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Italy 2004 – Day 18


My watch alarm chimed at 5:00. I had set it early so we could get up and make it to Piaza San Marco before the sun rose. I was feeling less congested and a lot less tired than the day before. Chris was not ready to get up yet, so I reset the alarm for 5:30, and we went back to sleep.

At 5:30, I was able to coax Chris out of bed. We quickly dressed, gathered my camera and tripod and headed out. It took us only about 20 minutes to get to San Marcos on the empty streets. We did see some deliverymen on our way, and a couple of coffee shops were opening already. Once we got to San Marcos, I set up the camera and got some very nice shots of the deserted square. While there were actually some people about, they didn’t leave much of an image in the 30-second exposures I was taking.

By sunrise, at nearly 7:00, I had pictures of the Basilica, the square, the Doge’s Palace, the waterfront, and the bridge of sighs. We worked our way up the Grand Canal a little ways before heading back toward the Capri. We window-shopped on the narrow streets that would be crowded later in the day, but they were deserted so early in the morning. Chris bought us cappuccinos while I took pictures of a gondola parking lot. We stood at the bar in the café and drank our delicious, hot caffeine.

During our window-shopping, we passed a gallery with very nice lithographs in the window. We made a note of the location and planned to come back later in the day. By 8:00, we were back at the hotel and headed to the breakfast room. We were glad to see scrambled eggs and bacon on the buffet. We loaded up our plates and added orange juice and coffee to our meal. When we were done, we grabbed a pack of toast and an apple for later.

Back in our room we rested from our trek trough the city until about 10:30. Then we set out to see a section of Venice we hadn’t visited yet: the Ghetto section. During our tour the previous day, Martina had talked about the Ghetto for a bit. It was originally called the Jetto, or Ironworks quarter of Venice. When Jews started moving to Venice, they were quarantined in the Jetto. The German-speaking newcomers had trouble pronouncing the J sound, and called the place “Ghetto” instead. According to Martina, that is the origin of the term “ghetto” and Venice is home to the first one.

We crossed the Grand Canal on the Ponte degli Scalzi and worked our way northeast to the Ghetto section. It did not look much different from many other sections of Venice in architecture or layout. The kosher restaurants, synagogues, and men wearing yarmulkes were the only things that indicated we were in an atypical part of the city.

As we walked through a piazza we saw a middle-aged American couple talking to a man in a yarmulke. It looked to me like they were proselytizing, but I hoped not. Americans have a bad enough reputation these days.

One other thing worth noting about our walk: we found the cheapest water we had yet come across. We bought a bottle of drinking water at a small grocery store for only €0.50! What a bargain!

Venice Ghetto

Shortly after buying the water, we came across a very nice-looking little restaurant called Osteria ai 40 Ladroni. The name translates to “Tavern of the 40 Thieves”. The menu looked good – mostly seafood at good prices. It was only about 11:30, and we were not yet ready to eat lunch, so we noted the location for later.

From there, we continued our wandering, heading mostly east. Before long, we found ourselves at the northeast edge of Venice. From there we could see the islands of Murano and San Michele (the city’s cemetery). We found a couple more neighborhoods to walk through before heading back to the 40 Ladroni. By the time we returned there, the sidewalk tables were full, and so was the front dining room. The waiter led us to the back room, where we sat at a small table and enjoyed the air conditioning.

The walls and ceiling of the back dining room were painted with murals of a coastal marsh, complete with fishing nets staked out in the water and ducks flying overhead. We could even see an island village (Burano?) in the distance. Besides us, there were two tables full of locals in the back room. They looked to be workers who had come in on their lunch break. There was a sign on the wall that said “Vietate l’Ormeggio“. I asked the waiter what l’ormeggio was. He mimed crossing his arms and said “At the tables.” We figured it meant “No Loitering.” Later, I would find that it literally translates to “Mooring is forbidden.” Close enough.

It took quite a while for the waiter to bring us menus and quite a while longer for him to return to take our order. Remembering Roberto’s quips about “Italian minutes” we forced ourselves to relax and adapt to the Italian pace. When we did order, we both requested fried calamari, seafood risotto, and green salads. We ordered a bottle of water, too. When the calamari came, it was not alone. In addition to lots of small, fried squid, there were other small, whole sea creatures in the mix. There were several minnows and more than a couple tiny clams. We tried not to think about what else might be in the dish, and just ate the parts that looked most like calamari.

When the risotto came, it was very good. No extra critters that we could tell. We never got our salads, but they weren’t on the bill, either.

After lunch, we made our way back to the hotel. It was nearly 2:00, and we were tired from our morning walks. When we got to the hotel, we closed the shutters again and napped until 3:30. We had a couple of stores to revisit, and Chris was amazed when I lured her away from her nap with the command “Get up, and let’s go shopping!” I don’t think she had ever heard me say, “Let’s go shopping” before.

We followed the signs that directed us to the Rialto Bridge. That route would take us back by the stores we had seen that morning. We would also keep a lookout for the paper shop whose address we had written down. We did find it. We walked out into Piazza San Polo, the address of the shop. A little looking paid off as we found it tucked into a corner. Unfortunately, the marbled paper was too expensive for us. We left empty handed.

As we strolled down the busy streets lined with shops, Chris popped into any store that looked interesting. She was on a mission to buy some gifts for folks back home. When Chris entered a store, I would either go in with her or head to the next corner and wait. Mostly, I waited at corners. Once we got to the Rialto, we turned around and headed back. That’s when we found the lithography shop we had seen early that morning.

Street Performers

We found a small lithograph we liked and bought it, framed, as a gift. Chris would later decide she liked it too much to give away, and it would end up in our master bathroom.

Since we had been through the shopping streets already, the trip back to the Capri was faster than the one to the Rialto. We arrived back at our room around 5:30. There we planned the next morning – when to get up, how long it would take to pack, which bus to take to the airport, etc. Since we would have time to pack the next morning, we read some, then watched some more Italian TV. This time it was a game show like Jeopardy, except the two contestants were handicapped by having celebrities on their team. Wrong answers from the celebrities cost the contestants time at the end of the show, when each of them had to answer a set of about 20 questions. It was fun to watch, because the questions were written on the screen and announced. I was able to translate some of the questions and answer them faster than the celebrity handicaps a couple of times.

When the game show was over, we showered and dressed for dinner. At 7:00, we headed down to the lobby and asked the receptionist for a restaurant recommendation. He recommended an Osteria a few streets over and gave us directions. After a false start when we misinterpreted the directions, we found the restaurant very nearby. A waiter showed us to an outdoor table just outside an open window. On the other side of the window were other tables, and a young American couple sat at one. My back was to the woman, but I could hear everything she said, clear as day. I quickly found out more about her than I cared to know.

Fortunately, more diners showed up and the woman’s monologue was absorbed into the general hubbub of the restaurant. When the waiter came, we each ordered a salad and a beer, and we decided to split a pizza with prosciutto, sausage, and mushrooms. The meal was very good, and the atmosphere was quite relaxing until a small child went into hysterics. He had arrived with his parents, and they had just sat down at a table when he started screaming. Fortunately, the parents got up and carried the child away. When he was beyond our earshot, the café was peaceful again.

As we ate, we realized it was our last dinner in Italy, and it made us sad to be leaving. After dinner, we went for a short walk, looking for a gelato stand. We couldn’t find one that sold gelato made on the premises, so we settled for a reasonably priced, brand name gelato. We kept the spoons to add to Chris’s collection. She still didn’t know what she would do with them.

Back at the Capri, we were in bed by 9:30. We watched another inane episode of Veline and then turned the lights out around 10:00.

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