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Venice Spring 2013

#1
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2013
Ruth and Martin spend three weeks living in Venice, enjoying the sights and sounds of the canal, doing a little shopping, visiting with friends and dining at some fabulous restaurants.

This trip report was originally posted on SlowTrav.

Wednesday 10 April and Thursday 11 April 2013 - Here We Go Again

D as in Departure Day has arrived. I am firmly convinced that the last day or two before leaving on a trip has less than twenty-four hours or perhaps the hours have less than sixty minutes, but finally every case is closed, every note is written and we are as ready as we will ever be. Sharon is prompt as always, and we are on the road by 1:30 for our 7:50 flight out of JFK. Except for one major traffic slow down, it is an easy trip especially since neither of us was driving; Sharon did the hard part while we were mere passengers.

Since standing is the worst thing for my legs and feet and the check in lines can be endless not to mention the walk to the departure gate, we had requested a wheel chair. We also decide to make use of the Skycaps service, and they come up with a wheel chair for me before I set foot in the terminal. Once inside we are whisked through check in, and security and taken to our gate.

The Delta terminal is a dump badly in need of renovation or perhaps razing and rebuilding, but the workers are all very polite and friendly. I need a thorough pat down because of my prosthetic knee. The woman doing it explains what she would do to check me out and how she would do it. During the pat down, she repeats the description of each step before proceeding. I have heard and read many complaints about rude or insensitive security personnel, but in my relatively limited experience I could not have been given kinder or more polite treatment. I do have to struggle not to giggle because I always recall the scene from the TV series Monk in which Tony Shalube is "wanded."

During the long, long wait for boarding, Martin goes on a food hunt. He is fabulously successful returning with two sandwiches: one tuna salad on whole grain and one chicken on a rye pumpernickel swirl. Both the breads are excellent as are the fillings. They are good enough to buy outside the airport, and if we had been smart we would have bought two more to eat on the plane.

When we finally board, we are told that there are incoming thunderstorms which will pose a hazard to ground workers so we sit at the gate for two hours until they pass through. Fortunately they are moving quickly or comparatively so.

There is definitely more leg room in deluxe or comfort economy, but the food is not wonderful; it barely makes marginal. We try the movie, but it seems stupid so I listen to the classical music which is a selection of spring themed pieces and I sleep a little - very little. Except for the fresh fruit, breakfast is downright disgusting.

The wheel chair attendant at Marco Polo is very friendly and shepherds us straight through Immigration, luggage pick up and Customs and then outside the terminal to a taxi which delivers us to Piazzale Roma. In no time at all, we are able to load an abbanomento for April on to our iMob cards and then we hop on a 2 to San Toma. A couple of "I ragazzi"from Ciak are standing in the doorway. We are welcomed with smiles and "Ben Tornato," and we tell them we will see them soon.

Lucia, who is technically the maid but does a lot more than simple cleaning duties meets us at the apartment and shows us the new dish washer, makes up the bed in the second room for Sarah and Brian and tries to help us with the WiFi connection, which does not seem to be working, but she has no more luck than we do.

Then it is back to Ciak for much needed espresso, our first kiefers in two years and then since we are really hungry some panini. We also use their free WiFi. Tummies filled, we walk home and sleep a little and then unpack. My back is very tight and sore as is Martin's hip, but my knees are in surprisingly good shape. That extra leg room in Comfort Economy really does make a difference. We get pretty much everything put away and then bombard poor Sarah who is coming on Saturday with half a dozen texts of one or two words requesting items we have forgotten.

I put on my L L Bean hat that has lights built into the visor and wobble up to Campo San Polo and the Birraria for pasta. I can see that walking at night is going to be challenging since even with the lighted cap, it is hard to see the loose stones and spaces in which my stick or a toe can get caught. Even though it is not perfect, the lighted hat is a godsend; I am sure I would have fallen half a dozen times since my vision is so poor that the cobblestones are treacherous in the dark. We are seated near the door and glance at the menus even though we both know what we want. We share the salad of fresh arugula with aged Sardinian Pecorino slices and chestnut honey. It used to be a single portion, but it now huge and meant to e shared. Martin has their excellent lasagne and I have bucatini Amatriciana with lots of pecorino. All we want to drink is water and more water.

Back home we shower and fall into bed lulled to sleep by the susurrus of actual water instead of a sound soother.

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Traghetto going between San Toma' and San Angelo
 
#2
Venerdi 12 April 2013 - Off and Walking and Walking and Walking

Breakfast and Internet at Ciak is followed by a visit with Maria Teresa. I ask her about what SIM card she would recommend. We had borrowed Shannon's TIM card, but there is no money left on it, and we had planned to buy our own card anyway since we have two phones. We had just wanted to have a working phone when we first arrived, but we managed to do without one.

Maria Teresa advises walking to Dorsoduro to the shop that used to be an Internet Point and a phone store and now is strictly a store and getting a Vodafone Sim. She doesn't know if they can put money on Shannon's TIM card because it is empty, but she knows they can "recarica" other servers besides Vodafone. When the shop was an Internet Point, we were there quite often on each trip to use one of their small selections of Macs.

We walk over immediately and the owner is the same woman who had been there in the past. Not only do we remember her, but she remembers us and welcomes us back to Venice. She cannot do anything with the Tim card because the time allowed for the money left on it has expired, and she suggests taking it to the TIM store near the Rialto because the number itself is still valid. Apparently there is a difference between how long you can retain your credit balance, and how long you can retain your number. Who knew? Probably everyone but me. We buy a Vodafone SIM, which comes loaded with calling, texting and email minutes. Then the woman very graciously admires photos of our grandchildren.

On the way home we stop at Millevoglie, our favorite ice cream place; it is located in back of the Frari. Martin has nocciola, (hazelnut,) which is always one of his top choices. They have no gelato di soia nor any sorbetto, but they do have several fruit flavors made without dairy. I try the strawberry which tastes delicious and has a lovely creamy mouth-feel. Martin says they have new emulsifiers they can use to make the puréed fruit taste and feel like, or at least close to, gelato. We stop at Ciak and buy sandwiches for lunch, but today we ask for porta via so we can carry them home and eat them while we sit and watch the canal. Then we stop into Sabbie e Nebbie so we can thank Maria Teresa for her helpful suggestion and admire some of the lovely new items she has found for her shop. Just as we arrive there is a sudden flurry of customers. She needs to pay attention to them, and we are just taking up space so we tell her we will catch up later and we leave and walk home. I still get a frisson of pleasure when we unlock the gate and slip through into the courtyard with its lovely little garden on one side.

There is a large wellhead in the center and a second one inside the building, which means the family who owned the Palazzo Tiepoletto never had to go outside to get water the way the residents of the surrounding buildings did. The Palazzo was built in the Fifteenth Century and can be seen on old maps in the Museo Corer complete with its two piano nobili, two water doors, and a dock.

I make dinner reservations and then try to phone our daughter who is flying over tomorrow to ask her to bring some more items we have forgotten. I get a message saying I have insufficient funds on the phone. I try texting and receive the same message. How can this be? We have made one local call, and we not only had hundreds of minutes, we have had four different messages telling us that all functions of our phone our now activated. I try e-mail, but Venice connected is down, as is often the case. Finally we walk up the calle to Sabbie e Nebbie, where Maria Teresa, kindly calls the Vodaphone place and solves the mystery.

It turns out that all those talking, texting and e-mail minutes are only good in Italy; we must buy different minutes to call or text the US. This requires walking back to Dorsoduro to the Vodaphone store. If we had been in Venice for a while and were more used to walking, this would not have seemed so daunting, but we do need to be able to use our phone. Fortunately the store is open when we arrive, and the problem is quickly taken care of with a computer and a handful of euro.

We walk along the Crosera and pass a favorite little restaurant called Ca' Foscari al Canton. The Ca' Foscari in its name comes from its being located very close to two branches of Ca' Forscar - Universita da Venezia. One is further along the Crosera and the other just on the other side of the Rio della Frescada on the Calle Scalater. Canton is the Venetian word for Corner and this restaurant has a prime corner of Venetian real estate at the intersection of these two major walkways. We have spent many evenings dining al fresco and watching throngs of people pass in all directions.

A woman whom we recognize from past visits as a waitress is tidying up some of the outdoor tables; a young girl who looks about ten or eleven is standing in the doorway; she steps out and is followed by her mother, Monica, who is one of the owners. She greets us with a big smile and a "Ben Tornato.” I confirm that the girl is her "little Gessica" now quite grown up. When we last saw her, she was not much more than a toddle and was washing dishing in a toy sink. Now she is helping in the restaurant.

Monica asks if we can come to dinner that night, and I tell her we already have reservations, but would be happy to come tomorrow. I explain we had noticed the menu posted in the window has been greatly expanded and had been wondering if they still owned it. She smiles and says her husband likes to change things. She asks if we would like something to drink, as we are very warm and thirsty, we opt for water. It is cool and refreshing, and we are able to enjoy sitting in the sun for several minutes, resting and sipping our water as students, tourists and Venetians hurry by. It is a very pleasant interlude after so much more walking than we are accustomed to doing. When we have finished our drink, we thank Monica and tell her we will see her tomorrow night about 8:00 or 8:30.

We continue down the calle that leads to the Ponte della Donna Onesta, one of the easier bridges for me to navigate, and then walk home along the route that takes us past Vizio/Virtu'. They no longer have a spectacular display of chocolates in the window - although there are lots of tempting treats, but the whole center section is taken up with a giant metal container for gelato - all chocolate with different ingredients added. I keep walking since I cannot eat gelato and am not a masochist.

For a Venetian, a younger person or even someone our age who is a good walker, the trek back and forth to Dorsoduro even more than twice in a day is nothing, but we have not yet developed "nostri gambe venexiane" - our Venice legs - and we find it exhausting. I am hopeful that by the end of our three week stay we will find it easier.

When we get back to our calle, we see Maria Teresa is still busy and so we just wave to let her know all is well, but do not go. It is wonderful to see some of our little local shops crowded as I know there has been a big drop in American tourists and that has hurt their business. Over and over on our last trip I heard Americans are not coming and those who come are not buying.

I dash off some texts, and then after a short rest, it is time to go Poste Vecie for dinner. A Número Uno is pulling out as we arrive on the pontile, but the young man who handles the ropes has a kind heart and calls to the driver to stop and back into the platform so we can board, a real life Venetian angel.

We are disappointed to see that most of the staff we knew from past visits have either moved on or retired, but someone on the staff knew to reserve "our" table in the corner. Poste Vecie still offers complimentary Prosecco, which is always a treat and a lovely way to start a meal.

Martin begins with the sauté of clams and mussels. He enjoys this combination and the Poste Vecie version is one of his favorite dishes anywhere. I have the spaghetti con vongole verace which is still utter perfection - the best version ever. I guess you must be doing something right if you have been around long enough to be the oldest restaurant in Venice.

For our secondo, we share a Bronzino, which is more than big enough for two and comes with tiny potatoes. The fish is as fresh as any fish could be and the preparation is simple and delicious. Simple can be tricky to get right because each of the few ingredients must be at its best, and then they must be combined in exactly the right way because you do not have fifteen other ingredients to cover up any mistakes. With both courses, we drink the house wine which is very nice Pinot Grigio.

We are tempted by the Dolce listing, and Martin is seduced by the strawberry mousse. I always loved their sgroppino, but a few years ago they began making it with real gelato instead of sorbetto so I can no longer indulge. In fact, there is very little I can eat because of my dairy allergy, but I am happy with a glass of good grappa. Then it is back over the little humpbacked bridge and a stroll through the deserted fish market to the pontile for the Rialto Mercato. We manage to arrive at the pontile for the Rialto Merrcato shortly after a vaporetto leaves so we sit in the cool quiet night air enjoying the wait for the next Numero Uno to chuff along the canal. The 11th Century Ca' da Mosto is undergoing extensive renovation, but we can admire the 14th century Palazzo Dolfin and its younger sibling the 16th Century Palazzetto Dolfin as we sit and wait. It is not too long a wait, nor is the vaporetto too crowded so I can easily stand at the rail and watch Venice at night.

We pass the Fondamente de la Preson and glide under the Rialto Bridge. A crowd gets on at the Rialto but I have my place at the rail secured. Many of the buildings along here are comparatively modern, but there is the small 12 Century Palazzo Barizza with touches of red showing on the brown stone and just past that another 12th Century Palazzo, the Businello, which was refurbished in the 17th century. Just the other side of the Rio dei Melone is the huge 16th Century Palazzo Coccina Tiepolo Papadopol. The Palazzo is ablaze with lights from its magnificent chandeliers but the gardens are almost impossible to see because of reconstruction work on the back wing of the building and also on the Palazzo-Donna, another 13th Century building. We stop at San Angelo and then cross the Canal to San Toma.

How many times have I watched the Ca' Dona della Madoneta, the Casa Scher, and the splendid 15th century Palazzo Bernardo from the deck of a vaporetto? I cannot begin to count. We pass three more 16th Palazzi:The Giustinian Querini, the Grimani Marcello and the Cappello Layard, and then we are at the Rio di San Polo where for years we have watched from our windows as the 82 - now simply the 2 - would make a U-turn and head back towards the Rialto. Each vaporetto driver had his own style of turning some considerably more daring than others. At night we could almost recognize the different style turns just from the sounds the water made as the boat pivoted sharply, backed up or swung in a large lazy circle Across the San Polo Canal there is a small boutique hotel and then the Pisani Moretta and our building. The red Palazzetto Tiepolo Passi shares our courtyard, and I think the entrance to the 15th century building adjacent to it is also located at the end of our calle as well, but not through our courtyard. The upper part of that building was added in the 18th century as were the upper stories of so many Venetian palazzi, and not all were done legally. In fact there is a subplot in one of Donna Leon's mysteries in which it is revealed that Guido Brunetti and his family are living in what is an illegal addition to their building. For those who have not read that book, I will not reveal how that particular problem is solved.

Just before the San Toma traghetto station, there is another red palazzo with two piano nobile - the 16th century Giustinian Persico. It had been under scaffolding for a long time, but now looks quite splendid. The two remaining buildings before our stop are the Palazzo Marcello dei Leone, which is decorated with small lions and stands at the traghetto crossing, and the Palazzo Dolfin, originally Gothic but reconstructed in the 16-17th Century; judging by its pristine condition, it has had a much more recent face lift as well. Owning property in Venice means non-stop renovation, repairs and reconstruction because of the water damage, the salt from the water and the pollution in the air.

At San Toma, we disembark and amble home. Tomorrow I vow there will be no walking! Somewhere in our wanderings I have managed to stub my big toe, and now it is very sore and all black and red. I do not mind the color scheme, but I could do without the pain.

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View of the Rio della Frescada
 
#3
Sabato 13 Aprile 2013 - Settling In

When we wake up, we both feel jet-lagged, tired and sore - probably in part from yesterday's unexpected amount of walking. We are accustomed to easing into going everywhere on foot, but this trip, we had to walk a lot from the get-go. Having no time to recover and loosen up from the long plane trip isn't helping either. Hard to believe that not that many years ago, we bounded off the plane, raced to the apartment and unpacked everything before even thinking about resting.

We shuffle up to Ciak for a very late breakfast. It is still a shock to see empty windows at one had been Il Nido di Cigone - The Stork's Nest - a children's clothing store that had filled with beautiful but very, very expensive clothing. I always thought of it as a grandparents' shop. Mr. Mazzon, a small, slim almost elfin looking man, who owns the leather goods store, is talking to the very tall bearded and pony tailed man who own the prints and framing shop across the campiello. Over the years we have bought many items in both places.

We discuss walking to the supermercato to do food shopping. It does not take us long until we decide," Tomorrow, tomorrow I love ya tomorrow," and head home to read the IHT. I do what is technically the NY Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. At home, we receive the magazine section on Saturday, but I always keep the puzzles to do Sunday. Here somehow it feels right to tackle it on Saturday perhaps because there will not be a Sunday IHT. I struggle with what is the Sunday crossword not because it is difficult, but because it is so small I need a magnifying glass to see it. It is tedious and time consuming to go back and forth from clue to puzzle with my magnifying glass and then write the clue in with my pen.

When it is finally finish, I take the Kindle Paper White into the bedroom to read lying down with my legs stretched out to see if that will unknot my muscles. I hate leaving the living room with our wonderful canal views, but not only has Martin claimed the couch, it is so low and soft, I am not sure I could get up if I did lie down on it. I have been sticking to the smaller but higher and firmer love seat.

I have finished reading "The Stanley Tucci Cookbook," and in addition to enjoying it I have several recipes bookmarked, which I want to try or use as adaptions or variations of my own concoctions.

For a change of pace, I begin a book about the Secret Service, and find it very interesting, but the next thing I know it is more than two hours later, and I am waking up. I wander back into the living room to use the iPad, but I learn that Venice Connected is down for a change so I try writing emails to send later. I keep getting distracted by the view - the "street scene" of passing boats and the light on the water. That light is just magical and at least temporarily cures whatever ails me.

Despite having had a late breakfast, we realize we will not make it until dinner without food so we walk up to Cafe Nomboli for some of their excellent sandwiches. We both select the Robin Hood, which is roast beef, grilled radicchio del Treviso and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich is warmed so the mozzarella melts slightly. I cannot eat the regular mozzarella cheese, and they are out of mozzarella di bufala, but I am offered caprina, which is creamy and works very well with the roast beef and radicchio. We also buy an apple and two oranges from a pile of fresh fruit on display. Nomboli is famous for their sandwiches, and they live up to their reputation with an enormous assortment of choices on plaques on the wall. Every sandwich is made to order, or, at least, can be, and they are very nice about taking requests for variations, despite having won many prizes for their own combinations.

My canal watching is frustrated because there are so many boats tied up at our neighbor, The Palazzo Pisani Moretta and also at our own dock I can barely see past them. This is unusual because one of our two windows almost always gives us an unobstructed view. The little white boat belonging to Marco is also spoiling the photos I try taking of the beautiful gondolas moored outside our window. At least the workboats' engines are off so we are not inundated by fumes from the motors as we have been on other occasions.

At about 8:30 or Venti e trenta, we walk over to Dorsoduro for dinner at Ca Foscari al Canton, the small local trattoria we have been enjoying for years. The owners' daughter, Gessica, whom we remember as a toddler is now old enough to help out waiting on tables, and Jonathon her five year old brother is old enough to be, allowed to perform some simple tasks like carrying out clean silverware from the kitchen.

We both begin our dinner with pasta. I order an old favorite: tagliatelle with shrimp and zucchini, and Martin orders the spaghetti Bolognese, which is extremely well done here. Unfortunately for me, they have changed the sauce on my dish, and it is now a white sauce enriched with a lot of cheese. It looks delicious but I cannot possibly eat it. Martin gallantly gives me his spaghetti and takes my tagliatelle, which he says is very good. We drink the house wine which is a pleasant Tocai that goes well with both our pasta and our secondo.

For our secondo, we both have the cotelette Milanese which comes with an enormous pile of patate fritte - French fries in the US. The fries are the weakest part of the meal; we think they must have been frozen, because they are too uniform in shape and size and do not have that truly fresh taste that French fries made from recently peeled and cut potatoes have. I suspect most restaurants that serve something as popular but plebian as French fries use the frozen variety. They are hardly haute cuisine, and it is probably too time consuming to cut them by hand. Overall the menu and especially the plating have been greatly improved. The food is served on usually large white plates, and each dish is gracefully and even artistically plated with edible garnishes. I am in favor of edible garnishes. Two pretty glasses of lovely limoncello make a lovely accompaniment to a reasonable tab.

We walk home reminiscing about our many past meals at this family-friendly family restaurant and past visits to Venice. Tomorrow Sarah and Brian will be here to help us create new memories.

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Frame and Print Shop in Campiello San Toma
 
#4
Domenica 14 Aprile 2013 - The "Honeymooners" Arrive

Sarah and Brian arrive at the apartment before we have had time to go for coffee. Their flight had arrived an hour early while ours had been more than hour late. They just want to sleep so we leave them and go up to Ciak. It is slightly overcast but not raining although when we leave the building the wet stones in the courtyard indicate it must have rained during the night.

Sunday's kiefers are never fresh because they come from a bakery. The crescent shaped brioche are baked on the premises so we opt for what look like croissants, but are made with a brioche dough and usually called brioche in Venice.

Martin takes chocolate, and I choose marmelatta. Marmelatta is translated by most dictionaries as marmelade, but in Venice in a "croissant," it is always apricot and apricot is one of my favorite flavors. They are warm and yummy and go well with our espresso. We had checked before leaving the apartment and once again Venice Connected wasn't connected, so we make good use of Ciak's free Internet for 40 minutes.

We decide to walk to the supermercato to pick up a few items, but it becomes more of a passagiata as we stop to chat with Dimitri in Karisma, and then Rita in the mask shop. We make our purchases quickly because by then my legs are tired from standing and visiting with our friends. Martin carries home the groceries, and I take the iPad, which we use not only to check email but also to show off our grandchildren.

We spend a gray afternoon talking to Sarah and Brian and watching the canal. It is not very busy today. I think the gray, cool weather may discourage pleasure boaters, but we do see someone taking the traghetto with two very large black dogs- possibly Newfoundlands. I wonder how much one has to pay for such a large dog because each one is taking the place of several people. Then again maybe there weren't any other people. A man holding two little girls by their hands is waiting on the San Angelo side. The girls look so much alike they could easily be twins and are almost certainly sisters. One is cringing behind her father at the sight of the two large canines while the other is trying to skip down the steps to be able to reach and pet them before they are even out of the traghetto.

There is a small warehouse at the traghetto station. A few years ago the space was frequently used for art shows, but on our last visit there were no shows or receptions at all and I see no signs announcing anything for this year. I know nothing about this small building and yet it appears in probably a quarter of the photos I take in Venice. Behind it is a white edifice, which had been refurbished several years ago. It is not clean and fresh looking with windows that have rounded arches and dark green shutters. There is a narrow, dark Calle del Magazen, (warehouse), next to it on our right and then a 20th Century building with a roof top garden. Next to this modern building is the Palazzo Corner Cheltof, originally constructed in the 11th Century and reconstructed in the 16th century. On the other side of the little warehouse is the Palazzo Garzoni which dates from the 15th century and is part of the University of Venice. It has been under almost constant renovation and now is pristine with the putti on the top floor easily visible and photographable from across the canal.

We have chosen Vini da Gigio for our first dinner as a foursome. On Sundays they only have two sittings, and we prefer the earlier one. We take the vaporetto to Ca' d'Oro and walk up the long calle to the Strada Nuova. This is a wide thoroughfare lined with shops and crowded with shoppers, tourists and Venetians making a passegiata. We turn left and walk across ht first bridge which crosses the Rio San Felice. At the right time on the right night there are spectacular reflections from the glorious Venetian sunsets, but tonight it is so gray there is barely a reflection.

We walk past the Church of San Felice and enter the restaurant. The menu is so tempting that it is hard to choose, and then we learn there are specials which cause at least some of us to change our selection. Martin starts with a plate of magnificent prosciutto and I begin with the seasonal special of moeche which are soft shell crabs. Brian opts for crabs as well, but in a sauce over taglialine and Sarah has the tagliatelle made from chestnut flour with a duck ragu. Brian chooses a white that goes wonderfully with all our varied starters.

For our secondo, Sarah, Martin and I have the fabulous lamb with a crunchy coating and a julienne of seasonal vegetables in the center of the plate. Brian orders the duck Buranelle style, which means it is prepared like a stew or a fricasse. It is a full grown duck and not a ducking so half a bird is a generous portion. It is savory and delicious, but I always miss the crackling crispy skin that comes with a roasted duckling or duck breasts. We drink a Borgo del Tiglio Rosse della Cantia. It is a 1994. Brian is disappointed that they are out of the 1995, which was a superior year, but to our less educated palates it is one fine wine. When Brian is with us, the wines always shine. For our dolce Brian orders a Bottle of Vin SantoTrentino AZ Pedrotti Gino. With that we order three plates of the biscotti which usually come with a glass of house dessert wine.

Our server tells us that Paolo has a new restaurant; he has taken over AgliI Alboretti which used to be a favorite of ours. Sadly when the woman who ran it retired the food deteriorated and the service became even worse alternating between non - existent and condescending. We are eager to try it now that Paolo has taken it in hand.

We take the vaporetto home and Sarah and Brian walk. As usual they are there long before we are. We talk for a while and then it is off to bed. Sarah and Brian are still recovering from the flight and Martin and I are just tired.

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15th Century Palazzo Garzoni - now part of the Universita' di Venezia
 
#5
Lunedi 15 Aprile 2013 - One Lazy Day, More to Come

We all sleep late. Martin and I both slept poorly in part because we were too warm. Finally we both slept on top of instead of under the duvet, and used just the light cotton bedspread as a cover. We are used to sleeping in a cool room, and do not use a heavy duvet unless it is really cold. I don't know why it took us more than half the night to figure this out. I was also having problems because my stubbed toe was really hurting. Every time I moved my foot and it brushed against the covers or my other foot I woke up.

While I am waiting for Martin, I take a few photos from the window, but it is hazy out, and I want the sunlight on the water. The gray hazy weather is fine for walking around, but not very inspiring to a photographer especially one who loves reflections. We are so late that when we arrive at Ciak that they only have one chocolate croissant, and no other breakfast items so I settle for a large cookie filled with apricot. The newspaper kiosk sold the last IHT so there is no newspaper, but the young man who runs it now tells Martin he will save one for him from now on. We check our e-mail, and I do the NY Times puzzle on line. I try to get to Facebook, but our time runs out so we walk home. We sit and talk with Brian. Poor Sarah had to bring her laptop and work and then must schlep everything down to Ciak to send it because Venice Connected is not up for a change. No one seems very up today.

Martin has some of the cereal we bought the other day for lunch. I do not feel like eating cereal or lunch cereal but I do steal a handful from his box. At home in the summer when we have lots of fresh local fruit we often have cereal for lunch - or in my case fruit with a sprinkle of cereal on it, but we did not buy much fresh fruit at the sueprmercato.

Sarah and Brian retire to their room. Martin tries to download the New Yorker on the iPad. I read on the Kindle Paper white. I find it easy to hold and the contrast between print and background is easy on my eyes. We spend time reading and relaxing although since we have done practically nothing since we arrived here, I am not sure exactly what we are relaxing from. Maybe we have delayed or prolonged jet lag. A long time tenant is moving out of the building and the entire grand hall is filled with packing material and boxes. He must have lived here a very long time judging by the amount of packing material needed for his possessions.

I love hearing the workmen talking in Italian. If they speak Venetian, I really can only catch words here and there, but if they talk true Italian, I can eavesdrop while sitting in my living room. I figure it doesn't count as eavesdropping if they are talking right outside my window. They have all sorts of apparatus to raise and lower things from the dock through the windows and vice versa.

They are very talkative and very friendly and call greetings to other workers on passing boats. They wave at children on the vaporettos and even call to or wave at dogs who have greeted them with friendly barks and wagging tails. When the workday is over and they have departed, it is suddenly very quiet- sort of the way it is when our grandchildren go home.

When we leave for dinner we have to weave our way around a maze of ladders, tools and packing materials. There is not much room to maneuver, and if the lights were to go out I'd be in big trouble without my LLBean lighted hat. We walk up to the Birraria for dinner. As we cross the Campo San Polo a woman with two Scotties is letting them drink from the fountain. What fascinates us is that one is actually drinking from the water as it spills out of the nozzle and not from the bowl at the bottom as most dogs do.

Sarah and Brian order pizzas. Martin and I share a salad of arugula, thinly sliced aged Pecorino and a drizzle of chestnut honey. It has been my favorite salad for years, but now is much larger and designed to be shared. I have a buffalo steak which is wonderfully juicy even though buffalo is such a lean meat. Martin orders grilled chicken which comes spatchcocked. It is one of his favorites, and it comes with potatoes and polenta. Brian orders a white wine for our first course. Imagine finding a wine that is perfect with arugula. He selects a big red for our secondo, and we can actually taste the difference its flavor as it opens up. We all pass on dessert. This time walking across the huge campo is less traumatic than it was on our first night. Progress or wine?

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#6
Martedi 16 Aprile 2013 - Food Glorious Food, Wine Glorious Wine

Once again we start our day with espresso, kiefers and Internet at Ciak. It is bright and sunny so I bring my camera and take photos on the bridge over the rio del Traghetto AKA Rio del San Toma. On sunny days, I love the reflections in the water especially the ones from the palazzo with the little bridge leading to it on one side and the Casa di Carlo Goldoni on the other. Beyond the Casa di Carlo Goldoni is the pink side wall of the Palazzo Giustinian Persico which date from the 16th century. The buildings seem to curve along the edges of the canal in a way that is pleasing to the eye and the lens, and the beautifully arched windows and the green and white awnings makes wonderful patterns in the water.

Martin has done a wash, but even though it is mild and sunny not all the clothes have dried. We move the drying rack nearer the open window open the balmy air will hurry them drying process. We spend some time talking to Marco in the garden. Calypso, the handsome young solid black terrier is with him. Ulise, who is much older, is staying in the country with Marco's grandparents. All the lovely shrubs and bushes are being dug out of the courtyard and the dirt areas are being paved over with cement. I'm not sure if this is being done for reasons to do with water damage and the foundations of the house or just because it was decided it would be more pleasing to have a plain courtyard and I do not know how to ask without sounding critical. The garden, on the other hand, looks glorious. The grass and shrubs are all a rich lush green brightened by beautiful roses of many colors and some charming white statues.

I use my Telofonino and set up dinner reservations for the nights Sarah and Brian will be with us. Even with some favorites closing, there are still so many places we like. Sarah and Brian are taking three days to go to visit a friend in Poland so choices have to be made.

No one is very hungry for lunch, and we have an early dinner reservation so Martin takes some cereal and I take some salad. Sarah and Brian go out to fend for themselves When they come back they are carrying bottles of wine and a very good grappa for us to enjoy in the evenings.

The Palazzo Garzoni across the canal is still being renovated. Two years ago the left side was sheathed in plastic; now that is finished but the entrance and the lower right side are being worked on.

This year things are very quiet at the Pisani Moretta our neighbor on the left. This is an elegant pink and white Gothic palazzo built in the second half of the 15th Century by the Bembo family. It eventually became the residence of the "Moretta" branch of the Pisani family. The palazzo has renovated, modified and extended over the following centuries, but it has looked pretty much as it does today since the 18th Century. The interior has been completely renovated and contains many valuable interior which date back to the 18th Century. Baroque artists such as Tiepolo, Guarana, and Diziani decorated the rooms. The Palazzo remained in the Pisani family until it died out in 1880 but the building is still owned privately. It hosts balls, weddings and is a popular site for photo shoots. At one time there were parties there almost every night during the spring with guests often arriving in gondolas; we used to peek through our windows and watch the comings and goings. Several years ago - ten, I think, we took a private walking tour of Venice that included for an extra fee admission to the Pisani Moretta. There is no formal charge for admission, but we were advised that the custodian was to be given a gratuity. I am still not sure if that was a little tiny mini Venetian scam or not, but it was worth it to see the delicate frescoes, the magnificent chandeliers, the beautifully crafted furniture, and to stand out on the balconies upon which we have gazed from the water so many times before and since that day.

Even the restaurants and shops that have managed to stay in business say there are far fewer customers than there were just a few years ago, and many have very little staff - just the owner and his family. Some places have closed because the "younger generation" is not interested in running a shop or restaurant in Venice. We take a vaporetto to San Silvestro to shorten the walk to Antiche Carampane while Sarah and Brian walk all the way and beat us there. Sarah evens sends a text telling me they have arrived and are sitting inside. We walk from the water to Campo Sant' Aponal, or more formally Sant'Apollinare. The deconsecrated church was founded in 11th century and rebuilt in the 15th. The facade boasts a round window and above it a badly worn but still visible 14th century Crucifix. The church is now used as an archive. The campanile is Romanesque, but the 13th century figure of a lion has been removed from it and now resides somewhere in the store rooms of the Correr Museum. We are pleased to see the same two shops and the large touristy looking restaurant are still in existence. Even though we've never eaten at the restaurant so many Venetian business have closed or taken over by non-Venetians we are happy to see some things have stayed the same. We follow the Calle del Ponte Storico to the bridge which gives it its name and cross it. On the right is the house of Bianca Cappello who lived only 27 years from 1560-1587, but was named a "daughter of the republic," and was married to Franceso Medici. At Carampane, a different and modern day Francesco welcomes us and shows us to our favorite corner table at which Sarah and Brian are waiting. We are happy to see the same chef in the kitchen; we have had many wonderful meals prepared by this man.

We are brought water and an offering from the house - paper cones of tiny shrimp called schie. They have been battered and are crisply fried. Schie were once used as bait, but they delicious and turn up on Venetian menus quite regularly. I start with grilled prawns that come with an ambrosial "velluta" of fresh asparagus. The prawns have the wonderful smoky taste of the grill, and they have been loosened in their shells so they are easy to eat. The combination of flavors and textures is sublime. Brian has a plate of prosciutto crude, while Sarah and Martin both dive into the sauté of mussels and clams. Martin says they are incredibly fresh, but still rates those at Poste Vecie as the best owing to a perfect balance of garlic and salt.

For our secondo Brian, Martin and I have the rombo with artichokes perfectly cooked as we have come to expect at Carampane. Sarah has the San Pietro with grilled tomatoes and a sauce of sundried tomatoes. We drink a Tocai Fruiliano from Latenella.

Sarah and I succumb to a meringata limone for our dolce. It is similar to a lemon meringue pie but the lemon layer, though not as high as the American version is brilliantly and intensely lemon. Brian has a pear with a crumble topping and Madagascar vanilla ice cream and Martin orders the trifle. Brian makes sure we each have the proper dessert wine to compliment our choice.

Carampane is as good, maybe better than ever and unlike many places their fine food and service is appreciated by the diners who flock to their door.

Before leaving we have a chance to visit with Franco, Francesco's father and send regards to Piera who is at home. Sarah and Brian walk and we again opt for the vaporetto. Although this is a real neighborhood with just a few restaurants and small shops, Carampane was once the red light district of Venice to which prostitutes were confined for the good of the city. Its colorful past shows only in the artwork and menus of Carampane and in the name of a local bridge Il Ponte dei Tetti.

I think whoever said walking after a meal is a good thing did not live in my body. The walk to and from the vaporetto is about as far as I want to walk after such a delicious but filling meal. Once again Sarah and Brian beat us home, and are waiting for us with glasses of very, very good grappa. Bliss!

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Reflection of Casa di Carlo Goldoni in Rio di San Toma
 
#7
Mercoledi 17 Aprile 2013 - Return to Paradise

After breakfast at Ciak we walk over to Dorsoduro. We go to the Vodafone store to top off our card since Martin had to make an unexpected and long call to the US about a problem with our credit card. We are told it was a security breach and the new cards are already at the house which does us absolutely no good in Italy. A perfect example of why it is a good idea to have a backup card.

Then we go to Ottica Caporin. I need a new nose piece for one pair of my glasses. The same delightful man, who must own it, is still there and he remembers us. He only not only replaces the nose pieces, but he also adjusts the frames of both pairs so they are straight and more comfortable. The store has had a make-over and it is now lighter and brighter and seems larger and more professional. The racks and racks of glasses that were fun to see, but made the shop seem cluttered are gone now; everything looks sleek and modern, but the service is just as warm and helpful as ever. We buy a box of the wet wipes for glasses, and the owner throws in a cloth which is also wonderful for cleaning glasses. This little shop is a favorite of our because the staff is charming, friendly and helpful, and their prices are super reasonable.

We start to walk home but decide to stop for lunch. We have noticed a large new place called Bottega del Caffe Dersut, which is towards the back of the Campo dei Frari on the left as you walk behind the Frari from San Rocco. It is large, light and airy. There is a huge counter filled with goodies that are mostly sweet, but some savory panini are included. There is a section of cut up fresh fruit which is constantly being replenished and which looks very tempting, but the main feature seems to be fancy coffee drinks and dolce.

There is a row of tables with a bench along the windowed wall and small backless stool placed facing the windows. Most customers seem to use it for porta via or they drink their fancy drinks standing at the bar, but we sit. Martin fetches me a large plastic cup of fruit salad. It is a wonderful assortment of fresh juicy fruits including apples, pineapple, kiwi, grapefruit and more. You can select your own combo or take an already filled cup. Martin chooses prosciutto and cheese on a roll topped with poppy seeds. Seated next to us are a mother and son who are having some sort of grilled cheese panini that remind me of the quesadilla con queso that our grandson, David, loves. They are both enjoying sinfully rich and decadently delicious looking ice cream and fruit concoctions. In addition to all the basic Italian coffee variations, there are coffee, chocolate and fruit drinks that are large and enriched with cream and more exotic flavors. We settle for water, but it is a very pleasant lunch, and I suspect this will not be our only visit. It should be a great location since it is right next to the Frari, which is a major tourist attraction, and on the main route to and from the Ferrovia and the Piazzale Roma as well as some of the many paths to Dorsoduro. Despite there being two gelaterias one of which also sells pizza and another ice cream shop plus several small coffee house and a Chinese restaurant, Dersut is crowded. There are even more eateries on the other side of the rio in front of the Frari.

Once we have finished lunch, we return home and we put our feet up for a while, which turns out to be the rest of the afternoon. At dinner time, Sarah and Brian walk, and we ride to al Paradiso. Walking through the Campo San Silvestro we are struck by the enormity of the restoration going on around the church, which was built by Lorenzo Santi between 1837 and 1843 in the neo-classico style. The campanile is completely hidden and the church is heavily shrouded.

We are very happy to see Giordano after receiving reports that he has not been seen in the restaurant. The restaurant has the same cozy romantic feel, it always has had but the menu has a few new items. Martin and I settle for our favorite primo which is the pappardelle con frutti del mare. It is even better than we remember its being, and that was pretty fantastic. Brian has Braiciola, the air dried beef, and Sarah has prosciutto with artichokes.

We drink the house white of which Giordano is justifiably proud. Sarah and Brian share the magnificent risotto made with champagne, prawns and grapefruit. It is one of my favorite dishes and really works well as a secondo.

Martin has the salmon with balsamico and honey. I am not a fan of salmon but even I could eat this, and salmon lovers devour it. I have the grilled swordfish which comes with potatoes and a timbale of spinach that I have tried without success to duplicate at home. It is spectacular.

For dolce, Martin has the torte Della Nonna, Sarah the semifreddo, Brian has something chocolate, and I have the zabaglione with fresh strawberries. We all get glasses of fragolino and esse di Buranelle. It is an amazing meal enriched by our utter delight at finding Giordano is still at al Paradiso. It would not really be Paradiso without its guardian angel.

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Frari and Campanile - rear view
 
#8
Giovedi 18 Aprile 2013 - Il Frigo non e Freddo!

We sleep unbelievably late - the earliest riser is not out of bed until at least 11:00, and Martin and I realize we are sipping our espresso at 1:05. I am horrified. Part of the delay is because the refrigerator is not working. I thought last night's ice pack seemed less than cold but decided it was just because my injured toe was so warm. Today it is clear that the only thing working in the fridge is the lights. I call Lucia, and we wait for her to come which she does quickly. Still she insists on checking it and poking around herself before leaving, telling us she will call Anna Passi and arrange for an electrician to come later. We explain our food will spoil, and she seems to understand, but does not offer a solution.

We spend about an hour at Ciak's using their free WiFi and having our coffee and kiefers. Then we hurry home to await the electrician, or at least word from Lucia. In fact, we wind up wasting a perfectly lovely afternoon inside. At least our windows allow us to feel as though we were outside. In retrospect, since we do have one working mobile, I guess we could have gone out, but in Venice, workman tend to simply appear at our door - sometimes minutes, sometimes hours and sometimes days after the need for one has arisen and we weren't taking any chances on missing our repairman's visit.

It is never terrible to be inside our apartment because of the view we have of the Grand Canal. We enjoy the usual progression of vaporettos and work boats, water taxis and pleasure boats interspersed with the occasional gondola. In another week or two there will be hordes of gondola flotillas gliding by our windows, but I guess it is still too early. As we are leaving for dinner we see fewer work boats and more boats of rowers out for exercise or training for the upcoming series of races culminating in the Voga Longa.

We leave a little early and stop at a new shop called Beauty Full, about which Dimitri had told us. It sells all sorts of soaps and shampoos and body lotions as well as products used for household cleaning. Tonight we just buy a bottle of acqua ossigenata to use for my poor toe now that it seems to be leaking. The young man is friendly and helpful, and the prices are better than reasonable.

We take a # 1 down to Rialto Mercato and walk over towards Poste Vecie. Some fruit stands are still open, and we are tempted but then we would have to find someplace to stash it during dinner, and remember to pick it up to carry home. We meet Sarah and Brian who have walked, and they wait patiently while I haul myself over the humpbacked bridge. Wilma's son greets at the door, and tells us his mother is fine and enjoying her retirement.

We sip our complimentary Prosecco while we study the menus. We all order the same dishes. We begin with the spaghetti con vongole verace and follow it with the rombo which is made only for at least two. It is a delicate fish, also known as Turbot, and it is napped with a lovely white wine sauce and potatoes that are a special favorite of Martin's. He and I have green salads. Brian orders three wines and they are out of all of them. He finally asks our waiter to suggest one they do have, and it meets with his approval. The waiters carry four empty plates back to the kitchen after each course so it is obvious we all enjoyed our food as well.

For her dolce, Sarah has the wonderful Post Vecie sgroppino which unfortunately is made with ice cream now so I cannot indulge, but I do enjoy my warm torte di pera with orange and chocolate sauces. I pile my whipped cream on Martin's almond torte, which is already filled with pastry cream. Poor Brian orders the chocolate torte but they are out of that too and he makes do with a glass of dessert wine. Sarah and Brian walk home but we prefer to glide in style on shimmering black silken waters that reflect the lights from the palazzi lining the canal like a dress covered in fine gems.

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Martin on the Bridge over Rio di San Toma on the way back of Ciak 1
 
#9
Venerdi 19 Aprile 2013 - Sitting in the Campiello Watching All the Crowds Go by

Sarah and Brian are up and out early for their flight to Poland. They are as quiet as mice, but I happen to wake up and do not fall back to sleep until after 8:00 nearly two hours after they leave. My last thought is, "I should just get up and stay up."

The next thing I know is it is 11:00. I am not sure if it is the extra walking we do, the greater amount of wine with dinner or just the incredibly peaceful and relaxing feeling of being in Venice, but I never sleep anywhere else the way I sleep in Venice. Unfortunately, sleeping so late means losing half the day.

When we finally reach Ciak, we order our usual breakfast. By now they know to bring Martin an extra sugar for his espresso, and that I will often have a second espresso, but Martin never does. I suspect that they try to hang on to a couple of kiefers for us too.

We always enjoy sitting outside on such a balmy sunny day and watching the passagiata through the campiello. There are many groups of school children. Some are peeking in shop windows or stopping to look at the gondola moored in the rio, teir reflections in the water, or just giggling and jostling one another. I always try to listen to hear if they are speaking Italian or are from some other country. The younger children usually are wearing caps made in the same color so the teacher can spot an errant red or green or yellow cap that is not with the group. Occasionally there is a group wearing school uniforms, but mostly they wear their own clothes, and it is very interesting to see what is acceptable school-wear these days.

Imagine having your school trip be to Venice. Of course they could be Venetian children walking to a museum as well as children from neighboring towns, anywhere in Italy or even other countries. The groups seem to cover a wide range of ages although the ages within each group seem to be similar. Occasionally among the older students I catch a glimpse of a flirtation between a boy and girl or a group of girls dissolved in giggles over something one of them said or noticed. They are still young enough that it seems sweet and innocent. The children range from remarkably we'll behaved to rowdy and raucous, and I wonder how the teacher, how much the age and how much the area from which they come has to do with their deportment. None of the onlookers seem to mind much even when they are making quite a commotion.

The dogs are even more fun to watch than the children as they have more opportunity to express their individual personalities although virtually all are remarkably well behaved. Many are mixed breeds but bear a certain similarity to one another as though four or perhaps six dogs from several years ago have formed the gene pool for all subsequent mixed breed dogs. If they are being walked in pairs, they are often mismatched with a short legged shaggy black and white dog pattering alongside a short haired smooth chestnut coated companion. Neither one acts superior or inferior to the other; they are just pals. There is probably a lesson in that.

Since with no refrigerator it is impossible to buy food to cook unless we want to cook and eat it all at one meal, and also because it is so pleasant sitting in the campiello we order lunch. I have a sandwich consisting of a chicken cutlet, and "salad," and Martin has a "club" which is ham, cheese, an omelette, lettuce and tomato on toast. We drink water with our lunch even though at home we usually have tea. Sated we pay and move on.

We walk past our calle to Beautyfull and stock up on sponges, body lotion and tissues. We buy all well known brands, the total cost of which is less than any one item would be at home. This is a fantastic store especially for residents and renters.

It is mid-afternoon when we reach our apartment. We meet Marco, Lailia Passi's son, and I ask him to ask the workers to leave a clearer passage from our door to the front door when they finish at night, because my vision is so poor I am afraid of tripping and falling. He readily agrees.

Martin puts on the Sibelius Violin Concerto played by Joshua Bell, ands since Venice Connected is up and running, we catch up on the email. I finish the puzzle and then pick up my Kindle and delve more deeply into the machinations of the Secret Service. I make dinner reservations for the next three nights, and Martin switches the CD to The Mozart Clarinet Concerto played by Benny Goodman, probably the best clarinetist who ever lived.

As we leave for dinner, we meet the young Asian woman who often rents the studio apartment across the hall. She has just arrived and on this trip she is with her husband whom we have not met before. She is always very friendly, and it is nice to know we have neighbors. We pass through Rio Ter dei Nomboli on our way to the Birraria, and we meet Sergio, the older of the Boldrin brothers. He asks us to visit him in his magical shop by the Rialto. I promise him if I feel I can see well enough make the trek we will stop in. It is always a delight to meet either Sergio or Massimo Boldrin; they are both so warm and friendly they make us feel very welcome in Venice. They not only make amazing masks, they give fabulous hugs.

There are several dogs playing in the Campo San Polo. One is happily retrieving a ball, and the others are chasing one another. Just as we enter the outdoor area of the Birarria a group comes out of a calle with a strikingly handsome dark Brindle Boxer. He is truly magnificent, and he knows it. He is very well mannered, but has the look of royalty about him. Even when he stops to sniff the ground he seems to be striking a pose. My fingers itch for my camera. On each trip we find we start to recognize many dogs in Venice and some we recall from previous visits. There is the elegant pair of greyhounds, the giant Newfoundland, a stunning Akita whom we have not seen this trip but had always encountered in past years, a handsome German Shepherd who used to patrol a red and black work boat, Ulise, the little white Westie that lived in our building, and now Calypso the handsome black Schnauzer who lives there now, but I miss the cats. Where is the pretty little white cat who used to live on our calle and sit out on the window sill; the tabby who patrolled the roof top garden of a house on the San Polo Canal, the other tabby who lived in the tiny campiello next to the church of San Toma and the gray battle scarred veteran who watched at the window that overlooked the bridge on the Rio di San Toma. Where have you all gone and why has no one replaced you? In the most recent Donna Leon book, there are passages about playing soccer in the Campo San Polo. I have seen the odd toddler or small child kicking a ball but mostly they chase one another or the pigeons. If soccer is played there it is not when we are in Venice.

We decide once again to share the Pecorino, honey and arugula salad. We also both order the mixed grill of three different kinds of pork: ribs, cutlet and sausage. There is a slight mix up, and they bring us grilled vegetables instead of grilled pork, but are very gracious about taking it back, and bringing us the mixed grill of pork. Maybe we should have gone the healthy route and stuck with the veggies, but the pork is very tempting. It is rustic in style and full of flavor, but a little salty for me, and I am sure my joints will protest in the morning.

The Birraria is full of children; there are lots of toddlers and babies; it is definitely a local family spot. There are two big parties in the back; they are older kids or young adults. They are loud because they are young and laugh and shout a lot, but they are clearly just high spirited and not rude or offensive. We picked our dinner time well because we have our food on our table before all their orders inundate the kitchen. By the time we have worked our way through the generous portion of pork, we are too full to consider dessert.

We pay the very reasonable tab and walk slowly across the Campo San Polo. I used to love walking across Campo San Polo visualizing the bull fights and the Bonfire of the Vanities on 26 July 1450 held forty years before Savanarola started his in Firenze. Such thoughts made me shiver with a delightful sense of dread. It was also in this Campo that two assassins hired by Cosimo de Medici killed Lorenzino de Medici on 28 February 1546. Lorenzino had killed Cosimo's predecessor, Alessandro, in 1537, and Cosimo fearing that killing the members of his branch of the Medici tree would become a habit arranged to have Lorenzino murdered outside the church. Now with my poor vision, especially at night, I feel like the victim and cling to Martin's hand to make sure I do not fall and end up in a pool of blood like that poor - some might say deservedly - stabbed Medici.

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Two Gondolieri Waiting for Customers
 
#10
Sabato 20 Aprile 2013 - Keeping a Promise with a Candle

Lucia rings the bell at about 9:00 to tell us the Signora Passi will call someone about the refrigerator on Monday. It will either be repaired or replaced. Lucia speaks very rapidly, but I can usually follow her well enough to get the gist of what she is saying. If I am lost, she is very patient about repeating her words or trying to find a different way of saying the same thing. She has told me she speaks other languages besides Italian, but not English although she says she can understand a little.

She explains she came to the door because it is easier to talk face to face, but having been awakened by the door buzzer, we both feel all muddled and so make a muddled decision to go back to bed for a little while. We keep deciding we can actually go back to bed for a little while. Will we never learn? The next thing I know it is noon as in 12:00, Mezzogiorno - no longer morning. I am 75, and I do not think I have ever slept until noon in my life. I guess there is always a first time.

We hurriedly dress and walk to Ciak. Martin is able to buy an IHT. The man who now owns the kiosk in the Campo San Toma had promised to save him one each morning, and we promised to tell him when we were leaving. Still, I did not expect him to have held it for so late into the day. A man of his word. Bravo!

No kiefers for lazy bones, but we still can have a croissant, or as they are often called here, a brioche because the dough is more like brioche dough than a true French croissant's puff pastry. I have marmellata and Martin, since the chocolate are finished, has one with crema, a type of pastry cream. We also snag a "coco" a large macaroon type of cookie with apricot in the center. We see some really tasty looking sandwiches in the case on the side wall; they are different from the usual offerings, but when we ask about them we are told they are for a party. Before we leave, we see the guests arriving and going to the back room where the tables have been set with little dishes of peanuts and other treats and glasses for Prosecco.

Because it is so very late, there won't be enough time to wait until we are hungry for lunch and still be hungry for dinner so we decide to walk over to the coffee and dessert place near the Frari and buy some of their fresh fruit salad for our lunch. That should be light and refreshing and just enough to tide us over until dinner. Dersut is very crowded so we walk over to the Frari itself hoping that in a little while Dersut will not be so busy.

This is my favorite church in the whole world. It was founded in 1250 by the Franciscans and dedicated to the Assumption. The present building is made of red brick and was built in the Italian Gothic Style between 1330 and 1443. The 14th century campanile is the second tallest in Venice topped only by the one at San Marco. There are several entrances all adorned with sculptures, but usually only the door facing the rio is open. I am not very religious, and if I were to name my religion it would be Jewish and without hesitation, but there is something about the Frari. My sister felt the same vibe or aura when she visited us here 15 years ago. Even though the church is usually chilly, we both felt the same sense of warmth almost an embrace every time we entered it. When Judith was encouraging me to return to Venice, knowing she was very ill, but never dreaming she would be dead by April, I asked if she would like me to light a candle for her. Before I finished she said, "In the Frari? Oh yes please. I have been wanting to ask but did not want to sound morbid."

I promised her I would do so gladly, and today I make good on my promise. There is a fee for entering the Frari as there is for most churches in Venice since they are treasure troves of art. I ask if it is permitted to enter just to light a candle and say a prayer and receive an immediate, "Prego," followed by a wave of the hand.

I do just that. I light one for my sister, Judith, and one for my friend, Dianne, who lost her battle with a different type of cancer shortly before my sister lost hers. They were both strong and loving women whose love extended to the people of all sorts and also to the animal world, and I like to think they have met each other somewhere in the great beyond and are admiring owls and other creatures together.

I do no more than light those candles even though the temptation is strong to look around and at least catch a glimpse of Titian's magnificent, Assumption of the Virgin hanging over the main altar the very place for which it was painted, but I keep my word. I light my candles and leave. I do not look at the magnificently carved monks’ choir which seems to serve as a frame Titian's painting. I avoid wandering down to look at the replica of the tomb Canova designed for Titian - the one Canova's students built for him when he died, nor do I visit Titan's Madonna of Ca Pesaro, or any of the splendid sarcophagi. I don't even look for a fossil in the stone floor. It doesn't matter; I have them all in my head so I can keep my promise just to light the candles.

I am happy they are real candles and not the electric ones to which some churches have switched. I have a little problem with coordination since the church is dimly lit, and my vision is low, but I manage even though one candle is a little crooked in its small metal cup. At least it is burning brightly in its little metal holder and perhaps someone will straighten it out. I put all the coins I have into the box for donations.

Martin has used the time to go back to Dersut and buy three containers of the wonderful fresh fruit salad so we head home. We stop at Il Baule Blu to look for beads for my neighbor who designs and makes gorgeous jewelry. She likes having the Venetian glass beads among her supplies, but it is closed. It has been closed every time we have passed it; one time the owner was just locking up so we know she is still in business. It is frustrating because we do not always think to walk on that side of the Scuola dei Caligheri and those are probably the times it is open. Today the little dog that belongs to one of the two women who run it is not sitting in its little basket in the window so they may be closed for the day.

Lucia is still cleaning when we arrive, and we try to stay out if her way until she is done. Right after she leaves, my telefonino rings. It is Eva Sofia calling to thank us for the arrangement of flowers, balloons and assorted dolls we had ordered before leaving on the trip. It seems impossible that she is five today, but she assures me she is. I tell her we were going to call her a little later, but she is gone already. Tom takes the phone and says they have a soccer game for David and several other activities before Eva Sofia's birthday party with her friends so they decided to call us while it was still relatively quiet. We will give her all her gifts when we get home, which should work well since she will be getting so many today.

We each finish one container of fruit and decide to share the third one later. Today's selection had some sort of brandied cherries in it. Once I realized they were not very odd grapes, I really enjoyed them. I wonder how often they have them and why we have never gotten any in our containers of fruit before.

I do the Saturday puzzle on line and the Sunday puzzle in the IHT. We divvy up our last container of fresh fruit and listen to Jonas Kaufmann singing my favorite - well many of my favorite - arias until it is time to leave for dinner.

We walk over to Dorsoduro, and one of our favorite little local restaurants, Ca Foscari. As we walk we hear virtually nonstop chanting of "Dottore! Dottore!" I suspect today must have been graduation at Ca Foscari, the University of Venice, for which the restaurant has been named. Some of the young people in the crowds of chanting friends are wearing wreathes of flowers or leaves on their heads and some of the girls are carrying flowers.

During the afternoon we had watched the counting of ballots for the new head of state on television; maybe he will be able to create some jobs for these new laureates. Then again Giorgio Napolitano is the same man who has been President for years so it is more likely nothing will change.

The owner of Ca Foscari is there tonight and greets us with hugs. He is a warm and kind man who has worked hard to improve his restaurant. When we first ate there the decor was a bit tired not especially appealing to the eye. Over the years, slowly but steadily, he has spruced it up considerably turning it to a warm and friendly setting. Martin begins with the spaghetti Bolognese, which he had ordered last time, but had not gotten to eat. I had eaten it because they had added dairy to the sauce on my choice, and Martin kindly switched plates with me. I begin with grilled vegetables. I am brought an attractive and tasty assortment of zucchini, eggplant, peppers, string beans and spinach. Despite that we are both having beef for our secondo, we order the house white which is a lovely fruity tocai. We both have ordered the manzo in a Barolo wine sauce. The beef is served pre-sliced, which means it is much better done than we like, but the sauce is very good. We use our bread to mop it up. The salads are a bit disappointing because they are just less than crisp iceberg lettuce. I never been served a green salad like this in Italy, but the good olive oil and better than decent Balsamico make it palatable. We pass on dessert but enjoy the limoncello that comes with the check. It is a very good one although not as amazing as the one served at Poste Vecie, which Brian said was the best he has ever had.

As we leave, we pass our musician friends from Romania in a narrow calle. It is starting to rain again, and they are rushing by, single file, holding their instruments protectively, while greeting each of us with a "Buona Sera," which I am happy to return. Chants of "Dottore" can still be heard from every direction. I wonder if they even penetrate the thick walls of the Frari and disrupt the concert that is being held tonight. I hope not. At least the rain has not dampened the graduates' spirits.

We had considered splurging and going for ice cream at Mille Voglie, but the rain causes us to change our plans and we walk directly home doing without dessert. It turns out to be a wise decision as the drizzle changes to steady rain as we reach San Toma. As we cross our courtyard it starts to pour in earnest. I guess the good stay dry or at least less wet.

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View of Frari from Campo dei Frari
 
#11
Domenica 21 Aprile 2013 - Campos and Campiellos

The weather reports and everyone with whom we discussed weather yesterday said it will rain today so we expect it to be dark and raining. At 7:43, the predictions seem accurate; our apartment is very dark, and it seems to be very wet outside, but when we wake up again it is the sort of shimmering clear sunshine and blue cloudless sky that appear after the rain has ended.

We wend our way to Ciak where we sit outside and enjoy our croissants or brioche if you prefer and espresso. After more than a week I have begun to recognize some of the dogs which pass through regularly, and the pigeons have begun to recognize me.

Because of my poor vision and poor coordination, I tend to drop a lot of crumbs when I eat something crumbly like a kiefer, and I now have a regular contingent of fans at my feet whenever we eat outside. In the Campiello, one little boy is having a wonderful time chasing the resident pigeons. His father finally coaxes him back on to his scooter, and they move onto the Campo San Toma and out of view. Moments later he is replaced by an even smaller boy whose giggles can be heard across the campiello. They are irresistible - there are smiles all around.

Our friend Maria Teresa passes by and stops to wish us a Buona Domenica. I love the little courtesies the Venetians extend. Anytime Martin is not right by my side, and I am crossing a bridge, one or more men and often a woman will ask if I need help, and every shop and bar wishes you a good day when you arrive and some kind of friendly farewell when you leave. We always return the kindness.

I buy some postcards at the kiosk in San Toma, and then we walk over to the Frari to buy more of their fresh fruit for lunch, but we have lingered too long at Ciak, and Dersut is closed. The doors are still open but there is a chain across the entrance, and a young man is mopping the floor. The sign says on Sunday they close at 13:00, and it is 13:04. It is the reverse of being saved by the bell.

Since we are just steps away from Perla di Oriente, we decide to have lunch there. They have a big sign offering pizza and coffee, and in fact several of the diners at the outside tables are having just that. We opt for Chinese food. The owner remembers us and greets us with a big smile. We have ravioli alla griglia, which are pork dumplings, and also delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, duck roasted with herbs and spaghetti alla piastre, which means it comes on a sizzling cast iron platter. We enjoy every bite sitting in the sun, with the Frari looming over us and Italian, French, German, English in a variety of accents and, of course, Chinese, being spoken around us. Apparently Americans are not the only fans of Chinese food.

There are several Chinese children ranging in age from toddler to tween playing in the campo, and some older ones talking and laughing on the side. We ask the owner if they are his children, and he says yes. We wonder if they are all his, all his family or just that some are. No matter, they are all adorable and even the tiniest one speaks better Italian than I do.

Sated, we decide to take the back calle route home instead of the long way around. We remember the twists and turns as if we had navigated them last week instead of two years ago. Back in the Campiello San Toma, I stop at the art and frame store and buy two special post cards - one for David and one for Eva Sofia. Then we amble on home.

Martin tries to download and read the Sunday Times, and I read my book on the Kindle Paper White. We listen to the canal sounds for a long time and eventually switch to the CD player for Tchaikovsky and Queen. It is a lovely restful afternoon.

We take the vaporetto to San Silvestro and then walk to al Paradiso. An advantage of an abbonamento is that it does not matter how often we use it; in fact, the more we use it the better a deal it becomes. The entire Chiesa San Silvestro is under restoration. The campanile is actually completely enclosed in a separate wooden tower, and the rest of the church is covered in plastic and scaffolding with chains across the steps. The campo is crowded with piles of what must be building supplies shrouded in plastic tarpaulins.

Giordano asks if we mind sitting outside as he has a big party in the dining room. Of course we do not mind especially since it is a mild night, and no one near us seems to be smoking. We begin with an "off the menu" offering of prawns, bacon and mushrooms on white polenta. We share this as Martin really wants his pappardelle con frutti del mare. The dish is a masterpiece; it is a subtle blending of flavors and textures that seems to hold a fresh delight in each bite. We are both converts. It is new to us, but typifies what we love about Venetian cooking - a few simple ingredients of the highest quality cooked to perfection.

The pappardelle is as delicious as ever with lots of little tidbits of seafood and a light tomato sauce that enhances the seafood and the broad silky noodles. Almost every restaurant in Venice offers a pasta con frutti di mare, but the version found at al Paradiso cannot be topped.

For our secondo, we have another long time favorite - the lamb chops with balsamico. Unlike the monster chops most American restaurants pile on your plate, these are tiny but juicy, tender and utterly divine. There is a lovely assortment of vegetables to add color and balance to the plate. Lamb and Balsamico are one of my favorite flavor combinations. We drink a very young and light 2012 Pino Bianco from Friuli and manage to polish off the whole bottle instead of our usual mezzo.

For our dolce, Martin has the Torta Della Nonna, and I have the zabaglione with strawberries. We both sip our complimentary glasses of Fragolino Bianco and polish off the esse di Buranelle that accompany it.

We promise Giordano that he has not seen the last of us and then we walk back to the San Silvestro platform. I realize as we pass under the arches that the fresco that had always been on one of them is gone. I do hope it was moved inside a museum for safe keeping and has not just crumbled away. I am glad I have at least one photograph of it damaged as it was.

The wait for a vaporetto is short and so is the ride. Everyone on board seems mesmerized by the glimpse into the brightly lit Piano Nobile of the Palazzo Papadopolo with it huge glittering chandeliers and fresco covered walls. Even the silken shimmering canal takes a back seat as we glide by. This year so many of the palazzi seem to be under renovation there seems to be fewer open windows and thus fewer lights turning the dark waters into sparkling jewels, but a vaporetto ride is still a delightful way to finish an evening.

In the Campo San Toma, we pause to direct a group of young Americans to Campo Santa Margherita. Once upon a time we would have led them there ourselves, but now we settle for verbal cues and see them on their way while we trudge home for a quieter evening.

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The Fresco from an archway near San Silvestro - where has it gone?
 
#12
Lunedi 22 Aprile 2013 - The Dreaded Sciopero Strikes Again

Today it is gray and rainy. It is the sort of day usually described as good sleeping weather, but we manage to be up and out before noon. Considering the hours to which we have been sleeping, this is something of a feat for us. My beeping telofonino tells me I have a text message which I read when we reach Ciak. It is from Sarah. There is a day long strike by Lufthansa so they are trapped in Poland until tomorrow afternoon. No flights are leaving Wroclav so they cannot even get to Warsaw or Frankfurt or another hub airport to catch a different plane back here. They do have a place to stay since they were visiting a friend, who has a large apartment, and they have enjoyed their time in Poland, but they were ready to return to Venice.

I exchange a series of texts with our friend, Eva, who works for Lifthansa. She confirms it is a one day only strike, which is very common all over Europe, but it deprives us of a day of Sarah's and Brian's company which we treasure. Such strikes are par for the course on Alitalia, but everyone seems surprised to hear they are flying on Lufthansa. Everyone I speak to says, "Sciopero di Lufthansa? Non - Aitalia? "

Sarah texts that they think they are confirmed on tomorrow's flight; if they are not, and cannot get on another one, I do not know what they will do as they are due to fly home on Wednesday. Since they are flying Delta, the airline may not care that Lufthansa went on strike. It is particularly annoying because day and times of the strike had been decided last week. If someone had said to Sarah and Brian when they were checking in at Marco Polo or in Munich where they changed planes, "You might want to consider flying back on Sunday because no one is going anywhere on Lufthansa on Monday," they would have changed their plans.

I think I send more texts in the next hour than I have sent in my entire life. I might even become adept at it. I have lost all my free WiFi time because Martin had logged on just moments before the flurry of texts between Eva and me and Sarah and me, had begun. At least it is "free" WiFi. I have a second espresso and then we walk home. I go to Bar Nomboli to pick up two Robin Hoods, and Martin goes to Beautyfull for necessities such as sapone e carta igenica. We are such creatures of habit, the young man behind the bar finishes my order of "one with mozzarella di bufala" before I can say the words.

The sun had come out, but by the time we have walked down the long calle to our apartment, it is gray again. A few more texts and things quiet down. There is nothing more to say or do on the subject until tomorrow. Sarah has looked into flying home a day later, but there is an extremely hefty surcharge for changing their flights even if it is due to a strike by Lufthansa.

Martin puts on some Sibelius - the first symphony - and I read the paper and tend to e-mail. Still no word about our broken and possibly dead frigo. Luckily we drink room temperature water all the time because that's all that is available.

It starts to rain really hard, and it pours all afternoon. Piove a catinelle. At times the canal looks like the ocean. The water is a greenish gray, and there are actually white-capped waves of water splashing against the house even when there are no boats passing by. The boats are few and far between; the men on the work boats are either huddled in plastic zip up compartments or sitting in rain gear looking wet and miserable. Most of the people on the vaporettos are inside the cabin or standing well back from the rails. An occasional private or pleasure boat passes with the driver and any passengers all holding umbrellas over themselves. The downspout outside our window is spilling water into the canal at an alarming rate, but better to be spilling out of the building than somewhere inside.

In a trick of Venetian weather magic, by the time we leave for our dinner at Agli Alboretti, the sky is blue with little puffs of pink and gold clouds. It looks as though Tiepolo has dropped by to touch up the sky. On our way to dinner, we see Laila Passi for the first time. She is in the Great Hall, but before we can exchange more than "Buona Sera," her Telofonino quacks. I have never encountered a quacking phone ring, and I love it.

As we near the San Toma vaporetto stop, a young man races towards the pontile. He slips and falls on the wet wood and watches as the vaporetto pulls away. He sits forlornly rubbing his leg until he suddenly jumps up and runs to the other platform; he had been running for the wrong vaporetto.

We take the next número uno, and get off at Accademia. There is still massive restoration going on - things seem even more torn up and shrouded in plastic than they had been two years ago. We do spot a poster for an art exhibit in the Palazzo Pisani in Stra. The artist is our friend, Sergio Boldrin, who with his brother, Massimo and our friend, Rita, are Venice's finest mask makers. What a shame the mostra is only running another day and does not seem to be in Venice proper. We are not very enthusiastic about leaving Venice once we finally have arrived there.

We enter Agli Arboretti and although the layout is the same as it has always been, it seems lighter and brighter than it had. The walls and the napery are a simple fresh white. The walls have a few strategically placed pictures, but what once seemed like a dark cluttered cave now seems more open and serene.

The attractive menu has a limited number of choices, a very smart decision for a new venture. The main menu offers three or four choices for each course, and all are tempting. Vegetarian options are available. There is also a €19 Chef's special with a choice of three primi and two secondi one of which is vegetarian.

I choose the bigoli with beef in a "crema" of Pecorino after checking to make sure the Pecorino, made from sheep's milk, is the only dairy in the dish. Martin orders the tagliatelle with duck ragu from the Chef's menu. Of course it will be priced as a regular pasta course since Martin is ordering his secondo from the regular menu.

I select a glass of a medium dry white from Lugano since Martin is taking a night off from wine. He is very happy with his tagliatelle which, like the delicious multi grain bread is reminiscent of the one at Vini da Gigio. This is no surprise since Paolo, who owns and runs Vini da Gigio, has bought Agli Alboretti, and entrusted it to his son, Nicolo. The tagliatelle is saltier than most food we eat because I use almost no salt, but it stops just short of being too salty.

My bigoli is sheer heaven. The crema di Pecorino is rich and lush yet light, and the pasta is perfectly cooked. Of course if you cannot get perfectly cooked pasta in Italy, where would you get it? There is just the right amount of meat in the dish - not too much - not too little - just right. This dish could be a disaster with too heavy a sauce or too much or too little meat, but it is a total success.

For our secondo we both have chosen the spiedini of scallops and prawns with a bit of breading and candied ginger. It comes on a bed of fresh greens and other than being slightly less than piping hot, it is delicious and delightful. The seafood is fresh and tender with the lovely smoky taste of the grill contrasting with the hot sweetness of the ginger and the delicate crunch of the breading. It is a wonderful plate leaving us sated but not stuffed. We will be back for another meal before we leave Venice and we make sure to tell the owner that.

We walk past the great dark shadow that is the Accademia Bridge to the pontile. The vaporetto ride home is short and sweet. I love seeing the showers of golden fireworks in the water as we ride past the lighted palazzi. There seem to be a lot more lighted windows between San Toma and Accademia than there are between San Tomaand San Silvestro.

In the Campo San Toma, we direct several people to the vaporetto - no great chore since they are standing at the entrance to the calle. If they had only looked up, high on the wall they would have seen the sign. Maybe I should write a character into one of my books and name her Alva Poretto, a much sought after lady.

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Our building with the moving men's gear in place
 
#13
Martedi 23 Aprile 2013 Fifty-Two Years and Still Going Strong - Well Still Going

Last night when I came out of the bathroom after showering, it was actually the wee hours of today - 23/April, our 52nd anniversary. Martin surprised me with anniversary cards on my pillow. At home we usually exchange cards at breakfast, but at home it was still yesterday. I was also prepared with anniversary cards and while he showered, I put mine on his pillow. His cards were very funny in a sweet way - really hard to find that sort. It was as usual quite late when we went to sleep, and we planned to be our usually lazy selves and sleep late in the morning.

Surprise! We are awakened early by someone buzzing our door from the gate. It turns out to be a worker who rang all the buzzers to get in to the courtyard and building. This is an annoying habit that many workers and deliverymen have possibly because they are in a hurry. All the regular residents have their names on the plaque with the buzzers so there is no reason to ring the wrong one. I don't know if people cannot be bothered to check for the right name or just have an address without a specific contact name, or if there are still people who cannot read. There is a set of buttons on the wall in our apartment. One is an intercom so we can find out who is ringing or buzzing to be precise; one is for the gate and one for the door to the building. The button that is supposed to unlock the gate does not work, and so we have to run through the hall, open the door, and then cross the courtyard and open the gate from our side in order to someone in. Of course, if you have been in bed, you may need to make yourself decent before dashing out into the courtyard. I realize that people who do not live in our apartment would not know that, and if they are working, they probably do not think that others might still be sleeping, but such insight does not make it any less annoying. We go back to bed and half an hour later, it happens again. We decide we are simply not meant to sleep late today so we get up and get dressed. Before we can leave for Ciak, and astound them by arriving at an hour when people actually eat breakfast, Lucia calls to tell us the new refrigerator is arriving any minute. As we are talking, the men show up with it, and we have to wait for it to be installed. Fortunately it is a quick job to remove the old one from its space and connect the new one. Unfortunately, the new one is taller than its predecessor so the stand with the micro-onde/grill must be taken out. The new frigo also protrudes too far into the room to allow the cosmetic door that usually hides it to close properly, but that is not our problem, nor theirs. The new one looks a lot like the new one we just bought for our own kitchen, but it is a Bosch. It even has curved spaces on one shelf for wine bottles. I have never seen that in an American fridge. What a great idea!

Finally we are on our way to breakfast and once again it is well into the morning. As we cross the bridge over the Rio San Toma we bump almost literally into Giordano, our friend from al Paradiso. We have met him in the calles before, and he always seems as pleased to see us as we are to see him. We chat for a moment, and then he goes on his way. I wish I had brought my camera so we could have taken a photo of or with him.

As we walk into Ciak, I get a text from Sarah. They are on the plane in Wroclav, but their flight has been delayed, and she thinks they will miss their connecting flight in Munich. This begins a series of some 30 texts, which if read as an essay would be a long saga of the joys of travel. Interspersed with Sarah's texts are several back and forth to Eva, our friend who works for Lufthansa, asking if she has any suggestions.

While all this is going on we have our coffee. Since it is now ridiculously late there are no kiefers and only one brioche left. It is filled with crema which Martin takes because I cannot eat it. I have one of those coconut macaroon cookies and share a second one with Martin.

Today there is only one gondolier helping to drum up business for the San Toma contingent. He runs over and helps me into a chair and then returns to help Martin when he arrives with the IHT. He walks around the Campiello talking to the shopkeepers, and anyone, especially the pretty young girls who is walking through the Campiello San Toma. He stands in the sun and does stretches and arm exercises. He pets all the dogs that come along. In between greeting people and dogs, he hums, sings and whistles. I am disappointed when he is replaced by one man who just sits hunched over his telefonino and texts; I had been enjoying the one man show.

When I arrived, a minute or two before Martin because he had gone for the paper, I had ordered Prosecco for us as an anniversary treat, but it never comes so we finally pay for what we did have and leave. All the while I am frantically texting with Sarah who is still stuck in Wroclav. She and Brian have now been taken off the plane with everyone else and are waiting in line to be rebooked. I am also texting with Eva, our friend who works for Lufthansa trying to get information and possibly some ideas of alternate routes.

I buy some bread in the little shop in the Campo San Toma and then we walk to the Campo dei Frari, and Martin goes into Dersut and buys some cut up fresh fruit and a panini with salami and lettuce. This will do for a light lunch since we had breakfast even later than usual. We remember to walk back so that we pass Il Baule Blu so naturally it is closed. It is probably because of the hour; still it is frustrating because if the fridge had not come, we'd have been out early. On the other hand, if the fridge had not come we would be frustrated about that.

On the way home I stop in the bread store again - this time for some marmaletta albicocche. I learn the word for jar is vaso. It is a lot easier to ask for "un vaso di" than trying to get to it by saying "something made from glass and filled with" or "a small bottle holding" apricot jam.

We finish reading the paper, and I do the puzzle while texting almost nonstop with Sarah and Eva. We share the panini and have some of the fruit for lunch. By now it is mid afternoon, and it is clear that Sarah and Brian will not be back before very late tonight. I call da Fiori and cancel our celebratory dinner for four and rebook for two for tomorrow. When I explain that the other two members of our party are stuck in Poland because of a Lufthansa strike, the response is "Sciopero di Lufthansa? Non Alitalia?" We hear that almost every time we tell the story of Sarah's and Brian's trip. They are very nice about our cancelling our reservation.

We walk up to the Birraria for dinner. If we eat there, we can also pick up pizzas for Sarah and Brian. When they finally arrive, they can reheat them and at least have something better than airplane food to eat. On the way to Campo San Polo, we meet Maria Teresa and talk about having dinner together at da Ignazio one night before we leave. It is a favorite of hers, and we like it too, although in recent years we have been disappointed in the service. She tells us we must ask for the owner whose mother is the head chef.

Hanging just inside the door to Sabbie e Nebbie, there are two pocketbooks. One is black and one is gray; the black one is a handbag and the gray one is a shoulder bag. They are not made of leather but are pleated silk, and I adore them. I'd need the shoulder bag because I already have one hand occupied with my walking stick so it is difficult have a handbag. It is probably impractical as it looks elegant and dressy and is definitely not meant for slinging around a shopping cart when I go to the supermarket or tossing on the couch when we go to baby sit, but oh how I covet that bag. Maria Teresa has other sturdier bags in red cotton prints, but I have fallen in love with the gray silk pleats. I decide if it is still there, and I still want it, on our last day I will buy it.

At the Birraria we once again share what has become our favorite salad - the Sardinean Pecorino with peppery arugula and chestnut honey. Then Martin polishes off a Papadopulo, and I devour my all time favorite pizza, the Meraviglie made with mozzarella di bufala and Pecorino instead of regular mozzarella and Parmigiano. The earthy porcini mushrooms and the slightly spicy wild boar salami are the perfect accents to the rich cheeses. Shortly before leaving we order the pizzas that Brian and Sarah requested. We know they have now reached Munich and will be back in Venice around 11:00pm. The pizzas are ready when we are so Martin picks them up and we walk home with him holding the two boxes very carefully. We stop on the bridge to read a text that says Sarah and Brian have landed at Marco Polo, and just as we are both inside our apartment we receive one final text saying they are in a taxi on the way to the Piazzale Roma - only about 36 hours later than they expected to be, and only about 12 hours before their plane is scheduled to take off for the US.

They arrive looking exhausted, but are happy to find pizza waiting for them. Brian opens a bottle of wine, and they have a quick, midnight supper, and then finish their packing and go to bed. We go to bed as well, but at least we do not have to be on our way to the airport in less than seven hours, the joys of travel.

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The View from our Window
 
#14
Mercoledi 24 Aprile 2013 A Perfect Day in Venice

Sarah and Brian are up and out early to start their trek home. We are awake to say good bye and wish them an easier trip than they had getting back from Poland. We agree that we should probably stay up, but we do not and go back to sleep until 11:00.

By the time we reach Ciak there is only one kiefer left. I let Martin have it because the other choice is a brioche con marmellata, which I love. If it had been a brioche with crema or chocolate, both of which Martin really likes I would have taken the kiefer. We spend a long time at Ciak reading the paper and making use of our free Internet time in part because we enjoy sitting in the sunny campiello and in part because the tenant who is leaving our building is actually moving today. There are three big boats in front of our windows all labeled "transporti cose," and men are carrying item after item out of the water door. They are also lowering wrapped items from his windows on to the dock. They are calling to one another - sometimes instructions, sometimes comments, and other times judging from the laughter jokes. Much of what they say is unintelligible to me because it is in Venetian not Italian. I only know a few words and phrases in Venetian and most of them have to do with food. The men also shout greetings or wave to workmen on other boats as they pass, and never fail to stop to wave and call out to children who are passing and waving at them from vaporettos or pleasure boats. It makes for a cheerful but noisy scene so we linger at Ciak, and then take a # 2 vaporetto all the way around past Tronchetto to San Marco.

This is one of our favorite things to do in Venice, but often the vaporettos are so crowded we cannot get seats or even stand near enough to the railing to be able to take photos. Perhaps because it is earlier in April than we are usually in Venice, the vaporetto is not terribly crowded and by Rialto, we are even able to score seats in the front of the boat. At Piazzale Roma we glide beneath the "see through" Caltrava Bridge. Next we pass under the bridges that carry cars and trains to and from the mainland, and then bear left - or perhaps I should say "a barbordo" Italian for "port."

The people mover looms ahead of us. This monorail, which seems made out of giant metal pitchfork prongs or some other lethal weapon, fascinates me. I cannot believe it will not turn up in or as a cause of death in some spy thriller. (Daniel Silva have you seen at this device?) or a chase scene in a movie. The little cars of the monorail look like a child's toy on an apparatus constructed by a giant; maybe those metal points are his teeth.

There are two Tronchetto stops now, the regular one and before it a Tronchetto Mercato. We lurch past the cruise shop docks into open water before going a barbordo ancora and entering the Giudecca Canal. This canal is much wider and the water is much rougher than it is in the Grand Canal and getting on or off the vaporetto can be quite challenging at times. We stop at Sacca Fisola, and I try to capture the tree with beautiful purple flowers without including the ugly construction equipment all around it. There is a lot of new and not terribly attractive low cost housing around Sacca Fisola, but much of it has glorious views, either looking across the Giudecca towards Venice or towards the water, the Lido and other Islands and the lagoon.

We cross the canal to San Basilio. We used to disembark here quite often when we went to Ristorante Riviera to eat, but we have not been back since Monica and Luca closed it. On our last visit it had not yet reopened; now it has new owners and has been open nearly two years, but I think I would feel too sad to eat there without seeing Monica in the kitchen and Luca greeting guests. We can still see the statue of Saint Anthony Abbot the patron saint of sausage makers; he is standing with a pig over the doorway of the building that was the Scuola dei Luganegheri long before it was a restaurant.

The vaporetto zigzags back and forth across the canal giving us views of both the Zattere, which is the outer edge of Dorsoduro, and whose name comes from the rafts that used to tie up there to load and unload supplies, and the Giudecca, whose name may or may not have had some connection with a former Jewish population or possibly with nobles who had caused trouble of one sort or another and been" giudicati," (judged) and banished from Venice proper. There are no longer any of the many factories which existed in the 19th century when the city of Venice took over abandoned convents and monasteries but there are still two prisons although I have never seen them.

The Giant Mulino Stuckey, one of many run down and neglected factories, was luckier than most. Built in 1895 in Hanseatic Gothic style, it is the biggest building on the lagoon and over the last several years has been converted from a rat invested, rundown hulk into a high end hotel, condo, conference and up-scale boutique facility. To reach its now elegant state, it first had to survive a devastating fire that set back its rebirth by several months.

There are two noteworthy churches on the Giudecca. Le Zitelle - which translates as the spinsters - and was a haven of sorts for girls from poor families who were taught the skill of lace making. It was not uncommon for girls from rich or poor families to be consigned to convents whether they felt a calling or not. The Palladian Church is lovely but not open as often as its bigger sibling, Il Redentore, also designed by Palladio. Il Redentore is the center of attention every year when a pontoon bridge is constructed so that Venetians and tourists can walk across the Giudecca Canal from the Zattere to the church. Palladio designed the Church between 1575 and 1576 as a way of giving thanks for deliverance from a major outbreak of the plague which killed between 25 and 30% of Venice's residents. The cornerstone was laid on May 3, 1577 and the building was consecrated in 1592. Pope Gregory XIII requested that the Friars Minor Capuchin be placed in charge of the church. A small number of Capuchin Friars still reside in the monastery attached to the church. Every year the Doge and senators would walk across the specially constructed pontoon bridge from the Zattere to Giudecca to attend Mass in the church. The Festa del Redentore remains a major festival in the Venetian calendar, celebrated on the third Sunday in July. A huge firework display on the previous evening is followed by a mass procession across the pontoon bridge. I have always wished I tolerated hot weather better because I would love to see and take part in this celebration.

There is an eye-catching palazzo with three striking windows in the shape of inverted shields. It is constructed in neo-Gothic style and is called Casa de Maria. The Bolognese painter Mario De Maria designed this palazzo for himself. In palazzo terms this is a relative newcomer having been built in the early 20th century. It is the only private palazzo to sport the same patterned brick work as the Doge's Palace, and I am always surprised when I re-learn how young it is.


Across the canal, along the Zattere, which was created in 1519, there are two more churches. The larger and better known church is Santa Maria del Rosario more commonly referred to as I Gesuati. If you walk past the Gesuati - named for the order that had an earlier church on this site before merging with the Dominicans - keeping it on your left, you come to the small Church of St. Agnese. Continue straight ahead, with St. Agnese on your right and in no time you will find yourself at the Grand Canal next to the Accademia Bridge, and of course, The Accademia Fine Arts Museum as well. This is one of the best shortcuts in Venice. The other church on the Fondamente Zattere is Santa Maria della Vistazione. This Church shares its name with the Church on the Riva degli Schiavoni better known as Vivaldi's Church or La Pieta. It is now the Chapel for the Istituto Don Orione, which occupies the monastery complex that had belonged to the neighboring Gesuati, which should not be confused with the Gesuiti in Cannaregio. The Venetians like to keep us on our toes. There is a plain door marked Istituto Artigianelli that will allow a visitor to enter the area of the Istituto if one has made an appointment in advance. The small church was built in 1423 and has a pretty early Renaissance facade, but was suppressed by Napoleon who made off with all its art work leaving only the coffered ceiling with fifty eight compartments decorated with paintings of saints and prophets. The ceiling is one of my favorite sights in Venice and well worth a visit.

The tilting campanile of San Trovaso is visible between the buildings that line the Rio di San Trovaso. This church has two facades and "main" entrances; one on the rio and one on land so that the feuding families who founded it never had to pass one another coming or going There are many restaurants and gelaterie along the Zattere and some buildings with especially lovely facades painted bright colors and boasting interesting designs. At the end is Ospedale dei Incurabile with a sad face over one door and a cheerful one over the other; unfortunately most people left through the sad-faced door and not under their own power. There are also the old salt warehouses most of which are now homes to rowing clubs.

Suddenly we are pulling into San Giorgio, yet another glorious Palladian Church. This one has a campanile which can be ascended by elevator and from which one has wonderful views of Venice and the small lagoon islands such as San Lazzaro degli Armeni, with its amazing library. It was here that the poet Lord Byron spent much time, reportedly learning Armenian in a matter of months so he could study with the monks. There is still a small contingent of monks, who give fascinating guided tours of the whole facility. Just make sure to catch the last boat back to Venice as they do not run during the night. Also be advised it is not a good idea to wear a full skirt if you visit the campanile, as it is almost always very windy up there unless of course you want to compete with Venice in offering onlookers a good view.

At the San Giorgio stop we are opposite the Punta della Dogana and the new museum of very modern art. Francois Pinault, who in an art world coup beat out the Guggenheim Foundation in obtaining this prime location, built it. Whether or not you enjoy super modern art, there is no denying the beauty of the building and its spectacular views.

The next stop is San Zaccaria, the end of the trip, but we are allowed to stay on the vaporetto for the return run, and since it is still early enough for the Numero Due to continue to San Toma rather than stopping at Rialto, we do just that.

From both San Zaccaria and San Giorgio we can see the back of the fabulous Santa Maria della Salute and the entrance to the Grand Canal.

I am having a delightful time taking photos when my camera battery dies. For most of the trip, it has been very slow allowing me to take one photo every few minutes, but by the return journey, it has stopped working completely. Total frustration! I am sure I will have another chance to take pictures of these spectacular sights because we always take a farewell ride all around Venice, and often take a ride out to the Lido or Murano as well. It is quite chilly and the water is surprisingly rough at times, but I never enjoy Venice more than seeing her from the water.

Two young French girls sit near us and are wondering about the "people mover" aka the monorail that takes people from Tronchetto to Piazzale Roma. We explain what it is and show them the little tram moving across to the Tronchetto stop. Since they speak a fair amount of English, and I speak a very little French, I point out other highlights too, and they give us friendly good-byes when they get off at Rialto.

The next stop is San Toma. Martin takes my camera and heads home to charge it while I go to Vizio/virtu to buy chocolate for Gianluca and Pasqualina who are coming to visit tomorrow. I also pick up a pink feathered mask at the kiosk in Campo San Toma for their nine year-old daughter Maria Luna. When I let myself in our building, I am astounded to find Lucia vacuuming the hallway. Everything has been carried out and hauled away. I would have thought it would take at least two days, but there is no sign there was ever any clutter let alone a warehouse full in the hallway.

We have some multigrain - cereali - bread with apricot preserves to tide us over until tonight's dinner at da Fiori . I read on my Kindle Paper White until it is time to leave. We both change into nicer clothes than we have been wearing and start the trek.

To a Venetian, it is a five minute walk, but for the mobility challenged, it includes two bridges and crossing the huge Campo San Polo and is a bit of a hike. I can remember when it was the proverbial "hop, skip, and a jump", but not anymore. I find the San Polo bridge the most difficult one in Venice - much worse than bigger bridges like the Rialto and Accademia. It has to do with the width and pitch of the steps, and the lack of a hand rail. The second bridge leading to the Calle Scaleter is much easier, with hand railings on both sides and steps that are easier to ascend and descend - at least for me.

Osteria da Fiore has an unobtrusive entrance on a short uninteresting looking calle, Calle del Sacaleter. The traditional lantern marks the entrance which opens onto a small bar. Through that is a small reception area and then to the left, there is the dining room. Martin finds the low dark brown ceiling and muted beige walls oppressive, but they do not bother me, and I am usually claustrophobic. I am offered a cushion for my chair and a low stool for my pocketbook. I really love both those conveniences. The atmosphere to me is very Venetian Osteria, but I know from past meals the food will be exceptional.

We study the menu on which every dish is tempting and decide to share an antipasto and a primi and have our own entrees. The water glasses are lovely tumblers from Murano and there is a stunning large piece of glass on the table that I know will become our most elegant breadbasket. Before our appetizer, we are brought an amuse bouche of tiny rolls of puff pastry filled with a ricotta filling and sitting on an asparagus sauce. I give Martin mine since I cannot eat the cheese, but I taste the sauce which is lovely and delicately flavored with asparagus. For our antipasto, we share the red mullet with blood oranges. The fish is shredded and served as a warm salad over the oranges. Martin had been expecting a different presentation and is a little disappointed especially as he thinks he tastes some onion which is a no-no for him. I enjoy my half and do not really taste onion. I don't think I have ever had red mullet shredded like this but it makes a lovely light opening to a festive meal.

For our primi we have the soup made from asparagus, zucchini and shrimp. The broth is heavenly with minuscule bits of asparagus floating in it and a cluster of pink and white shrimp in the center. This soup is a winner all the way around and we mop up our plates with bits of excellent bread from our napkin lined Murano glass bread basket. I am drinking a Vernaccia because my secondo, the tonno, has both saffron and vanilla on the plate. I need something that will match those flavors. Martin has a Soave Classico with his San Pietro in a delicately flavored pink grapefruit sauce with poached leeks.

My tuna comes in tiny square slices each encrusted in sweet corn and saffron. The tuna is perfection with its thinly encrusted border, narrow band of white and then rare red "meat" in the center. The vanilla sauce is lightly etched on the plate and is exquisite. Playfully, or incongruously, depending on your mood, it is accompanied by a small cast iron kettle of crisp freshly fried potato chips. I devour every last one.

We order our dolce; we are both having the warm chocolate cake to which da Fiore has attached their name, but first we get a pre-dessert. It is a tiny carpaccio of pineapple that has been treated with spices so the texture is completely changed. The flavor of the pineapple comes through but cinnamon, which I really should not eat, is the predominant flavor. The pineapple itself is smooth and a bit slippery; I am not at all sure I would have recognized it as fresh pineapple had I not been told what it was. Martin gets his cake with the crema di caffe, but since it contains dairy I get a yummy puddle of raspberry sauce which is plate licking delicious. Martin finds the cake a little dry, and I agree about the outer edges, but love the molten gooey interior with the raspberry. It may have become a bit of a cliche, but that does not mean a molten chocolate cake is any less delicious. Before the conto, which is impressive, we get a plate of five small sweets: a butter cookie, a chocolate nut cookie, two macaroons and a meringue. We eat every last crumb.

Da Fiore is very expensive, and it is a very personal decision as to whether it is worth it. We did get three lovely little treats, the food was for the most part superb, and the service perfection. I was happier overall with my meal than Martin was with his but some of that may be that I read Italian and picked up nuances that did not come through in English and some of it might be that I enjoy being pampered more than he does.

The walk home is a leisurely one. We stop on the dreaded San Polo Bridge for me to read a text from Sarah saying she and Brian have landed at JFK. Knowing they are safely on the ground gives me the energy for the last part of our walk home, and the opportunity for a peaceful night's sleep.

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the People Mover
 
#15
Giovedi 25 Aprile 2013 A Visit from Young Old Friends

We are up and dressed and ready to roll at 10:00 which compared to most mornings is the crack of dawn. A week from today we will have to be well on our way to the airport by now, but I prefer not to think about that. I'll be like Scarlett O'Hara and think about it tomorrow or in this case a week from now. We are expecting a visit from our friends Pasqualina and Gianluca and their nine year old daughter Maria Luna, but we are not sure when they will arrive. Usually they call us, the night before their visit, but they did not call last night. Then it occurs to me they might not have our new Vodafone number so I switch on the iPad to check my email. There is an email from them saying that they are already on a train en route to Venice and should be at our flat by 1:00.

We have our coffee standing that the bar at Ciak because, since it is a holiday, there is no IHT today. We do not want to spend 40 minutes using the free WiFi in case our friends arrive early, and Venice Connected was actually up and running when I checked our iPad at the apartment. Coffee is so much cheaper at the bar that in a way it is not really free WiFi if you use it while sipping your coffee at a table. I wonder if they would let us drink our coffee at the bar, and then sit down to use the WiFi, but it doesn't really matter because we truly enjoy sitting in the campiello watch the street or campiello scene unroll before our eyes. I am sure the young and strong legged simply stand for forty minutes and scroll through their smart phones.

25 Aprile is Liberation Day in Italy, but in Venice it is also San Marco Day. Tradition has it that men are supposed to give the women they love a red rose on San Marco Day. We see many men buying red roses from street vendors or walking with a florist's paper cone containing a red rose. Martin waves off the first street vendor who approaches us. I remind him about the tradition, and he says he will buy me a rose from the next vendor we see. Oddly we never see another one any time during the day.

As soon as we down our espresso, we walk back to our apartment. If I were walking from the train station, it would take me a long time both to cover the distance even going the back way, and to thread my way through the many people who usually crowd the calles on any holiday, but we know from experience that our friends are fast walkers. They arrive very promptly at 1:00.

We have not seen Maria Luna for five years. On our last visit she was not feeling well and did not come to Venice with her parents. She has blossomed into a very stylish and appealing young lady with an elfin charm. Without being prompted, she kisses us both on both cheeks and is satisfyingly thrilled by the pink feathered mask I have bought her. She had seen a similar one on a vendor's kiosk while walking here from the train station, but they did not stop to buy it so our choice of a gift could not have been better. Pasqualina, Gianluca and especially Maria Luna seem delighted with the little box of chocolates from Vizio/Virtu. Then again who wouldn't be? They have brought Martin a beautiful bookmark and me a paperweight in the form of a key. Both are comparatively small and lightweight so they will fit easily into a suitcase. Pasqualina has also brought us some salami that her sister, who has a macelleria, has made herself. One package is sealed so we can bring it home, but I have a feeling it will be eaten in Italy. We have had her sister's salami before and it is fantastic.

We show them all photos on our iPad of everything from our grandchildren, our adult children and back in time to the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. When Maria Luna and her parents visited us a few years ago in New Jersey, she had met David and Eva Sofia and remembers them so she is particularly interested in those photos. The rest of the time she amuses herself with her Kindle Fire - something she and David have in common. Lucia comes to the door to change our linens and clean the apartment so we go out for lunch.

We start to walk over to Dersut, but we change our minds at the last minute and go to Perla d'Oriente where we order a variety of appetizers including involtina primavera, ravioli alla griglia and shrimp dumplings. Maria Luna wants Chinese fried chicken, Gianluca wants chicken with pine nuts and Martin wants duck. I order enough other dishes to make sure there is plenty of food. We have a lovely lunch sitting under an umbrella on the Campo dei Frari. You can barely see the bridge that crosses the Rio in front of the Frari because it is so covered with visitors most of whom are sitting on it. There are several places that sell cichetti on the other side of the rio, and many people buy cichetti and an ombra and then sit on the bridge to consume their snacks. You are not supposed to do this, but on a sunny spring day with no tables or chairs outside, it is irresistible. After we have eaten every scrap of Chinese food, Gianluca takes Maria Luna for gelato in yet another place that used to be a children's clothing store. At this rate the children of Venice will be going about naked.

Then he goes to Dersut to buy himself some strudel which had caught his eye. He also buys us some of their cut up fresh fruit, and he brings Pasqualina a sweet as well. We stop in the bread shop to try to buy tea to drink with our dolce, but they do not carry any packaged tea. We do buy another jar of jam since we have already made quite a dent in the apricot preserves we bought last week. This one is fig and currant, an unusual but very tasty mixture. We do not have long to visit at home because our friends have to leave for their train back to Bologna. We never seem to have a long enough visit, but it is a trip of several hours from their home in the suburbs of Bologna, and we are pleased they made the effort to come at all. Martin and I see them off.

Not wanting to fight our way onto a crowded vaporetto or through busy calles, we decide to stay home. I read on the Kindle, and we take turns with the iPad and listen to music. I have not made dinner reservations because we had a much bigger lunch than we usually have, but despite our big Chinese feast, around 9:30, we are suddenly hungry. We make a picnic of sorts from the salami Pasqualina's sister made, rolls, jam, the fruit from Desurt, some of the wonderful wine Brian and Sarah left behind, some of the cookies they also left behind and a square of the chocolate I had bought Martin at Vizio/virtu. It is a very different meal from last night's luxurious deluxe feast but in its own way just as satisfying.

We go to bed hoping for a Friday as nice as Thursday so we can take the Numero Uno all the way up the Grand Canal and out to the Lido, or maybe, if by some miracle we are up really early, even take a ride out to San Michele and Murano. As if.

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Pasqualina and Maria Luna
 
#16
Venerdi 26 Aprile 2013 Dull Day - Delightful Dinner

It is a gray day not the sunny day for which we had hoped. We are up early, but fiddle around the apartment doing this and that for way too long. We decide to eat some of the fresh fruit Gianluca had bought yesterday before leaving for our coffee and kiefers so we wind up reaching Ciak at our normal late hour.

We have our usual breakfast inside standing at the bar. The Campiello San Toma is mobbed, and most of the outdoor tables and chairs are taken, but we had already planned to have our coffee inside. I think, judging by languages spoken, at least two different tour groups have descended on Ciak at the same time. Most people are eating lunch while a few like us are just starting their day with la prima colazione.

Martin has already collected the IHT, but we go back to the kiosk and buy two masks - one for Eva Sofia with pink flowers and feathers, and one for David with red and black Harlequin-like squares and musical notes. We usually buy our masks at La Bottega dei Mascareri where they have been hand-made by Rita and Massimo or Sergio, but we think these mass produced and much less expensive masks are better for young children who might not take good care of them. The masks from are La Bottega dei Mascareri are all works of art, and it would be very upsetting to have them not handled with care, but children who are five and seven might not understand that. I don't think it would be much of a gift to say "look but don't touch until you are older," so we go with the mass produced variety. Eva Sofia loves anything pink, and David plays the violin and also is a Rutgers fan so I hope he will appreciate the musical notes and the red black and white colors on his mask.

I stop in at Pavan Marina, the little shop that sells mainly breads, rolls and biscotti in the Campo San Toma. I buy two multigrain rolls that are flavored with fennel. I want to make sandwiches with the salami Pasqualina brought us, and I know many types of salami contain fennel so it should be a good combination.

We talk about walking to the supermercato to buy cheese, but Maria Teresa is in her shop, and we stop to ask her if she would like to have dinner tonight at da Ignazio. I love looking around Sabbie e Nebbie, and am making a mental list of things I'd like to buy. Maria Teresa has many items from different parts of Asia, and I have already spotted several possibilities for gifts. I do have a few friends who would treasure a gift made in Italy so I will have to ask her to show me which items among her beautiful wares are Italian.

I cannot keep my eyes off that gray silk shoulder bag. I don't care where that was made; I still want it. The pottery on display is spectacular as always, but the big pieces will be too heavy for us to carry. Perhaps the small ones could be wrapped well enough to protect them from breaking, but they might be too fragile. It is almost painful to carry home a delicate piece of glass or pottery and find it has broken in transit.

By the time we have made our dinner plans, Martin remembers that our friend, Eva, who is coming to visit us tomorrow almost always goes to the cheese shop to buy cheeses for her family so we will ask her to buy us some aged Pecorino when she goes for herself.

We walk home stopping to admire the lush green garden where the wisteria is starting to bloom, and more and more roses are opening. Martin throws a wash in our tiny machine, and we both sit down and read the paper. By the time I have done the puzzle, we are ready for lunch which is – surprise, surprise - salami sandwiches.

After lunch, I read my book on the little Kindle and Martin reads The New Yorker on the iPad. It is a strange afternoon. Every time we think it is getting nice enough to take a vaporetto up the canal and out to the Lido, and start to get ready to go out, it immediately turns chilly and dark, and mizzly. Of course once we have settled back on our sofas, one of us will notice it is sunny again, and we begin gathering our things only for it to start to sprinkle causing us to sit back down and return to our reading.

For the first time this visit, a few gondola flotillas cruise by. In past years, many of them have ended their tour across the canal at San Angelo so we would hear several choruses of, "Ciao Venezia" every afternoon. I know some friends have gone on gondola rides, which are included in their tour package even though it is pouring and they must sit huddled under umbrellas. We were lucky that the one time we took a gondola ride the year my sister and her family visited us the weather was perfect. We did have the most taciturn gondolier I have ever met or heard about, but we did get some amazing photographs.

As it turns out, we never do leave the apartment for our vaporetto ride because it finally just stays gray and drizzling; the water in the canal looks gray rather than green or even greenish gray. We have not had any of the wonderful sunsets during which the water turns pink and gold and silver and turquoise; in some photos from previous trips it is hard to believe it is water. . At 7:30 we walk up our calle to Sabbie and Nebbie. Maria Teresa has several customers so we browse among her lovely wares until she is ready to close for the day. Martin finds some lovely fabric zippered cases that could be used as change purses or for cosmetics or even as jewelry bags. They are bright and cheerful although the one I like best is in softer colors and feels like silk.

It probably wouldn't wear as well as the heavier fabrics but it is lovely just to feel it in my hands. That might be a gift for me; I am a sucker for silk.

The gray shoulder bag is still hanging near the door calling to me. Along the narrow edge of the wall leading to the another part of the shop, I see a decoration of several brightly colored autumn leaves connected on strings hanging down the length of wood. My sister loved anything with leaves. Over the years I had bought her several leaf masks, and if she were still here to appreciate it, I would have bought her the lovely wall decoration of fall leaves. It makes me both sad and nostalgic to think about Judith, and the fact that I will never buy her any more gifts. Over the years many of her gifts to me have become treasured possessions.

When Maria Teresa is ready, we walk the short distance to the back entrance of da Ignazio and walk through the pretty back garden into the restaurant. Maria Teresa tells us this door near the Rio San Polo is "the friends' entrance."

We are seated in the back of the restaurant at a cozy table for three in a corner that offers some privacy. We feel as though just the three of us are having dinner together.

Fiorenzo Scroccaro, the owner, greets Maria Teresa warmly; it is obvious she is a favorite customer of his. The offerings for the antipasti sound wonderful, but the unique offering is shrimp in a sauce of fresh green peas. Unfortunately for me there is cream in the sauce so I must "suffer" with a plate of three Venetian delicacies: lusciously silken bacala mantecato on polenta, incredibly fresh branzino crudo marinated in herbs and a grilled scallop that is perfection.

We share a lovely pasta with seafood three ways so that we can all have a taste, but not feel we have overeaten. For our secondo we share a very large and very delicious branzino. Our waiter, who has been working at da Ignazio since we first ate there in the winter of 1996, takes a long time to bone it. He was always slight and is now almost frail looking. He is not only elderly but has only one good eye - a problem with which I very readily identify so I am forgiving of the occasional bone I find as are Martin and Maria Teresa. The fish is lovely; simply prepared but perfectly cooked. Tiny cubes of potatoes accompany it.

Martin and I have an insalata verde to go with it. We have a lovely white wine which Fiorenzo fetches and pours for us himself. Martin and Maria Teresa are able to indulge in desserts, but there is nothing on the menu I can eat. I ask for a glass of grappa, but I am offered some strawberries, which sound good to me. I actually get a bowl filled with frutti di bosco - mixed berries - all fresh and delicious and a lovely soft grappa.

We sit and talk until we realize the restaurant is nearly empty. Fiorenzo brings his mother, Ada, out to see Maria Teresa and meet us. She is a tiny frail looking lady who looks as though she could barely lift a fork let alone the heavy pots she must work with as head chef of her own restaurant. We thank her for our delicious dinner and leave through the garden. At the head of our calle, we say good night to Maria Teresa, who will continue on to the vaporetto. We thank her for a lovely evening and for reintroducing us to an old favorite restaurant.

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Passing under the Calatrava Bridge
 
#17
Sabato 27 Aprile 2013 - Wunderbar!

Today when I wake up a little before 9:00, I stay up. I do not want to go back to sleep for an hour and wake up all groggy and then have to rush. Eva is coming to visit, and I want to have every minute with her that I can.

Once again both the Campiello San Toma and the outside tables of Ciak are mobbed with tourists, but it is quiet and much less crowded inside so we stand at the bar and enjoy our coffee and kiefers in peace. Today, as I often do, I have two coffees, but Martin never has more than one.

I had told Eva to look for us in Ciak if she arrived at 11:00, but in fact we have had our coffee and kiefers, bought the IHT, some rolls and stopped in the branch of Vizio/Virtu that sells all sorts of non-chocolate sweets. Everything looks decadently delicious, and everything is outrageously priced so I buy three of what the store calls muffins, but I would call cupcakes. One is gluten-free, and I buy that out of curiosity to see how good gluten free sweets are in Venice. We are on our way home when I hear Eva call my name. It is so very good to see her. I think it has been two years. We exchange very big tight hugs.

Eva has brought me a beautiful bouquet of roses, which she trims and fits into a Chinese ginger jar for me. It is lovely to have fresh flowers in the apartment. Martin often gives me roses for our anniversary, but he did not this year. He used to buy me flowers at Biancat where Guido Brunetti bought Paola flowers too. I loved receiving flowers from the same shop Guido bought flowers for Paola. On our last visit in 2011, Biancat had closed. I have not gotten flowers from Martin since then, nor have I read about Guido bringing Paola flowers in the last few books.

Eva also brings us bread, and some wonderful looking sweets made with almonds and chocolate - two of my favorite things. Eva's gifts are always very thoughtful taking into account our tastes and also our lack of enthusiasm for schlepping home anything big and heavy. I can guarantee her delicious gifts will be gone long before we leave Venice.

After a while, Eva wants to stretch her legs so she goes off for a walk returning with two different Pecorinos. One type is from Sardegna and the other from Tuscany. Both are delicious. We have lunch using the salami Pasqualina brought, the cheese Eva bought and bread she brought as well as rolls we bought here. I put the leftovers away, and Eva washes the dishes.

We look at photos of each other's families and swap stories for most of the afternoon. I cannot believe how grown up her two daughters are, especially Anna Lise the older one. We have always felt a strong connection to Eva, whom we met when she was an exchange student at our local high school, and she feels the same way. Perhaps we were connected in another life or perhaps we are simply of like mind, but she just fits into our whole family like one of those nesting dolls.

For most of the gray drizzly afternoon, we just sit and talk. It is such a treat to be able to talk without worrying about running up the phone bill between New Jersey and Germany. All afternoon the sky has gone from dark gray to light gray and back to dark. The drizzle stops and starts seemingly every few minutes. Eva decides to take another walk while it is gray but not yet wet. We consider a vaporetto ride, but I really want to be able to take photographs and not only is the light flat and dull, if it starts to rain I have to worry about protecting my camera.

I remember one vaporetto ride we had started on a similarly gray day, and while we were in the Giudecca Canal sitting outside in the rear of the vaporetto, which usually offers at least partial shelter from the elements, a rain squall blew up suddenly. It was a violent windblown storm, and we could not get inside quickly enough to avoid it. In minutes we were soaked to the skin. When we finally pulled the door open, and staggered inside dripping and bedraggled, the passengers who had been sitting snuggly inside all along looked at us as though we were from another planet - a very wet planet.

Martin and I stay home and read on our different devices. He is reading Neil Degrasse Tyson's latest book and I am reading the second in the King Killer Chronicle, "The Wiseman's Fears." I had read the first part of what will be a trilogy as a real book, but each book is over 900 pages, and it is a lot easier to read on a Kindle especially at the beginning and end when the book is unbalanced because there are so many more pages on one side than the other. It also is a lot easier to fit in a suitcase and carry around since the weight of the Kindle does not change no matter how long the book is.

Eva comes back with more cheese and stamps for my written but as yet unsent postcards. A stamp to the US is now €2; even with inexpensive postcards that puts the cost of sending a card to the US somewhere between three and four dollars. When our children were small, I used to send each one a card every single day. That would be a very expensive undertaking today.

We talk some more and then Eva decides to decides to take a shower. By the time we are ready to leave for dinner, it is raining quite hard. Martin gives Eva an umbrella and holds an umbrella over me as we make our way to the vaporetto which is riding alarmingly low in the water. I would have thought the rain would somehow make it ride high, which actually makes no sense since it is the tide not the rain that affects the water level.

We get off at San Silvestro; I am not sure if I could have made the huge step up to the pontile without a significant boost from the short, stocky and amazingly strong woman who is handling the ropes. Even with two sottopassagi, umbrellas and Eva's arm to steady myself, it is slow going, and we look like drowned rats when we arrive at al Paradiso.

Giordano shows us to our seats, and we discuss our options. We finally agree that we each want a full portion of the "off menu" offering of grilled prawns, lardo, and mushrooms over white polenta. Martin and I share a papardelle con frutti del mare while Eva has the gnocchi with scallops, spider crab and saffron.

We are drinking a Pinot Bianco from Friuli, which pairs beautifully with all our courses including Martin's salmon with balsamico and honey, Eva's fritto misto and my Pesce San Pietro with a sublime crema of carrots and the tiny casatraure - baby artichokes - from Sant' Erasmo. They are only available in early spring, and I order them every chance I get.

We are served Fragolino and esse di Buranelle, but Martin wants a slice of the torte Della Nonna, and Eva is tempted by the chocolate soufflé cake. The zabaglione with fresh strawberries, which is happily and safely dairy free, easily seduces me. Thoroughly sated we bid Giordano good night and totter off to the vaporetto happy it has stopped raining.

The pontile is crowded as is the número Uno, which is still riding extremely low in the water. I manage the giant step down onto the boat and enjoy the short ride back to San Toma as the boat pushes through rustling waters shot through with glints of light from the open windows of the palazzi lining the canal. An added treat on a night vaporetto ride is always the opportunity to peek into the windows of the palazzi themselves. Sometimes we just admire a ceiling, chandeliers or frescoed or frescoed walls, but other times we get a more complete picture of furniture and book shelves and paintings and on rare occasions a family dining or someone sitting and reading at a computer.

I need and get a lot if help stepping up on to the platform; in fact it is almost too much help with hands pushing and pulling me before I can lift a foot up from the deck. I appreciate how helpful my fellow vaporetto riders are though I would prefer to be young, agile, and mobile enough to manage on my own.

In Campo San Toma, we encounter a man studying a map. I ask him if he needs help, and something he says causes Eva to speak to him in German. He asks, "Sprecken zie Deutsche?" and when she responds in German he says "wunderbar," and then she explains to him how to walk to the train station. He is so happy to have met someone who speaks German; I tell Eva to tell him it is part of the magic of Venice.

We hurry home with his delighted thanks ringing in our ears. My stick slips as I step up into the apartment, but I catch myself, and on the second try, it stays steady. We pay Eva for the stamps she so kindly bought for us, and then she goes to bed.

We sit for a while sticking stamps on postcards and listening to the water music through the open windows before calling it a night too. As I drift off to sleep I think how nice it is to be in Venice and have the Grand Canal act as my sound soother.

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Ca' d'Oro
 
#18
Domenica 28 Aprile 2013 - Auf Wiedersehen to Eva

We all sleep late. Once again I sleep my sweetest sleep between 8:45 and 10:45. This is not a good habit for many reasons, but it seems to be our way of life in Venice. Breakfast for three at the bar in Ciak is much less than breakfast for two at a table. Of course, if you pay to sit at a table you can really sit - no one chases you away the minute you've drained your glass or cup.

Martin makes a trek to Dorsoduro to replenish our cash, and Eva and I walk to Dersut, near the Frari, for fresh fruit. Fruit per se would be far less expensive at the Rialto, but not if I bought as many different kinds as a container at Dersut holds. Then there is the luxury of having it all cut up instead of doing the work myself, and at Dersut, the fruit is really fresh. There are workers constantly cutting up fruit and replacing the small bins with fresh ones sometimes even before they are completely empty.

We meet Martin on the way back. Eva always offers me her arm to hold, and it is a huge help in walking. I know without me, she can walk very, very quickly, but she never makes me feel I am slowing her down. Pasqualina does the same thing. I really appreciate these courtesies.

We sit inside near the open windows and talk. Eva's departure time is rapidly approaching, and we try to squeeze in every last word. We have a lunch of the last of Pasqualina's salami, the different breads and Pecorino, Eva bought, the fresh fruit and the three tiny muffins I bought in the sweet shop, in Campiello San Toma.

They are very disappointing. The gluten free chocolate is dry and tasteless - only the icing has a bit of flavor. The fruit and chocolate regular "muffins" are very ordinary. They are quite small and at €2 a piece I had expected to be pleased if not wowed. I am disappointed.

Eva sits in the sun on the dock for a few minutes, and then she must start her trek to Marco Polo for her flight home to Germany. It is hard to say good- bye especially since it has been two years since we last have seen her, and we do not know when the next visit will be. We are hoping Lufthansa will schedule her on a flight to Newark over the summer, but she does not have a lot of say in that.

We go back inside and watch from the windows to wave to her on the vaporetto, but she must have been too quick for us and caught one before we went to the windows to look. Martin spots a most unusual sight - first a girl and then a young man poling their way down the Grand Canal on what look like surf boards. I do manage to catch them with my camera only to realize Eva and I spent so much time talking, I never took a single photo of her. Peccato!

Somehow the afternoon drifts away. It is less sunny than it had been earlier, and the canal seems unusually quiet. The water is more gray than green, and once again it feels like rain. There seem to be far fewer police boats than in past years. I have only seen the occasional spiffy Carabinieri boat glide by the window, and not many more of the blue and white municipal variety. In the past my police boat viewing had been varied with several glimpses of each sort every day: Civile, Muncipale, Lagunare, Carabinieri; there seemed to be an endless assortment. Only the gray Guarda di Financia launches appear regularly, probably because their "home" is just past the San Toma vaporetto stop at the Volta of the Canal.

I wonder if it is too early in the season for heavy duty patrolling, or if these are public manifestations of austerity measures. There are also fewer pleasure boats, but although I have enjoyed the cooler weather, it may be too cool for family outings especially since it is always cooler on the water. I do miss seeing the assortments of children and dogs that ride sprawled in and on small boats.

We have a reservation for the early seating at Vini da Gigio so we leave a little after six to make sure the tortoise will have sufficient time to inch her way down to the vaporetto. The pontile at San Toma is a little high requiring a big step down, but at Ca d'Oro it is almost even with the vaporetto which leaves me hoping there will be no gargantuan step up on the way home.

Martin is in the mood for meat so he orders the plate of prosciutto, which he thinks is extraordinary - one of the best anywhere. I start with a special gnocchi and cozze in a light tomato sauce. The gnocchi are wonderful. They are as light as can be, and the mussels have the lovely briny yet sweet tang of really fresh seafood.

I am drinking a Soave Classico and Martin has chosen a Cabernetto which pairs even better with his Osso Buco than it did with the prosciutto. Our server whose name is Evanna, (When I tell her my granddaughter is named Eva Sofia she tells me she has a granddaughter named Sofia) seems pleased when we tell her we have eaten at Agli Alboretti, which she had told us is now owned by Paolo and run by his son, Nicolo. She seems even more pleased when we tell her how much we liked it. A few minutes later a beaming Paolo is at our table eager to hear what we thought of his son's restaurant. We have only good things to say and tell him we plan to return before going home.

For my secondo, I have coda di response, which translates as monkfish, but they really are not the same. Coda di rospo is younger or smaller and has a more delicate, sweeter flavor than any monkfish I have had. It is also much more tender than monkfish unless the Venetians are even greater geniuses at cooking fish than I have realized. Evanna brings us some more of the dark bread supplied by their new baker, and we eat every crumb; it is that good. Nicolo offers the same bread at Agli Alboretti, and we enjoyed it there too. Not all restaurants in Venice have great brad, but Vini da Gigo and Agli Alboretti definitely do. Al Paradiso has wonderful rolls especially if you like olives and they have the best grissini in Venice.

We end our meal with frutti di bosco sprinkled with meringata. It comes with yogurt which Martin enjoys. I cannot eat yogurt and do not miss it at all. It is a lovely light dessert with just enough sweetness to feel like a true dolce.

We walk back to the vaporetto and stand for the ride home. The outside deck is crowded with laughing and jostling French students, but they politely move out of the way so we can exit easily. I am impressed with their manners. There are no lost souls looking for directions tonight so we walk directly home, and since we are both tired from doing nothing we make an early night of it.

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Couple on Paddle Boards in the Canal
 
#19
Lunedi 29 Aprile 2013 - The Days Dwindle Down

Despite going to bed early, I sleep poorly and wake up feeling awful as though I either am fighting off something or have something. The last few days my chest has been squeaking and I have been coughing a lot. I think it is probably an allergy, but the cough does wake me up during the night.

We walk up to Ciak for breakfast, but somehow it seems further away than it did yesterday or any of the days before and even a second cup of espresso does not help. This is not how I ever want to feel especially not at the end of our trip. I wonder if there has been a sirocco. I can recall other times in Italy when I suddenly felt awful in this way, and it turned out to be a sirocco.

We walk to Vizio/virtu, and I buy some chocolate to bring home as gifts. Even a tiny piece of the individual bonbons I used to buy in boxes of 10-12 pieces now costs a whole Euro or more so we buy mostly bars with nuts, pepperincino and roses and just one fancy assortment. I also buy some solid chocolate bars from different cacao producing countries for our son, James, who is a purist and does not like anything in his chocolate.

We come home, read the paper, and I read my book, but eventually go to read lying on the bed. I seem to cough more lying down so I go back into the living room where I can look out of the windows. Martin is downloading The New Yorker. I watch an enormous green boat with a huge piece of bright yellow construction equipment and gigantic black tires hanging all around its edges chug past our window. It makes the normal workboats look like toys. In past years, when they were building the Calatrava Bridge, we had seen cement mixers float by, and on other occasions, the shelters from different vaporetto pontiles would pass going off to be repainted or replaced, but this is the largest piece of equipment we have seen on this trip.

A very sleek black boat passes. It is being steered by a man who looks as though he should be steering a sleek black boat. Clinging to one arm is a woman with long blonde hair and big sunglasses who looks as though she should be clinging to the arm of a man who looks as though he should be steering a sleek black boat. They move swiftly up the center of the canal oblivious to the work boats, water taxis, vaporettos, traghetto and even the odd gondola. They do not seem too concerned with the speed limits either even though for most of our stay, the Canal traffic has been moving noticeably more slowly than in the past. The pair is exotic looking enough that I see people on a vaporetto waiting to dock at San Angelo taking photos of them. Apparently this is not a big day for gondola rides let alone flotillas. Most of the vaporettos are tied up and covered with tarps.

I hate wasting an afternoon, but it is gray and the air feels heavy and I seem to have lost the energy to think of an excursion let alone make one. We have so few days left that I feel guilty about wasting an afternoon, but luckily with our windows on the Canal, I am never bored even just sitting in the apartment.

We walk up to the Birraria for dinner. We wave to Maria Teresa, who wishes us una Buona cena. Mauro is standing in the doorway of his shop. I feel bad I have not stopped in to see him because I could always find some small thing to buy that would either make a good gift or that I could find a spot for at home. I guess we have not walked up the Calle dei Saoneri often - at least not during the day since we did not go to the supermercato to shop. First we had no refrigerator and after the new one arrived, the micro-onde/grill that for years sat on top of the refrigerator no longer fit so it is resting on top of the four gas burners. We cannot easily move it to use the burners, and on many days, we have slept so late we have had only two meals or just fresh fruit for lunch.

I notice the farmacia in Campo San Polo is open and I go in and buy copper, gold and silver - ramo, oro, argento - in the hope it will clear up the congestion in my chest. I think I might be allergic to the wisteria, which is in full bloom and is lush and lovely looking, but my coughing and wheezing started with its opening.

While I do this, Martin tries to put money on Shannon's SIM card at the tabaccheria on the edge of the campo, but they tell him he must go to the big TIM store at the Rialto. We keep getting conflicting information on this, and time is running out. I think tomorrow we will just go to the Rialto.

At the Birraria we order our favorite salad followed by Bigoli with plain tomato sauce and Pecorino for Martin and bigoli Amatriciana for me. It is delicious with just the right amount of heat. I never make it at home because Martin cannot eat the peperoncino so it is a real treat for me.

Martin loves their chicken and suggests we share a secondo. Against my better judgment I agree. Martin loves the chicken here, but tonight I am not very hungry. I have not enjoyed the chicken when I have ordered it in the past. In fact, it is the only dish I have ever had at the Birraria that I have not really liked a lot. I eat some of mine, but am just not interested in it.

We never have dessert at the Birraria, mainly because all their desserts are loaded with dairy, and walk home. I am coughing so much we stop on the bridge for me to catch my breath and then continue. I have grown accustomed to walking in the dark in our neighborhood even with my limited vision. At first I seemed to stumble and almost fall a lot but now though I creep along slowly, I am no longer afraid of falling.

I am very relieved to reach our apartment where I can be comfortably uncomfortable. At this point I am hardly even counting down our remaining hours as I usually do. I am just hoping I will feel better tomorrow so I can really enjoy our last two days and more importantly our last few dinners.

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The beautiful tree at Sacca Fisola
 
#20
Martedi 30 Aprile 2013 - One More Day! One Day More!

Martin is up and ready to roll at 9:00, but it is 10:00 before I am awake enough to function. I am thankful that whatever was bothering me yesterday seems to have gone away.

We hit Ciak at 10:35 which is the earliest we have been there in days. A quick coffee, and our daily kiefers, and we are off to run or perhaps I should say "walk slowly" errands. It is warm, humid and rainy. The young man in the tabbacheria in the calle to the vaporetto cannot do a ricarica on Shannon's TIM card so we will have to go to the big TIM place in the Rialto. I wonder if he is the son or some other relative of the elderly couple who used to own the little shop. I believe he was there two years ago and has modernized the place making it cleaner and brighter looking and he is very helpful but I miss my "broken Italian" conversation with the elderly woman, who probably would turn out to be younger than I am. Even with my mobility and vision problems, I have trouble remembering how old I actually am.

Our monthly abbonamento cards will run out when April ends, and Martin wants to put enough money on to cover tomorrow and also our vaporetto ride to the Piazzale Roma on Thursday morning.There are two machines on the approach to the pontil and he easily figures out the logistics, but the machine only cooperates when he switches to cash instead of trying to use a credit card. While Martin is working on topping up our cards, I meet two lovely American women on their way to the Piazzale Roma to buy their abbonamento cards for May. They are staying in the large Palazzo right on the canal at the vaporetto stop. I had not even realized that palazzo rented apartments. I thought the mayor lived in it and perhaps he does. It has windows on the canal and a large area for mooring boats. The entrance seems to be on the calle through a gate which opens onto a shady courtyard filled with interesting little statues.

The Rialto is mobbed. If it weren't raining, I would have brought my camera, but it is hard enough to walk on the wet stones without worrying about slipping and dropping the camera, and the gray skies will make the photos look flat anyway. Even more to the point, it would be difficult to get a good photo of anything because there are so many people crowding around every kiosk and interesting sight.

Martin goes to the TIM store, and I fight my way to Sergio's mask shop. On the way, I stop in the little church of San Giacomo di Rialto to light another candle for my sister. San Giacometto, as it is often called, is usually cited as the first church to be founded in Venice. Church lore claims it was founded on 25 March 421, the same date on which Venice is said to have been founded. This is the most recent incarnation, and it was created at the start of the 17th century. Above the Gothic entrance, there is a huge twenty-four hour clock which dates from 1410. The church has been more recently updated with a sound system that has recorded music playing, probably to advertise the concerts that are often held there. This seems so unauthentic that I just leave without even looking to see if they have real or electric candles.

It is hard for me to navigate when I cannot see the pavement especially since it is slippery and wet, but on the other hand, I do not think I could actually fall because there are too many people for my body to make it to the ground. I clutch my walking stick firmly, press my shoulder bag as close to my body as possible both for security reasons, and to make myself as small as possible and press ahead.

The mask store looks closed, but for once my timing is perfect because both Sergio and Massimo arrive just as I do. Due per il prezzo di Uno. They are both such delightful men - similar and yet different. Sergio's career as a painter has really taken off. He has just had a large show at the Villa Pisani in Stra and will have one in NYC in Chelsea in December.

Martin catches me up; his mission is complete. Shannon now has money on her SIM card so she will not lose her phone number. It was so quick and easy I wonder why we did not do this our first week here, and then I remember our last visit to the TIM store in 2011, and how frustrating and unpleasant it was. It was only easy this time because there was a helpful and intelligent man there instead of the indifferent and indolent young woman we had had to deal with two years ago.

I tell Sergio we would happily make the trip in from New Jersey to see his "mostra," and ask him to let us know the details so we can come in to Manhattan view his work. He says he will invite us to the opening, which would be a very special treat indeed.

Finally having taken enough of the Boldrin brothers time, we leave and go back to the vaporetto. We try to walk along the arched walkways where the pavement is much less wet and actually dry in some places. It is not pouring but it is definitely raining, which does not bode well for an afternoon vaporetto ride.

We just miss a crowded #1, but I am happy for time to sit on the platform for ten minutes before standing for the ride home. Once back in our apartment, we read the IHT, and both fall asleep. It is a dreary gray wet afternoon not in the least conducive to taking a vaporetto ride to take photos, or for taking a vaporetto ride at all.

Unusually for us we eat lunch separately. I try to read lying down, but cannot get comfortable and during that time Martin has some, bread and cheese and fruit. I decide to skip lunch, but about 4:30 I feel too hungry to wait until dinner so I also snack on bread, cheese and fruit.

It is raining hard enough to keep us in until dinner time. I remember the days when rain was no impediment, and with or without an umbrella I would just go wherever I wished. I used to tell people who commented on my lack of rain gear that I simply walked between the drops.

We listen to music and read. The canal does not look very busy, but it is very noisy. The voices are loud and sound youthful. Somewhere just out of view there must be a celebration of some sort, but whenever I look out, all I can see is - the usual assortment of vaporettos, water taxis - fewer of them than in the past - and work boats.

When we had passed the Pisani Moretta on our way to and from the Rialto, there had been a small group of men and women standing outside it some on the dock and some in the doorway. Perhaps there is a party, a photo shoot or movie been made inside. All I can do is speculate because I cannot really see now that the dock has been moved up against the side of the building, and my vision has got so very poor.

We catch a #2 down to Accademia. On the way, it crosses the canal and stops at San Samuele. Very few #2's seem to stop there although it is a scheduled stop at least during certain somewhat mysterious hours. I remember several years ago leaving una mostra at the Palazzo Grassi and standing in a throng of people for a very long time with no vaporetto ever stopping. Finally Martin walked off the pontile and went to look at the schedule, and the #2 (#82 in those days) stopped running about fifteen minutes before the Palazzo Grassi closed. It seemed strange since I am sure many people leaving the museum would want to take a vaporetto somewhere. We walked over the Accademia Bridge and caught a vaporetto from that pontile where both the 1 and 2 stop regularly all day and during the evening.

When we past San Samuele there were still dozens of people waiting patiently for a vaporetto that was not going to come. Maybe it stops if a resident of Venice requests it. We used to get off at San Samuele all the time to go to exhibits at the Palazzo Grassi, but they no longer are held there. I think they must all be at the new museum at the Punta della Dogana. It is too bad because the building itself is spectacular, and the coffered ceilings are worth a visit all on their own.

We walk the short distance past the Accademia which seems to be permanently under renovation and enter an almost empty restaurant. At first we are shocked that such an excellent restaurant is almost empty, and then we realize it is just 7:30 which is early for Venice. It is early for us too, but it is still light at 7:30 and that makes walking a lot easier for me especially when it is wet underfoot.

We both decide to try Nicolo's version of spaghetti con vongole verace made with finochetto. Finochetto is an herb and it is not the same as fennel despite the similar names. I have not used finochetto myself, and have only tasted it a few times, but many years ago, I was at an herb farm outside of Cesena and stood in a field full of finochetto. I still remember the intoxicating aroma all around me.

The vongole verace are the true ones from Chioggia - tiny and sweet and yet still tasting of the sea. The dish is beautifully seasoned with no flavor too strong for the delicate clams. The finochetto gives the clams a lovely flavor without changing the true character of this classic dish. For the first time, Poste Vecie may have a challenger.

For our secondo we both decide to try the lamb chops since we had fish here on our first visit. The lamb chops are encrusted with almonds and eggplant which is a most unusual and extremely delicious combination. Mine are not quite as rare as I would like, but then not everyone understands I am part wolf, and the smaller, thinner European styled chops are hard to cook properly for those who want really rare lamb. There are some extremely good potatoes on the plate, but I am too full to do them justice.

We pass on dessert; Martin has a Fragolino and I have a grappa di Amarone, which is wonderfully warming and relaxing. We thank Nicolo for the delicious dinner and tell him we had gone back to Vini da Gigio on Sunday where we had told Evanna that we had eaten at Agli Alboretti and enjoyed it. I start to say, " E in due minuti..." and Nicolo finishes for me, "Paolo arriva al tavolo."

I guess he know his father. We tell him we enjoyed this meal as well and hope to find he is still there when we return to Venice.

After an unusually long wait on the vaporetto platform, a Number one lurches in, and two stops later we are at San Toma. Tonight there is a lost platoon of French speakers in the Campo San Toma. They want the vaporetto, and when they do not seem to understand either "sinistra" or "left", I drag "gauche" out of my memory bank, and they are happily on their way. We watch and wave when they look back before entering the calle with the sign saying, "Al vaporetto." We finish our walk home; it is not that hot, but is terribly humid, and I feel sweaty and sticky so I read just one chapter before calling it a night. I always feel a little guilty going to bed on our last few nights; I feel as though I should just stay awake the entire time to savor every remaining moment.

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Zattere with Santa Maria del Rosari AKA Gesuati (big church) and Santa Maria della Visitazione (smaller church)
 

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