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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reflections on 2 years...

I get questions every day from people I meet --- Why did you do it? What's it been like? Do you regret moving? How could you give up your jobs? What do you miss most?? What was the biggest adjustment you had to face? Are the locals accepting you?? It's occurred to me that these are all great blog topics... so here goes..I'll be writing on these topics in upcoming blogs.

To start out, I'll summarize. Every single day in Italy, in Venice, has exceeded my wildest expectations. That kid in a candy shop feeling just has not worn off. Mike and I wondered what we would do when we faced the day the fantasy faded, but, it just hasn't. I don't expect it ever will. I'm one of those who has been bitten by the Venice bug, bitten badly. I am head over heels crazy about this place.

And it doesn't make alot of sense, when you get right down to analyzing it carefully. We gave up every convenience, every luxury we ever had to move to a place that is incredibly difficult to exist. Well, compared to Baltimore, this is not an easy place to acclimate to, nor it is an easy place to live an everyday existence. Let's face it, having to live life without a car is in itself one major change in my routine.

I could make a long list of the things we have had to do without. You'd laugh... the clothesdryer is tops on that list, and yes, tootsie rolls make the list too. Look forward to seeing " The List" in an upcoming blog. I have a much longer list of all the wonderful things I have been able to add to my life though, and those have become so much more important.

Looking back, I have to say definitively- the decision to move was worth it. I have no regrets. Zero. Ok, Ok. somedays I do long for a clothesdryer, and maybe someday I will have one again. Just not now. I have learned to live without one, and I manage just fine. I traded in a very ordinary life- full of stress from work that was beginning to cause major health problems and full of the trapings of living "the American dream". I would describe myself as just going through the motions of life Getting up each day, going to work, coming home, ... existing. Marking time.

What I traded for is an extraordinary life. I pinch myself every day, in disbelief that I am living in such a marvelous, incredible place, but even more so because we MADE it happen. We somehow, miraculously, found the guts to dream of what a better life for us would be, and to do everything we had to do to make that dream a reality. I traded a stress laden life, with over the top high blood pressure, to one that has just about zero stress. Instead of spending 10 hours a day in meetings where nothing gets accomplished (yes, that's Corporate America), I spend my hours walking in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. No more office walls, no more meetings, no more horrible commutes for me.

The journey hasn't been easy, in fact there were some very trying days. Persistence has been my middle name for the last 2 years! Most of the difficult tasks are behind us, and we're beginning to really feel at home. Yes, home. It feels pretty good to be able to say that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Vaporetto dock at San Marco opens

In a city that is all old, old, old, it's just plain odd to see something so new. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but, I must admit I understand the need for it. Just opened this week is the new Vaporetto dock at San Marco-Vallaresso, and I thought I'd give you a visual tour of it. It has a design very similar to the new stop that opened up on Burano last season. It's open and airy, with lots of covered space. Much better than the exisiting docks which can get too cramped with people while waiting for the boat, especially in hot weather like we've been having the last few weeks.
Only the #2 and the LN embark and disembark at the new dock. The #1 still uses the older existing Vallaresso stop. It seems the city is encouraging the use of the #2 for tourists, and that is a good idea, as most of them want to move between the train station or Piazzale Roma and St. Mark's anyway.

There is a brand new ticket booth located inside the waiting area. I like the new wooden finish to it, instead of the old white booths. Complimenti to whoever came up with the whole design.

The wide open waiting area has plenty of bench space. I'm liking not being packed in like sardines anymore here!

I also like the new electronic boards which tell you when the next boats are arriving. This is a welcome addition at all the vaporetto stops all over the city this season.

This photo just caught my eye while standing out on the new pier. New pier, old cardboard boat signs!

Here's a view of the loading area, taken while on the vaporetto. Compared to all the rest of the vaporettos stops, this new one is huge.

And one final glimpse, taken as the boat was pulling away headed down the Grand Canal. Despite the fact that I don't particularly like to see new construction here, I will admit this is a much needed addition. The Vallaresso stop was always a crowded madhouse during the tourist season, and this will relieve that situation. That can only be happiness for all of us, tourists and residents alike. I would have only requested that they design it to look like it fit in with the rest of Venice. Where's Walt Disney when you need him??


Ciligie! Dark Cherries!! It's cherry season here in Venice, and this year they have been absolutely delicious. We can't stop eating them, I've been making a trip to the market every day for another kilo of ciligie! Eating them is sheer bliss. I am not looking forward to the day I go to the market and discover the cherry season has ended. So, in the meantime, I plan to enjoy every bite!

Something unusual on the Grand Canal today.....

Most days, I don't have my camera with me, but wished I had. Today, I was on a mission. I had a photograph in mind and needed to take my camera so I could grab the perfect shot while I was at the Rialto market. On my way home, I had a front row seat on the #2 vaporetto, and it was a bright sunny day, so I started snapping shots. There are never enough photos of the Grand Canal! But today, I witnessed something a bit out of the ordinary on the canal. Right in front of us, there is a guy paddling some sort of board- kind of a surf board, kind of wind surf board, sort of big boogie board. Is this a new sport? Anyone know? I actually had seen the same guy about a month ago, doing the same thing on the Grand Canal, however that day he was being followed by a film crew in a boat. The next day, he appeared in the local papers. Today, he doesn't have an entourage, he's just paddling down the Grand Canal solo. It's fairly common to see kayakers on the canal, and I've thought that might be a perfect way to experience this magnificent canal. This guy today has one- upped them! The sight of him just made me smile.
I had to snap a few photos, even as we passed him. I wanted to yell out "Thanks for thinking this one up" to him. While I really think this mode of transportation is cool, I already am certain I never want to see hordes of paddlers like him swarming the Grand Canal- god forbid this turns into some kind of a fad. But, at the same time, I'm enjoying his ingenuity. As for a mode of transportation- it's quiet, it's peaceful, it kind of suits the Grand Canal actually.

I'm really happy my camera was with me today!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mauro Vianello- the glass guy

This adorable little penguin was made last week by Mauro Vianello at his shop in San Polo. It took Mauro about 10 minutes to make it, while we watched. I'm always in awe when I see a glass blowing demonstration on Murano of blown glass, but the small figures I see Mauro making are even more awesome. Mauro, who has been blowing glass for over 30 years, is a delightful character. He's always more than happy to make something on requestfor you when you go to his shop, so you can see him perform his magic in person.


White peaches, figs, dark cherries, berries.. the fruit this season has been absolutely delightful!

Christening a new gondola... Roberto's Varo

I've been waiting almost a year for this event- the launching of our friend Roberto's brand new gondola. I think I'm almost as excited as he is- no, not quite! But I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to share in the process. It's been like anticipating the birth of a new baby, watching the slow progress of the new boat over many months, as it transforms from just a pile of pieces of wood, to the stunning sleek gondola that sits waiting to be launched.

At the squero of San Trovaso in Dorsoduro, new gondolas are meticulously made by hand.

Below is the very first photo of La Maria II, Roberto's gondola. Now fast forward about 9 months .....

and here she is, waiting in the boatyard on the day of the Varo (launching). Family and friends are invited to share in the happy event. The boat is on display, everyone admires the workmanship of the boatmakers, and anticipates the moment La Maria II will slip quietly into the water.

The gondolier chooses the many elements of the boat, from the design of all the carvings to the fabrics used for the furniture. Here is the backpiece of the seat, a carving of Roberto's family crest.

Here the same crest is used on the front piece.

The fancy gold horses ....

the fero (metal ornamental piece on the front of the gondola),....

the fancy hood ornament,...

and the forcula (oarlock).

A bottle of Prosecco is tied to the back of the gondola, it's almost time....

But first.. food! Roberto has arranged a huge spread of delious food from Antico Pignolo- including traditional Venetian dishes of Baccala, Bigoli in Salsa, Sopresso and Pane, tramezzinos, and delicious deserts from Rosa Salva. And, lots of wine and Prosecco, of course.

At last, the moment we've been waiting for! The workers at the squero prepare the gondola to be slid into the water, placing rollers under the bow, and away she goes!

Roberto hops onto the back and takes her on her maiden voyage down the canal, testing out how she handles.

Family and friends in the squero cheering him on.

Roberto and his family all get in the boat, and he takes them off down the canals to St. Mark's square, which will be this gondola's new home. Mike and I also made our way to St. Mark's so we could greet them when they arrived. What a great day this has been. Another unique Venetian experience for me, one I realize may be truly a once in a lifetime event. To be able to watch the evolution of a gondola from start to finish has just added to my love of Venice, and all things Venetian. To be present at the time of the launch, and share in that celebration with the family- I'm not sure I have words for how honored I feel.

As we waited for Roberto and Marie to arrive back at ST. Mark's, my husband Mike caught this shot - it's the perfect image to end this blog. Ciao, tutti.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My italian fashion

There is no question that Italians have their own sense of style. As an American, I seem to have been left out when it comes to being fashionable, and I've been reminded of that by my landlord. More than once, I've gotten a little bit of a lecture from him on the topic of my fashion, or lack thereof!

My blue jeans seem to be particularly offensive to him. My favorite Faded Glory jeans, hauled over the Atlantic to their new home in Venice, just don't make the cut, evidently. It's more than obvious when I walk down the street that I am a foreigner, I don't even have to open my mouth.

My landlord doesn't sugar coat the situation one bit. I love the conversations we have about my clothes, they usually go something like this:

(When reading this, try to find your best Sopranos accent, or think of Father Guido Sarducci! That will give you just the right idea of how this sounds in real life over here, with my landlord using his very best English!)

Landlord: "You-a must trow all your-a clothes in the bag, Karen"

Me: "What???"

Landlord: "The blu jeans-a dat you wear-a are-a no gooood-a".

Me: " Why?"

Landlord: " It is the time for you to dress-a like-a the Italian. The blu jeans-a must-a be on your-a skeen very tight. "

Me: " I don't know, I still have clothes I brought with me that are in good shape, I can't go buy a whole new wardrobe."

Landlord: "NOOOO! But-a you-a must! No more wit-a dees-a baggy pants-a for you. Please, now, you go shopping. Trow every-ting a-way-a now. "

As much as I really want to fit in, I'm not quite ready for a big shopping expedition, or to get rid of everything I brought over with me. Maybe next season!