Soggy Sunday

Sunday was grey and drizzly after overnight rain and wind. In front of our apartment we met a very lost sweet couple fromTaiwan, looking for where to get a gondola. We walked them over to the gondola dock near Ca d’Oro. We had been meaning to go see the Biennial installation there, so went in.

The ground floor with its stunning marble inlay flooring was flooding and unfortunately we were quickly kicked out before we could get the chance to fully appreciate the interesting lamp sculptures there.

Upstairs, the contemporary pieces were scattered about among the art collection, which made for interesting contrasts. We enjoyed it, as well as just being in such a wonderful late gothic Palazzo.

The weather was improving, so we wandered over to the bar in Campo Santi Apostoli for coffee and to share a cornetto while we people watched.

We followed a walk through the area from my Blue Guide, finding familiar sites like the beautiful Palazzo Van Axel that hosted a Biennale show last time; and places new to us like this gorgeous old archway. Probably 12th century, the carvings are worn but still good in the more protected areas. This little Campo carries the name Corte seconda del Milion, one of Marco Polo’s nicknames as he was thought to exaggerate his tale of travel in the east.

And this sobering reminder of later history.

Another hidden delight was late 15th century Chiesa San Giovanni Crisostomo. Dim inside with some lovely features including a Bellini.

And going through a dark sottoportego to find this remaining gothic staircase on Ca Lion in a tiny Campo with wellhead on the Canal.

A pre lunch drink at the Secret Bar, then we walked down for our lunch reservation at old favorite Vini da Gigio. It was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday lunch, but by now the rain was cominG down hard and sensible people were staying home.

We began by sharing their Venetian seafood platter, the best version I’d had on this trip. With razor clams, yum. Then a dish which turned out to be a weak spot, gnocchi with truffles. Very large gnocchi with a lot of cheese, just too heavy a dish for me. But the nice glasses of wine helped. We then split Osso bucco, a very good rendition of tender veal with vegetables, with a side dish of sautéed spinach. Too full for dessert, or even one of their wonderful grappas. Next time.

A bit more wandering through the fondamentas of western Cannaregio, then home to read and relax.

We had Jan and Ken, and their friends Donna and Andy over for a light dinner of salami, salads, and wine. We crowded around our little table, and enjoyed conversation. Nice end to a relaxing day.

Plan B

On Saturday we first crossed to Rialto early to get something for dinner. The shrimp looked great, so got a half kilo. As Larry gave our order and I stepped back, I noticed someone taking a photo with him in it. Pretty funny. Also got more of the tiny artichokes and some radicchio and lettuce.

Back home then headed over to the Arsenale area of the Biennale, figuring with the drenching rain, people would stay cozily inside. As we got off the vaporetto, we saw we were were wrong, wrong wrong. Streams of people were walking over, and as we turned the corner we encountered hundreds of people in line just to enter the doorway for those who already had tickets, as we did.

Quick discussion, get the hell out of Dodge.

Plan B was to go to Casa de Tre Oci on Giudecca. This is a small photography museum I had wanted to get to. So back on the Vap, holding on to not skid on the slippery floors. Through the window I watched a determined gondolier row a group of people huddled under umbrellas. Well, they’d have an adventure to talk about, I guess.

The museum is in a beautifully updated 1913 Gothic Revival house built by an artist, the tre oci referring to three eye shaped windows overlooking the Guidecca canal. The current exhibit is the work of Ferdinando Scianna, a photographer I’d never heard of before.

Born in Sicily, his mostly black and white photos document time and place as well as his eye for composition and capturing moments. There was also a free audio guide in several languages of him discussing his work–running away from then returning to Sicily, the emotional toll of photographing other’s trauma, taking portraits. The show was divided into Memory, Journey, and Story. I loved them all, but here are just a few.

For lunch, we walked along the canal for about 10 minutes In the drizzle and then down a tiny side Calle to Trattoria Altanella.

Cozy inside, quiet at 12:30 but filled up by 1. We split a seppie Nero pasta with shrimp and vegetables, and then shared frito misto. The pasta was very good, and the frito had lots of fish, making Larry happy. Good solid typical Venetian cooking, nothing fancy or exciting.

As long as we were there, we went to see Palladio’s Il Redentore, built by Venice after the Plague at the end of the 16th century. From the water you see the massive front with dome and pediment , with wide steeps leading up. Inside is white and grey, the lightness interrupted by large, rather gloomy artwork. Around the side in the Sacristy is a collection of macabre wax heads of Franciscans from 1710. Very creepy.

Decided to return home and relax with reading and wine. Leftover mushrooms for dinner.

Let The Sun Shine

It started out as a sunny day, so we decided to spend most of our time walking. From our apartment in Cannaregio, we first walked over to the Rialto bridge. I love this little Campo with palazzo, and a shrine around the corner.

Today was All Saints Day, a holiday with businesses and schools closed; and the start of a long weekend. Many Italians were here visiting family, both resident and long resting on the cemetery island. It seemed that Venice was filling up with not only the usual tourists, but also many Italian, German and French families trying to get a little Venice weekend in their lives before winter. The congestion around the Rialto bridge was so thick we had to fight our way around to get to Palazzo Bembo to see the rest of the Interiors show we had enjoyed the other day.

All was serene inside, except for an aggressively fashionably dressed group posing for photos in the windows. We enjoyed the views down. In the exhibit were some quite interesting pieces we missed last time.

Nelson Akamo from South Africa.

Paintings by a Russian artist, Alexy Tronin.

I was very taken by a video and painting series showing an older woman walking through a variety of landscapes, some desolate, some lush, some man made environments, some natural. One I found particularly fascinating was of a sort of boat graveyard full of rusting, falling apart boats that each seemed to have personalities. Damn, I didn’t note the artist.

Another interesting installation was by a Chilean plastic surgeon, who had an artistic past but was pressured by family into studying medicine. His aesthetic bent had him specializing in plastic surgery; but then he starting painting again, his canvas the human body.

And loved these paintings using the opposites on the color wheel by Israeli Ika Abravamel.

We resumed our walk slowly negotiating the mass of people on the bridge. Once in San Polo we got off the main pedestrian path, and the crowds disappeared. We just aimlessly wandered in San Polo and Santa Croce, ducking into Biennale offsite exhibits or across bridges and down narrow calles which empty into a Campo.

For lunch, we tried a newish Sicilian place I’d heard about. Small menu of Sicilian standards, done well. It was busy with a mostly Italian speaking crowd, nice to see a different regional food getting the love. We split fried appetizers, a pistachio spaghetti with shrimp, and swordfish involtini. Not quite as awesome as much of what I’d had in Sicily, but good and different from Venetian food. Nice owners, too. Baccaretto, on Corte de Trozzi. It got busy, so reserve.

Kept walking, past the Frari, through Campos with people sitting in the sun, trying to ward off the increasing chill.

Stopped in to Ca Foscari, where the 15th century university building was hosting a show of Russian painter Geliy Korshev. Soviet Realism huge portraits and still lifes. Some fascinating things from both an art and historical view. And I love how he used red.

Into Dorsoduro, down quiet Rios to the 17th century San Trovaso boatyard. Then to the Zatarre, where the people who weren’t in San Marco were strolling. We got gelato from Nico, which we couldn’t finish, a shame. Then back home.

Early that morning I had made a mushroom ragu from fresh mushrooms and dried porcini. With a bitter greens salad, we had for a late dinner it over a thin layer of polenta, classic cold weather food.

Splitting Up

On Thursday, I had arranged a Venetian cooking class with chef Carolyn Burkhardt, American born but living and cooking in Venice for many years. We met up with Florida friend Jan at Bar Puppa, along with her friend Donna. It was great to see Jan again! We walked across Venice, fighting the crowds around the Rialto bridge. Once in Dorsoduro, we met up with Nan in Campo S. Margarita and then Carolyn, who brought us to her family’s palazzo on the Campo. Upstairs, Carolyn has a huge (by Venetian standards) kitchen in her pretty apartment. We got to work, first making traditional league de gatto (cats tongue) cookies and a mascarpone-based Doge’s Cream for dessert.

We made fresh squid ink pasta, a very traditional Venetian preparation. Carolyn laughed that Halloween seemed an appropriate day to make black pasta. To my surprise, you can get the little packets of ink at the supermarket here, and Carolyn gave us each one to bring home.

Mixing the egg gradually into the flour takes a bit of practice, and then the dough is kneaded before being wrapped and left to rest. The sauce today was another Venetian tradition, Alla Busara, shrimp with tomatoes. Carolyn shared a tip for getting the most flavor and texture from shrimp, a brief brining.

Carolyn had prepared some toppings for cichetti, which we assembled. With a glass of Prosecco, a delicious snack, especially since I’d skipped breakfast.

We rolled out the pasta by hand, Carolyn checking carefully and giving guidance so we had an even thickness. We then cut the pasta, and Carolyn demonstrated how to fill and form two stuffed kinds, ravioli and tortelli. Our stuffing was baccala montecata, the traditional creamed cod that I’ve only eaten as a cicheti topping. We cut the remaining pasta into tagliatelle. More than a bit of variation in our ravioli and tortellini sizes and shapes, this is something that will take practice to do by hand.

Then the pasta went into pots, the sauce finished, and we sat down to eat. The baccala made for a nice filling, and I was pleasantly surprised by the delicate flavor of the squid ink pasta, subtly tasting of the sea. I also loved the sauce, with the fresh tomatoes instead of the purée tomato sauce I’ve had in restaurant alla busara dishes.

Fun, informative class, and Carolyn gives excellent instruction. She can be contacted at

clbinitaly@hotmail.com for information and to reserve.

Pictorial proof I was there too.

Meanwhile, Larry had decided to go find the ancient Jewish cemetery on Lido, which we had heard about when we toured the synagogues in the Ghetto. It is about a 15 minute walk from the vaporetto stop, and luckily the gate was upon. The cemetery was established in 1386. You can read about it here- Jewish Cemetery on Lido

Larry met up with me aftward, and we took the vaporetto to the Arsenale for some more of the Biennale. We only stayed about an hour, since we had week long tickets which allowed us to return. I find the Biennale more enjoyable and rewarding if I don’t have to try to take the whole thing in one gulp. Not too much was pulling me this afternoon, although I did enjoy a textile installation of crocheted coral and a weird and funny video of sandwiches being made and unmade with ingredients like tomato and businessmen.

The work that most resonated with me on this visit was a sound installation by Shilpta Gulpta called “For In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit.” The artist describes it as a “symphony of recorded voices which speak or sing the verses of 100 poets who were imprisoned for their work or politics from the 7th century through today. ” You walk through a field of spikes which impale scraps of paper holding fragments of poetry, with microphones above and audio of whispered or sung poetry. It is mesmerizing, with an unsettling mixture of gentleness and harshness. I found it compelling.

Ugh, there’s a Grandi Navi , big ship, going through the mouth of the canal.

Back home on the vap, very crowded this time of day, especially on the start of the long weekend of All Saints Day tomorrow. We first had a drink in Campo S. Apostoli , watching the kids dressed in Halloween costumes careening around trick or treating at the shops. Then home for leftover fish and salad for dinner.