Venice, at last!

Italy 2012, continued


Marble Sign next to Convent Door

We’d been reading about the Acqua Alta — high water — that had flooded Venice this year, and seen the photos of tourists wading up to their knees in San Marco plaza, so we decided to stay a while longer in Padua to do some shopping.  That would have been a great idea, but it was All Saints Day, November 1st, and most all of the shops were closed.

Padua Street Musicians

So we stopped and listened to some street musicians, had a sweet at a fancy cafe, then walked back home. . . in the drizzle, packed up and headed to the train station, where we grabbed some lunch and caught a train.  There was some discussion about that, as the train that was supposed to be on our track wasn’t, yet there was one on the track behind us and everyone seemed to be going over there.  Of course we can’t understand the announcements over the garbled loud speaker, although we pretend to listen and try to catch something, anything, of what was said.  In the end, we boarded the train behind us and hoped to play Dumb Americans if it didn’t work out.

Venice Train Station

Venice Train Station.  Notice the woman leaning over taking a drink?  She’s wearing rubber boots that go to her knee.  Nearly all the “real” Venetians had some of those on.  We queued up for the vaparetto pass (long lines) avoiding the few puddles that were on the pavement, and bought ourselves a 3-day pass.

Venice Waiting for Vaparetto

We caught a vaparetto down the Grand Canal to our stop at Ca’ D’Oro , and then a short-didn’t-get-too-lost walk to our hotel.

Arriving Cannaregio Hotel

Alle Vite Dorita Hotel

Hotel Alla Vite Dorata, Cannaregio, Venice, Italy

Alle Vite Dorata landing

Looking out to the small side canal from the breakfast room.

Alle Vite Dorita breakfast

Breakfast room.

Alle Vite Dorita room

We checked in, dropped the bags, and like true web addicts, checked to see if we could get on the internet–PERFECT!  Happy, we went out again.

Venice Jugs of Wine

We could see evidence of high water: the elevated walkways, puddles, damp pavement, and the vino guy sweeping out his shop (notice the soggy bottoms of his barrels).  Apparently Cannaregio has less high water than San Marco, and in addition, the hotel was up two steps, and we found out later that this was done expressly to cut down on high water problems.  We watched people bringing empty bottles to this shop, then taking away filled ones.  Maybe that’s one way they get their wine?

Canaregio Building1

We are pretty happy to be here: Venice is familiar and it’s not raining, even a bit of blue sky.  This was just down the street from our little five-room hotel.

Quilt shop Venice Cannaregio

We walked down the shopping street for a while and found a quilt shop–unbelievable prices, so I didn’t buy any fabric, but it was still fun to see.

Venice Purse Seller

We saw a lot of these, and remembered the Guido Brunetti novel where these purse sellers figured prominently into the plot line.

Venice Canaregio2


Venice glowing Lights streetseller

Several street merchants sold these glowing lights; this shot was taken on our return home.

True Venetians

True Venetians.  The city is mostly overrun with tourists like ourselves, and those who live and work in Venice are dwindling.  There was just enough language that we could communicate with so we understood that they were residents.  They obliged me with a photo at our vaparetto stop.

Venice Rialto Bridge Day1

Finally we are here.  Finally we were on a boat headed down the Grand Canal.  The sun was behind us, making the water dark and lighting up the buildings in front of us, and yes, the Rialto Bridge is still here.  Everything is still here, and it feels lovely to be out on the vaparetto taking in the sights.  Dave and I can’t stop grinning like the pair of happy tourists that we are.

Venice Building on Canal1

Venice Fish Market

Rialto Fish, and sometimes, Produce Market.

Venice Canal Day 1

Venice Building on Canal2

I’m always in love with the hues and rich burnished colors of the buildings, as well as the interesting shapes of the windows, the tiny patios and big balconies, the rich heritage of Venice.  I don’t think you go to Venice to see something new; it’s always about the old, and perhaps the art and the food.  But always always it’s about the Grand Canal and the water.

Venice Building on Canal3

Venice Building on Canal4

Wouldn’t this little glassed-in room be a great place for a study? Although you might not ever get any work done because of looking out the window constantly.

Venice Building on Canal5

Venice Canal Building 10

Venice Canal Building 11
Venice Canal3 Day 1

Venice Academia Bridge Day 1

The wooden span of the Accademia Bridge.

Venice Building detail roof

Detail at top of building as we round the corner to see San Marco Square and the Doges Palace (below).


We are headed one stop further away from San Marcos — down to San Zaccharia.

Venice Crush of People

We cannot believe the crush of tourists everywhere.  We’ve been several times to this city — from December over the Christmas holidays to June in mid-summer — but we’ve never seen it this bad.  We also had a hard time getting rooms in a hotel and we did this four months from departure date.  Someone in the paper shop later that night finally explained to us that all the countries that are Catholic have these days off from school and work, so everyone took a weekend holiday. . . to Venice.

Venice San Zacharia church 2

We remembered how to get to this church, San Zaccharia, for I wanted to see the Bellini Altarpiece.  They’ve improved it with a light (.50 euro) and I gladly contribute as it’s easier to see.  My photo was a bit blurry, even with the light, so here’s one from the web:


Venice shop soaps

Across the courtyard, a shop selling soaps.

Venice with Dave

Venice shrine1

We walk on, headed to the torrone shop.  The best kind ever is purchased here, in Venice, and it doesn’t really keep.  I did bring some home in my suitcase, and it was all gone within a few weeks after being home.

Gondolas passing

I love how this gondoliers is pushing off of the post with his foot; many of them use such resources to keep the boats from jostling or hitting each other.

Venice doorway with medallion

Walking Venice1

See that golden sign up there that says “Per Rialto?”  We learned to follow these toward our destination as we wended our way through the labyrinthian Venetian streets.  Yes, we had a map, and sometimes it even helped.  Mostly you accept that getting lost is part of the experience.

Venice Shrine2

I love the small shrines tucked into the walls, and I determined I would try to photograph more of them on this trip.  Notice the small door with the barely visible coin slot underneath.  Coins for alms, for an extra miracle?

San Marco twilight2

San Marco twilight1

We’ve arrived with the thirty billion other tourists at San Marco square at twilight. The pink light made the marble glow.

San Marco tourists

It is a lovely evening.

VeniceSanMarco eve1

VeniceSanMarco eve2

We linger in San Marcos plaza, watching the street vendors pitch the toy of the moment: a whirring, spinning light which they launch high up into the air–a flying globe of wonder, which drops back down to the plaza, sometimes where it was supposed to.  The bells begin to chime and we are surround by the voices of the crowd, the pealing sounds from the bellower, the excitement that everyone feels for being out in the beautiful twilight, in beautiful Venice.


We start walking toward home, up and over and avoid the tourists.  It’s made a little more difficult by the presence of the aqua alta walkways that go right up the middle of the “street,” cutting down the available walking space.  And of course, we have to stop for pictures like this one.

Dinner night 1

Dinner Stop.  And yes they had a menu in seven different languages, but we are near San Marco, so expect this.

minestrone dinner night 1

This was the best part of the meal: a moderately delicious bowl of minestrone.  And the waiter spoke English to us and the two other American couples in this place.  I’m pretty sure the Italians come much later, if at all, to these touristy spots.

Venice Paper maker

After dinner, more winding ways back to our hotel.  I have to say it feels like a big party out here, with lots of people, lights in the shops, action everywhere.  We stop at Il Papiro, a favorite paper shop of ours, then push on.  We found another shop, Paolo Olbi.  That’s Mr. Olbi up there, wrapping up the purchased folios for me to carry home to America.  I rather like this shop–better than Il Paprio, I have to say.

Shrine Venice Rialto Bridge

A shrine with the face worn off, just under the Rialto Bridge.

Gondola shop window

Where the gondoliers shop?

Venice Canal Night

The view from Rialto Bridge at night, looking San Marco direction.

Venice Hotel Chandelier

When we see this beautifully lit Murano glass chandelier, we recognize where we are–two more turns and we are home to our hotel.

Alle Vite Dorita hallway light

We let ourselves in with our key, and there’s another Murano light in our hallway.  We check our emails, get ready for bed, which includes pulling the shutters on the window slightly shut, and head to bed.  The only unfortunate thing in this nearly perfect hotel are the pillows: one is a slab of foam about the size of a bread box and the other is longish pillar of foam about 5″ in diameter.  There were some more regular-looking pillows but they had fancy pillowcases on them, so I thought they were decorative.  It’s when you travel you realize how much you like your own bed, your own pillows, and your own home.  But it is grand to be in Venice!

Menu II

Italy 2012, continued

I left off after that first night in Bologna, at the place that had a giant golden tortellini hanging outside its door. The next morning we went to the breakfast area in Hotel Porta San Mamolo and saw this:


It’s really easy to become a glutton when you see a spread like this.




I took one piece of this but it was coconut cake.  Not a favorite. I swallowed my bite and gave the rest to Dave.


Our choices.


The breakfast room.  I just want you to know that our breakfasts at home look like this.  Every day.  Right.  This room is a courtyard between the three buildings that has been renovated into a warm and cozy place to dine, as long as you weren’t caught in the draft between the two doors.

Eataly Rush Lunch

For lunch that day, after bebopping around Bologna for a while, it was like someone rang an invisible gong and all of a sudden all the trattorias on the “food” street were packed.  To the brim. When last in New York City, we’d wandered through Eataly in midtown Manhattan and after ducking in and out of several lunch places, we went upstairs in Eataly — in Bologna, Italy.  The waiters were moving at warp speed, as shown in this photo.  We snagged a table for two after only about a ten-minute wait.  We felt blessed, frankly.


After placing our order, we looked around.



We were on the second level in a small alcove with pasta on one side of us for sale and vinegars on the other side.


After lunch I would pick out a vinegar, trying really hard to approximate what I’d seen in the farm and have it wrapped up in bubble wrap and carry it in my suitcase all the way home.  It arrived safely, and I pull it out and feel like I’m in Bologna again.  Plus, I loved the heart-shaped dollop of sealing wax on the top.


Dave’s dish was some kind of circular noodles, with pork, leeks, and vegetables.  As usual, we played the game of what we thought we ordered was not what showed up on the table.

Eataly LUnch DAE


I ordered Taglierini Bolognese, of course.  After all, we were in Bologna.  The noodle could have been tagilatelle, though.  I didn’t quite get which one.  Apparently they only serve the Bolognese sauce with this thin, flat noodle.  Mine was divine.  I could have it again tomorrow, if I were in Eataly.  In Bologna.


That night we tried a couple of places for dinner, but they were already booked up.  We had been warned by the hotel concierege to make our reservations early, but did we listen?  No.  We like to keep our options open, which meant that we only had one option for dinner: Osteria Le Mura across the street from the hotel.


We were the only ones there at 8:00 p.m.  We came in, and no one was around–we called out–and finally, from the back the owner/chef? came out and seated us.


He brought around the chalkboard, which was our menu and patiently went through EVERYTHING on the menu. He tried to sell us on one of the 46 euro fish, but we didn’t quite have that in mind.


We must have waffled a bit too long, because he said “momento” and returned with this, showing us our fish possibilities.  Um, that doesn’t really help, but at least we know this is fresh fish. I think we ordered the pink one.

DeMura dinner Bologna

Bread basket with the requisite vinegar and oil for our salad.  The bread in Italy runs the gamut from very good to eh.  This was eh.


Really terrible picture of our fish with vegetables.  Maybe I should take this down, but here it is.  We didn’t have any dessert, but after paying, walked across the street and went to our room.

Bologna Yogurt Shop

Here’s a few more sights and sounds of Bologna food: first, a celestially decorated frozen yogurt shop.


A cautionary sign near the tomatoes.


An array of artichokes, like a wedding bouquet.


Sinewy radicchio.  All of these vegetables disappeared back into the shops during the afternoon lunch break.  Actually the whole town about dried up and disappeared.  They take their afternoon lunch hours very seriously.


I’d read in one of my Guido Brunetti books about fave, an almond-flavored small cookie that is only sold around All Saints Day.  I exclaimed excitedly over this basket in one of the shops.  We bought one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.  They were delicious.

Bologna Train Station Sandwiches

This was our last meal in Bologna–warm ham and cheese sandwiches, purchased from the train station.  This is one of those times that the bread was amazing–a foccacia with just the right amount of saltiness.


For some reason, we thought that eating at BREK cafeteria in Padua would be a good experience–after all the guide  book that came with our Padua Tourist Card said it would be great.  Bad idea. Imagine high school cafeteria does Italian food.





Dave was the enthusiastic champion of eating here (we were tired and hungry and it was close by), but after he tasted my entree, even he agreed that it was pitiful.  On the way home, we sampled some  of previously-purchased chocolate and mine, again, was “icky,” as I wrote in my journal. Maybe we were just tired–tired of traveling, tired of fighting the internet at our hotel (it never did work properly), tired of the rain, but just like home where some meals are just cheese sandwiches or their ilk, some meals while traveling are equally forgettable.  This was one of them.

Padua Breakfast1

These pictures show our breakfast choices at this hotel.  While it looks like quite a spread, I think we’re homesick for our hotel in Bologna.  The girl running the breakfast behind the counter stared at us the entire time, like we were some captured species in a zoo (we were the only ones there).  At one point, she stepped outside on the balcony leaving the door open and smoked a couple of cigarettes, which “perfumed” the entire breakfast area.

Padua Breakfast2




This was a really strange hotel.  We took to calling it Hotel California, if you know that song. We walked over to the marketplaces and enjoyed all the sights of the markets.  See the regular Padua post for more photos.


We’re still talking about this veritable vegetable with a fractal design, apparently known as Romanesco broccoli.

Padua Market Food Couscous

And one stall’s version of prepared foods: bags and bags of different kinds of grains mixed with dried vegetables.  I liked this presentation where you could see all the flavors and ingredients, and found it more enticing than our boxed-up supermarket foods.

Before coming to Italy, I’d done a bit of homework and looked up a couple of restaurants.  We made our way to one for lunch, Enoteca Ristorante La Corte dei Leoni.  We stepped in out of the rain, and felt like we’d come back to civilization.


You’ve got to understand: we’ve been in rain about 90% of the time since we’d arrived in Italy, and the warm red wall, with the fireplace that contained a painting, and lovely place that was oh-so-different than last night’s dreck-at-BREK was like heaven.




Luckily, the waiter could translate the menu. I wrote down what he said so he wouldn’t have to repeat it.


This is the Insaltona Vegetariana, with lettuce, greens, tomato, apple and other stuff, which I have no idea–I think they were squash seeds.


I ordered the pork with mushrooms and roast potatoes. I think Dave had the exact same thing because we only have pictures of these two items.  But for dessert, we chose differently:


I had the Panna cotta with fig and apricot in chocolate sauce.


Dave had “Sugolo di uva fragola con yogurt magro, which we thought was panna cotta with grapes.  No, it turned out to be grape panna cotta in yogurt sauce.


In the back we found Guido Brunetti’s newspaper that he reads–we love that we read so many of those mysteries before coming back to Italy.  The waiter tells us about the special Halloween menu–it’s all pumpkin.  I laugh, and we decide to make reservations and return here for dinner after seeing Scrovegni Chapel.


I paused to take a photo of their fall display in the courtyard.  Apparently in the summer, people gather to come and have a lazy moment or two with some wine and live music.  but now, we dash through it to get to Scrovegni on time.


Another display was there when we returned, along with a lit Jack-O-Lantern (which didn’t photograph well).

PaduaCorteDeiLeonidinner menu2

The special Halloween Menu.


First up is a pumpkin flan, which was pretty interesting.  And no, I can’t remember what that dark thing on the top is.


Dave had the culatello, which is one reason why I wanted to return here so badly.  I’d heard about this cured meat–kind of like the Ritz Carlton of cured meats.  It was really tender and delicious and reminded me of prosciutto in terms of texture.  But it was oh, so, amazing.


Next course for me was the pumpkin risotto, which I had Dave help me eat.  It was a lot.


Dave had a salad, with that really great vinegar.


He had some kind of spaghetti carbonara for his entree.


Mine was medallions of roast pork with pumpkin sauce.


I’m wearing the necklace I’d purchased from the market–pumpkin-colors all around!


For dessert, these two little sweet treasures.  Your guess is as good as mine.  The restaurant is on Via Pietro d’Abano 1, in Padua, and is on a side street just north of the Piazza della Fruta.  Our last meal in Padua was another really great focaccia sandwich, again in the train station, as we waited for our train to Venice, but I have no photos of that.  You’ll have to imagine it.