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

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's Ferragosto ! Italy is closed today.

Today, August 15, is Ferragosto.It's a national holiday in Italy. Basically what that means is just about everything will be closed, and Italians will be heading to either the beach or the mountains for a long weekend. Ferrogosto is a celebration of the harvest, and also a celebration of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, and dates back to Emperor Augustus. I haven't quite figured out how they mixed a religious holiday with a pagan
festival, but, they did. 

This morning around 8:30 am, I took trash out, and was surprised to see the trash collectors were actually working today. I was sure they would not be. My street was empty. Completely empty, except for me.  This is an even bigger surprise, as I live on a main thoroughfare near the train station and Piazzale Roma. At that hour of the morning, on any normal day, there would be a stream of people making their way to other parts of Venice, having disembarked both buses and trains. Not today. It looked like Venice was a ghost town. 

I've just returned from a walk to Campo Santa Margherita. Almost everything is closed. Fortunately, one of my favorite caffe's, Imagina, chose to remain open today, and I was able to have a very relaxing cup of tea and cornetto con marmalatta. 

Agosto, in Italian,  means August.  However, I think it secretly means "vacation". Shops close for most of the month, not just this holiday weekend.  All over Venice, and I'm sure this is also all over Italy, shop after shop has a "Closed per Ferie" sign on the door.  Here are a few samples, taken a couple of days ago, all on one street near Campo San Pantalone.  I half expected to see  one  "Gone Fishing" sign somewhere!

Buon Ferragosto, tutti!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Meeting Dino

Tuesday evening on our way home from the movies in Campo San Polo, we walked past a little osteria in Campiello dei Squellini, near Ca'Foscari. It was already a bit past 11pm, but the outdoor tables at Osteria do Farai were still full of people eating and enjoying themselves.  Mike and I looked at each other and had the same thought- we need to check this place out.

The very next night we wandered over about 8:30 only to find every table outside full -again. We didn't want to wait a long time to eat, so we chose to sit indoors.  Before we sat down, we couldn't help but check out all the stuff hanging on the walls. The dining room looked like the Italian equivalent of a Baltimore clubroom. Back home, a clubroom is what you would call a den. We enjoyed walking around for an upclose view of all the large autographed photos of gondola regata winners, as well as the winning pennants from multiple years hanging everywhere. Gondolier hats, old newspaper articles and other memorabilia all related to Venetian gondola regatas like the Regata Storica lined all the walls.  A top shelf surrounding all four walls held old Murano glass vases, decanters and fancy glasses.

After we sat down, a waitress brought menus. Shortly after, a man with curly grey hair came to take our orders.  I have been making a huge effort to speak Italian whereever I go, so I decided to strike up a conversation.  First, I introduced myself. Then I asked the man his name. He answered,"Dino", and gave me a big smile.  We did the usual pleasantries. I explained that we lived locally.  Dino looked at me and asked if I was from Naples. He said he was positive from looking at my face that I was a) Italian and b) from the south.  I think Dino is just very good at smoozing the clients!  The little Italian I speak sounds more American than anything else, secondo me!  I also introduced my husband  Mike to Dino, to which he responded "NO! He is Michele!"

 We ordered. Dino didn't approve of Mike's choice of Spaghetti Carbonara.  Dino proceeded to explain that Mike should eat carbonara  if he went to Florence, but here, in Venice, he should eat fish. Mike heeded Dino's advice, and changed his selection to Spaghetti Sogliere  (with mixed seafood).  Dino brought out the wine. We chatted a bit more.

Not long after, our appetizer of mussels and clams was served by a waitress. We began eating. Then we hear Dino yelling from the doorway on the other side of the room "Michele, va bene?"  ( Mike, is everything ok?).

Dino yelled "Michele, tutto posto? (Mike, everything as it should be?) after our pasta course arrived.  "Si, Si, Dino, grazie!"

After the dessert. an unbelievably decadent plate of chocolate "salami" slices, was consumed, Dino yelled from the doorway again,   "Michele, stai bene? " ( Mike, are you ok?)

On our way out, Dino handed us his business card, telling us to call him ahead of time for our next visit, he'd be sure to hold a table outside for us.

We strolled home, arm in arm, laughing about what a character Dino was.  The meal was good, dessert was superb, Dino was priceless.  The only thing that would have made this night better for me was if Dino had given ME an Italian name also.  Maybe next time. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

A beautiful summer evening in a Venetian campo, and a little Johnny Depp- not too shabby

It's summertime in Venice, and that means time for outdoor movies in Campo San Polo.

Every summer, Campo San Polo becomes a bit busier with the construction of the outdoor theatre that will be used from the end of July  until the beginning of September. I've walked by here countless times, always wondering what an outdoor movie would be like. This year when I saw the lineup of movies, and noted that one in particular was being shown in English, I made sure to get it on my calendar.

We haven't been out to a movie since we moved here. Movies aren't particularly easy to get to, you have to go to the Lido or into Mestre for a good selection of current run films.  There is one cinema in Cannaregio, however most movies are in Italian without subtitles in English. That pretty much rules it out for us, we need the subtitles.

Tuesday evening, we ate a little earlier in order to ensure we'd be at San Polo at 8pm when the box office opened. We needn't have rushed, there were only a handful of people besides ourselves. While I was convinced this performance would be crowded, Mike disagreed. Looks like he was going to win this one.  I waited patiently in line for tickets.  The box office didn't open at 8. Typical Italian, I found myself thinking!  Due to technical difficulties, it was more like 8:20.  I eventually bought tickets. While I waited in line, Mike walked to the nearby cafe for a cup of coffee.

Mike didn't get his coffee.  It turns out the cafe in Campo San Polo has recently changed ownership. No longer can you stop just for drinks. If you aren't eating, you;re not sitting.  This is unfortunate. Over the years we've frequented this cafe numerous times, always for a coffee or a cold drink.  Mike also tried the pizza place on the other end of the campo- same thing. If you aren't eating, you aren't being served. Since we had enough time until the movie started at 9:30, we made the short walk over to Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio. Finally, coffee!

I wanted to be back at Campo San Polo at 9:00 pm when the doors to the movie opened to ensure I'd get a seat I would be ok with.  This isn't regular movie theatre seating where the rows are like an amphiteatre. Here all the seats are on the same level, and I wanted to be able to see - just in case a tall person sat down in front of me.  Just as I predicted, I ended up having to move seats twice in order to be able to see without an obstructed view.  And who sits down 2 seats away from me? The ex-Mayor of Venice!  Looks like I'm not the only person eager to see this movie.  Before long, the place was filled!

Here's a few things I noted about summer movies in Campo San Polo for the next time I go:
- Bring snacks. There is no popcorn concession here.
- Dress up. The Italian women were all in dresses, the men in dress slacks and shirts.
- Don't arrive so early.  It's fashionable to arrive only a few minutes before showtime.

You have probably guessed it by now. Yes, we were all at Campo San Polo to see The Tourist, with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.  I'm sure many in the audience, like myself, had seen the movie before. Non importa, (it's not important)- we were all there to see Venice on the big screen.  We'd all lived through several months of these super stars being in our midst the year prior, and had waited eagerly to see the results of all their hard work.

Anyone intimiately familiar with Venice will know instantly that this film contains some very creative editing. Venice in the movie isn't quite Venice in reality. One scene in particular where Elise is dropping Frank off at the airport is a good example.  As she is pulling the boat away and you watch her motor towards St. Mark's square, it appears that the airport is located at the Giudecca!!  As we all watched the movie, it was clear everyone in the audience  recognized each  and every one of those "creatively edited" scenes as well! None the less, everyone seemed be quite pleased to see their city up there on the big screen. Venice is Venice, afterall.  The last line of the movie sums it up beautifully...."Well, not just anywhere."

There's a pretty good lineup of movies going on this summer. If you are visiting Venice between now and the end of the first week in September, you might consider catching a movie in Campo San Polo. You never know, I might just be in the audience with you!

Here's a link to the schedule of movies playing this summer: