I am used to having to search out the picturesque parts of even the prettiest cities; Kyoto, Jaipur, and San Francisco all have their share of concrete-block monstrosities.

I stepped off the train in Venice right on to the walkway along the Grand Canal. Green water lapped at the edges of beautiful buildings, and boats were chugging along, and a trio of theoretically Native American buskers were performing a tribal dance in full headdresses... OK, so the last part was a little weird. But Venice is extraordinarily beautiful, and every twist of its maze-like streets turns up some lovely view.

Also, the gelato is excellent. Today's gelato: one cup of half fior di latte and half pear (gritty and subtle), and one cone of half fresh peaches in brandy (flecked with peach flesh, and the flavors of fruit and alcohol balanced and vivid) and half fior di latte. The latter is milk ice cream, no vanilla, and it is wonderful. In the US I hear you can very occasionally get it under the name of "sweet cream."

I booked late for high season, and could only find a room for three nights. It's a big hassle to switch hotels, and I figured Venice would be swarming with tourists, and I wasn't sure how much I would like it anyway, since I do not always like cities that are big tourist attractions. I now really regret not booking a longer stay. Switching hotels would have been worth it. I will have to come back some day and stay longer.

I got completely lost trying to find my bed-and-breakfast (without breakfast-- it's a room in a family's house.) There were a number of factors involved in this, to wit, 1) I always get lost trying to find my hotel, 2) when I printed the directions the right edge got cut off, and I didn't notice till I unfolded it when I stepped off the vaporetto, but the post-vaporetto instructions began, "Turn [blank] at the canal," 3) it is notoriously difficult to avoid getting lost in Venice, 4) another direction was "go down the street with the trees--" this was not as bad as it sounds, though, because although there were three streets with trees, only one was a gorgeous path lined with elegant matching trees on both sides forming a canopy overhead, 5) there was no name on the door to the B&B, 6) (this was the killer) it said, "We are next to the fish shop." It is next to a fish shop. However, the fish shop was closed and shuttered, and had no helpful sign reading "fish shop." If it wasn't for a party of Good Venetians, I would never have found the place.

This was all made up for when I did find it, and the proprietor, Maria, escorted me upstairs. It is a small room overlooking a lovely canal, and every inch of the wall that doesn't have a window is covered in floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Naturally, most of the books are in Italian, but some are in English. But still! I tried to tell Maria that this was so wonderful because I was a writer, but I think I actually said, "I have a lady author as my mistress."

I arrived in the afternoon, and I asked her for a recommendation for a good restaurant that local people went to. This was a little hard to communicate. Finally, vaguely recalling one word from a phrase I had failed to remember that meant, "Please give me a plate of assorted traditional appetizers that costs ten euros," I said, "Classico?"

"Ah, classico!" said Maria. "Yes, here's where you should go."

She gave me a list of three restaurants, and I, wondering if I had actually said, "Appetizer," or "assorted," rather than "traditional" as I had intended, set off. I ran into Maria walking her two friendly little dogs while I was hunting for one of them. She pointed it out to me. It was traditional all right: a seafood place with all the seafood in Italian. One of the few words I recognized was "seppei," or "cuttlefish." With polenta. I knew that was a traditional Venetian dish, so I ordered it. It came, strange tentacled lumps swimming in a black ink sauce smelling of tidepool, bordered by slabs of firm polenta.

I do not think that I like cuttlefish.

However, this was my fault for ordering it, and I will try one of her other restaurants tonight. I am avoiding all places that have bilingual menus, as the guidebooks all warn against dreadful tourist traps. My favorite Venglish menu translates "pasta al pomodoro" as "pasta to the tomato sauce," "spaghetti alle vongole e veri" as "spaghetti to the veracious clams," and "tartufo bianco" as "hipocrate to the vanilla." I can kind of see how they got the first two, but the hipocrate baffles me.

Today I walked all over the San Marco-adjacent parts of Venice. The sky was a blue-gray verging on white, without visible clouds; the entire sky was clouded. The sun kept emerging and vanishing, and the air was perfectly temperate. The light was delicate and misty, like you sometimes see in San Francisco. The streets are sometimes broad, sometimes dark and narrow tunnels, where I can stretch out my hands and touch both walls and the ceiling. Some roads become arched bridges, and others dead-end in canals. Once you get off the main tourist roads, the smaller ones can be empty. Since you can't see where you're going and there's always something worth noting ahead-- a window full of blazing scarlet geraniums, a gelateria selling homemade gelato of peaches in brandy, a stone Madonna silhouetted against black shutters, two men who've pulled up chairs to play speed-chess, or a floating farmer's market-- it seems a place full of secrets and discoveries.

I have to come back.

From: [identity profile] em-h.livejournal.com

Venice is incredibly beautiful, but I've never found a nice place to stay there, so you're lucky. If you come back, try to get out to some of the less-visited little islands as well.

My favourite foreign-English menu ever was in Banja Luka, where the menu included "smocked throat-neck" and "grilled dentist."

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I think "grilled dentist" is achieves the status of Best Menu Misprint Evar, beating out my former contenders (all from India) of "chicken soap," "roast leg of lamp," and "leeches with ice cream."

From: [identity profile] ellen-fremedon.livejournal.com

...and "tartufo bianco" as "hipocrate to the vanilla." I can kind of see how they got the first two, but the hipocrate baffles me.

Possibly via Moliere's Tartuffe, who is a hypocrite?

What exactly is a tartufo bianco?

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com

What exactly is a tartufo bianco?

A white truffle, technically: funghi. Possibly in this context, white chocolate or just vanilla-flavored ganache.
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

a trio of theoretically Native American buskers were performing a tribal dance in full headdresses


rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rosefox

In Osaka I saw a guy in what I could swear was a Hopi blanket, playing mariachi tunes on a five-foot-tall harp. It's a living.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

That reminds me of the friend of mine who, on a visit to Brazil, was awakened by a steel-drum (?) band playing "I Know That My Heart Will Go On" every morning in the marketplace under her window. She said they put quite a jaunty spin on it.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

Did you ever read Le Guin's short story about Venice? Your writing reminded me of it.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com

It's really nice -- in The Compass Rose, "The First Report of the Shipwrecked Foreigner to the Kadanh of Derb."
ext_6283: Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire (Default)

From: [identity profile] oursin.livejournal.com

Just making a wild stab in the dark here, but hippocras was a rich spiced wine or cordial and the derivation appears to be from Hippocrates. Might this have something to do with it?

From: [identity profile] hokelore.livejournal.com

Venice is my dream vacation, or at least, what I imagine Venice to be is my dream vacation. Have an extra good time for me.
ewein2412: (Default)

From: [personal profile] ewein2412

I am so glad you made it to Venice!

I was boggled, when I was there, how the light and water looked exactly like a Canaletto painting. I thought thought "Adriatic Blue" was an affectation until I saw it for real.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

The light is extraordinary. The closest comparison I could think of was San Francisco, but really I've never seen anything like it.

From: [identity profile] oracne.livejournal.com

I miss Venice.

If you're ever in Philly, our gelato place Capogiro has fior di latte. And a lot of other awesome stuff, like Mexican chocolate, bitter chocolate, pomegranate, dulce de leche, etc., etc...it varies depending on the time of year. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
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From: [personal profile] oyceter

Oh oh oh I so want to be there! It sounds divine! Peaches and brandy gelato!

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com

You might like some of Lisa St Aubin de Teran's writings about Venice. Getting over the impulse to strangle her for twee-ness and excessive into-herself-ness, difficult as that is, does allow one to read evocative prose about the city.

From: [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com

It's the blushful Hippocrene, surely?

I'm enjoying your travel reports so much; probably more than I'd actually enjoy the travel.


From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com

R. W. Apple Jr. on Venice in the New York Times (apologies if link doesn't work---I googled for it---while logged in to NYT via bugmenot)(too much information, sorry):

"...[at] Al Covo, one of the city's best restaurants, Mr. Benelli champions authentic regional ingredients, especially fish and shellfish from the Venetian lagoon and the inshore waters of the Adriatic." They visit an open-air fish market, the Pescheria, near the Rialto. Fresh local seafood is increasingly difficult to get (overfishing, pollution) and costly. "The Pescheria is small, but the range of fish is absolutely spellbinding. What most Americans might call shrimp go by many names in Venice, including minuscule creatures called schie, still wriggling in their boxes at the market, which turn from gray to brown when cooked, and larger, fatter, standard-issue pink gamberi."

"Vongole veraci (caparossoli in Venetian dialect) are cute little characters with two valves, indispensable to a proper dish of pasta with clams."

The Apples go to Alle Testiere for cicheti and a glass of white wine in the evening; sounds like a great idea... He says Da Fiore is "still Venice's best restaurant" and eats a pasta dinner:

"Mascaron, a bare-bones, cash-only osteria with paper napkins, thronged even in low season, served us a raft of vegetable antipasti and well-grilled sole and orata (the gold-spotted bream that was sacred to Aphrodite). But the highlights were the Rabelaisian humor of Gigi Vianello, one of the proprietors, and the steaming, copious plates of spaghetti with clams. No sauce, no garlic, just tiny vongole veraci, oil and gobs of parsley atop perfectly chewy pasta. Four ingredients that produce pure bliss."

Apple recommends eating eel (bisato); goes to good restaurants called Graspo de Ua and Fiaschetteria Toscana (not Tuscan) and makes the obligatory food-writer pilgrimage to a fantastic but out-of-the-way place in a nearby village.

Bon appetit. (I hope this isn't obnoxious, when one of us travels, the other is always doing research for the traveller and sending support info from home...)

From: [identity profile] denyeverything1.livejournal.com

Wandering by again and thoroughly glad I did. You are making some of my favorite places come alive in such a vivid way. My first trip to Venice, the train crossed the lagoon at sunset, which I didn't think could be topped till we took the vaporetto down the Grand Canal where many of the palazzos has torches burning to light the way up from their landings. (My friend leaned over to whisper, "It's just like 'Pirates of the Carribbean.'") Venice is always magical.

Some restaurant ideas (again, my last trip was 4 years ago, so no idea if these hold up). La Corte Sconte (The Hidden Courtyard) has an appetizer course that is about -- no joke -- 12 or 15 different plates. They are exquisite little bites, mostly seafood and locally caught at that. The seating is family style and the wine just sort of... shows up and is always perfect. It's a bit out of the way (down by the Arsenale stop) but worth the trip. There are also little bars in the Castello and Cannareggio areas where the cicheti are terrific, but I can't remember names.

If you like classical music, it's worth seeking out concerts -- there are usually several scheduled in various churches every night.

Have fun getting lost! It really is the best way to enjoy the city. And thanks again for the lovely posts.

From: [identity profile] sienamystic.livejournal.com

My favorite thing in Venice is walking at night, just completely getting lost and then finding my way again. It really does feel like you're in an enchanted city.

A group of people I was traveling with my second trip there wanted to go to the casino. When later relating the trip to our Italian "mom" in our fairly poor Italian, apparently what we said was, "We all went to the whorehouse! The girls just went to look, but the boys lost quite a bit of money."

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