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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Santa Claus is coming to town...( by way of the Babbo Natale regatta in Venice yesterday)

How to make an ordinary day extraordinary? Take ten minutes to watch about 50 Venetians participating in one of the cities newer traditions, the annual Babbo Natale regatta.  Despite fog and spitting rain, these stalwart rowers donned their Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) outfits and raced the course between San Zaccaria and Ca'Foscari down the Grand Canal yesterday. 

I took up a post just the  San Zaccaria vaporetto stop, knowing I wouldn't be able to see any more than all the racers queuing up and taking off. It was enough to put a big smile on my face and start my day off right. 

 This rower changed up their outfit a little bit  by adding a reindeer hat (FYI- reindeer in Italian is la renna)
 The boat with the pink flag on the end is the local Pink Lioness group, an organization who row in support of Breast cancer research and cures.
 This is still pre-race, and although hard to distinquish in my photo, this woman is taking a last minute phone call, probably from the North Pole!
 Elves, reindeer and Santas, oh my!

The race official giving the signal to begin racing.

 While standing around waiting for the regatta to kick off, this boat was just off to my right, decorated to the hilt for Natale.

It's been a week of preparation for the holidays.  Besides getting our tree up, apartment decorated, last minute gifts purchased and meals planned, my preparations included beefing up my Italian vocabulary related to Christmas and studying about Christmas traditions in Italy.

Here's some useful Italian vocabulary, if like me, you are learning too!

Buone Feste - Happy Holidays
Buon Natale - Merry Christmas
Felice Anno Nuovo - Happy New Year
Stella di Natale - Poinsettia
Babbo Natale - Santa Claus
la renna - reindeer
la slitta - sleigh
il presepe - nativity scene
il presepe vivante - living nativity scene
il pupazzo di neve - snowman
il fiocco di neve - snowflake
il regalo - present
l'albero di Natale - Christmas tree
la vigilia di Natale - Christmas eve
luci di Natale - Christmas lights

This is, believe it or not, the top of a torte in the window of one of my favorite bakeries ( pasticceria) in Castello. Too pretty to eat!

Here's a version of the classic Christmas song, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, performed in Venetian dialect by one of my favorite local groups, Ska-J.

Buon Natale! Buone Feste!

Monday, December 16, 2013

December "Firsts"

So far this month, I've had several firsts. No, I'm not talking about the first day of December.

1)...there was the first panettone of the 2013 season

Panettone is a cross between a bread and a cake, more bread-like though, and comes in two standard versions - classico (with raisins and candied fruit) or without. My personal favorite is with the fruit. Every grocery sells a large selection of brands, and each pastry shop makes them. It wouldn't be Christmas without panettone.

2)  - My first sighting of Babbo Natale

Babbo Natale ( otherwise known as Santa ) doesn't come down the chimney here in Venice like he would in the United States. No, he climbs in through a window. This time of year you will see Babbo Natale make his appearance on balconies and the iron work surrounding windows. This guy is the first one I've spotted.  Just might go on my annual Babbo Natale hunt in a few days to see how many I can find in my neighborhood.

3) - the first Acqua Bassa 

Acqua Bassa is "low" water, meaning a very unusual low tide. Typically it's this time of year we are all on the look out for the high water, Acqua Alta. Instead, over the last few days we've seen very low water in the canals. It's always strange to see so many steps visible on days like these. Not what we're used to at all

4- first sighting of fur coats out for the season

It's officially winter, and that means the fur coats are out in force. They are worn to go to the market every morning, to walk the dog, or even to take out the trash. Everyone wears them. In every color, style, and length imaginable.

5- My first close up photo of this bird, probably an egret. 

I first spotted this guy in the vicinity of the Ca'Rezzonico vaporetto stop over the summer months. Every time I tried to snap a photo, he flew away.  The other day, he was perched on a pole at the Sant'Elena vaporetto, and let me get just a few feet from him, enough to get a few pictures.


What "firsts" have you had recently?  Share them with me, please. Can't wait to compare notes. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nothing but blue skies, from now on.

After three days of nebbia, nebbia and more nebbia  (fog), going from grey skies to this clear blue sky was like getting a fantastic very unexpected gift.    

The clear sky and warmer temperatures were an invitation to get out for a long walk, with camera, of course. At mid-day, the light was just right for some incredible reflections in the canals. These first three are from the Castello district, the remaining from around Cannaregio, ending in the Ghetto.  Days like today make me wish I had even the tiniest bit of talent for painting with watercolors. 

(Special thanks to Irving Berlin for his song, Blue Skies. I've been humming it all day.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Venice in fog December 13, 2013

Grazie Mille to Philippe Apatie for this video.

No additional words are necessary.  I hope you enjoy this short view into the mystery of a foggy day in Venice. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A foggy day in Venice

If you have never been to Venice in winter before, these photos will give you a little taste of what a winter day can be like:  fog so thick you can't see anything in front of your face.  It's days like this that you can feel mystery in the air. You can just imagine people wearing dark flowing capes disappearing down long narrow calles. It's quintessential Venice. 

 To the right of this shot, you should be able to see some of Sant'Elena's trees. Can't see a thing!

 In this shot, you should be able to see all the trees of Giardini just in the middle of the photo, but you can't see a one. Like it never even existed.

 I have no idea how vaporetto drivers cope on days like this. I know they have radar. Still, I'd be a nervous wreck.  I didn't see one of the smaller motoscafi ( lines 6, 5.1, 5.2, 4.1, 4.2) all day long, I think they were cancelled because of zero visibility.

 Beautiful foggy view on the Grand Canal

 This photo was taken about 2 pm. That's the sun trying to make an appearance. 

Kind of spooky. Venice in the haze.

Like I said, this kind of weather brings out Venice's  mysterious moods. Made me want to run buy a cape. Maybe tomorrow!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas trees, Venice style

(photo thanks to the FB group Infolirica operalibera)

 One of my favorite memories of Christmas in my "old life"  (pre-Venice days) was the annual picking out of the Christmas tree, strapping it to the top of the car, getting it home, setting it up and  decorating. Some years we cut our tree down at a tree farm. I've even had a few years when the pets knocked the whole thing down a few times and it took tying the tree to the ceiling to get it to stay upright.  That, dear readers, was nothing compared to what it takes to get the Christmas tree here in Venice.

If you wanted a live tree, the first task is to even find a place selling them. They don't have the Lions Club or Boy Scouts tree stands on every street corner.  La Serra, the greenhouse, in Castello down near the Giardini has a few. Very small ones that fit on a tabletop, or ones maybe 4 feet high that are pretty scrawny. But alive, roots and all. I don't think anything like a cut, live tree exists anywhere around here, at least I have not seen them ever. Maybe they do out on the mainland.

Besides the task of getting  a tree back to your apartment once you have bought it, you also have to consider  how you will get rid of it once the holiday is over.  Last year after Christmas someone planted their little tree in the park here in Sant'Elena. It promptly died.

Over on the Strada Nuova there is a small stand selling trees also. Same variety as those at La Serra.  I also saw some last week at Ikea in Padua, very similar sizes.  Of course, if you were buying one at Ikea a car would be required. Whenever I go to Ikea, it takes first a  train,  then a bus and finally a boat ride loaded down with all my purchases in a shopping cart to get back to Venice.  I could never manage a tree, even a 4 foot one.    

The guys in the photo above are lucky enough to have a boat to get their tree from point A to point B.  I don't have a boat, so that wouldn't work for me either.  Our first year over here, we didn't do a tree at all, because the logistics were just beyond us.  The second year, we found ourselves missing a tree so much that we hauled ourselves by bus to the mainland, bought a large fake tree in a box, and had the fun of hauling the huge box back to Venice on a dolley.  Thank goodness we only had to do that once! That was the first fake tree of my life, so you can imagine the kind of heart wrenching decision making that went into that purchase. Chalk it up to one more change this new life required.

So, while I wish for a live tree and will probably always wish for one, I don't think twice about it anymore. When it's Christmas,  Mike makes a trip downstairs to our storage area, hauls the fake tree box up to the second floor (that's 3rd floor for all my friends in the US), and puts it  together.  Voila, instant tree.  It's tall, which is great cause we have really tall ceilings.  And it's full, with lots and lots of fake branches. Also good, cause I've never been a big fan of those Charlie Brown Christmas trees.

Trees at La Serra, about 4-5 feet tall, roots and all.