Venice: backstreets tour and Accademia

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Got to bed at a more reasonable hour last night, then rose refreshed at 7:30 for an 8:00 breakfast before our 9:00 walking tour appointment. Alas, there were no fresh baked goods in our brekfast, due to the store not being open that early, but we got hot chocolate instead of the coffee, and also had yummy Greek yogurt (from Greece!) with honey and walnuts, which we’d bought at the store yesterday.

We walked and took a traghetto (stand-up cross-canal gondola ferry, 50c per person) to the rendezvous point for our “backstreets” walking tour, hosted by an expat American who escaped her crazed US lifestyle and now gives tours to fund her slower Venetian life. Interesting contrasts with yesterday’s Venetian native; this one knew less about the city, more about what we’d find different about it. Highlights of the tour included the original city center with its “pillar of trvth;” a gondola-building yard (the building looking rather Swiss, due to the shipbuilders all coming from the Alps where the trees are); St. Trovaso church with two nearly identical entrances, built to keep two feuding families apart; Ponte dei Pugni bridge nearby, featuring marble footprints where battles between those same two feuding families traditionally began; the canal Katherine Hepburn fell into in the movie Summertime, and the little shop nearby that featured prominently in that movie; erased family crests over the doors of wealthy families’ houses were ground off by Napoleon’s soldiers, but if you see a ground-off winged lion, that was a sign of participation in a coup and was removed by the families themselves; “aqua alta” (exceptional high tide) comes up through the sewer grates and floods the streets, but if there were no grates the flagstones would just come up instead.

After the tour, had a very nice lunch: I had an extraordinary selection of vegetable antipasti and very light “gnocchi gigante. We then toured the Accademia, which our guide told us is free this week, and saw some really extraordinary paintings (especially some Bellinis of amazing color and clarity), until we got overwhelmed by the repetition of the same Biblical subjects over and over. We took the vaporetto home about 4:30, for a change returning to the hotel before we were completely exhausted. The views from the vaporetto were really cool and distinctly different from what we’d seen on shore. After taking Kate to the hotel (we have only one key), I ran to the store for more yogurt, then came back for a nap.

For dinner we had an 8:00 reservation (we’d asked our guide on the chiccetti tour to call ahead for us) at the other restaurant that had been fully booked on Thursday, so we have triumphed completely over all the restaurants that taunted us that day. We split the following dishes: an assortment of fish and vegetable chiccetti, the highlight of which for me was tandoori-style tuna; tagliatelle with a sauce involving ground duck; juicy lamb chops crusted with ground pistachios; rosemary-roasted potatoes; sesame carrots; tiramisu (a strange, rather liquid version that our waitress claimed was especially authentic); and cappucino. Got back to the hotel at 10:30, where I wrote a couple hundred words on the novel and got to bed by 11:00.

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