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

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Expanding my Italian vocabulary- part 1

Thanks to our new apartment, I'm learning tons of new vocabulary words. Words I probably should have known by now, but for some reason, just didn't.

For example, I knew lampada is the word for lamp.  For the new apartment, I am going to need lamps. The whole place is either without lamps or there is just a single light bulb hanging from wires on the ceiling. It took us by surprise when we looked at the first apartment in July that was that way. Vuoto (empty), really does mean empty. The kitchen is completely empty and there are no light fixtures, anywhere. This is standard practice, we learned.

So, I needed to buy lamps for the new place. The kitchen, several bedrooms and the bathroom needed overhead lamps. Not lamps, I've come to learn.  No, I needed lampada da soffitto or lampada da sospensione. Ceiling lamps or suspension lamps.  Good to know.

Chandeliers are a whole different ball game. They are lampadario.  And wall lamps or sconces are either lampada da parete or applique.

And good old table lamps are lampada da tavolo.

Light bulbs, should any of you be needing any of those, are lampadine (plural) lampadina (singular).

With new vocabulary under my belt, I was ready to tackle the task of buying new light fixtures. Here's my shopping list:
1) Kitchen - one ceiling light, one on the wall, and also some under cabinet lights.
2) Antebagno (this is a little room outside the bathroom) - one ceiling light, one wall lamp over the sink
3) Bathroom - one ceiling light, two wall lamps over the sink
4) Hallway- 2 sconces
5) Bedroom 1- one chandeleir, 2 sconces
6) Bedroom 2 - 2 sconces
7) Living room - 2 sconces
8) Bedroom 3 - one chandelier

Since the apartment is very old style Venetian and already has 2 beautiful Murano glass chandeliers in it, I headed over to Murano to do a little window shopping.  Turns out window shopping is all I could afford to do. After pricing what I need to shed some light in my new apartment, I had estimates of around 10,000 Euros.  Not exactly what my budget this year calls for.

I did however, purchase the light fixtures for the bathroom on Murano. I had been eyeing the work of a nice young man, Marco Rubelli, who has a shop on Fondamenta Daniele Manin, for awhile now, wanting one of his lamps.  I decided to go for it, and had him make a hanging lamp and 2 wall lamps for over the mirror in the bathroom.  They won't be ready until the end of September, but worth the wait, and will be just perfect in that room. I came away with the budget in tact, just a tiny little splurge.

I say came away, because I literally left Murano knowing sadly that this year there would be no Murano chandeliers for us.

Plan B involved searching on Ebay.Italy, which paid off. I managed to find a kitchen ceiling fixture and 2 wall sconces for the hallway there. The sconces are new, but in the old Venetian style with a cloth lampshade.  Not exactly what we first envisioned for that spot, but they will do for now.

Quite accidently we located the perfect ceiling lamp for the antebagno  last weekend at the mercatino (kind of like a flea market) in Campo San Barnaba.  This one is old, a traditional old style Venetian lamp, made on Murano. It has great color, and we both fell in love with it. I bargained the girl down a little bit until we both felt we had struck a good deal. Mission accomplished.

We're nearly there on all the needed lamps, and have kept in the budget. Not easy for this place. Now all I need is to call the electrician!!

Next up- new vocabulary in the kitchen, thanks to our trips to Ikea to furnish our now  kitchen vuoto.

Note:  Thanks to my dear friend Caterina for the spelling corrections!!!  I will be diligent in checking my Italian dictionary before the next vocabulary post!

More on my NEW life in Venice

There is lots going on in Venice lately- we've wrapped up the film festival, the Biennale is at it's mid-point, there's a lot of protesting going on about No Grandi Navi (no more big ships), but I have not been able to attend any of those. We're knee deep in figuring out how to accomplish this apartment move, and it's taking just about every waking moment to get it done. Aside from packing up our belongings, there is an unending list of stuff to be done.

We are literally embarking on an all new adventure. I could put a period at the end of my previous 5 years (yes, come January it will have been 5 glorious years here in Santa Croce), and begin page 1 of a brand new adventure.  I say that because the new apartment and the move is a world apart from what we have come to know as life here in Venice. If I thought I was getting an education moving over here, I ain't seen nothing yet!

The signing of the lease on the new apartment was entirely different from what we went through with our current apartment. The first time around, all of that  was done via the internet, taking only a few emails back and forth to negotiate a few points, then sign and send money. For the new apartment, we experienced something more like signing of mortgage documents, something I've never enjoyed.

For the contract signing, we all convened in GianLuigi's office (our real estate agent). We had already met one of the owners, Signora Doria, when we looked at the place. Now we also met her brother Fabio for the first time. To be honest, I was a bit intimidated by Signore Doria, and for good reason. GianLuigi had forewarned us that the brother was the one who was a bit sticky to deal with, quite proper, but, fair.  Fabio lived up to his description. He shook hands when he met us, but kept a very stern look on his face. He said almost nothing for a good long time,and when he did, it was with a serious face. All business. Doing this kind of transaction over the internet the first time saved me from this kind of interaction.

After 2 1/2 hours of reading through the document line by line and numerous changes to everyone's satisfaction, the lease was signed.  Fortunately for us, we had our Venetian friend Caterina in attendance - just in case anything got too complex for our understanding of Italian.

When the paragraph in the lease about making changes to the apartment came up, Sig. Doria made the comment that if anyone touched the ceiling in the living room, he would kill.  I responded that I too  would kill for that.  Then he smiled, and warmed up. By the end of the evening, he had agreed to give us keys early, and also agreed to the first month rent free. We exchanged phone and email contact info. Fabio is now on my speed dial, and I'm on his. Fabio invited us all next door for an aperativo.  We've broken the ice, we're all on a first name basis. So far, so good.

One week later, we all met again at the apartment for the formal reading of the utility meter ceremony.  This is an event I had missed out on  5 years ago, since I had not yet arrived in Italy when Mike had to do the meter reading ceremony.  I remember feeling like I had missed something special when he described it to me that night. Now, I would  experience it first hand.

Up in the apartment, the dining room table was set up as if were were going have another mortgage document signing. Five chairs were set up around the table, copies of documents in front of GianLuigi's chair, and pens ready all around.  First, we all had to sign a set of documents. Then we went downstairs to read each of the meters for gas, water and electricity. The numbers were read aloud, then written down,  confirmed by each party. Then we went upstairs and signed another set of documents. Keys were passed down the table from owner to new tenant. With keys in hand, we were led through the apartment to test each of the keys in each lock- there are many! Finally, after congratulations and goodbyes, Mike and I practically ran back to the terrace, cracked open the bottle of prosecco we'd brought along with us, and toasted the next chapter in our lives.

The fun had only just begun!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Big changes coming

I've got a bit of news to share with the blogsphere and my readers today. Mike and I were notified this afternoon that our offer on another apartment (rental) was accepted by the owners. We'll be moving effective October 1.

I've been mum on the subject because we didn't really know what was going to happen, and I didn't want to jinx anything while it was all in the works. We'd been mulling over the idea of moving for the last year, but didn't act on it. Not until the passing of our dogs, Sam and Leo, did we seriously consider it. We really needed to. Our rent is increased every year. We're now at the pretty high end of rentals, and just about hitting the upper reaches of our housing budget. Venice is expensive to live in, way more expensive  than we were used to in Baltimore. However, it has  always our intention to live in the city. While we know  it would be much less expensive living on the mainland,  that's not going to happen. We want to be right here.

In July I started researching available apartments, and the search began. We went to see a few apartments, but nothing was exactly what we were hoping to find.  We were torn. Should we move, should we stay?  Quite by chance the first week in August I noticed a brand new listing for a fairly large apartment, at a rent considerably less than what we are currently paying. The photos on the real estate's website piqued our interest. My phone call to the real estate agent was not exactly positive, unfortunately. They told me they could not show the apartment yet because the current tenants had not moved all of their belongings out.  A few days later I called back, this time I was told the owners are away for Ferragosto holiday- call back after August 20.  I suspected I was getting the run around because I am clearly not native Italian. Determined I would at least see the inside of this apartment, I made a note on my calendar to call back on August 20.

At 10:01 am  on August 20, one minute after the offices opened for the day, I called agent, hell bent on getting an appointment to view the inside. He told me he would call me back. 10 minutes later, I had an appointment for 3pm the following afternoon. We went, we saw, we met one of the owners, we liked it.  No, that's not true. We loved it. This place was perfect for us. Beyond perfect. We slept on it for one night, then returned to the real estate agent the following morning to make an offer on the apartment.

The offer that we signed required that the owner give us a response in 7 days time. Seven days went by, still no word. Why not??  All because of  Ferragosto , we were told. This holiday is the excuse for everything imaginable!!  Do you want to get up today? NO, it's Ferragosto. Do you want to go to work today? No, it's Ferragosto.  Despite that explanation, we were skeptical. I thought it was all because we are expats.  We really wanted this apartment. Not only is the rent lower, but we also would be getting a contract with a fixed rent for a period of 8 years.

If you have been reading my blog over the last few years, you know that I have fallen in love with Campo Santa Margherita. One of the things that has kept us torn over moving is we just don't want to leave the area. However, it's apparent to us that it's time for a change. And change is what we will be getting. Big change. The new apartment is in Sant'Elena! Sant'Elena is the island just past Giardini. Way, way down in Castello.  Couldn't be much farther away from where we currently are if we tried.  In fact, the house the apartment is in is the very LAST house in Venice. Seriously!  Next stop, the Lido!!!  Our new neighborhood is one that few tourists pass through. In fact, not many Venetians who don't live there get to Sant'Elena either.

 This is our new terrace
 Here's the view off the terrace...
  And here is the front of the house.

So...we're off on a new adventure!  The immediate fun:  finalizing the Italian rental contract, packing up all our stuff (not fun), selecting and having a new kitchen installed , finding a moving company to haul our stuff by boat, and last but not least, enjoying settling in to a new location and making new friends and neighbors.

Get ready for some prosecco on the terrace!!!


Dictionary definition of serendipity: The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way 

My taking a totally unexpected turn which led me to the Church of San Lorenzo today was in fact serendipitous. That the front door of the Church was open was even more serendipitous. I just could not pass up the opportunity to slip inside. Too bad I only had my phone for a camera! 

This church, originally built in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 16th century,  has been closed to the public for God only knows how long. In the ten years I've been wandering in Venice, it has never been open. We've always been curious about San Lorenzo.I read somewhere that  Marco Polo was buried in this church in 1324, however his tomb was somehow lost during the restorations of the 16th century. Who knows where he got to after that! Wouldn't it be perfect if he was found during this renovation??

The country of Mexico has decided to fund the restorations of San Lorenzo, to take place over the next 9 years. Mexico will use this building as the home of it's Biennale exhibitions during that time. Thank you, Mexico!  This is truely an important project for Venice. I'm sure there are life-long Venetians who have never set foot inside San Lorenzo until now. How exciting for them!  How exciting for this city!

The building will be open to the public Tuesday-Saturdays (except for mid-day break)from now until the end of November.  The only available space to stand on is a very small area about 8 ft x 8ft at the doorway. Everything else is roped off. Doesn't matter, at least we are able to get in the door. Already I am making plans to return with a different camera. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Regatta Storica 2012

The Regatta Storica is one of the most important rowing events of the year here in Venice. The event kicks off with a parade down the Grand Canal of 16th century replica boats, complete with rowers in historic costume ,bearing a host of  city officials and none other than the  Doge himself and his wife. It's a grand display of pagentry! Following the parade, the Grand Canal is closed to boat traffic for the remainder of the afternoon so that the regattas can take place. There are 4 races- youth 2 oar pupparini, women 2 oar mascarete, Men's 6 oar caorline, and last but not least,  the 2 man gondolini . This last race is the big one of the year.

If you are from the area, you know that there has been a "healthy" competition brewing for several years between two of the gondolini racing teams, Gianpaolo D'Este and Ivo Redolfi Tezzat vs. the cousins Rudi and Igor Vignotto. Watching these two teams battle it out is always a highlight.

Normally I make sure I have a seat along the Grand Canal for the Regatta Storica. One year I even had the pleasure of watching from a boat in the water on the canal. This year, I chose to watch it on TV, thus I have no personal photos of my own to share today. I have to say, as much as I enjoy being ringside along the Grand Canal, I much preferred watching the regatta portion on TV, because I got to see the entire thing from the start position way down at the Giardini, all the way to the finish, and was able to see everything that happens in between.  When I have a position on the Grand Canal, I only get to see the boats as they pass in front of me, and have no idea what transpires before or after that. To be able to see the teams of D'Este/Tezzat and the Vignotto's race neck and neck down the Canal, then make the turn at the other end by the train station and both no room to move but to touch for a second was worth missing time out there in person.

If you have followed the news after the race, you may already know that the Vignotti cousins were victorious.  I am already anticipating next September's rematch!

  Photo courtesy of Venezia Today

Photo courtesy of La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre

Wrapping up summer....

August being the month of the Ferragosto holiday celebrated all over Italy, I decided I too would partake of a bit of holiday and do what the Italians do- go to la spiaggia , the beach.  With a month's pass to my favorite little private beach on the Lido tucked into my beach bag, along with a few other essentials (sunscreen, beach towels and a Donna Leon book), I was set. I left my beach bag near the front door, poised at the ready for any day I could make a quick getaway and grab a few hours on the Lido.  

During the early weeks of August, the beach was packed. And I do mean packed!  Now I was experiencing first hand where everyone headed when they closed their shops and cafes for the month!!  They must have all been here at the Lido with me.  However, when I took up my beach chair the other day on one of the last days of the month, I had the place to myself. Everyone had gone back to work! This was a little bit of heaven on the Adriatic. 

This is my new office on the Lido !!!  See you all in about 2 weeks when the beaches close
for the season.