Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 21: Venice

The rolls that we get from the local bakery are exceptional–if only we could something similar at home–and with my large cups of strong coffee and very hot tea for Diana, it makes for a very satisfying breakfast.

This morning is a relaxing morning. We are waiting for Marta to come over to check the washing machine to see why it didn’t finish correctly when we used it last week. So we run another load to try and replicate the problem. This time it spins, but once it’s done, the door won’t open. We stay around the apartment and work and read while waiting for her. When she gets to the apartment, she diagnoses one of the problems; it appears that we weren’t waiting long enough to try and open the machine after it finishes. She also explains that on some settings the machine doesn’t spin. She brings over another electric deodorant vaporizer to combat the smell of cigarettes but apparently the ones we bought the other day have done the trick. After Diana hangs out the laundry, we walk with Marta to another of her apartments to have a look.
Enroute, we stop at a neighborhood restaurant (alla Vedova) where she is known because she wants to have us try their special cicchetti–polpette (meatballs). Unfortunately, they have sold out so we “settle” for some “baccala mantecato”–dried codfish spread and a small glass of white wine. We meet her mother who is staying at the apartment for a couple of days and it turns out that Marta grew up in Belluno and her mother still lives there. She says that she was surprised when she learned that we were staying in Belluno because she didn’t think that any tourists ever went there. The apartment–which we had considered staying in but it lacked high speed internet access–seems to be very comfortable and her mother is very friendly and lively. It is certainly an apartment I would consider using for clients of mine coming to Venice.
We walk back to our apartment and have a late lunch there…..the rolls make the prosciutto, salami and cheese taste even better. In the late afternoon, we visit two local churches–the Gesuiti and Sant’Apostoli. The Gesuiti is very unusual….the outside has a typical, massive Baroque facade with tall columns and large statues scattered all over the front.
But inside, the architect made the green marble look like floral wallpaper and brocaded curtains. The effect is quite stunning…..way over the top….but definitely stunning.

There is also an interesting painting of the martyrdom of San Lorenzo by Tiziano……Saint Lawrence was burned to death on a grill and the painting is very dark with the only light coming from the fire at the bottom and moonlight coming through a hole in the ceiling. If you look long enough, the figures of the executioners–who appear inhuman–emerge slowly from the darkness.
Sant’Apostoli is a very different story. It is a much plainer church but it features a very ”theatrical” Tiepolo painting of The Communion of St. Lucy where the soon to be martyred woman recieves communion after having been blinded. Her gouged-out eyeballs are shown in a dish at the bottom of the painting.
For dinner, we again stay in the neighborhood–actually on the same Fondamenta–and eat a place called Diana. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays and we can’t resist making reservations there for “Diana”. On the way, we stop to admire the window display in the costume rental store that we pass. They have just changed the windows and they are pretty hard to pass by.
Dinner at Diana is a mixed bag….since the weather is cool, only inside seating is possible. And the owners of Diana have packed as many seats into a small space as humanly possible which means you are “up close and personal” with the diners at adjacent tables. The decor is also pretty strange….the kind of knotty pine paneling that is associated with basement rec rooms from the 1950s. The service is also very ungracious and prefunctory. However, to be fair, our food is quite good. I have a saute of mussels to start and follow it with a grilled orata…very simple but perfectly cooked and very delicious. Diana has the spaghetti alla busara–a seafood and tomato sauce, followed by grilled gamberoni (very large shrimp), which are a pain to eat but are very tasty.

We end up talking to our neighbors; one couple is English and the other American (the restaurant is almost completely filled with tourists) so it isn’t all that bad, but I don’t think we will be returning to Diana anytime soon.
Tomorrow we will go to the Accademia gallery.


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