Monday, September 10, 2012

Italy - Venice

I remember some days back in corporate life where I'd dread opening my in box to see what danger lurked in the hundreds of e-mails I'd receive each day.  With my Paris in box, there's a different type of anticipation.  Take for instance an e-mail I recently received from a Paris friend who's between jobs.  She wrote to say that she had a two bedroom apartment in Venice for the week-end and did I want to join her and then do some traveling in Italy.  The week-end was 2 days away and given my inherent love and need of planning, I hesitated, but then glanced at my schedule which was purr-etty wide open, and then I hopped onto (the southwest of Europe), and next thing I knew, I was walking the bridges of Venice, gelato in hand.

Make no mistake, I made best use of the 24 hours I did have.  I condensed my planning powers and pulled together an additional week of traipsing, touring and tasting through Italy.  But first, Venice.

I had only been in Venice once before, for one day, over 20 years ago, when I was a toddler, or seemingly close to it.  I remembered crowds of people and pigeons, but knew there was much more, and I was absolutely correct.

There are still crowds of people and pigeons, but there's also a maze of delicately winding streets with brightly colored buildings that are nearly falling, severely leaning and definitely chipping paint, but all in the most beautiful, romantic fashion.

Maps are useless and getting lost is the point, and we made good on that point more than once.


Music fills the piazzas most nights, and other nights, you can find the random group of friends with guitars in hand sitting on a dock drinking wine, or more accurate, the Spritz, a bitter orange apertif with Compari that neither of us liked, but couldn't stop drinking.


We jumped into everything we could, even if it wasn't always with both feet.  Like at the institution Alla Madonna where white suited waiters run around the restaurant bringing the freshest and their most favorite dishes to your table.  Our waiter immediately told us what we should be eating and we shooed him away while we leisurely glanced at the simple Venetian menu.  An Austrian couple who sang in the opera were seated next to us and told us what was good since they had been many times, and luckily that jived with what the waiter had told us, so the waiter came over with no patience for our hesitation, pulled the menus right out of our hands, and said, "I bring you."  And that he did - one delectable dish after the next - marinated anchovies, crab salad, seafood risotto (a must), pasta with squid ink, a grilled fish that we were shown before and after, and then there were many drinks that kept coming, unordered by us.


We had no idea how much the bill would be, but the meal was so good, we were prepared to pay the price.  The price ended up being no more than what one (not this one of course) would pay for a meal at Olive Garden.  Our waiter became our new best friend and then some when he offered to take us to see the local sites of Venice.  We politely declined, and proceeded to take the windy streets to get happily lost on our way home.

We took a boat ride to Murano one day, home to some beautiful glass work, and we got to see how it all comes together from a man who was a 7th generation glass blower.  He could create amazing works of art in front of us in under 30 seconds.


I was given the opportunity to do some glass blowing, and I'm pretty sure I have a future in this, assuming anyone is in the market for very unique sized bowls.

Murano is a cute town with less people and more glass than Venice.  There were indeed glass purchases made here, which were probably better than shopping in some of Venice's designer or plentiful costume shops.


We had to do the touristy thing and take a gondola ride.  We knew we found the right gondolier when a man just stepping off his boat said he's the best.  His daughter had gotten married in Venice and he was their gondolier years back and he had a picture to prove it.


I now have wonderful memories of Venice that I can only hope to continue enhance with future visits.


More from Italy to come!

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