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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Carnevale 2011- costume of the day

During Carnevale, everywhere you turn there are costumes, costumes, costumes.  Today, I caught this cute pair of lions in front of the Ala Hotel, all dressed up and ready to get into the Carnevale spirit.  These two are my favorites today.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Carnevale 2011

The flight of the Angel took place in ST. Mark's square on Saturday afternoon. This is one of the kickoff events of Carnevale.

Note: In previous years, the Angel has been a celebrity, generally Italian. This year it was a lovely Venetian, 23 yr old Silvia Bianchini.  Silvia was the Carnevale 2010 "Marie".  Each year 12 beautiful young Venetian women are chosen to be the Marie's. They are featured in the Marie's Parade on opening day of Carnevale and also appear at numerous functions during the week. On the last day, one of them is chosen to be "The" Marie.

Because of high winds on Saturday, Silvia did  not wear a 12 meter long portion of her costume.  She looked a bit frightened to me, but thankfully she perservered. She made the descent gracefully!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changes in Campo Santa Margherita

This is Campo Santa Margherita, the largest campo in Venice. It's far from the maddening crowds at the Rialto and San Marco. It's where you will find real Venetians going about their daily lives.  It's one of the few places you will find fish vendors and vegetable stalls, and it is also the one place in Venice where caffe's and bars are open past 11 pm.  Well, it WAS the one place. All that is about to change.

Recently some new regulation was passed, probably at the request of residents of the campo, that prohibits loud noise and the sale of alcohol after 11pm. Each infraction will carry a 500 Euro fine. This is going to impact a few of the businesses in the campo that stay open till around 1:30 am. I'm eager to have a chat with our local caffe friends who will most likely suffer a bit of business because of this.

While I understand the neighbors perspective about noise, I am not in favor of forcing these businesses to shorten their hours and stop selling drinks.  It just seems excessive, and I think it will change the whole feel of Campo Santa Margherita. Thumbs down from me on this one.

PRIX comes to Dorsoduro

Thursday afternoon on my walk home from FateBeneFratelli, I wasn't too far from our apartment when I noticed a girl standing on Tre Ponti wearing one of those big tent placards on the front and back of her.  She was advertising the opening of a new Prix grocery store opening up in Dorsoduro!!  Wow, what a great surprise!   And the opening date was the very same day.  I made a mental note of the address, and continued on my way.

As soon as I got in the apartment, I went to my computer and checked the address of this grocery store. 2448 Dorsoduro is just one bridge away from us! I remembered being in a Prix on Giudecca awhile ago, and recalled that is was a sort of discount store.  This is very good news for us.

The local grocery store in Campo Santa Margherita, the Punto, has been closed for about 5months now for renovations, and it will be several more months before it reopens.  Our other choices are the Billa on the Zattere, or the Coop at Piazzale Roma. Both are a bit of a hike hauling a grocery cart.  Mike particularly dislikes going to the Coop because not only is the Coop always crowded,  Piazzale Roma is also always crowded with people. It's a pain in the neck trying to navigate with bags through there.

Like everything else in Venice, food is expensive. The only alternative is to take the bus out to Marghera to shop at Panorama, the Italian version of Sam's club or Wal-Mart. It is cheaper. But then you have to deal with the bus and all your parcels getting home.  Not easy.

The new Prix being around the corner might just be a blessing in disguise. It's funny, we had no idea they were opening here, even though we walk by here just about every day. Mike and I walked over Thursday afternoon to check it out. There is no store sign outside yet even, but we knew to look for # 2448. The place is tiny, just two check out counters, and the space between the 3 aisles is very compact. But it does have just about everything you might need, even some fresh meat and vegetables. Not a huge selection, but enough for you to get what was necessary. We prefer to get our meat from the local butcher, and our vegetables from the stalls in Campos Santa Margherita, but just the same, it's good to know this is here.  Prix seems to specialize in weekly deals, alot of 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 types of promotions. For things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, this is just perfect. All the prices are lower, so this will really help us stick to a food budget for a change. I can imagine every pensioner (retired person) living on this side of Venice will be at Prix along with Mike and I!

For us, Prix is a great location, nice low prices, and they have terrific hours- every day of the week from 8:30 am to 8 pm, with no hours off in the middle of the day for siesta.  We're loving this.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Prix!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A bad boat week

Sciopero.  Now there's an Italian word you should learn quickly. It means strike. The verb is scioperare- to strike.  And yes, this week in Venice there was yet another transportation strike.  Fortunately, most of the time the strikes are short in duration, this one was from 9:00 until 12:30.  The one we had about a week before that was a 24 hour strike, which was very unusual.  But this week, the strike just compounded my boat woes.

The whole week started out badly for me with the onset of a terrible cold (raffredore) on Sunday. By Monday morning I was in no shape to get up for my daily trek to FateBeneFratelli for therapy.  So I stayed in bed.  Tuesday morning I felt only slightly better, but missing therapy two days in a row was not on my agenda- until I looked out the window to check on the weather. Fog was predicted for Tuesday morning. This wasn't just fog, this was the worst fog I have ever seen in my life! I could not see out the window.  For certain, there would be no boats running this morning. I dragged myself back into bed, a little bit thankful for the double reason not be going to therapy. Now, mind you, at the end of therapy every day I am grateful that I went, because I feel so much better afterwards. But the actual process of doing it is sheer torture - the pain is unbelievable.  And the commute is no picnic either.

Wednesday morning I was feeling much better. Not over the cold, but was feeling better after Mike had made a trip to the local farmacia for me the day before. He came home with a bag of goodies- pills for a runny nose, lozenges for the sore throat, and syrup for the cough.  All worked wonders.  And the fog that was predicted for Wednesday again didn't materialize. I got up, got ready, and was out the door headed for the boat dock at Sant Andrea on time.  The minute I arrived at Sant Andrea, I knew I had a problem.  When there is no one else at the dock, it's a sure sign there are no boats running.  There was no fog, and no other signs posted indicating anything different happening this particular morning, but I had to trust my gut instinct. No boats were coming.  I walked to Piazzale Roma.  Just as I made the turn around the corner by the Coop, I had the answer to the mystery.  It wasn't just the 42 or 52 boats not running, there were NO boats. Aha-  a strike.  The electronic sign over the boat dock confirmed this.  The stike would last until 12:30.  Ok- I would  at least get home from therapy, if I could actually get there.

I considered walking the whole way. It's a long way, and my knee was not feeling happy at all. So, I used Plan B- hire a private water taxi. These guys must love strike days, cause the locals use the taxis when they otherwise would not.  10 minutes and 40 Euros later I was standing at the doorway of FateBeneFratelli.

Thursday was a nice day, and the boats ran on schedule. I was thanking the Boat Gods.

On Friday, I double checked the weather forecast. Fog was not predicted.  Good. I walked to the boat docks, and again, there was no one around. The dock was open, but there was a chain over the exitway leading to the boats, which was a bit unusual.  I sat for a few minutes, during which time just one other woman arrived. This was definitely unusual. At this hour of the morning there typically is a pretty good crowd waiting.  I threw in the towel and walked to Piazzale Roma. Sure enough, the # 52 was not running and the # 42 was leaving from Piazzale Roma.  I didn't see any explanation for why the schedule changes, but it didn't matter, all I needed to do was get to FateBeneFratelli.  The # 42 wasn't running on it's normal schedule either, apparently, as  I waited 30 minutes for the boat.  I started to get nervous that I wouldn't have enough time to make it to my therapy appointment.  Fortunately, the boat arrived.

As we rounded the corner onto the lagoon leaving the Cannaregio canal, I saw what the problem was. The fog out here on the lagoon was thick as thieves. You could not see in front of your face.  I couldn't even see the shore line and I don't think we were 100 feet away from it.  I wanted to be mad. My whole week was sent topsy turvy by the boats this week. But- I just couldn't find it in me to get mad. Instead I was mesmerized by the view. Venice is even more mysterious, more beautiful when it is veiled in fog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spanish ship Elcano on the Zattere

My friend Yvonne in Australia sent me an email the other day asking if I had seen this ship on the Zattere yet. I try to stay up on what's going on in and around Venice all the time, but somehow this one had slipped by me. I've been so wrapped up in my physical therapy routine every day that I haven't had much time to poke my head up.  Fortunately, the weekends are rest days for me, with no therapy, except that I must get out and walk. Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day here with temps in the low 50's. That made it the perfect day for a leisurely walk, and there is no better place than the Zattere. 

Mike and I walked from our neighborhood towards the Zattere, and as soon as we made the turn by the San Basilio vaporetto stop, we caught sight of the ship Yvonne had mentioned.  The Elcano,  a spanish tall ship used for training sailors, was docked in all it's glory.  The boat was open to the public for tours all day long. 

We stopped to admire the boat and take some photos, then wandered farther down the Zattere to Nico's, a favorite of locals and tourists alike for it's ice cream. We found an open table on the sidewalk, so stopped for a cup of tea for me and some time to enjoy the afternoon sun.  Every other person leaving Nico's had a take-away ice cream concoction in their hand, making me wistful for one of my own, but I resisted temptation. I'm sure there will be other sunny days when I will give in!  

Carnevale is in the air!

 When the calendar flips to February, I look forward to the telltale signs all over Venice that it won't be long before Carnevale arrives in full force.  Confetti and streamers on the streets is one of my favorite harbingers of what's to come.

Carnevale is one of the special events in Venice that I could not wait to experience first hand when we moved here. In all the years we'd been vacationing here, we always managed to miss Carnevale, since our month was always mid-March to mid-April.  Upon  arrival, we'd notice confetti still in all the cracks of the stones on the street, a sign of all we'd missed.  Having experienced Carnevale first-hand, this is now one of my favorite times of the year.

Last year, some happy party-goer stuffed a handful of confetti into our mail slot. On the inside of our door is a mailbox with a plastic  window in it. I never removed the confetti, I've looked at it every day as I leave the house. It puts a smile on my face every time. This year, I have already purchased  my own bags of confetti and streamers!

When  frittelle begin to appear in all the  the windows of the local bakeries, it's another sign that Venice is getting ready for Carnevale. These delicious little morsels- well, ok- they are not so little- of fried dough, raisins and pine nuts with delicious fillings of crema, zabaigone, fruit, ricotta cheese, or just plain (called Frittelle Veneziana) are only available during the Carnevale season in this part of Italy.  Ricotta filled frittelle are my favorites, but I have not turned down a frittelle yet if offered one! I've been known to eat 3-4 a day. This year, I've been a very good girl and have limited my intake to one per week.  Frittelle sell for 1 - 1.50 Euro in most bakeries- one of the best inexpensive treats Venice has to offer.