Archive for April 23rd, 2012

Venice: Basilica San Marco, Canaletto, Frari Church

Word count: 128 Step count: 13,708

The host at our hotel blamed her husband (“men!”) for failing to pick up yesterday’s breakfast things, the same (as yet unseen) husband who failed to write down the reservation, though it was her name on the confirmation email. I theorize that there is no husband; Madame and her “sister” are actually lovers and the supposed husband is, like our friends’ imaginary French maid Fifi who never, ever does any work, a nonexistent being whose purpose is to be blamed for things (nb: I do not really believe this).

Walked to the train station to get tickets for tomorrow’s train to Bologna. Wound up with a ticket from the machine, but not a reservation. However, a human being assured us there would be no trouble getting a seat. Hope so.

Proceeded from the station by vaporetto to San Marco (after standing in a longish line at the vaporetto ticket booth, along with throngs of tourists just arrived by train). There we used a trick we’d been informed of by our walking tour guide: usually after you wait in the long line to get into the basilica, if you have a suitcase or backpack you are shunted off by the guard to the bag check a block away, then you return and are let in. So if you have a backpack, you go straight to the bag check, check your bag, and walk in without ever waiting in line. Rick Steves also suggests this trick, and it works, though I’m a bit uncertain it’s ethical.

Once inside the basilica, we immediately turned right and went up the stairs to the balcony with the bronze horses (5 euros extra, and well worth it) before viewing the interior of the basilica itself; as we walked, we listened to Rick Steves’s basilica-tour podcast for some background info. The main body of the basilica was crowded, crowded, crowded with a glacially-moving horde of tourists, most of whom were ignoring the signs about no photography, but it was still very impressive. We left right at noon and, after flailing around together in a futile search for lunch, decided to split up for the afternoon.

I wanted pizza, and went to a nearby restaurant that was supposed to have good pizza, though my online sources couldn’t quite decide whether it was a pizza place or an Irish pub. It turned out not to be either, but I still got a quite nice panini with turkey, brie, and peppers. I still don’t know the name of the place; many establishments here have no visible name at all.

After lunch I proceeded to Palazzo Grimani for the Canaletto exhibit. They had several dozen pages from his sketchbooks, about a dozen paintings, and two of his camera obscuras — yes, he cheated, he traced his research sketches using a camera obscura. But he did design and build the instruments himself. This exhibit made it plain how much of a commercial artist he was, kind of like Thomas Kincaid in some ways; he painted what his wealthy clients (mostly English) wanted, and many of his paintings were nearly identical to each other. But I love his architectural details, and it was way cool to see three-hundred-year-old views of places I’d been myself just yesterday, not looking very much different. I stayed in the Canaletto exhibit until, to my surprise, the museum closed at 2:00, but I dashed through the rest of the palazzo on the way out and it was quite intriguing.

I headed off from there in search of the only penny-smashing machine in the city of Venice (there’s one other on the mainland) and, somewhat to my surprise, actually found it, at a shop specializing in Beatles memorabilia that I’d passed several times before, all unknowing. After I’d smashed a couple of two-Euro-cent coins for Janna, it had begun to rain and, after considering my options, I decided to take the vaporetto back to the hotel for a nap. I texted Kate on the way to find out where she was, and she said she was near the Rialto bridge. Just then the vaporetto stopped at the Rialto station and I got off, and through the exchange of many texts we managed to find each other. Kate took me to a very good coffee shop (Cafe del Doge) and pizza place (Antico Forno, Ruga Rialto 970/973) she’d found for an afternoon pick-me-up. Somewhat refreshed, we went off in the rain for some shopping, but I don’t think we wound up buying anything. We also passed by the Frari Church, for which we had another Rick Steves podcast audio guide, and stopped in. Glad we did — it was packed with amazing art and architecture.

We had an… unusual… dinner at a place called Taverna Capitan Uncino (Santa Croce 1501), where Kate had “pizza fantastica” (it was okay) and I ordered “tagliatelle alla Buzzara” which I thought the waiter described as “shrimp with brown.” I envisioned shrimp meat with brown butter, but what I got was tagliatelle with two enormous prawns in the shell and a half-dozen mussels likewise. On the principle of “eat the thing with eyes” I attacked the crustaceans with my fork and managed to get a decent quantity of meat out. The sauce was spicy and quite tasty, the tagliatelle perfect, but all in all that meal was more of an adventure than a satisfying culinary experience.

Back to the hotel around 9:00 for notes, writing, etc. Tomorrow we depart for Bologna. We’re not quite ready to leave Venice — there’s so much we haven’t seen yet — but I’m getting rather tired of seafood.

Venice: missing details

I just realized that I have been remiss in posting the names and addresses of the places we’ve been eating for others’ reference. Here’s the missing information, and I’ll try to do better going forward.

Our hotel (it’s been lovely): B&B Aquavenice, Rio Tera S. Leonardo 1371.

Thursday dinner (seafood risotto): Trattoria Misericordia, Fondamenta Misericordia Canaregio 2515.

Friday lunch (ravioli with pumpkin): Osteria da Carla, Corte Contarina San Marco 1535

Friday dinner: a variety of chicchetti bars including All’Arco (yummy eggplant thing), Do Collone (bacala), and ProntoPesce, Pescheria Rialto San Polo 319 (smoked swordfish mini-sandwich).

Saturday dinner (broccoli flan): Osteria Da Rioba, Fondamenta della Misericordia Sestiere Cannaregio 2552.

Sunday dinner (pistachio-crusted lamb): Anice Stellato, Fondamenta de la Sensa Sestiere Cannaregio 3272.