Wandering Around Venice

Monday Sept. 28, 2015 

It is another gorgeous day and if the weather report on my phone is to be believed, it will be all week.  This morning, I am off to the Rialto Market in hopes of buying something and actually cooking.  I got to the Ca’ Rezzonico stop just as the last few people were getting on the Vaporetto. The guy let everyone on but me! Nice, real nice. This was the first time riding a Vaporetto besides when we arrived, so I didn’t know how long of a wait it would be and decided instead to take a walk around the neighborhood.

Walking along the Rio de S. Barnaba I Immediately recognize the spot that Katherine Hepburn fell into the canal in the movie ‘Summertime’.

Chiesa di San Barnaba in Campo San Barnaba, and waiting Gondoliers

The grocery boat that is always in Rio de S. Barnaba and small inside market. You notice the signs everywhere not to touch? This is in all outdoor and small indoor markets in Italy.  And they mean, Don’t Touch! I saw an unsuspecting tourist in Florence reach for a peach and was immediately reprimanded by the shop keeper. So please, be mindful when shopping in the markets of Italy.  Point to what you want, or ask for it, but do not touch and do not help yourself.

I had spent so much time wandering around the area, stopping to buy grapes that were the sweetest I’d ever tasted, it was mid morning when I got back on the Vaporetto headed back to the Rialto Market. It was much larger than I thought it was.  Looked to be about half of the produce vendors were still there.  I could see where the fish had been but were of course gone now.  The tide was rather high and water was spilling onto the Fondumenta Vin Costello.  There were small cafe’s everywhere along with a few vendors selling trinkets. I bought some fridge magnets and a slice of Focaccia with tomato and olives for lunch. Very good but I could only eat half of it and since this was ‘take away’, I brought the other half home for later. I could get used to this kind of street food.

Beautiful display of peppers


Focaccia with tomato and olives


Fondumenta Vin Costella partial under water – makes getting on the Gondola a lot easier however

Outside seating along Fondumenta Vin Costello

Getting off the Vaporetto at Ca’ Rezzonicio I realize how badly I am walking – staggering actually, bumping into the walls, my left foot slapping the ground hard on each step, and I’m sure people thought I was drunk. I am so angry that this is happening every day, the severity and how quickly it starts every day. SO angry!!  I am determined however to make the most of my time in Venezia, realizing I just have to stop and rest way more often and longer than I want to. I took my grapes and left over lunch back ‘home’ making my way up the 3 flights of stairs – this is not helping my cause any. But it is good exercise!

I knew that there was a Gondola repair shop in the Dosoduro and set out to find it. I found a short cut to where I thought it was only to find no one working outside.  It appeared to be lunch as I could see inside the building and just barely make out a group of guys seated around a table. You can’t access the shop directly, you can only see it from across the canal. There is a green space outside Chiesa dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio next to the Gondola repair shop.  You cannot get from there to the shop however, the only way to get to the shop is via the canal.

Gondola Repair shop in San Trevaso

Chiesa dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio

I see a group of people standing outside a Wine Bar, and many people inside the Bar. I looked inside and see cases of Cicchetti that the people were eating outside. I wander inside trying to see but quickly realize I am in the way in trying to get pictures – as I said it was crowded, people kept coming in, it is after all lunch time.  They couldn’t seem to replace plates fast enough inside the cases so everything was always freshly prepared. The fact there were so many locals inside and out I knew I had to return when I was hungry.

Curiosity got the best of me however and after leaving, I turned around and went back to try just 2 of the cicchetti. Salted Dry Cod with garlic and egg, olives, mozzarella thin slice of some kind of fish that I don’t remember.  The pairings they offered were so interesting and that is perhaps another reason I went right back to try something.  Oh my goodness, both were so good!! They were for me 3 or 4 bites each so for €2.60 I had a perfect 2nd lunch! How could you go wrong at this price?!?


I really am quite happy spending time in the Dosoduro as I knew I would be.  Originally when I was planning the trip, the apartment I’d rented was right off of Piazza San Marco and was a beautiful apartment with 2 balconies.  As plans changed, so did the area I looked in. While that would have been a nice place, I know I would not have enjoyed the hustle and bustle and constant throng of tourists.  The Dosoduro was certainly more my style, and what I had come to Italy to enjoy.  The neighborhood of the local people, local food and less traffic.  I find myself walking back from Squero di San Travaso a different way than I came, down very narrow, interesting, quiet Calli. Along the way, I notice the smell of garlic. Mmmm……it seemed every Calli I walked down at this time of day the unmistakable smell of garlic wafted through the air making my mouth water.  I imagine Nonas and moms in the kitchen preparing for the evening meal. I smile to myself at the image in my mind.

I end up back on Campo San Barnaba in time to see a boat being unloaded. It hits home how everything that comes into, or goes out of Venice, must be done by boat. I mean, I knew that as that is the only means of transportation, but it is at this point that it is really driven home and I think about what that really means. I cannot imagine the effort that must go into moving to or from Venice and their daily routines.  The deliveries of mail, food, and products, garbage removal all must be a logistical nightmare. Police, ambulances and fire departments also all done by water. The boats that are used are not that large as the canals are not that wide – with the exception of the Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal. That also includes Police and Ambulances. If you would like to learn more on this subject, see my post Challenges of Working in Venice

Taking the Vaporetto to Piazza San Marco was a much more scenic route than walking, although it was a really windy day so the water was very choppy and the ride was a bit cold. But The views were spectacular.

Piazza San Marco looks much different in sunlight as opposed to the first time I went and it was overcast.  There were a lot more people here today.  Much like so many historical buildings, fountains etc, St. Mark’s was also under restoration.  It also falls into that category of being way too big to get a photo of the whole thing, unless of course, you do it from above.  A few views of the Piazza,  Saint Mark’s and The Doges Palace.

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I chose L’ Osteria San Barnaba for dinner tonite. A very small restaurant on our Calle.  It is one of the restaurants that close early and do not reopen until 7:30. On our way to the apartment,  Giamba had explained to us about restaurant hours.  He said that if we see one open all day, don’t eat there.  The reason restaurants close early is because in Italy it is about fresh food.  Food prepared earlier in the day, isn’t fresh, they must close to begin preparing foods for dinner. This makes perfect sense!

The Chef greeted me and brought me my dish. He spoke Italian telling me to enjoy my dinner.  It was fantastic. So simple, yet so wonderful. Simplicity, what Italian cooking is about. You can taste all the flavors.  Because it was such a small Osteria, I watched him prepare all of the dishes from where I sat.  During my meal, a young man arrived bringing fresh loaves of breads to the Chef.  When I was done eating, the Chef came and asked me how the meal was and cleared away the plate.  Great touch for sure – yes there was a waiter, but I was impressed with the attention of the Chef. He cared about what he was serving, it wasn’t just a job.  The following day, I would see the Chef opening the restaurant and I ventured a good guess that he was also the owner.

Tagliatelle con Cappesante de pesto di pistachhi – Tagliatelle with scallops and pistachio pesto

This was a nice way to end the day. They Boys got back shortly after I did.  I managed 8 miles today.  Looks like I will need to become satisfied with 8 and 9 mile totals each day, a far cry from the 13 I was used to doing when I travel to Boston.

Tuesday September 29, 2015

I didn’t sleep well last nite and was still wide awake at 2:00 A.M. I slept in until 8:00 when I heard the Boys leave for their usual busy day. The temperature is 60, the sun is out and once I am on my way, I realize it is quite windy.  I took a meandering walk to the Universitario Di Architettura Di Venezia at the other end of the Dosoduro. It was such a gorgeous day to just leisurely stroll along the quiet Calli and Canals.  As I was walking and looked off to the distance I saw cars parked – I wondered exactly where I was, obviously close to Piazzale Roma? I decided to try the Gondola repair shop again in hopes of finding some kind of activity but once again, nothing. I am beginning to wonder if this is really the place that I’d seen on one of Rick Steves shows and I’d read about on the internet.

I may as well get some lunch since I am right here at my now favorite place to eat. I am feeling more confident today in speaking up and asking for my selections rather than waiting to be asked.  This is after all, the way it is done in Italy,if you just wait, you will get passed up.  Today’s choices are: Tuna Tartar, Salted Dry Cod with Garlic (cuz it was so good), Egg Yolk with Flower Petals (told you the combinations were interesting) and Pistachio, the place card didn’t say what else was on it . Oh my, they were all heavenly and I knew if I had my regular appetite, it would be hard to not come away with an overflowing plate of choices. Everything just looks soooooo good I wanted to be able to try it all.


With a full stomach I headed to San Polo to visit Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari


Next stop, the Rialto Bridge.  The bridge is very, very crowded reminding me of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.  As with all the bridges of Venice, you climb steps and this Bridge is much bigger than the others I’d been on so far so there are quite a few steps. Steps, my nemesis!!! Once I climb to the top, begin to walk down to the other side and see the crowds of shoulder to shoulder people, I am thinking this isn’t for me.  Just as I turn to go back the way I came I happen to look to my left and see a familiar face in the window of a very small shop. It was Marco!   I had read about his shop and his hand crafted cameos  – you can see the beautiful work he does here EREDI JOVON CAMEOS VENICE

I had wanted to see his shop but had forgotten about it in the moment.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune in turning in that direction and glancing inside to immediately jar my memory thank goodness!  I turned and walked in, being greeted with a huge smile and even bigger smile once he heard why I had stopped. We chatted for a few minutes about my journey while I admired his exquisite work. I bought a beautiful cameo for my mother and to top it all off? He handed me one of the tools that he uses to carve the cameos with what he had been currently working on telling me to keep it. At that precise moment, I didn’t really understand what I held in my hand and it would be after I got home and saw a video of him creating a cameo that I realized exactly what it was and was indeed honored by his generosity.  You can see it in my hand in the photo.  He introduced me to his brother and insisted that we take a picture together. I love his story and admire what he is doing so much. He is exactly what I had envisioned Artisans in Italy to be.  His passion for his work, and the time honored tradition of his craft -it poured from every ounce of his being, it was electric and I was caught up in the moment and his excitement. Again, I couldn’t believe my good fortune in meeting him and his brother. It was one of the highlights of my trip to be sure.

I ended up crossing over the bridge from the outside rather than through all the people on the inside, taking the Vaporetto back home. My confidence in riding the Vaporetto has also grown despite just being my 3rd trip.  I was glad that I’d confirmed the correct stop this morning as I didn’t realize there was the Rialto stop and the Rialto Mercato stop which of course was the stop that I actually wanted.

Vaporetti tend to be very crowded with tourists and locals alike. They do not stop long at each stop keeping a very tight, on time schedule.  When they do stop, hold on! they hit the floating docks quite hard. I always make sure that once I get on, I am either right at the rail, or have something else to hang onto for the ride.  Up to this point, I had only stood while riding – there are seats on the rear of the Vaporetto but I was only going a few stops and it wasn’t worth trying to get through the crowd to the seated area. What I need to remember, especially on days when the water is quite choppy, is that despite the docks being very large with an enclosed structure on each one, they are docks. They are in the water and can be rocking and rolling quite a bit some more so than others depending on their size.  You need to get your sea legs as they say.  There were a few times that I almost landed in someone’s lap who was sitting inside the stop as I staggered about.

Here is an example of the buildings and the docks I am talking about.  Each Vaporetto stop is marked with the line it serves. At each stop is a listing of the lines that you can catch at that stop and for each line, it shows the stops that each line makes. The Vaporetti travel in one direction from each stop, crossing from side to side along the canal as many stops are staggered like you see on the right for Ca’ Rezzonocio and San Samuele.   So, if you got off at the Ca Rezzonocio stop by accident and really wanted to get off at the San Samuele across the canal? That Vaporetto you just got off is going to continue down the Grand Canal, but it isn’t going to cross and stop at San Samuele. If you got right back on it, you could go to the next stop, which ‘may’ cross the canal, get off there, wait for the next Vaparetto to come, get on it, and get off at San Samuele.  Got it, clear as mudd?  Just like a bus line, you need to pay attention to what line and the stops before you get on. You also need to be sure to validate your ticket/pass before getting on because if you don’t, you could receive a fine.

I am amazed at the elderly people who don’t have any trouble at all getting on/off and riding the Vaporetti being so used to this form of transportation. It is like the many, many bridges they cross throughout their daily travels. They don’t seem to be bothered in the least even with their rolling grocery carts in tow. Yes, elderly Italians, are a hearty, strong people and so much more active and vibrant than so many of those in our country.  They have no choice but to walk everywhere and do so with a steady determination that I admire.  They climb several flights of stairs to reach their homes/apartments every day.  Italians just seem happy as they go about their day.  Is it any wonder that they have a smile on their faces and more often than not a ‘Buongiorno’ to offer as you pass by?

I need to do some laundry but each time I started it, the machine would start on the spin cycle and then shut off in just a few minutes. I did this 4 times trying a few different settings. On one choice it did start to fill with water, but again, started to spin right away.  I was obviously using the wrong setting and tried finding the model we had on the web to get some sort of instructions but was not successful.  The dials on the wash machine, 3 of them, same in Florence, are of course in Italian.  I realize now that all I had to do was put the word(s) from the dial into my phone and ask it for the translation – what a dope! When the Boys returned, I asked Richard which setting he’d used the nite before because it had still been set at what the gal told us to use when we arrived.  This worked however, the machine was quite small, I couldn’t do much and would have to do 2 loads. Not tonite though since it took a little over 2 hours for the cycle!

As I reflect on the day,  I am saddened at the thought that I only have 2 more days.  Each nite when the Boys return they tell me of their day and all the places they visited and all the foods that they ate. I read Richard’s detailed accounting on his Facebook page and I ‘see’ the things this way.  Although I do wish that my appetite were normal because I am really not getting much of a taste of Italy so far!  The food was a huge part of what I had been looking forward to on this trip.  I realize that I am not doing many of the things that I had wanted to do while in Venice.  I know that I am missing many beautiful things in the museums, churches or the island of Burano.

At the same time I also realize that I am quite content. I am quite happy just walking around the Dosoduro. I am content listening to locals despite my not understanding them.  I imagine what they are saying as they pass and greet each other.  Italian, it is such a lyrical, sexy and emotional language that I could listen to it for hours. I may have had a list of ‘things to do’ but I am so happy in what I am doing. I am so relaxed. I am so at peace is the best way to describe it. I find myself smiling as I walk, I feel the breath slowly escape my lungs, sometimes tears start to come to my eyes, not because of something beautiful I saw, although yes I do that a lot! but because of this feeling of peacefulness. I go to bed with this feeling ready to experience it all over again tomorrow.

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