Monthly Archives: October 2010
First of all, I apologize for not posting anything to my blog for so long. I didn’t have my computer in Barcelona and when I got back to Venice, I only had a few days left. Now I’m in Florence with no Internet coverage at my flat. I was finally able to get an account at the Oblate Library and I can use the Internet for 3 hours a day. When my 3 hours is up today, I’ll bring my computer to the OK Bar and finish. I’ll be back in California within the week and will add more then. I have so much more to say and so little time and opportunity!!
It’s now over 2 hours later and I have just finished uploading the last of the photos on this first blog posting. The connection is slow and many photos were not accepted at the first try. I will go to the OK Bar to see if it is faster there. If not, I’ll finish next week when I get home.
I got a cheap flight from Treviso airport (near Venice) to Barcelona for 4 days on Ryanair to visit some old friends I knew when I lived there and taught English many years ago. It was raining when I left Venice. I had no checked luggage and one small carry-on. Period. No purse. This for me was a major feat. Our flight was supposed to leave at 10 pm. We were not able to board until 11 pm. As soon as everyone was seated and the door was closed, they announced that we had to wait for another 50 minutes more before taking off because France wouldn’t let us cross their airspace until that time. They announced it in English first, and my seat mates, who spoke Spanish, looked surprised at my sudden grumbling reaction. I heard the rest of the grumbling as they announced it in the various languages. They couldn’t serve us anything during that time, even though some people asked for water.
Elisa invited me to her niece Giovanna’s wedding, which took place at city hall in Venice last Saturday. She met me at 11:30 at the Rialto vaporetto stop for Line 1. She had run into her nephew, Marco, on the way there. Marco had on a whole new outfit and looked spiffy. He said he was graduating soon and decided to get the outfit early. Elisa looked lovely and she told me that I looked smart in my new skirt and boots. It was fun to have the occasion to dress up. For all of us.
We walked down the street a bit until they started recognizing people from their family. Everyone stood outside in front of city hall, greeting each other. Elisa introduced me to everyone we met. A large crowd had gathered. Giovanna’s father and her bridegroom, Nicolo, were there. I noticed Marco had added a tie to his ensemble, which he said had required some assistance from his father.
A few minutes later a water taxi pulled up and various friends of Giovanna got out. There was a slight acqua alta, so the tables and other walkways were there for everyone to move about. When Giovanna stepped out of the taxi, everyone applauded. Here is a picture of her making her way off the water taxi and into the crowd. You can see the tables set out to avoid the water.
She went right to Nicolo and they had a big kiss. Here she is with Nicolo standing on the tables and greeting the crowd.
Then she moved around and greeted everyone. Here she is greeting a friend who had come from England. Her brother is behind her. (I guess the tie came later!)
Here is a shot of her I liked with the sun lighting up her beautiful dress.
Here is a picture of her greeting some friends and family. Elisa is in the middle with a white scarf and glasses.
Elisa introduced me to her and I was able to offer my congratulations. The greetings took place away from the water, so we were okay.
Here is the mother of the bride.
Here she is with her father and brother. You can see the Grand Canal behind them.
They look a little happier here. Lots of nerves on the wedding day.
And even time for a little joke.
Some last minute adjusting.
The wedding was scheduled for noon, so we waited for the previous wedding party to leave before we went in. We gathered upstairs in an official looking room with chairs in rows and along the sides. Giovanna and her groom and their witnesses sat in the front row. The person officiating the wedding was Nicolo’s aunt. She wore a green, white, and red sash to show her official status.
We all stood up during the ceremony while Nicolo’s aunt read the official paper that they later signed. There were lots of side remarks and laughter during this reading, which was nice and made it so personal.
Here is Giovanna signing the papers.
And Nicolo signing.
Here is a picture of Giovanna and Elisa.
Afterwards they went out on the balcony of the room which overlooked the Grand Canal and had a few pictures taken. The photographer was also a member of the family.
Here is the view looking toward the Rialto Bridge.
Here is the view in the other direction.
When they moved inside Elisa and I went out on the balcony too. Lots of people were having their pictures taken here, so we did too.
I noticed a strange looking gondola circling around in front. It wasn’t black and the gondolier wasn’t wearing the usual outfit. There were 2 cushions on it.
The next part was throwing rice at the couple and at each other, as it turns out.
As things progressed, I saw that the gondola and gondolier were part of the wedding party. Here he is waiting at the dock.
Nicolo, Giovanna, Marco, and the photographer got into the gondola, which seemed to me to be dangerously tipping, and went for a ride, ending up at the reception.
They had a water taxi for people who wanted to ride. As we were leaving I saw that the cycle was continuing. Here was the next bride leaving the water taxi and walking to her waiting groom.
Elisa and some of the others set out on foot. I said goodbye in front of one of my favorite restaurants and they went on to the party. When I saw her a few days later she said the party had lasted until 6 pm and that more than 100 people were there. Not all of them had come to the wedding.
I felt very honored to be included in such a personal family event.
I have a lot of things saved up to share with you. So come along. I’ll do the walking and you can just enjoy. My pedometer read 21,389 steps two days ago!
I’ve heard some funny bits of conversation while I’ve been here.
Earlier this week I took a lovely ride on the vaporetto to Lido and was waiting for my friend, Iva, at the station. A mother and her child got off the vaporetto and started walking toward the street ahead. The child yelled (in English) “Mama, look! They have streets now! It’s not Venice anymore!”
A few weeks ago after it rained, there were puddles on the streets. A grandmother and her granddaughter approached one and the little girl got giddy. As she approached the puddle her grandmother shouted, “Non andare mezzo del acqua! Non andare mezzo del acqua!”(Don’t walk in the middle of the water.) The little girl did not hesitate and stamped right through the puddle.
I read a description of acqua alta that really fits. Someone was saying that acqua alta isn’t a sudden flood, like some people think. The water doesn’t just rush from out of nowhere. It’s like a bathtub slowly overfilling.
An image that sticks in my mind from Bologna: A guy riding a bicycle with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, singing.
A cannonball was shot at this church on August 6, 1849 and is still lodged in the wall, and marked with the date. A peace treaty was signed on that day, but I don’t know how the cannonball relates to that.
I thought it was interesting to see how supplies were brought in a boat and loaded into this storeroom. It looks like a handy operation.
When I was waiting at the vaporetto stop I saw a sad sign. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to create a nice ad for babysitting, and no one had even torn off one of the slips with the phone number. When Iva arrived, I showed it to her and we thought about tearing one off so when the person came by to check, she would feel better about her effort. We didn’t do it. We didnt’ want to give her false hope.
As we were going along the walkway from the vaporetto stop to Iva’s school, we saw something that looked out of place. For three reasons. This was a really fancy hotel. Best Western? Italy?
I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me. I saw one near Piazza San Marco a few days before.
I was trying to find Piazza San Marco and I was glad to see that someone had left bread crumbs.
When I got within sight, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
I know I’ve made a big deal about how fresh Grom gelato is and how interesting Alaska gelato is. In my wanderings, and maybe because I was missing the taste of peanuts, I saw this gelato place and ordered and was NOT disappointed. I have retraced my steps several times since so I can find it easily when the peanut craving returns. It’s on a tiny street off Campo San Bartolomeo, opposite one of my favorite stores, Promod. It didn’t taste like peanut butter, but another kind of wonderful mixture of peanuts.
When acqua alta comes, people say to be careful of the salt water. If you are wearing regular shoes, the salt can ruin them. My boots got soaked in the rain, but that was just annoying, not disastrous. This is the way that people protect their wooden doors.
This guy was grazing in the garden of Palazzo Albrizzi, where I have gone several times with Elisa and her friends to hear some wonderful free concerts.
I had seen these in the window one night when I was searching for an open bakery for bread and didn’t have time to stop. I went back a few days later and purchased this giant confection called Baci in Gondola, kisses in a gondola. I put my cellphone in the picture so you could see how large this was. It was meringue with chocolate between the two parts.
I went to the island of Giudecca one day a few weeks ago and had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Giudecca canal. I had heard about someone who had created a houseboat out of a vaporetto, so after lunch I started searching. I finally found it at the far end of the large Rio del Ponte Longo. I could see that it was a boat on the #2 line, since they kept some signage on the boat. It was so charming. I hung out a little while in case they came home so I could ask to see the inside. No luck. Here are some pictures.
On the way back to the vaporetto (after the houseboat that I saw, I’d much rather ride on it) I saw a man “working at home.” It gave a new meaning to the concept. And since people don’t have garages, he was working right in the street. You might have noticed by now that almost ALL the houses in Venice have these green shutters. It was nice to see that they could be given new life.
I’ve seen the sign below all over town. Always handwritten and with a bit of variation. They are telling everyone that they have received this year’s torbolin wine. It’s so refreshing to see the excitement of the wine merchants and the obvious anticipation of their customers. And it didn’t occur to anyone to make a fancy sign on a computer and put it out each year.
I saw these shoes in the window of a shop and noted that all were sleek. There were none of the giant sports shoes we are so fond of in America. I think I’ll go in the next time I see a window like this and try on a pair. I wonder if they are comfortable.
I’ve been thinking about Venice and why I find it so interesting. So here are some observations. I have never seen a place with so many people 1) lost and consulting maps, 2) looking up (and out) in awe, 3) taking non-stop photos, and 4) arguing about the right way to get where they are going. This last is more intense when suitcases are involved. It gets worse the more people there are. I really cringed when I saw 6 people with suitcases trying to find their hotel in Cannaregio and each had a different idea about how to go about it. It was hot that day and they were suffering and a bit of yelling took place.
Maybe the first observation above is because there are no cars to hide in when you are consulting your maps. When you are lost, the world knows it. It makes everyone a little humble. The lack of cars is what makes such a difference about this city. I’m ignoring the people who have boats and take care of business by boat, but they are not in the majority.
Whenever you have to go anywhere to meet anyone or work or buy something or eat out, you are going to be in the street. Rain or shine. So the streets are filled almost no matter what time of day or night. There are fewer people at night because lots of tourists stay elsewhere, but the street would be filled if I went out right now at 11:20 pm on a Monday night. There aren’t many TV channels and I get the idea that people don’t like TV much here. Except for sports. I also feel very safe walking alone at night. Several times I have remembered something I wanted to get after saying goodnight to a friend and taking off alone to do so.
I think the lack of cars is also an equalizer. No one gets to show off because of their fancy cars. So there aren’t the accompanying attitudes that go with showing off. People who love their cars and motorcycles and can’t picture life without them would probably live elsewhere. Yes, people can keep cars at the parking lot at the entrance to this city, but their driving affectations are done elsewhere.
And old people are out and about too. I remember something that really impressed me my first day here last year. I saw four old men walking along talking and laughing together in the street. It was delightful. I couldn’t ever remember seeing that at home. Old people just seem to fade away. If they can’t drive or get someone to drive for them, they’re stuck, unless they live in a senior residence. Then this past summer I went to a high school reunion and laughed when I saw many more than four old men walking along, talking and laughing together. But you get the idea.
And people look good here, but it is not a high fashion town like Milan or Florence. I see some very put-together people, but it is not overbearing and you don’t feel like you have to prepare for the runway when you run out for a snack. I will never forget the picture I published in my blog last year of identical twin older ladies dressed identically (and fashionably) walking in the street in Milan. Let’s see if I can find it….Yes. Here it is.
I actually found it charming to see them, but here it is more relaxed.
Today I found something that really tickled me and seems very Venetian. I had read in a blog that Yvonne, one of the readers of Venice Daily Photo, shared with me, that there was a new supermarket in Cannaregio with reasonable prices. I am getting a little tired of the Billa and the crowds. Many of the customers and clerks seem cranky and impatient and very willing to set you straight when you make what they consider to be an “error.” I found myself putting off trips there. So I was excited to hear about something else, in addition to the open air markets. The problem was that there is not really anything much to indicate its presence. It has been open for a month. Can you picture all the “Grand Opening” hoopla that would take place elsewhere? Here is what I saw to indicate that the store was here.
Here is a close up. The sign also says that it is open on Sundays.
The sign indicates the store is down the dark alley. Nothing on the way down looks promising. There is no sign on the door, which looks like the door in my flat to the bathroom, with stained glass paper over the glass. But it is the only choice. You open this strange “stained glass” door and up pops a regular supermarket. Nice clerks, no crowds, good prices. No line at the check out counter. And even a weighing machine for the bread, which you get out of this dispenser.
I’m not sure what they are waiting for to get more customers, but I am happy to have found this new treasure!