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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Secret Garden update

Just about every morning Mike and I make a run down to our "Orto" to see what new developments might have happened overnight.  In the evenings we've been watering and weeding. Today I took a few photos so you can see the progress going on there.

 Melanzane!!!  We actually have 8 of these beauties hanging on the vine- ranging from about 2 inches to 5 inches. We want to let them fatten up a little bit more before we start harvesting, in the meantime our mouths are watering!!!  For what seems like weeks we looked at flowers on the vine, but nothing else, and thought sadly that we weren't going to get any eggplants at all. This was our very first attempt at eggplant, we had no idea what to expect, and to be honest were a bit disappointed when we saw tons of zucchini but no melanzane. About a week ago we started seeing little purple eggplants .... we have babies!!!
 Perhaps by September there just might be one ear of corn in the garden. We're just starting to see some silks appear, that's a good sign. We miss corn on the cob a lot, so we might be fighting over that one ear!!!
 There is a bumper crop of tomatos going on in the garden- lots and lots of cherry tomatoes, and these bigger ones, even some heirloom tomatoes and what looks like just one daterino plant. We've been pulling ripe cherry tomatoes off every day and popping them in our mouths right then and there. They don't have a prayer. They will never even make it up to the kitchen!
 Hot peppers, and lots of them. Have no idea what we'll be doing with them all. Any suggestions?
 This tomatoe is just about ready.. maybe a day or two more until it is nice and ripe.
This is yesterday's zucchini harvest. Last night we made 2 loaves of zucchini bread. Tonight for dinner we made fried zucchini in batter. Tomorrow it will be zucchini quiche. We're going to have to get pretty creative, cause there are new ones to harvest every time we go to the garden.

We're so lucky to have this special space, and even luckier that it had been a garden for years and years before us. There's something magical about vegetables grown in Italy, they just taste better. Must be the combination of that Italian sun and soil.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Redentore - il giorno dopo ( the day after)

I wanted to try to share a little bit of Redentore with you. My firework photos aren't spectacular, I'm envious of some of the incredible photos I've seen on the internet this morning. I'm going to have to really practice with my night photography next year. For what it's worth... here are a few. Redentore fireworks are some of the best I have seen in my life. I just don't think anyone does fireworks better than the Italians do! 

This year we had a wonderful dinner on our terrace, then walked out to the waterfront along Sant'Elena to join the thousands of others who had already staked a spot there. Families had set up tables and chairs all along the water earlier in the day and had even hung lanterns and lights. By night, their dinners were over, everyone was ready for the fireworks. Others were on blankets on the grass in the park. There were young and old alike, dancing, singing, just enjoying the evening. 

 After the fireworks, most of the people who had gathered on Sant'Elena gathered up their belongings and headed home or to the Lido by vaporetto.
Sunday morning I headed off to Giudecca  island to Pesca di Beneficenza, a lottery type game to raise money for the church, held annually on the morning after the Redentore celebration. This has become a favorite of mine, and it's well known amongst my friends that I have no luck winning anything- except fly swatters!  I have quite a fly swatter collection now.  So--- Sunday morning it was more fly swatter time for Karen! I hopped on the 4.1 vaporetto and made my way to Giudecca.

Here's a little taste of Redentore, through my eyes......

 Here's how this works- you pay 1 Euro per ticket, hand your money over to the volunteer who is manning these bins of little rolled up papers. They pick out tickets from the bin and hand them over to you.
 I contributed 10 Euros this year, these are my hot 10 little winning tickets!
 You unravel the papers, hoping one of them is a good number!  They either have a word or a number on them. The lower the number, the better the prize.

This is a display of some of the better prizes. The motorbike was number #0001.
 And this is my stash of prizes..... a curtain and rod, a swiffer duster, 2 plastic flowers, 2 small glass dolphins, a little glass ring, a car air freshner, and a tiny little plastic keyring with a small container of playdoh attached!  No, I didn't even win a bottle of wine. And no, no fly swatter!!!!

 Here's a view of the Redentore church from the temporary bridge. Yellow paper lanterns are a tradition, lining both sides of the canal. I love the atmosphere on this weekend!

 The bridge is constructed from sections that are held in place by large pilings.
 Contributing to the party atmosphere are the nut, candy and balloon vendors stationed near the church. I always buy a bag of roasted almonds for Mike. It's become a tradition for us whenever there is some festa going on. Of course, a bag of nuts came home with me yesterday.

These are fresh , warm and delicious smelling.

And finally.....one last remnant of a special night in Venice... empty tables on Sunday morning along Giudecca canal waiting for their owner to come pack them up and carry them home.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting ready for Redentore

I snapped a quick photo yesterday as the vaporetto I was riding passed by the votive bridge being constructed across Giudecca Canal for the Festa del Redentore.  Construction of the temporary bridge takes place during the week prior to the festival (always held the third weekend in July), with the last section pushed into place on Saturday morning. Once the middle section is installed, normal vaporetto routes on the Giudecca canal are rerouted up the Grand Canal for most of Saturday.

The whole city is busy today in preparation for the Festival, most obvious along the waterfront on both sides of the Giudecca, and also in Castello and Sant'Elena.  This morning as I walked through Castello people  were bringing tables and chairs out into the street and stringing lights from one side of the street to the other. On Sant'Elena, people had chairs and tables along the waterfront, and restaurants had moved all their tables outside and strung lights and paper lanterns. I passed people washing and cleaning buckets of mussels and clams for part of the big dinner tonight.   There is quite a party atmosphere in the air !

Festa del Redentore (Feast of the Redeemer) is one of the oldest and most loved festivals celebrated in Venice. It dates back to 1577 when the celebration began to honor the deliverance of Venice from the ravages of the plague. Back in those days, pilgrims crossed a bridge made of boats tied together to get across the Giudecca canal to attend a special mass. Today, the city constructs a 330 meter temporary pontoon bridge, which opens at 7pm Saturday evening when the Patriarch of Venice, the mayor and other dignitaries officially open the bridge with a blessing.  Immediately following the parade of people across the bridge is a special mass in the Church of the Redentore.

Thousands of Venetians and tourists alike will gather both in the lagoon in decorated boats, and along both  banks of the  Giudecca canal to eat and celebrate, waiting for fireworks to begin at 11:30 pm. Food plays a huge part of the Redentore celebration, with everyone eating traditional dishes including Sarde in saor (fried sardines in marinated onions), bovoletti (snails), tiramisu and watermelon.

In previous years I've crossed the bridge at 7pm and watched the fireworks from the steps of the Redentore church. Last year I had dinner with Caterina, my Venetian friend, her family and a few other friends at her family's squero (boat yard) on Giudecca. I've wanted to watch fireworks from a boat in the lagoon, but haven't figured out how I'd last several hours on a boat without bathroom facilities- so that one is still hovering on my "someday" list. And tonight, we are planning something a little bit different. We're going to be on the other side of the lagoon for a change, watching the fireworks from along the waterfront here on Sant'Elena.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Armed bandits rob money courier boat near Piazzale Roma. 1.3 million Euros stolen!

Yesterday around 7am near the vaporetto stop at Sant'Andrea (in the vicinity of Piazzale Roma), a money courier boat was robbed at gunpoint. The three robbers made off with  1.3 million Euros cash, most of which was monthly pension payments on it's way to the Italian Post Office where pensioners pick up their allotments at the beginning of each month. Reports say the heist took around 30 seconds to pull off. I think the Italian government will start thinking about how to implement direct deposits of those pension funds from now on! Unbelievable! It's the stuff you see in movies! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Secret Garden in Venice First Harvest!!

First crop of the season!!!  We picked- and immediately ate- these first two cherry tomatoes this evening. Delicious!!!

Looks like we'll have a decent crop of zucchini also. Not ready to pick just yet, we're going to let this one fatten up a bit.

And... our very first olive tree is going to have a nice crop also. We'll never have enough to press our own olive oil,but I think we definitely will be eating a few olives in early fall. Something  else for us to look forward to!