Thursday, May 27, 2010

I’m posting this from home. I’m back in Oregon it was a very long day in the air with seriously long lines and heavy security in Italy… but I survived.

Venice brings out the artist in everyone...
Okay… It’s my last day in Venezia. I’m pretty much worn out (at least my knees are). Because of the regatta and the maniac crowds that were here over the weekend getting around was, at best, difficult.

Even the dogs are smarter in Venice... This one is walking himself!
This morning I decided to pace myself and visit the Corer Museum and Doge’s palace The Corer Museum is at the big end of the Piazza San Marco. When it opens is practically deserted. In fact I was the first visitor there. This is the “big secret” that Rick Steves talks about… Get a ticket and visit the Corer, you also get a pass for the Doge’s Palace. A lot of people don’t know this and line up to buy tickets for the Doge’s palace tour, blowing off the Corer, which has some pretty neat Venezia related exhibits. Afterwards, you get to waft by the proles standing in line and get right into the Doge’s digs… which is seriously cool. There isn’t much to his personal chamber. The evidence of the opulence of the Venetian empire cannot be hidden by the removal of some furniture.
To get the full impact you should imagine yourself a visiting dignitary… say from England or, one of the Germanies (there were quite a few of them), being ushered into one of the official spaces with all the sculpture gold leaf, etc. These guys could buy and sell your whole country if the mood took them.

Dweeb Alert!!!

If your heart doesn’t go pitty-pat with the talk of arms and armor skip this next paragraph… If Venezia suspected you might have designs on horning in on their “rice bowl” they showed you the armory. A smidge was left for us to see… but what a smidge! Swords, halberds and implements of destruction by the hundreds… row upon row. Along with the cutting implements there were suits of full plate armor that I have never seen before… and I’ve looked at lots of photos of armor and seen enough “in the steel” over the years to know this stuff was rare and quality. As for firearms there were various varieties of matchlock muskets and early flintlocks on display. What really was impressive was the number of wheel locks in the collection. There were easily over a hundred wheel locks, mostly pistols. To see even one or two good wheel lock firearms in any given collection is not unusual. A dozen would be notable… but hundreds? They had so many of a particular design pistol the curators had taken one apart to show you how the sucker worked… on the inside… very Impressive! Many years ago I built a wheel lock dragon, the weapon that gave mounted infantry troops their name… “dragoners…” or “dragoons.” I know what it takes to make one, and how delicate the mechanism can be. I also know how thrilling it is to fire one, standing next to someone shooting a flintlock, which when the wheel lock is working well (rare enough in its own right), is slow and cumbersome by comparison. Also in the collection there was a lovely little decorated light cannon and a breach loaded ship’s gun that were quite nice as well… my renaissance militaria nut rears his head. The tour continued into the Venetian Senate halls and on down into the prison and across the “Bridge of Sighs” which once was crossed, there was no going back.

A last look at Venice from the "Bridge of Sighs"...
The Corer Museum was quite nice but the Doge’s Palace knocked my socks off.

After the Doge’s palace I wandered back, window shopping, on the way, I ran across an open air market...I took my time and did some shooting.

Once back at the hotel Rialto I quizzed Marco before he went off duty. I told him of my great meal at the Alta Madonna the night before. I asked him where he would go for a great Venetian dinner, my last in the city. He gave me the address of a place around the corner. I quizzed him again. Where would I get a truly good dinner that local Venetians would enjoy. “Do Spada” he told me. Then he got out a map and drew me directions. The rest of the afternoon was spend in repose, sitting in a bar drinking Campare and soda and getting something in the stomach, crudo e melone (prosciutto and cantaloupe) to cushion the NSAIDs I was taking for my knees. I had a nap then went wandering in a direction away from where I had been walking (
without camera for once). I wound up near the Ponte Accademia. As I neared the bridge I hear a number of different classical music pieces drifting through the air. Drawn by the music I found myself standing I front of a music conservatory. Violin music was coming from one window, piano music coming from another. Different compositions were being played… don’t ask me to tell you whose music it was. Somehow it all fit and sounded “right”.
It occurs to me that I haven’t told you how much music there is in Venezia. Of course you’ve got the Gondoliers singing, though not as often as you would expect (music hikes an 80-100 euro 40 minute gondola ride significantly). There are a few street musicians but mostly there’s music coming from everywhere. There’s music coming from bars, theaters and concert halls. Music was coming out of window of private domiciles and of course there are the battling 5 piece orchestras at various restaurants on the Piazza San Marco. Anywhere else in the world it may have seemed like a cacophony, somehow in Venezia it worked.
When dinner time rolled around I found Do Spada easily. It was located down a small alley on the far side of the Ponte Rialto. The food was fresh seafood, on display in a bar top glass case. The bar tender asked what I would like… what I would like? Cheeze… it all looked so good. “Make me a suggestion,” I answered. The first course was two different kinds of fried calamari and a sardine patty cooked in pastry. It was wonderful the Calamari was crispy and had great flavor the sardine patty was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. Like the marinated fresh anchovies I had in Levanto there’s nothing I could compare it to other than to say it tasted like really good fresh fish. The second course was a variety of different sea food a prawn some fish, probably monkfish and a baby octopus all cooked in a tomato gravy. Each item had its own flavor enhanced and coordinated by the tomato gravy. Kind of like an orchestra you can hear the individual instruments but the gestalt of the thing was far better. The house wine which I had with both courses was a Pinot Grigio which gave just the right note of fruit and citrus making adding lemon to any of the seafood unnecessary. I didn’t have desert at Do Spada. I’d been promising myself a gelato sundae at this place I’d been passing in my wanderings. It was a chocolate hazelnut beast, rich chocolate and hazelnut gelato served with chocolate syrup, fresh hazelnuts and whipped cream. I’ve come to really enjoy gelato, especially the fruit flavored sort I’ve found nearly everywhere. I wish American ice cream could taste half as fresh and fruity as the gelatos I had in Italy.

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