. I have tried many different soy ice creams in the States, and they are okay, but this is incredible. Martin tastes it and he also finds it hard to believe it is not real gelato. We walk to the Rialto to visit Sergio in his shop and see the Huskie mask he has made for us. The area around hte Rialto is mobbed. It is hard to make any forward progress at all and, of course, the nearer we get to the bridge the worse the crowds become.
Sergio's shop is closed; perhaps he is still closed for the mid day lunch break. It is after 3:30 and I want to find a quiet spot and wait until 4:00 to see if he will reopen, but, the continual shoving, and jostling from the dozens and dozens of people eating pizza and gelato, , drinking different sorts of drinks and smoking is making Martin nuts.He wants to retreat to the quiet ofSan Polo so we duck through a few passages we have come to know and emerge near Antico Dolo, where the crowds are not so oppressive.
Our enthusiasm for any further outings has been diminished by the congestion we encountered so we prop ourselves up near the open windows read and canal watch. We are both reading different books by Michael Dibdin - boosk outside the Aurelio Zen series, I have just finished Dark Spectre and am in the middle of A Rich Full Death. Martin is finishing The Dying of the Light.
A commotion on the canal ensues; several water taxis seem to be having an altercation, or perhaps one is having a problem and trying to get help from the others. Martin thinks one has nearly hit a vaporetto, but the two boats in question have departed and the water taxis are still backing and circling one another. Whatever the problem was is suddenly settled because in an instant they are gone.
We have noticed that the water taxis and priavate boats are all going more slowly than in the past. The# 82 vaporettos seem to be turning less often-perhaps there are fewer Limitatos in the summer months than in the winter. Those that do turn are doing so in small tighter circles with far less churning of the water. The canal is very murky right now-sometimes it looks grayish green and other times a more pure green but I have yet to see it sparkle.
An on line aquaintance calls; she is in Venice waiting for a tour group to join her. We would like to meet her in person; she will be at a concert at the Scuola San Rocco on Saturday night. Tomorrow we will go to see if there are still tickets available A concert surrounded by Tintorettos -sounds like heaven to me.
We walk through Dorsduro to Cantin dei Nobili for dinner. It is a short walk, and much as I like to ride the vaporetto, it does seem just as easy to cross into Dorsoduro, walk past the State Archives and Vigili dei Fuco building cross the Foscari Bridge and continue past the University. A pretty campiello leads to a calle and then after a few quick turns past some fascinating shops, we are at the bridge which leads toCampo San Barnaba. Casin dei Nobili is just through the arches; we like it because there is good food at very reasonable prices and a completely separate non smoking room. Tonight the non smoking room is crowded and very warm; I never thought to ask about air conditioning. There are two large windows at the end; they open out over a small canal, but are tightly shut.
We are seated along the far wall, but at the end nearest the entrance; we have not been seated here before. This is the sort of place in which it is fun to have diferent seats since the walls are crowded with an extremely eclectic assortment of painting and photos. A new seat means a whole new collection to view while dining.
We both start with the Pappardelle Montavani - fresh home made pasta; cooked pefectly and served with a sauce of ground meat, carrots, mushrooms and peas - no tomato. It is delicios. I could easily have this as a main course. For our secundo, we both have agnello al forno. The lamb is a generous portion of what can best be described as hacked lamb, Some pieces look like loin chops, others like shoulder chops or breast-some is fatty, some lean and for some reason some pieces are very salty while others are properly sesoned. Overall, it is a tasty but messy dish since it is impossible to get much meat without picking the bones up and gnawing away on them. A contorno of potato croquettes is delicious but not really necessary after the generous helpings of pasta. The house red tasts okay, but both of us react to the histamines in it by turning red ourselves. Cantin dei Nobili sells a lot of pizzas all of which look good. It also offers huge salads in glass bowls which look big enough to serve as an entree.. It is not elegant, nor restful, but it is lively and entertaining. The servers are friendly and cheerful and most speak better English than they will admit to speaking; they are unduly modest.
We pass on dessert - the heat is getting to us both despite a patron at one of the rear tables having cranked open the window a tad, besides afer all that meat we need to wait a while befre considering dessert. We walk back and wend our way to the back of the Frari where Mille Voglie is still open. Martin indulges in chocolate chip and coffee; he is desolate that the tira misu is gone, and I settle for mele verde and melone-no more soia either. At least we know why the gelato is so good; running out means they are not making a ton of gelato that will sit ofr days until it is eventually eaten.
There is no place to sit so we walk home; eating and walking is not one of my greater skills and I manage to lose the top part of my sorbetto near the Chiesa di San Toma'; oh well someone's dog will be very happy! It is a warm night but our apartment is comfortable with the curtains drawn and the windows open.
I have time to think about what a playful city Venice can be. We frequently watch people come down the calle across the canal from us; the one that is next to the new hotel; they turn left and walk along the fondamente clearly expecting to continue to the traghetto or to be able to walk back up the other side. We know this because we see them stop at the end of the walkway; there is only the Grand Canal on one side, a building on the other and a small canal ahead; they must go back the way they came. Some do this with laughter; others in bewilderment, and still others wih obvious annoyance. Either their maps or their sense of direction have misled them, and Venice is no doubt laughing to herself.
I know the feeling well because on more than one occasion, we have thought we knew where we were going and what we were doing only to be foiled or fooled. On the other hand, there are many places, such as the one near us in Dorsoduro where it looks for all the world as though you are heading straight for a dead end - buildings on one side, canal on the other and a wall straight ahead only to find the [avement makes a sharp turn and continues. You can walk safely on towards your destination - sometimes you just gotta have faith. That's Venice for you - some times she tricks you and sometimes she tests you, and you just have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of a city laughing.
VENERDI 26 APRILE 2002 We want to get tickets for the concert at the Scuola San Rocco for Saturday night, but when we walk over learn from the man in the booth for tickets to the scuola that the concert tickets are sold separately, and the "box" opens at 10:30. Since we are half way there we walk over to Tonolo's for breakfast. Martin has a whole wheat croissant with blueberry filling, and I have one of my favorite almond twisty confections. The coffee and pastri es are served on elegant, blue and white patterened bone china with gold rims.The pastries are divine; I don't think the coffee is any better than Gianni's, but I always get a little frisson of delight when I see Tonolo's lovely china and their pastries are too die for - in fact if I were not allergic to so many things like cream, chocolate, cinnamon, etc., I would simply work my way through the long glass cases trying every single item, and then move on to the refrigerated items.
Martin goes to visit his favorite ATM, and I go back to San Rocco. It is well past 10:30, but still no one is there selling concert tickets. The man in the glass booth who had given me the time of 10:30 now gives me an elaborate shrug, "I don't know; I have no idea why this person is not here; it is not my fault; it is not my responsibility, I cannot help you, but I am sorry for your inconvenience." All this is conveyed in the single gesture. I have waited about 10 minutes, a woman starts to worlk along side of the young man in the San Rocco entrance. She tells me I can easily buy tickets at the door just before the start of the concert; there is no extra charge and there are plenty available. That settled at least for now, we move on to adventure #2 and take the traghetto across to San Angelo.
I love the traghetto, and have learned to turn to face the rear as soon as I get in since it will become the front when the traghetto turns as it starts its journey. Many people are sitting, but I stand, although from time to time, I surreptiously, I hope, hold on to the back of Martin's vest. I don't think it would stop me from falling-more likely it would just give me a companion in the canal.
It is odd walking along the path to the entrance of the Hotel Palazzo Sant' Angelo because we have seen so mnany people do this from our windows, which are practically directly opposite the hotel, for once we know exactly where we are going.
The lobby has a smashingly bold mosaic tile floor while the side rooms have a similar but slightly more subdued pattern. There is a bar, reading room, breakfast room, but as yet no full dining room. The manager tells us once the dining room is open they will be a five star hotel, but for now they are a four star since a restaurant is a requirement for five stars. He is extremely gracious, takes our name and address and promises to send us a full brochure when it is ready-for now he gives me a sheet with the room rates.They have about 10-15 rooms ready now -another 20-30 will be ready over the next few months. There is a 65 euro supplement for canal front rooms and 3 prices - high-middle and low season for every room.
He offers to show us a double, and we eagerly accept his offer. The elevator takes us up smoothly and silently; we have two small steps up, and the door opens to reveal a room done in regal deep reds and golds. It is spectacular.The front part nearest the door is done like asitting room with a window overlooking the canal; the bed is in an alcove of sorts so there is a slight separation from the rest of the room. From the bed it is possible to look right out at the canal. The bathroom is larger than many of the hotel rooms in which we've stayed. It is all done in green marble.I could be very happy in that room.
When we leave, I stand between the yellow and green striped poles on the dark green dock to take some photos of our apartment with the Pisani Moretta next to it. According to the manager, the San Angelo is the first new hotel to be built on the Grand Canal in 100 years. I silently wish it a long and happy existence.
We take a vaporetto to San Sylvestro and then walk to the Rialto to see Sergio and our Huskie mask. The mask is fantastic; the color is a little light, but the expression is perfect. Sergio says he is not happy with the color and has made a second model which he wants to paint a little darker. We tell him it is not necessary, but he insists he wants to get the color more accurately so we tell him we can wait and will see him when we come back from Germany. Sergio and Massimo and Rita are extremely talented but also so warm and friendly - every conversation with them is a delight.
We buy some strawberries and fresh pasta on our way home. There are two veal cutlets left, the tortelloni with asparagus and a simple light tomatoe sauce will complement them nicely. Martin goes to get fresh rolls and we still have some marinated cucumbers so our lunch will be quick and easy. The strawberries are so sweet they need nothing whatsoever added to make a perfect dessert.
When we head out in the afternoon, we notice the little Scuola dei Caleghari in the Campo San Tomais open. They have small art exhibits here all the time so we go in to see what the current one is like. The display is posters of pages from children's school books during the era of Mussolini. It is a chilling exhibit especially as the posters move into the late thirities and start beconing very racist. Mussolini certainly had a way with words., but unfortunately as his mind grew more twisted, his words did not grow less compelling; one can understand just from the printed wrods and illustrations how he could have mesmerized so many people.
Although I am glad I saw it and took the trouble to read most of it, I feel almost unclean by the time I emerge into the warm sunlight of the April afernoon. To cleanse my spirit we go for gelato. To my delight in addition to chocolate soy ice cream there is hazel nuit as well. I have a scoop of each; Martin has vanilla gelato with nutella. We seat on the low wall behind the Frari and devour our ice cream, and then go to San Rocco to try one more time to buy tickets. This time we are successful, and are even more pleased to learn that the ticket will allow us to visit the upstairs rooms duirng the 20 minute intermission.
We stop at the Frari because we have seen a poster saying James Galway will be performing there on Monday night. The woman says there are no tickets sold there; the tickets will be sold at the door. I think she tells me that the concert begins at 9:00, but we should come by 8:30 to make sure we get seats. She finishes with a "Mi dispiace," and suddenly I am not sure what she is sorry about - perhaps she was not telling me tickets are to be bought at the door-perhaps she was telling there are no tickets left. YIKES! And I had been doing so well. Since the Frari is two minutes away from our apartment, we will just wander over on Monday night and see what's what.
We cross the bridge in front of the Frari and turn left; over another humpedback bridge and into the Campo S. Stin. We walk through the arches but find nothing very interestibng except a less than friendly cat. We retrace our seps and walk back to the campo and then in another direction. We cross the Ponte San Angostin, and I take several photos from the two bridges just before it; reflections and shadows always capture my attention.
Walking on the Calle D'Olio we find the Ponte della Late about which I have read in Ian Littlewood's "A Literary Companion to Venice." In the early 16th Century the Council of Ten had hired a patrician by the name of Marin Sanudo to compile a detailed study of life in Venice. For the date of 31 August 1505, he wrote that an Albanian who had murdered Zuan Marco was executed. Prior to his execution he was taken to the Ponte della Late where his hand was cut off. Sanudo goes on to write, "And mark that this gave rise to a curious incident to wit, while his wife was taking leave of him, he made as if he wanted to kiss her and bit her nose off. It is said that she was responsible for bringing his crime to light."
I wish I could report I felt a shiver of horror standing on the bridge, but in truth, I was not even sure I had the right spot until I got home and checked my copy of Littlewood. All I saw was an ordiniary bridge over a small canal dappled with sunlight. No sense of horror or doom at all-alas!
The Calle Zane led us to the small Campo of San Agostin.This was once the location of a palazzo belonging to Baiamonte Tiepolo who, in 1310 had been the leader of an uprising to depose the Doge. The uprising failed and the palazzo of Baiamonte was destroyed. A column known as a Colonna d'Infamia was put in its place. That column is now in the Correr Museum, but there is supposed to be a cracked paving stone near a clothing shop at the corner of the Calle della Chiesa where the column stood. Littlewood says the stone reads "Loc. Col.Bai. The. WCCCX". I want to photograph it, but the area is too crowded so I shall have to try to go back.
On the Rio Terra Seconda, there is a small Gothic palazzo with three central windows and a small balcony on the second floor. According to Littlewood this was the home of one of the great printing presses of the Renaissance, the Aldine Press known by its imprint of a dolphin and an anchor. By the end of the 15th century, some 200 Venetian printers - relatively free from the Church's meddling - had issued more works than those of milan, Florence and Rome combined.
We are about to turn back when Martin sees a sign for the San Stae vaporetto stop so we decide to follow it. Suddenly we are in the campo San Boldo. I would never have recognized it because much of the campo is shut off from the surrounding rios by great sheets of plastic, but the well head looks familiar and there is a helpful sign. It looks nothing like the drawing in the book "Another Venice," and I am not even sure which building is the Palazzo Grimaldi because the drawing in the book shows a pink building, and the building in the campo is gray. The campanile is unmitaskable though. The church of San Ubaldo to which the campanile originally belonged was closed nearly 200 years ago and demloished more than 175 years ago. Supposedly the campanile is now a residence, and some of the small windows do seem to show signs of its being inhabitied. "Another Venice" speaks of the small campo's tranquility; tranquility is certainly lacking this afternoon with workmen shouting and tools clattering and roaring behind he plastic that closes it off from the water, but we do concur with the small book's statement that Campo San Boldo is well and truly off the beaten path.
We continue following signs to the vaporetto, and cross a Ponte Storco -the third or fourth Ponte Storto I have found in Venice, and before very much longer, we recognize the area-we are right near Zucca and heading straight down the calle past the palazzo Moncenigo to San Stae.
On the way we meet two men with a large dog - a sort of pale gold - but with a build similar to a Malamute or a very large Huskie. I stop to ask him about the dog, and he tells me he is neither a Malamute or Huskie but an Akita. I tell him about a former Japanese exchange student named Keiko. She was very tiny and yet unafraid of our Huskie because she had an Akita at home. After duly admiring the beautiful animal, we continue on our way to the vaporetto stop. There are no empty outside seats, but I find a bit of wall outside the cabin against which I can lean for the ride home.
In the evening, we walk down to The Pescaria for dinner at Poste Vecie. My knees and back are protesting this walk; it is as if they are saying, "look swimming and biking are okay. Walking for a day for two, that's one thing, but enough already!" I will go more slowly to accommodate their balkiness, but walk one must in Venice. As we cross the litttle humped bridge, the door is held open for us. Wilma,one of the Captains, greets me with Carissima Signora, nothing like that to make one feel warmly welcomed. We sit in the garden room, which is not a real garden since it is not completely outdoors, but it does have plants and a gardeny feel to it, and the ceiling is open in places. The waiters here seem to be a stable crew; many have been here for as long as we have been coming which has been several years now.
We get a complementary glass of prosecco and a nice assortment of rolls and bread sticks. Martin begins with his favorite saute of clams and mussels, and I have my favorite spaghetti with vongole verace. Neither of us is disappointed; both dishes are as wonderful as we remember they were. We share the rombo for two; it is dappled with a white wine sauce and accompanied by small oven roasted potatoes. It is a wonderful dish, and Wilma is an expert at boning fish. I only find two tiny pieces of bone in mine; I have eaten fish in other restaurants in which I wonder if there is secret plot to get me to choke to death on a fish bone, there are so many left in the fish when it is served.
For dessert, Martin tries the tira misu and I go with the sgroppino. The sgroppino is a little thinner than usual, but it is still a light and lovely way to finish a meal. Martin says the tira misu strikes a good balance beween filling and cake; he polishes it off so it must be good; he is not one to eat anything in order to avoid hurt feelings. The only downside of the meal is the couple next to us who chain smokes their way through dinner. By the meal's end I feel as though I have been sharing their cigarettes. I do wish Italy would get strict about no smoking regulations, but I must also admit things are better than they used to be. The chain smokers are the only ones smoking in the whole room for most of the evening; the remaining 20-30 diners are eating and not polluting.
The walk home is slow because I feel very stiff; I pause on the bridges on either side of the Campo SanPolo to enjoy the cool breeze and to lean on them feel the cold stones soothing my back. The moon is full and is in a small clear spot surrounded by wreathes of mysterious looking clouds. We pause several times to admire the show the night sky is putting on before we finally cross our court yard and enter the building we call home in Venice.
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