Friday, March 11, 2011


Experiencing Venice is like falling in love. Your heart skips a beat when catching a glimpse from a distance and you become more mesmerized on coming face to face with its quiet beauty. Like new love, you sense the landscape, navigate cautiously and anticipate the secrets that will be revealed. I waited for my infatuation to end, become tired or critical, find a reason for Venice not to live up to my expectations. But I didn’t. Now I’m love sick.

Some musings:
No problem navigating from the airport to Piazzale Roma. We purchased our 7 day ACTV pass prior to leaving and waited in line at the tourist desk to get our IMOB cards – a mistake as the automatic ticket booth was just outside the doors.

I’m not at my best waiting and the cue was 4 deep when I lined up – jet lagged and eager to get on with it. The first in line pondered every possible combination of passes for 10 minutes before pulling out his credit card to the great relief of the 15 people now behind him. The next family couldn’t believe that they would have to buy vaporetto passes for their kids. That was a 6-minute transaction. I was heartened that the man immediately in front of me had a Venice Connected number…. but that was for eight people and the computer that validated the cards was sluggish – another 5 minutes. The bus (#5) was just outside the main doors so we did not have a wait and it was a quick trip. Upon arrival at PR, we muddled for a moment until finding a police officer to ask directions (“Scuzi, Signore, dové……?”) – Found our vaporetto (#41) with no problem and onto Giudecca. 

We rented an apartment for the week through Home Away. The flat was beyond wonderful…modern condo with a water view towards the Lido – beautiful travertine floors – very contemporary – very comfortable with a rooftop altana (although the weather did not cooperate until the last day). Giudecca (Zitelle vaporetto stop) is one or two stops from San Marco but a world away. It was such a pleasure to leave the madness for the calm and quiet of our neighborhood.

View towards the Lido

We had initially looked forward to a winter stay in Venice – without tourist hoards. After booking our flight and our flat, the owner of the condo asked if we knew our visit coincided with Carnevale. Indeed, we did not. Tourist hoards? Yes, in San Marco – however, I was like a moth to the flame, taking hundreds of photos of fantastic period and fantasy costumes. Those in costume remained in character – strolling through Venice, stopping to be photographed, nodding in acknowledgement of your acknowledgement.

An unexpected detail was the color of water in Venice. The water is a dusky sea foam green – almost opaque yet translucent on examination – reflecting sky, pallazzi and gondole. This only added to the otherworldly quality of Venice. We were told that the Dolomite's are nearby and the chalk runoff to the sea creates this effect.

Although I planned extensively for the trip my advice is to plan but not to be a slave to the plan. I had hoped to explore one sestiere per day. This did not happen…one sestiere flowed to the next…or, no matter which calle we took, all lead to San Marco… or, we turned the corner to find the Arsenale with no idea how we got there – all on the first day. Subsequent days flowed to the rhythm of Venice until our final days when we started to have goals which required constant consultations with the map, tiny paths, minute abbreviations on the map, dead-ends. We circled La Fenice for an hour before stumbling into it. It was very easy to navigate away from the crowds – in fact, much of Venice is very quiet.

Saturday, February 26, 2011: After settling into our flat, we took the vaporetto to San Marco and wandered around. The crowds were daunting so we took a back alley and ended up at a restaurant – not great but we weren’t in our right senses after the long flight. Many were already in costume for Carnevale, which just added to our sleep deprived, trance-like state. 

After a much needed nap, we headed back to walk and find dinner. There are many, many restaurants to choose from. Our experience is that the antipasti and pasta courses were the best with the “secondi piatti” less then good. Free spritz (classic Venetian drink - prosecco and either Cinzano or Aperol) the first night as the waiter kept changing our table to accommodate larger parties.

Sunday, February 27, 2011: We started the day at the Billa Supermarket to get some provisions for the week. I love grocery stores in foreign countries and Italy is no exception. The prepared food section was spectacular! Sweet and sour cippolini onions, marinated wild mushrooms, grilled vegetables in olive oil, new green olives, cured meats, cheese.....!  We then wanted to get the big picture of Venice, so we took Vaporetto #1 from St. Marco to Piazzale Roma up through the Grand Canal. We managed to get seats up front (too cold for most so we lucked out!), which is the best introduction to Venice – grand and faded palazzi, water traffic, gondole, traghetti, and bridges. 

From Piazzale Roma, we toured the Jewish Ghetto, Cannareggio, Castello and ended up at the Arsenale without knowing how we got there. 

Monday, February 28, 2011: We pre-booked the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge’s Palace. This was worth the money and highly recommended. We were only 15 in the tour so it was very intimate and our guide was very knowledgeable. 

Doge's Palace
Golden Ceiling in Doge's Palace
View from the Courtyard of the Doge's Palace

View from the Bridge of Sighs
Casanova's Cell
We wandered away from St. Marco and had lunch at a lovely little restaurant where we had our first taste of Cichetti - small bites of things - a bit like tapas but Italian. (Osteria Antico Dolo, S. Polo, 778) 

We attended the concert that evening at St. Vidal church. The Interpreti Veneziani played Vivaldi, Mozart, and Sarasate. It was a tremendous concert with talented musicians. The cellist (Davide Amadio) was miraculous! He threw himself into his music to the point of possession.  It was the most passionate cello performance I have ever seen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011: We started the day at the Rialto Market. I was underwhelmed. It’s winter, the vegetables and even the fish looked sad, the vendors were cold…we were cold, so our only recourse was to head to a café for something warm. Hot chocolate is a revelation in Italy! It’s thick, it’s dark, and it’s slightly salty. More!

Since it was a clear day, we decided to go to Burano and Torcello. We took the ACTV vaporetto at St. Marco (which I believe is the long way to get there). It took roughly an hour, stopping everywhere along the way. It was quite windy with white caps in the lagoon – in fact, when we got to Burano, it was a steady 30 mph or so. Burano is very pretty – probably prettier when you are not being blown around.   Burano is a fishing village known for it's colorful houses.   The tale is that the village painted the houses in vivid colors so that the fisherman could easily return home in a foggy lagoon.

We ate a great seafood lunch at the Gatto Nero.  Anthony Bourdain talked about it in his show, No Reservations. We ordered seafood antipasti with all the specialties of the restaurant and then pasta frutti di mare and tagliatelli di vongole.  Both delicious!

From Burano, we took a quick boat ride to Torcello. Don’t miss this. This is the original Venetian settlement dating back to the 7th century with an 11th C church, Basillica Santa Maria Assunta,  that is spare and spiritual in a way that you don’t see in the renaissance and baroque confections.

On returning to Venice, the wind was becoming a gale so we took the vaporetto to Giudecca. I don’t know if they ever suspend service due to the weather but we did not want to take any chances. In fact, there was a boat moored at the dock in the common space in the condo complex. It was bobbing around like mad. At this point, it was dark and the boat owner was trying to rescue his motor at great peril to his life. He wisely abandoned the idea but the next morning, I went out to inspect and saw the white tip of a sunken boat!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011: Aqua Alta today! The tempest and high tide did the trick. 

It was not high enough to require the tavoli but they were at the ready. The crowds at St. Marco were walking a tiny path of dry land. 

The sight of a poor woman in ballet flats trying to dry the interior of her shoe with a Kleenex was symbolic of everything wrong with tourists who are clearly out of their comfort zone. Didn’t she read anything? Didn’t she know she needed sensible shoes? Didn’t she anticipate cold, damp weather in winter?

This was the day to be constantly lost with the map. We wandered around and around La Fenice until we stumbled into it. Then we tried to find Vino Vino for lunch…that took another 45 minutes of dead ends. My heartfelt advice, don’t have a destination! It will only spoil your day. 
One of many leaning towers in Venice

On return to Giudecca, the resurrection of the sunken boat was in full progress – a pump boat and six strapping Italian men hauling the boat carcass to the surface. It was quite a production but apparently successful as the boat was towed away to, I presume, the boat hospital. 

We decided to have drinks at the Molino Stucky roof top bar. They have a lovely outdoor space with fantastic views of Venice, which, unfortunately, we could not take advantage of due to the cold weather. It was also loud and expensive so only go in good weather when you can be outside.

Thursday, March 3, 2011: We woke up to snow….then sleet….then cold rain as the day progressed. Nothing to do but to go to museums. We went to a show at the Museum of Art and Sciences at the Accademia Bridge. The museum is a restored palazzo that is beautiful beyond description. 

The show was a retrospective of the work of Lino Tagliapietra who is a Murano glass artist. Lino collaborated with Dale Chilhuly and has been an inspiration to most of the west coast glass artists connected with the Pilchuck School.
(This is the link to google images:

From the museum, we headed for lunch in St. Polo, looking for La Zucca and never finding it. We did stumble into a wonderful little restaurant and had great food and great wine - Al Bagolo Di Cattapan, Santa Croce.   Starters were a wonderful "involute" of eggplant and coppa and carpaccio.   The thunderous sounds from the kitchen certainly assured us that the carpaccio was fresh although we like carpaccio paper thin.  The chef must have wanted to cut the noise short! Gnocchi  with wild mushrooms was the comfort we needed on a cold and rainy afternoon.  Of course, we found La Zucca on our way back.

Venice is like that – it doesn’t like to be defined by a map! On to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum after lunch but we were pretty tired and didn’t do it justice.

Friday, March 4, 2011: Our last day, and I felt sad. It was a beautiful, sunny day, however, and warm for a change. We started the day at St. Giorgio. The paintings by Tintoretto are beautiful but the view from the bell tower is breathtaking. We had hoped to see the Dolomite's beyond Venice but the atmosphere was hazy. The views of Venice, Giudecca, the Lido and the islands in the lagoon are amazing. 

Lunch was on our rooftop altana – perfectly warm and sunny. 

We spent most of the day in Dorsoduro, wandering around and shopping. Carnevale was in full swing with ever more fantastic costumes and fantastic crowds of people. 

We found wonderful jewelry stores and art galleries. (Trina Tygretti, Dorsoduro, 188 , Massimo Micheluzzi, Dorsorduro, 1071, Trina Trigett, Genniger Studio, Campiello Barbaro, Dorsorduro 364, Loris Marazzi, Wood Sculptures)

Massimo Micheluzzi

Loris Marazzi
Murano Glass Earrings, Genniger Studio

We also took the traghetto across the Grand Canal.  Traghetti are the poor man's gondola.  A gondola ride in Venice is expensive - 100 euros and up.  The traghetto is just .50 euros - but lasts only 5 minutes!

After a week in Venice, I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll re-read all my books now that I have a sense of place. Something about Venice resonated with me. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was part magic – like being put under a spell. And I want more.


  1. Hi,
    Enjoyed reading your blog - particularly liked the pics of Carnivale. I'd love to have been there at this time of year. My hubby and I are going in April and really looking forward to it. We're keen amateur photographers so can't wait to compete with each other to get the most interesting shots, lol. Thanks for putting this online.

  2. Thanks. I enjoyed your blog and photos.

  3. Really liked your blog. Has given me the idea of visiting one city and not trying to cram it all in a week.

  4. Jenn - you may have a new career as a travelo'ger' after retirement. Pictures are artistic as usual.

  5. Great photos - I especially liked the ones featuring the costumes of Carnevale. My wife and I are going this summer (our 3rd visit), and reading this really brightened my workday, making our trip seem a little closer than it is.

  6. Oh great information! I'm planning my journey in Venice and I'm interested to visit the Doge's Palace. Is this the tour you were talking about?
    Thank you! :)