By riding on a little commuter boat called a vaporetto. A commuter’s gondola: a traghetto, like this one. A water taxi. Or, a gondola.
After awhile I stopped taking pictures of the things they transport on boats in Venice: commuters, tourists, garbage, police and firemen, furniture, water and vegetables for the ristoranti, pipes, televisions, milk, DHL packages. It wasn’t that the novelty of it left me, it was just that obviously in a city with no roads, just canals, anything that has to move in Venice, has to move on water. I was enthralled by this. I suppose it gets old after awhile, but it certainly did not pale for this visitor to Venice.
I added Venezia to my Italy trip at the last minute. A friend of mine in New York has spent a good amount of time in La Serenissimaand recommended a fabulous hotel: the Novecento in the San Marco section of Venice. Nine rooms in a fairly new hotel along a tiny street they call acalle. Charming little rooms. Sweet. Clean, clean, clean. And without that musty smell that hotels in Europe sometimes have. The bed was a dream to sleep on. Precious little giardinofor breakfast. The calleso isolated that it was absolutely silent at bedtime.
The sun was out the entire time. People kept telling me it had been raining like mad, but suddenly changed.Arrivo, poi il sole arriva! I arrive, then the sun arrives. It was stunning weather: cool and breezy. Life looks better under the springtime sun.
I took a trip to one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon. On my first trip to Venice in 2001, I visited Burano, the island where they make lace. This time, I considered going to Murano, the glass-blowing island, but decided instead to go to Cimetero. It is where the Venetians — or anyone who wishes to spend eternity in Venice, like Ezra Pound and Stravinsky — are buried. The cemetery was divided into thematic sections. There was a plot for babies —Campo dei Bambini. One for sailors. There was even a field where only nuns were buried.
During this visit to Venice, I had one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Italy: at a restaurant called the Antiche Carampane. It was definitely not a restaurant for tourists — with signs on the front that threatened to charge 5000 lira if you should dare to stop and ask them for directions, or information. Obviously, that sign has been there for awhile, considering the euro arrived in Italy years ago. Another sign bragged no menu turistico. Many restaurants in Italy bring English language menus to your table if they discern you don’t speak the language. At this restaurant, that was slightly oxymoronic anyway, given the fact they had no menus at all, except for the wine list.
It was not an easy place to find — secreted away in the San Polo region of Venice. Three vaparetto stops from my hotel, I headed out early just to make sure I arrived in time for my reservation, myprenotazione. In Italy, by the way, you do not make reservations, you take them. Anyway, I arrived early, after several false starts down calle that ended at little canals.
After I made it clear that I am allergic to shrimp, the waiter recommended a dish ofpesce crudo – raw fish (think Italian sushi), followed by some white fish I think was turbot, cooked simply with artichokes. I ended the meal with panna cotta, two small servings: one with chocolate sauce, the other with some kind of fruit sauce. I drank my coffee and headed out to continue my nighttime adventure in Venice.
I wandered for some time, thinking I might stop in the Piazza San Marco for a prosecco, when I heard this beautiful music. Inside a church in the San Marco quarter, a group of Italian musicians were playing Vivaldi on classic instruments. As I did on my first trip to Venice, I topped my evening with that. Afterwards, I took a slow vaparetto ride to my hotel, then drifted into one of the sweetest sleeps I’ve ever had.
When people ask me “what was the highlight of this trip to Italy”, I tell them — it had to beVenezia.
FINDING MY WAY
Not surprisingly, I always got lost.
Countless times while travelling, I have found myself somewhere I did not necessarily intend to go. I would tell myself, you do not get lost really. You just end up discovering someplace new, unintended, or, at least, unexpected. Certainly it really isn’t a waste of time when you are on vacation, unless you are supposed to meet someone, or arrive at a particular appointment, or arrive at the restaurant when your reservation begins.
On this trip, I decided to ditch the notion that I have no sense of direction. I simply presumed I would get where I wanted to go. In fact, I decided I would set out to get lost. I discarded the truism that I always get lost when I travel.
And so I embraced the fun of exploring Venice. Truly, it is so small, you can’t really get lost anyway. I took the advice from one tour book that suggested you find a landmark you recognize. In Venice, on virtually every corner, there are signs pointing you to the major sights: San Marco, Accademia, Rialto.
It changed the whole tenor of my experience. On top of it, I found everything I was looking for. I wanted to buy some handmade journals, found that. Looking for a particular island. Found that. Needed a sandwich for my trip on the train. Found that.