We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Living the dream - another happy Venetian

Here's a recent shot of Leopold, in Venice-- with a big grin on his face as usual. He has adjusted to his new life in Italy and seems to just love being here. I need to make a video of him going up and down bridges and over canals. From the back it looks like he is hopping with those little Corgi legs of his!

Life in Venice - A quilter's paradise

Does anyone know where this is from? Venture a guess????

It's a piece of the floor in St. Mark's Basilica. As a quilter, I am in AWE of the lush patterns I see in every square inch of the floor in this church. And that's just one church. You see things like this in almost every church. Probably not quite this elaborate, but equally impressive. Every quilter I know would wish to be here taking pictures to replicate patterns on a quilt of their own back home!
Everytime I am in St. Marks's I find myself wondering--- no, wishing, that I could meet the artists who laid out the designs here. An then , even better, could I meet the magicians who executed the design and created this glorious art in real life. How did each piece of marble get cut and fit just so?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life in Venice - High Tech, Italian style

No, this isn't Harry Potter's Nimbus 2000. It's what we see used every day here by streetcleaners keeping Venice clean. In the land responsible for Ferrari's, they are still using hand made stick brooms to sweep every square inch of Venice every morning. How weird is that??? But--- it's one of the things I love about Italy. I'm constantly on the lookout for these little cultural differences. Aren't they great??

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Life in Venice - view from the bridge

Here's a view of our new home!!!! The building right in the middle of the picture between these 2 bridges, is where we have landed for the next 12 months.

We're in the Santa Croce sestiere, not at all where we originally thought we would be, but we have quickly come to love and appreciate our new neighborhood. We're just a few minutes walk to both the Ferrovia and P. Roma. Campo Santa Margharita is the closest campo, which has some lovely restaurants and shops, as well as local fish and produce stalls every day.

It's been a much easier transition than we ever expected. We feel like we're home!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Living the dream - my first Italian haircut

On Thursday of this past week I had my first Italian hair appointment. Another first in Venice for me! I have to say, I was a bit apprehensive. I've gone to the same place to have my hair done for the last nine years in Ellicott City, Maryland. The wonderful women at Envy Salon certainly can work magic with hair, at least they have with mine all these years!

Finding a new hair salon was a big deal. I figured I had two courses of action I could take. A) If I found someone who had a great haircut, I would stop her and ask her for the name of her salon, or B) just take pot luck and make an appointment at a local place, and see how things turned out. I ended up not doing either! Mike had found a salon the week before and had his hair cut at that place. He liked the guy (Simone), so I went to the same place and made an appointment for myself.

I took the formula for my hair color that my previous salon had been using, hoping this would help out some. I didn't have too many expectations, but one that I did have was that I would not be walking out of this salon with Italian red hair. For some reason, a very mahogany-red color is very popular here. It's not a color I would ever want on my head, so I was very hopeful that this guy understood me enough. My Italian is limited!

This salon is quite different from what I was used to. First, the owner is the only person in there. Simone does not have a staff of stylists, nor does he have any shampoo girls. He is it. Also it's a very tiny place- one sink. He does it all, from the appointments to the shampooing.

Simone doesnt speak much English, and I don't speak much Italian, but he understood that I had a hair color formula with me. He explained that he doesnt use the same kind of product, although the formula I had was for an Italian brand. I told Simone I didn't think it mattered, as long as I didn't leave with Red hair, pointing to the sample hair color he had in a big book. He understood!

Things went pretty much as normal, how different could color and shampoo be, afterall? But the haircutting was where I got my next big shock. He dryed off my hair, then goes off to a little back room. He came back with a holster like thing that he straps around his waist, and in it are an assortment of scissors and combs. He straps this on his hip like he's getting ready for a gunfight! And it gets better. He picks out a pair of scissors, positions the end of the scissor on this thumb, and begins to twirl it exactly as a gunfighter would twirl a pistol! I've never seen anything quite like it- all I could do was laugh! He got a huge grin on his face when he saw my reaction, and proceeded to whip that pair of scissors around on his hand as he made each cut. Actually, it was Edward Scissorhands-esque! He wasn't doing this for show, like bartenders do throwing bottles as they mix drinks, this just was his technique.

Simone actually looks you would imagine an Italian hairdresser to look like - his own long hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and he has a little goatee. However, once he started doing his Edward Scissorhands impression, I thought, good god, I hope I have some sort of decent cut when he is done. My worries were unfounded!

I left Simone's studio with a great cut, and perfect color. Not to mention a new experience. I've found my hair stylist!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Living the dream- finally, my discount Vaporetto pass!

If you have been to Venice, or have read anything about Venice, you know that there are really only two means of transportation: your own feet, or by boat. There is a very efficient public transportation boat system here, with large boats called Vaporetti (plural). The boats run on specific "lines" with stops along the way, and these lines are published so you can easily figure out which boat line you should get on to go where you want to go.

Unfortunately a Vaporetto (singular) ride is rather expensive. A ticket good for just one hour costs 6.50 Euros. If you were to do that often enough over the course of a few weeks, you'd easily have spent 50-100 Euros just on boat transportation. Fortunately, Venice has a discount card system for locals and others who are here for extended periods of time. If you are a bona-fide resident of Venice, you are eligible for your Carta Venezia at no cost, however, without a residency card, you must pay 40 Euros to obtain the card. Once you have your card, you may then purchase your monthly discounted ticket (an abbionimento) from a local Tabacci for 26 Euros per month. This gives you unlimited Vaporetto rides for the month.

There is, as of January 2008, another advantage to having this discount pass. The ACTV has just launched a new boat line, the number 3, which is open only to those having the Carta Venezia. This boat makes a few less stops up and down the Grand Canal, and will be less crowded, since the masses of tourists won't be on the boat. Some days the Vaporetto is just packed, so this could be a big plus.

Our first week in town we took the required items to the HelloVenezia office located in Piazzale de Roma to apply for our Carta Venezia. Of course, we thought that because we have a years lease, we would get the card for free. Another lesson learned--that doesn't qualify us as "residents". We were happy to take the alternate course of paying the 40 Euros. We needed our passports, a passport size photo and the money. After paying the money, we were given a form to complete. After being duly stamped, we got one copy of the form to keep, and were told to check back in 20 days at the HelloVenezia kiosk by the boat dock to retrieve our permanent card (good for 3 years).

I found the nearest Tabacci to buy my monthly abbonamento, which unfortunately I only got to use twice before my wallet was stolen in Florence, which contained my monthly boat pass along with my copy of the application form! I was now stuck for antoher month of individual boat ride prices, until I received the permanent card. I went back to the HelloVenezia office after my things were stolen to see if they could issue me some temporary replacement, but they said no. Even though they have computer records, there was nothing they would do in the case of lost or stolen tickets. I just chalked this up to just one more item I'd have to learn to cope with.

We checked a few times towards the end of the 20 day wait period but each time were told "Maybe in a week". At the tail end of February our cards were ready, which we now proudly covet! Today we'll buy our March abbonamento, and I am already looking forward to many inexpensive rides on the Grand Canal! And, as you may be expecting, I am not keeping this pass in my wallet. It's in a safe place now along with my passport!