Sunday, May 23, 2010

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I arrived in Venezia. I certainly wasn’t prepared for walking out of the train station to have the Grand Canal staring me in the face. It’s a bit overwhelming to step out of the 21st century into a renaissance travel poster at one shot. Once I figured which vaporetti (water bus) would take me where I needed to go (it only took one mistake). I arrived at the Hotel Rialto, my hotel… right next to the Ponte Rialto. On check in I found the room I had reserved would not be available until Sunday. The hotel upgraded me for the night to a double room with (get this) an actual bathtub. It was a first in Italy, where some showers are so small you can almost scrub your ass without reaching around. What was even better, the tub had a Jacuzzi (bliss). My knees have been giving me fits lately with all the walking. Once I got settled I got directions to Piazza San Marco, I set out to find the focal point of the Venetian empire.

I haven’t had chills at anytime during my trip. Sure, I’ve been thrilled and surprised (in both directions) and have been moved almost to tears at the sheer beauty of the Tuscan countryside. I’ve got to tell you I got chills In the Piazza San Marco. In Mercedes Lackey’s book “The Shadow of the Lion” in a mythical Venezia, the city was protected by an elemental spirit (a winged lion). There is an elemental spirit in Venezia and there are enough winged lion images scattered about to give it form. Any great city has its elemental spirit. I’ve felt it in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and oddly enough Portland Oregon. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes like with New York City, it’s a slap in the face. If you don’t feel it, you’re just not trying hard enough.

On the way in on the vaporetto I had been seeing posters for “Venezia” a live theater production of the story of Venice. History buff that I am I figured it was just the thing to get tossed into the deep end of the Venetian pool. It took several tries to find the Teatro San Gallo just off Piazza San Gallo, naturally. The show was real fun. Think of street theater with help from modern audiovisuals. 5 actors 2 male 3 female told with genteel comedy, the story of Venezia from its beginnings as a swampy refuge from barbarians, to the fabulously wealthy Mediterranean powerhouse it became, then the decline into decadence. It was well worth the 39 Euroes a ticket cost. I had dinner at a bar on the way back (as you might suspect a bar can be more than just a place to buy a beer in Italy). I had Spaghetti ala frutti di mare along with a good Sicilian rosso. It was very nice, but not earth shaking. While I was eating dinner the big soccer match came on. Milan’s united team versus Spain (I think)... Milan won 2 zip. Rick Steves said it’s fun to get lost in Venezia… he’s right. On the way back I got lost… on purpose.

I wanted to see what I could get hand holding the camera in the dark. I kept running into other photogs doing the same as I. Every time I did the line was “…what are you shooting at” (referring to ISO (film sensitivity), shutter speed and F-stop)? All of us giggling like children and “chimping” (looking at the resulting shot on the display at the back of the camera) madly at what the camera shot.

On Sunday the city celebrated (a Venetian tradition… celebrating that is) with a regatta on the Grand Canal. Vaporetti service was suspended while rowers and paddlers vied for the best time around the “fish” that is Venezia. A swimmer lead the multitude of gondolas (single and multi oarsmen), canoes (both the regular sort and outrigger variety), kayaks, rowing shells, boats, and there were a few dragon boats with drummers for contrast. There was a lot of shouting from and to the district rowing teams from their families and friends on the quayside… great fun.

Later I took the Vaporetti out to Murano. By that time I’d been on my feet for nearly 8 hours and my knees were letting me know enough was enough. I returned to the hotel to write this. . My new room was even smaller than the dinky thing I had at the Best Western in Milan (it is possible to scrub your ass without reaching around) but the view… killer. I planned to go out again for dinner later… a restaurant, “The Madonna” recommended by the owner of “Trattoria Milanese” where I had dinner Friday night.

Well I’m back and I’m not quite ready for bed, so making you wait for what I had for dinner just doesn’t seem fair. For starters I had a mix of seafood. It’s kind of hard to ID everything on the plate… but I’ll try. There were tiny boiled shrimp and slightly larger boiled shrimp, what I think was scallop, but a honking huge chunk of one, something that kind of looks like a shrimp but bigger and with mantis like front claspers, a baby octopus and what I think were snails… sounds kind of creepy but everything was done beautifully and tasted for the most part excellent (the snails were ok but I’m not sure how you could have made them taste better). The main course was squid cooked in its own ink with white polenta… very good! Everything was served with a house white wine which was delicious. Desert (I know you’re just waiting for desert) was almond cookie “Ss” served with a sweet white wine. I’m not sure which Dolcetta it was, but it was very tasty.

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