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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A typical November day in Venice

I thought I'd share with you a little bit of a typical November day in one of the world's most beautiful cities.

November is the month when we're most likely to get high water. Everyone's heard lots about Venice's Acqua Alta, right?  Here's a photo to help remind you (not taken today, obviously, they are not bundled up in coats carrying umbrellas. It's pouring rain here today too.)

For the last few days, we locals have been receiving email messages and texts from the comune (city hall) alerting us to the forecasted height of high water. It's been a code Orange the last 24 hours, with 125 cm of high water predicted for 11:00 am today.  At the lowest point in the city, St. Mark's square, that means the water would be about at the top of my boots, which are almost knee level on me.

Here's the latest bulletin from city hall, sent this morning.  You can see we're in for a little more aqua alta both tomorrow and the next day. Bulletins such as this have become a normal part of my life in this time of the year, in fact, they have been hitting my inbox once every couple hours in the last 24 hours.

                                      Bollettino della marea a Venezia

Another part of our normal existence here in Venice through the winter months is the sound of the Aqua Alta sirens.  This morning, we heard 3 tones, alerting us the water would be around 130 cm. In the video below it is the highest alert, 4 tones. The video is from a day not quite a year ago.  Just wanted you all to have a taste of what we live with.

Hope everyone stays dry today!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

San Martino Day

Tomorrow, November 11 is Festa di San Martino, a traditional Venetian festival, and one of my favorites. According to the legend, Saint Martin (before becoming a saint), helped a poor cold beggar by giving the beggar half of his cloak to keep him warm.  St. Martin is remembered for his kindnesses to the poor.  The half of the cloak retained by Saint Martin became a famous relic.
Across Europe you will find various ways St. Martin's day is celebrated, including eating goose,eating roasted chestnuts and also drinking new wine.

Here in Venice, it's remembered more with special sweets.  All the bakeries in town bake a very unique cookie just for this holiday, a cookie in the shape of a horse with St Martin on it's back. The horse is decorated with elaborate candies and chocolates all over it.

In addition, on November 11, children all over the city dress in a red capes and crowns, and travel in small groups through their communiites banging on pots and pans, singing a little tune about St. Martin. (wish I could sing it for you, but I can't. Sorry.) The children stop at local shops, where they receive candies and treats. Very similar to Halloween, actually.

Each year I look forward to seeing the arrival of the horse cookies in the shop windows of all the local bakeries. They can range in sized from small, just a few inches high, to huge, nearly 2 feet tall, each with incredibly fancy decorations of various colored icings and candies stuck to the cookie.  It's like having a Christmas stocking full of stuff all on just one cookie!

My sad San Martino day cookie did not make it home from the bakery intact this year.  Here it is-complete with broken legs and head! Still beautiful though.

Happy San Martino Day to all!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First (significant) Aqua Alta of the season

Here's a photo of the street in front of Ca Zenobio in Dorsoduro at about 10:30 this morning, almost an hour BEFORE peak tide.  If there was this much water way out in this section of Dorsoduro, then there most certainly was some ankle deep water in St. Mark's square.  I received notices on my phone earlier in the morning from the comune (city hall) that the water would be 105-110 cm around 11:30 am, which means the sirens did go off 3 hours before peak tide for the first time this season.

I did not hear the sirens this morning- because we had left Venice at 6:45 am on our way to the Questura in Marghera, for another session of dealing with the Italian government.  Mike's Carta di Soggiorno, the document which allows him to remain in Italy legally indefinitely because he is the spouse of an Italian citizen, needed to be renewed, which meant we needed a trip to the Questura. Even though the document is good forever, there is a little bit of fine print on there that says if you use the document for identification, it must be renewed every 5 years.  The Italian medical system requires this document for identification, so , in order to have Mike's medical card (Tessera Sanitaria) renewed, we also had to have his Carta renewed.

If you read my blog, you might be familiar by now with my being the Queen of Procrastination. And here's when procrastination comes to bite me in the rear end!  Technically we should have changed our residence with the city hall months ago, however I had had such a vicious go round with Veritas, the Water company, that I couldn't stand the thought of any more bureaucratic issues, and I let changing of the residence slide. And forgot about it. Until the end of September when it occured to me that we needed that to do these other renews that were coming due in November.  Long story short, the residence process was completed in October.  I expected the new certificates to be mailed to us, but they never came.  We had to go to the Anagrafe office yesterday to request them. This was a very simple process, for which we paid 16. 54 Euros each.

With those in hand, we had everything necessary to go to the  Questura to renew the Carta di Soggiorno. I had researched all over the internet to determine what documents were needed. All I came up with from reading 3 different sites was we needed  new photos and proof of residence.  OK, we had those things. At 6:57 we boarded the #6 vaporetto to Piazzale Roma.  At Piazzale Roma we got on the 6/ bus to Marghera. By 8:05 we were in the line-up outside the Questura. Slowly the line moved up until it was our turn.

You have to understand how the Questura operates. Here's the process. First, everyone lines up like cattle outside. Then, one by one, you tell the guard at the entrance booth what you are there for.  He does a brief review of your documents to make sure you have everything, then he hands you a number.  Then you go inside the main building. And wait. And wait. And wait until your number is called. There may be hundreds of other people in there, all waiting for their turn to give over their permesso documents, in hopes of getting approved at some point in time. It can take hours for your turn. Today at the guard desk, we were handed a yellow ticket with the number 88 on it. And the guard gave us the unfortunate news that we needed a 16.00 Euro marco bollo, which we did not know we needed, and obviously, did not have.  (A marco bollo is a little sticker you get from a Tabacci shop that is used to pay a government fee, like applying for documents)

Mike and I went into the main building, and quickly determined that # 21 was the current person being served. Hmm. We were # 88. After a very quick discussion, we both agreed  there was time enough for me to go out on the street to try to find a Tabacci shop to get this marco bollo we needed.  I marched myself back out to the main street, and turned  to my right. A short way down the street was a coffee shop. I stopped in, and inquired if there was a Tabacci nearby. The girl there said to go back in the opposite direction, there was a Tabacci not too far away.  She was right, one was about 150 meters down the street. I not only bought the marco bollo, but had a macciato and a pastry as well, then walked back to the Questura.

For an American expat, it is totally weird to be in the Questura, in this room of a few hundred other immigrants, of whom you are the only American. I've been to the Questura 3, maybe 4 times now, and every time it's the same. We are the sole Americans in the place. Just is always a weird feeling.

I was probably back inside only 10 minutes when a man came out of a doorway and called "Yellow 26".  No one responded. Then "Yellow 86".  No one responded. Then "Yellow 88".  Hey! That's us!
The guy calling numbers escorted us to a desk at the back of the room. We handed over documents one by one- Mike's original Carta di Soggiorno, the new residence certificates, his photos, the marco bollo and my Carta d'Identita (an official identification card that says I am an Italian citizen). He asked for bank statements so we could prove how we supported ourselves here. I said we didn't have that document with us.  No problem, he told me I could just write out a statement and sign it.  Done. In about 5 minutes, the whole thing was done. He stamped the top documents, and handed one over to Mike. We were told to return the first week in February to pick up the completed Carta. Yes, the stamp! You know you are in like flint when the stamp is stamped.  I wanted to jump up and do the happy dance. The stamp! Oh, thank you, God, he used the stamp!

There was one last thing. Mike had to go to another room to get fingerprints done, and we had to return a signed stamped document from the fingerprint guy back to the man we dealt with at the desk. Finished in about an hour, total.  Unbelievable. We were prepared for the worst, to be there all morning. Mike had even brought  bananas and some cookies in his backpack, and his Kindle. I had also brought something to occupy my time ( paper and pen so I could write for a few hours, figuring this would be a great time to get some words written for my NaNoWriMo novel).  We were shocked we were out of there quickly. Shocked and over joyed. We were high 5-ing each other on our way back to the bus stop. We weren't exactly done with the Questura yet, we'd have to go back in February one last time, but this was huge progress, definitely deserving a few high 5's!

We decided that since we were finished so early, we had plenty of time to go to the health department office in Dorsoduro, not far from Campo San Barnaba, to get Mike's Tessera renewed, now that we had a temporary new Carta in our hot little hands.  As the bus pulled into Piazzale Roma, it was just about 10:30 am, and it dawned on us that we most likely would hit some Aqua Alta.  Mike wanted to just go on home and leave the Tessera for tomorrow. I made a case for getting it done today. We did it today.

We experienced the first of the high water at Ca Zenobia ( see the photo above).  People walking down that side of the street were in it up to their ankle bones.  We stayed dry on the opposite side of the street. We could not avoid a teeny tiny little bit of it on the street in front of Giustinian (the medical building), but only got the soles of our shoes in it, no real problem.

We did everything we could at the medical office - they would only do one part of the process, for the actual new plastic card we would have to return again in February, with the offical new Carta in hand, then they would issue a new card. But there is another document that allows Mike to visit the dr. and get prescriptions, which they did process this morning. Also high 5 worthy.

Leaving this building, we wanted to head over to Campo Santa Margherita, but knew we'd hit high water there, so decided to stop for a bite to eat on the Zattere, then take the boat home.  We were able to sit in the sun, enjoying a perfect spot, while the water was rising in front of us.  We managed to dodge all the high water by doing some wave hopping right on the waterfront, until we had to turn and walk onto the vaporetto dock. That's where we ran into problems and could not avoid getting our shoes wet. We ALMOST did it, almost stayed completely dry!

The good news is we are done with government stuff until February. This is very good news, trust me.
What did we learn from today? Always ask first if you need a marco bollo.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A day to remember

November 4, 1966 is a day Venetians, and Venice, will never forget.  I thought I'd share this little video to give you an idea of what it was like, if you have not already seen photos from 1966.

We had a little bit of Aqua Alta today, and tomorrow the forecast is 105 centimeters.  Just a dribble compared to this day in 1966!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy November!

It's November already!!!  We've been having some absolutely gorgeous Indian summer type days here in Venice this week. Sunny, warm, just fabulous. It's a perfect way to kick off what I hope will be a very interesting month for me.

I have LOTS on the table, hopefully not too much for me to manage to accomplish. I want to warn you that my November posts here on the blog might seem a little odd to you, in that they probably will not have much to do with Venice this month.  I've taken on a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month. It's NaNoWriMO (National Novel Writing Month), if you have heard of it before.  I've signed up to do it, and will be posting my status along the way here. It helps to keep me accountable. 

I did the challenge for the first time in July, during the summer "Camp" version.  I did actually finished my book at 54,000 words, and surprised even myself.  My project in July was a memoir ( I turned my blog into a book! It's still in pretty rough draft form, I've been letting it sit for a while before I tackle the task of revising. More on that project to come!) This month's project is something much lighter, a chic-lit romance.  That's all I'm going to say about it, other than to add that no, it does not take place in Venice.  

Today being day 1 of the challenge was a good day, I wrote 1861 words.  Good for a first day for me, even a few hundred words more than I had expected to get done. Hopefully I can keep up the daily word count. 

In addition to doing NaNoWriMo, I am also studying Italian with a vengence. Every day for the last two months I've been spending two hours reading, writing and speaking, with lots of vocabulary building and a fair amount of work on several verb tenses, in particular the imperfetto, which still drives me batty. I swear, I will be fluent in Italian one of these years! 

Last but not least, I've kept my word on another of my 2013 resolutions- I not only took a rowing lesson, but I have joined the rowing club on Giudecca and will be taking more lessons there.  I think it's going to take some determination and perserverance, but a year from now, I expect to see me rowing around a few canals in Venice. 

So, friends, keep me in your thoughts and stick with me during this month of NaNoWriMo. I'm excited about what lies ahead.