Art in Many Forms

Wednesday morning was cool and grey, but as usual we were up early so decided to go to the Rialto markets to get a few things for dinner. First, we walked the Pescheria to see what fish appealed.

We got a beautiful little swordfish steak, and then went to my favorite vegetable stand staffed by an older couple where there’s always a line. A huge head of Romesco, one of my favorite cold weather vegetables that is challenging to find at home. Then went to the stand where we spotted two lonely bunches of zucchini flowers. Asked if he’d have any tomorrow, the vendor laughed, “yes, next year!” So the last fiori di zucca went in the bag. and I couldn’t resist some mushrooms for tomorrow.

Crossed the Canal, and popped into the little San Erasmo farm store. Everything from their organic farm on the island, strictly seasonal. When the owner learned we were from Boston, he and Larry had a spirited exchange about Larry Bird and the 80’s Celtics. Two kinds of radicchio (my new obsession) and some apples went into the bag.

A stop at the bakery for the crunchy dark bread we like, the deli for a bit of fresh ricotta, and back home.

It was still barely 10 am, so we thought we’d go to one of the art installations around town. I had read that the group show at the European Cultural Center at Palazzo Bembo was good. And yes, we loved it. We actually only got through one of the two floors, deciding to return on another day to finish. The theme was Personal Structures.

Lots of variation, much of it wonderful. A few things I was particularly struck by…

The Hidden Library, a two room installation by Jim Rattenbury of sculturalmpieces with video.

Song of Songs, a romantic, pink hued room by Tineke Smith, where everything invites touch– including a pink knitted piano cover!

Eerie and evocative paintings of an abandoned German TB sanatorium.

Beautiful paintings from a Swiss artist

And this was amazing–Two rooms by Frederick Uriel called Plastic Reef, constructed all from throwaway plastics.

Graceful sculptures from Helene Jacubowitz.

Another stunner–in a little alcove, a shimmering textured painting, overplayed by video and music. This was so mesmerizing I watched it twice. Artist is Lala Azra from Indonesia.

For lunch, we walked over to Ai Promessi Sposi, and split a spaghetti with clams and then a frito misto. Larry was happy because there were lots of different itty bitty fishies. A bit over salted to my taste, but still fresh and good.

I had really wanted to see this year’s Biennale prize winner, an Opera in the Lithuanian Pavillion. Staged in an abandoned warehouse at the back end of Castello and performed only two days a week, we arrived to find a long line of people. The line moved every now and then, I think we waited maybe 40 minutes or so while chatting with a woman from Parma and eavesdropping on a really annoying guy bragging about artists he knows.

We climbed stairs to a balcony overlooking a pretend beach, complete with sand, people lounging on blankets, kids playing, dogs sleeping, hundreds of props, and an opera in progress. The libretto is in English, and is slyly funny and quietly perceptive as people sing about the everyday things that are contributing to our plant’s problems. I thought it wonderful, and could have stayed much longer than our allotted 20 minutes.

Back home, rested, then made stuffed zucchini flowers, swordfish “saur” styleand veggies for dinner.

Let it Rain

Although Venice is undoubtedly gorgeous on a sunny day, she also has her charms in the rain. The light gets even softer, land melts into fog, the wet stones under your feet add reflections. Just don’t get caught in one of the overcrowded calles near a tourist hotspot, you’ll lose an eye from someone’s umbrella.

We took the Lagoon-side vaporetto over to Giardini for a morning at the Biennale, the staggeringly huge bi yearly contemporary art extravaganza. It is always a very mixed bag, with some installations leaving me scratching my head or wondering why the artist didn’t go into plumbing instead. But some are either fascinating, intriguing, or just plain beautiful, if often (as Philippa and I agreed on the most nonjudgmental word) Challenging.

The Giardini holds most of the big national pavilions. At opening the ticket lines were long, but since the space is huge it doesn’t feel overcrowded once you get past the entry gate.

As usual, many video installations this year. The one I really loved was from France. Layered and beautiful, full of stunning or odd images as a group of friends travel through a dreamlike adventure, finally getting to Venice. The floor under your feet is padded and soft, and in the dark space are soft sculptures, some you can sit on.

French Pavillion

Another I enjoyed was from Canada, featuring a long, subtlety funny and ultimately sobering conversation between a group of Inuit elders, a young interpreter and an anonymous Whiteman who wants them to move to a settlement. Taken from the history of the Inuit’s forced relocation, it amplifies the huge divide of language and culture.

The Russian Pavillion started out ponderous and heavy, reflecting on the Hermitage and the story of the prodigal son. But downstairs was a hilarious kinetic sculpture, full of bobbing figures and witty images and text.

Larry liked the American Pavillion with sculptures from Martin Puryear, they didn’t do much for me. A few other things I enjoyed, but nothing else was particularly memorable. By this time it was almost 2, so we walked over to Calle Garibaldi to our favorite bar there, Cafe Refolu for some wine and little sandwiches. We will return on another day, I think afternoon would be less crowded as people run out of steam.

Then a soggy vap ride home, stopping to scope out the organic San Erasmus farm store and get a few things at the bigger Coop on Strada Nuova. Quite the selection of polenta to choose from.

Hung out and read in the apartment, and later walked further west in Cannaregio to meet Jonathan and Philippa at Cafe Dodo for a Spritz. Then an excellent dinner at Osteria Da Robia. A bit upscale, and good cooking. Larry and I split gnocchi with crab and bottarga, and then I had duck breast and a beautiful plate of vegetables. We split pistachio bavarese and a panda cotta for dessert. Another enjoyable meal in great company.

Murano

It is pretty funny that in our previous three trips to Venice we’d never made it over to Murano, the “Glass Island.” I think I had always lumped it into the box of tourist attraction, full of crowds buying Chinese imitation Murano glass. It is that, but it is also an important piece of Venice’s history, a community and heritage in danger of disappearing.

Our last time in Venice I had met local guide Andrea D’Alpaos , among other things art historian, Gospel music director and arranger, and most importantly for today, local boy. Raised on Murano, he conducted a unique tour of the back streets, peppering history with boyhood recollections and musing on Murano’s changes. Jonathan and Philippa joined us, and another couple. As we walked, Andrea traced the history of the island and how forces are changing the traditional industry and community.

One stop which I was enthralled by was the ancient church Santa Maria e San Donato. Most of the present structure was built between 1125 and 1140. Beautiful facade on the eastern side which faces a canal, as people would first see the church when arriving by the water. The western side with entrance is elegantly simple. Inside, the inlaid floor is marvelous, with cosmatesque geometric designs and animal motifs. The floor has been painstakingly restored.

That beautiful simplicity is again evident in the apse mosaics, with Mary surrounded by gold. Andrea asked the caretaker to let us into the small room to the side, containing Roman plaques and the mummified remains of St. Donatus.

Another stop on our walk was a very large glassworks, where we watched workers creating a large fish shape. It was fascinating to see the amount of work and care that goes into such pieces. I will admit for not caring for Some of what is being made in that workshop, but I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and years of work involved.

Andrea did show us to just a few of the shops lining the Rio where high quality glass is being sold. Much of the glass sold in a lot of the shops is not made on Murano, much from China. I did see some beautifully sleek contemporary pieces I loved from local glass makers. And I did buy a few earrings for gifts.

Oh, this was hilarious. When we met up with Andrea, another couple came over, said “hi Andrea, ” and introduced themselves. I thought, huh, I guess Andrea combined a tour, I’m fine with that since it brings the per person price down. When the tour ended, they got very embarrassed, and we all realized that they had joined us by mistake, they were supposed to meet a different Andrea at F. Nove! Andrea had assumed they were with us, I assumed Andrea had brought them! Pretty funny, but they agreed that they probably got a better tour. We ate sandwiches together, and went on our way.

Sunny Sunday

This was likely to be the last of the sunny days for a bit, so we headed out early, winding our way through twisting calles to to Palazzo Fortuny. I was really looking forward to this visit, and it did not disappoint. The last time we were inVenice, most of the Palazzo had been devoted to a Biennale exhibit which was wonderful, but there had only been a small fraction devoted to Fortuny. I’m a textile junkie, and have long loved Fortuny fabrics and clothing.

On the ground floor was a exhibit of work of Korean painter Yun Hyong Keun. His life and work was largely influenced by the upheavals and trauma of Korean history–Japanese occupation, Korean War, dictatorships. He was imprisoned several times, and turned to art after teaching. His work is stark, but looking closely one sees texture, movement, and layers within the deep colors.

Walking upstairs, you enter a huge room exploding with objects, artwork, and textiles exploring the people and items which influenced Fortuny. I knew his textile work but was less familiar with his painting and photography. The exhibit showcases the work of both Mariano Fortuny and his father, a Spanish painter. Opulent doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I adored everything, it was such a feast for the eyes. Up on the top floor were examples of Fortuny’s works in progress, sketches, and wood blocks used for fabric printing. I had to be dragged out of there. And now I really want a Fortuny lamp.

We had spent so much time in the Palazzo it was now lunchtime. We walked over to Dorsoduro, fighting the crowds taking selfies on the Accademia bridge. I will admit to slamming into young men wearing huge backpacks. and stopping to take photos.

On our first Venice trip almost 20 years ago we had loved the simple restaurant Ai Cugnai, which had been run by a pair of elderly sisters. The ladies are long gone, but it remains in the family and still serves solid, traditional Venetian food at fair prices. It was mobbed, but we somehow scored a table, I strongly suspect because Larry spoke Italian. Two very good plates of pasta, I had a fish lasagne and Larry spaghetti with shrimp and tomato. And the gondoliers still eat here.

Since it was still so nice out, we walked over to Zatarre to take a vap to Giudecca. Ooh, there’s one of the Boche de Leon, “lion Mouths” where people could put letters denouncing others who might be opposing the Dodges or Venetian nobles.

The Venice Marathon was still going on, with very hot and tired looking runners still coming in. I was glad Philippa and Jonathan had done the earlier 10 k, and were already home resting.

We got off at San Giorgio, and went into the church to take the elevator up into the bell tower. Fabulous views down, including on to the pontoon bridge for runners connecting Salute to San Marco. I’m intrigued by the maze and cloister to the south, and a bit of research shows that tours can be booked through the church, now on my to do list.

Next was the Stanze del Veitro, a small contemporary glass museum. The current exhibit of works of Thomas Sterns was enjoyable but didn’t thrill except for the last room; but I loved the huge Pae White sculpture in the garden.

Vap back across to San Marco, dodging the crowds to get to the quieter streets. We stopped first at Campo Giovanni e Paolo, sitting in a cafe with aperitivi, watching kids run around the ancient wellhead.

Back home, I found ricotta and radicchio in the fridge, and googled for recipes using them. Pasta with radicchio, walnuts and ricotta by Nancy Silverman, score. Quick trip to the Coop, and I threw together the pasta and a salad. Delicious and fast, a definite do again. A two pasta day, good thing I’d walked across Venice twice today.

Birthday Weekend—Saturday

We slept extremely well in our cozy room, and enjoyed a nice Italian breakfast (no, not a cigarette and espresso) downstairs. Had a great conversation with the hotel manager, of American parentage but raised in the Veneto. Oh, and bought a few bottles of Amarone to schlep home. We talked about what to do with the beautiful day, and Larry remembered that I had mentioned the Palladian villas around Vicenza. I told him I was taking a day off from planning, so he was in charge. A bit of Googling, and we were on our way.

The towns in this area have swallowed up most of the old buildings, so most have a modern, workaday atmosphere. It is somewhat startling to go through streets of small apartment buildings and shops, the road narrows, and suddenly you’re facing a gated 16th century villa.

Our first stop was Villa Rotunda (Villa Capra), begun by Palladio in 1566. No parking lot, so you need to creep along the road looking for a space, in competition on a Saturday with carloads of Italian families. Scored a space (the miniature car a blessing), we eventually got to the villa. With columned entries on all sides, views across its park and toward carefully placed outbuildings and statues, it is impressive from the exterior. Viewing this, you can see how Palladio influenced American 18th century architecture, from Monticello and the White House, to the porticoed whitewashed buildings in New England towns.

Inside, it has soaring ceilings, huge windows, and although the rooms are heavily frescoed and filled with objects, it still manages to feel inviting. Still privately owned, you could imagine an elderly couple reading in the comfortably furnished drawing room.

The central rotunda is amazing. No photos inside, so take a quick Google visit.

Next we found the nearby Villa Valmarana. The main Villa, La Palladiana was started in 1669. The smaller “guesthouse” La Forestina, in 1720. The Tiepolos, Giambattista and Giandomenico, father and son, painted elaborate frescoes in both homes. Father mainly painted in La Palladiana, son in la Forestina. It is interesting to see the differences in subject matter and style–one with dramatic moments from mythology; the other less about narrative and more about romantic moments or popular themes. My preference is for the son’s work.

The Villa is privately owned, it is neat to see family photos around the rooms.

Up on a wall are statues of dwarves, illustrating the legend of Princess Layana, whose parents surrounded her with other dwarves so she would not know how different she was.

For lunch, we drove up to a restaurant I had read about, Olio e Burro in Arcugnano. Slow on a Saturday, the only other table was an extended family who obviously knew the owners and chef. Excellent food, both our pastas were outstanding. Larry had a delicious thin lasagnette of radicchio and mushroom. I had fresh pasta with a farm egg yolk and shaved white truffle. So damn good.

Our last stop of the day was at the massive Villa Pisani in Stra. Either 114 or 144 rooms, depending on which source you read, it is quite the early 17th century pile. Room after room, it goes on and on, some rooms chock full of furnishings; others tattered and bare.

The gigantic ballroom was decorated by Giovanni Tiepolo, full of mythological heroes, partially hidden satyrs, all sorts of richly painted details. It is fascinating and overwhelming, I wanted to waltz In it. The Pisani Family fell into debt and sold the villa to Napoleon, so some rooms have more Regency decoration. And yes, Napoleon slept here.

We didn’t have time to explore the museum or grounds, but we know we want to come back and spend time in the Veneto some future trip. There is a lot to see and do here, and I could see renting one of the apartments at Massimago.

So back to beautiful Mestre and the train station, where Larry had an adventure trying to return the car to the closed office; and we met a young Canadian with two huge suitcases who didn’t know she couldn’t catch a cab to a hotel. She didn’t even have a place to stay–after helping get her bags off the train we pointed her toward an info desk and wished her luck.

Our London friends Jonathan and Phillipa were in town, so we had dinner with them at Alla Frasca, an old favorite in Cannaregio. Excellent food, (grilled octopus; gnocchi with shrimp and mint; mixed grilled fish; a Friuli white wine) and even better company.

Birthday Weekend-Friday

For my birthday, we thought it might be nice to have a brief countryside break. I love Amarone wines, so the nearby Valpolicella area seemed a good fit. An old Slowtrav friend recommended an agrituriso winery where he has stayed several times. I learned that they had recently opened a small restaurant on site that has been getting excellent reviews. Sold.

We knew a few days earlier that Italy would be having a transportation strike on Friday. The vaporettos would not be running, so we would need to walk to the train station, not a problem. What we were unsure of was how many trains would be cancelled that day. As it turned out, just a few were cancelled. So about 100 confused people had gotten off trains at the station, waiting ot the docks for vaporetto that wouldn’t be coming.

In Beautiful (not) Mestre, we picked up our rental, a tiny Fiat 500. We started driving west, the highway lined with industrial plants and nondescript office parks. Ah, here are grapevines finally, in the valley floor and climbing hills. We first stopped in the town of Soave. Well preserved walls partially enclose the old town, and climb the hill to the Castello at the top. You can climb the rough steep hill too, or do like we did and find the hidden road to the top. Pretty views up there.

Whoops, rookie mistake, the Castello would be closing for lunch in 30 minutes. We poked around Soave a bit, and then got to the serious business of finding a place for lunch.

Google map recommendations and TripAdvisor Italian (sometimes more reliable than reviews in English) pointed us to Osteria no. 1, in the Volpecella town on F. . Very lively, with a dapper owner singing along with the radio, good smell from the kitchen. Food was slightly gussied up traditional. Mmm, glass of Amarone. We began with tortellini stuffed with radicchio, honey and smoked cheese. Really good. Then pork with fried leeks on a pumpkin purée for Larry, and beef cheeks in an inky dark Amarone sauce for me.

I love Romanesque churches, and had noted some in the area when I was doing research. We found two beauties, each closed up tight. I’ve noticed that these old churches in France usually have a key at the local Marie (town hall) or a note on the door with phone number of key holder, who is usually delighted to show you the village’s pride and joy. But in Italy, you’re out of luck unless the key holder is cleaning. One of the churches was in a cemetery, where graves all sported flowers and decorations for All Saints Day next week. None of the ladies fixing up graves knew who had the church key, ah well.

We then drove to Massimago, the winery-agriturismo Ian had recommended. A beautiful building and grounds, up on a hill surrounded by vines and forest. We arranged for a tour and tasting later that afternoon, checked into our pretty room, and went to read on the patio by the pool.

With Ariana from the winery, we climbed the steep hill terraced with grapevines, learning about the five major grape varieties grown in the region, the wines they produced, and drinking a glass of fresh white wine halfway up. Massimago is an organic winery. The grapes have been grown here for decades, but the family has only been making their own wines for about 15 years.

At the top of the hill we visited the fruttaio, the shed where grapes are dried for 3-4 months before being crushed and slowly fermented for Amarone. This can be a delicate process, highly dependent on the grapes and environment. Rot is a big danger.

Down in the cellars, we tasted five wines, with nibbles of local cheeses. We both really liked the 2013 Amarone, which will be even better in five years or so. Amarone can be a big fruit bomb, but this was nicely balanced.

Dinner downstairs that night was a real treat. We did their five course tasting dinner, each course accompanied by their wines. First a little mouthful of bread made with wine, topped with a light cheese. Then stuffed zucchini flowers. Risotto with ginger, rosemary and a bit of licorice. Sounds odd, but delicious and worked well with the wine. Boned rabbit, topped with shaved black truffle, yes please. We’ll go apologize to the huge rabbits we saw in nice hutches on the hill tomorrow. I’d have never thought of cooking eggplant in red wine, but it too was great. Dessert was also excellent , a tart cherry and beet sorbet with local nut crumble. Ariana had noticed it was my birthday from my passport, so the chef brought out a little slice of cake with candle, very nice. About my only criticism was that the portions were too large for a tasting menu, we had to be careful to not finish everything, particularly the risotto.

We slept well.

This and That

Thursday was a bit dreary, with the sort of clammy weather that feels cool one minute, steamy the next. We decided to walk over to Palazzo Grimani, an enormous 16th century palazzo built in a Classical design. Giovanni Grimani acquired a huge collection of Roman statues, which are now back in the room designed for them. It’s a fascinating palazzo to visit, with some very different Classical, Renaissance, and Mannerist elements.

Upstairs, I really enjoyed an exhibit of paintings by Helen Frankenthaler. Her huge canvases at first look simple, until you let your eyes roam to take in all the details of color, line and texture.

I’d been wanting something to roast vegetables in bigger than the gratin dishes in the apartment, so we wandered owner to housewares store Ratti. A large store by Venetian standards, with an upper floor for appliances. I found an inexpensive baking sheet, and a vegetable peeler. Larry perused the Moka offerings.

Nan had texted asking if we were free for lunch, so we headed west, first going to a Biennale installation in a church. Eh, rather middle school in earnestness and lack of development. Much better experience at lunch at Osteria al Cicheto on Calle Misericodia in the far reaches of Cannaregio. About eight tables packed tight, small menu, good smells. The three of us shared two antipasti, (a salad with goat cheese; and a swordfish salad) two pastas (Vongole; and duck Ragu) and two secondi (stuffed calamari; and slow roasted pork) And eight glasses of wine over a very long lunch–we closed the place. Very good food, nice wines, fun conversation.

We were very close to the Ghetto, so after lunch went over for the 3:30 synagogue tour. We hadn’t been there in many years, so wanted to revisit. The Jewish community officially began in 1516 when Jews were first allowed to live in Venice, (although closed in by gates) and at its height had 5,000 residents crammed into a very small area. Many of the buildings in the Ghetto had 7-8 stories of low ceilinged rooms to squeeze as many people as possible into the space.

Jews came from Germany, Spain and the Middle East, and were limited in what occupations were open to them. They formed synagogues, schools and charitable institutions; the Sephardic community was relatively wealthy while they were involved in trade in the 16th and 17th centuries. Several synagogues were built, and at the Jewish Museum you can go on a tour to visit three.

Nice walk through Cannaregio, and a quiet evening at home. Oh look, transportation strike tomorrow!

Blue Skies

I had to resort to taking something to help me get back to sleep at 1 am, so slept well past my usual 5 am. We eventually headed out, and crossed the Canal and roamed around San Polo for a while,getting happily lost in the maze of tiny calles.

We had seen an intriguing sign on a palazzo fronting the Canal, “Love is Blind–Blind For Love.” Palazzo Tiepolo Passi is hidden down a teeny alleyway off Calle Savonarola. You climb the stairs, and are welcomed by a docent. The artist, Caroline Lepinay, has created an experience retelling the myth of Cupid you can encounter with your senses–and if you reserve, it happens in a magical way. First, without your sight.

The docents take groups of four blindfolded people through the small exhibit blindfolded, leading them to each element, where they encounter the pieces by touch, by hearing music and voice, and by smell. The docents are themselves vision impaired, which gives them the unique skills to help visitors use their other senses. Afterward, you take the blindfold off and retrace adding sight. Yes, perhaps it is a bit gimmicky, but that doesn’t take away from how you experience it. You can reserve through the website. Love is Blind

We walked around some more, peeking into little shops and dodging down side streets to avoid crowds. San Polo was definitely more crowded than Cannaregio. I was looking for a jewelry store I’d first found on our first Venice trip almost 20 years ago. She uses Murano beads, and her pieces are reasonably priced. (Although I’ve eventually had to have things restrung as the necklace stringing is delicate) Ieventually found Donà Maria Luisa, just by chance. We chatted for a while, and I was sad to hear that she is going to be retiring soon. She talked about how so many of Venice’s visitors now are happy to buy cheap imitation Murano glass jewelry, and it is getting more difficult to do what she does. She is looking for someone to take over her shop, anyone interested?

We continued walking to Rialto, and ducked into Al Arco for some chichetti and wine. We didn’t have luck hovering for a table, so stood and chatted with someone who works at the UN who had been stationed in Lebanon. We also stopped to share a glass and tramezzini at the bar next to Casa di Parmigiano. We picked up some ravioli de zucca for dinner.

My joints were complaining by now, so we decided to just take a vaporetto ride to enjoy the afternoon. We boarded the no. 1 at Rialto, and grabbed seats outside for the trip to Lido, then back again. Gorgeous day to enjoy being on the Grand Canal with the beautiful palazzos and boats of all kinds. Happily, no Grandi Navi this afternoon.

Eventually returned home, iced the knees, then went over to the “secret bar” for aperitivi on the rio. The evening futbol game was going on in the Campo, which makes me so very happy to see. This little piece of Venice is still here.

Raviolis and salad for dinner.

Essentials

We decided this time to get the Venezia Unica transportation pass instead of two weekly passes. The Unica is meant for residents, (Or those from abroad who cough up the fee) and gives an enormous discount on the Vaporetto. It is good for five years, so makes sense if you’ll be in Venice for several weeks during that period. So I guess we’ll need to come back to get even more of our money’s worth, right?

We walked the length of Strada Nova, crossed the horrible new bridge past the train station to P. Roma. (And why oh why did they use slippery green panels underfoot, they’re a death trap in high humidity so everyone tries to walk in the narrow paved part in the middle. Don’t get me started on the pod for the disabled that never worked)

We had our passports and had filled out the forms, and even so the process took time and yet more paperwork. We hopped on the vaporetto and went to the Rialto markets for some shopping. Mascari for wine, Casa di Parmigiano for cheeses and prosciutto; figs, greens, herbs,; and some little purple artichokes and zucchini flowers from Sant Erasmo, the farm island in the Lagoon. I pick the stands with the lines of little old ladies.

After stowing groceries back home, we realized we’d skipped breakfast and were hungry. Walked over to Ai Promossi Sposi. Seafood antipasti, and frito misto were delicious and hit the spot. The resident adorable dog sat at my feet the whole time, flashing big brown eyes and casually putting his head on my knee. Nice try buddy, I don’t want to be responsible for your upset stomach.

After a rest in the apartment, we walked west, zigzagging through the Fondamentas and bridges to Palazzo Albrizzi, site of three countries’ Biennale pavilions. it is always fun to visit these palazzos used during the Biennale, with the juxtaposition of past and present. Granada had the most interesting one here, with a focus on Memory, including a mesmerizing installation of projected images through jars, which blended and shifted. In another room was hanging photographic and text mobiles centered on family; and another with huge, beautifully composed photos. There was also a fascinating film that veered between hauntingly beautiful and very disturbing in imagery as the family storytelling unfolded. more about the Granada work here: Granada

Picked up the loan of a knife from Nan, then back home to pick up a few things from the Coop and a bottle of Friuli white from the vino sfuso. Followed by a preventative ice pack on my knee.

For dinner, I made sautéed little artichokes with garlic and lemon, and ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers in a very light batter. Salad, figs and prosciutto, cheap Prosecco.

Soft Landing

Easy flights, and we even slept for an hour. It was interesting how empty the flight from Chicago to Venice was, with many rows of three seats only occupied by one person. (And why Chicago? This is what can happen when you book flights through Philly using a bump voucher a year in advance, the schedule changes, and you get the choice of three hours in Chicago or six in JFK)

On the Alilaguna boat were a large family group from the South, spending a week doing the 2 nights Venice, 2 Florence, 2 Rome thing. I wish them luck in their tour of train stations. My first trips to Europe in my 20’s were like that, and the memories are a blur.

We met the apartment owners daughter at what I’ve called in previous trips “cranky fruit and vegetable guy stand.” The apartment is spacious, functional and clean. A bit short in aesthetics and cookware, but for $110 a night it will do nicely. Kicking myself for not putting a good knife into the checked bag, and I’ll need to find a baking sheet somewhere. If you lean out the window with a chiropractor in attendance, you have a view of the rio below. The same Cannaregio neighborhood we’ve stayed before, good shops and restaurants, easy to walk or vap anywhere. There is a school across the street, so lots of exuberant voices at times. I think we’ll be happy here.

Grabbed a table at the reliable Trattoria Storica for a late lunch while local guys knock back grappa with the owner. First spaghetti Vongele of the trip, yum. So nice to eat outside again! Larry is in a t shirt, the Italians in puffy coats and scarves.

Then we did some minor food shopping (cranky vegetable guy less cranky this year; maybe he got lucky) and unpacked. The apartment has tons of storage, although once again the rod for hanging clothes is way above my head. Met up with Nan at the bar at Algiobagio for aperitivi and handing off some US shopping. No photo, too busy yakking. Very pretty light on the Lagoon.

We walked around the neighborhood, just enjoying the first day in Europe fog. Things were fairly quiet in this corner of Cannaregio, fingers crossed that the crowds are less this time of year. The weather is perfect, upper 60’s this week but will get cooler next week. No rain in sight. But the forecasts here change hourly, so who knows.

Oh, here’s the bridge where my knee went “pop” two years ago. Larry reminds me constantly to not rush on stairs.

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We were starting to fade and not terribly hungry, so walked over to Bar Sbarlefo for a few chichetti to share and a lovely glass of Amarone. Then we split a cone of gelato from Ca D’Oro, pistachio and chocolate. Said hi to the Canal, and home to bed.