Day 19 – Miralaghi to Venice
- Barb: Fly-bys
- Mike: Pheasants!
- Jen: Autogrill
- Barb: Brunetti’s Venice
- Mike: Varied landscapes
- Jen: Blood oranges
Three or Four Words
- Barb: Views out Gubbio way
- Mike: First-floor Venetian walkup
- Jen: New place, same dinner
- Barb: Wow, that was easier than I expected!
- Mike: Down the hill, through the mountains, to the sea. (Note: See? Give a sentence fragment an inch, and it takes a mile.)
- Jen: The “streets” are too small for umbrellas; someone’s going to lose an eye.
When we first began planning this trip, and Mike asked where I wanted to go in Italy, my first response was “Venice.” Reading The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke) and Daughter of Venice (Donna Jo Napoli) put it on my places-to-visit list, and the idea of canals and narrow passageways instead of roads fascinates me. Of course, the maze of narrow paths through hill towns is no doubt like those in Venice, but I’m far from having my fill of those.
Believe it or not, despite being my first choice of places to visit, Venice almost didn’t make the cut because of cost, distance from other places and attractions we wanted to see, and time available. With some urging on my part and finagling on Mike’s part, we squeezed in a short dash up here to the northeastern coast. Mind you, Italy is the size of Arizona, so when we get right down to it, the distance isn’t so great.
We looked into taking the train from Chiusi or Florence as well as parking on the mainland and taking the train to the island, but concluded that driving and parking on the island was the way to go. (Sorry, Barb. We know you can do it.) Given the typically convoluted and chaotic driving and parking conditions, Mike and Barb did what research they could to be as prepared as possible. Other than a necessary illegal U-turn (go, Barb!), the drive to our parking place was surprisingly simple. (See Barb’s sentence summary for the day.)
We opted for country roads for the first part of the trip instead of the Autostrade, driving past a couple of hill towns we’d hoped to visit but never got around to seeing. The first half of the drive was beautiful: rolling green hills, hill towns, and a long lovely section on a ridge affording wide views of the countryside. Mike spotted colorful pheasants here, there, and everywhere, announcing each one with glee, “Pheasant!”
We stopped at an Autogrill for a car-picnic lunch and had our first blood oranges. They look like normal oranges on the outside but are mottled orange and red inside. Surprise! I didn’t tell Mike and Barb I got them last night. Despite the questionable name, blood oranges are beautiful and delicious.
We arrived in Venice around 4:00-ish. Our parking place is a corner on the uncovered top floor of the parking garage. Our car has a great view and more elbow room than usual for the three days it will be here.
This is another occasion when we’re glad we packed light: We now had to schlep all our luggage to our flat. We don’t want to leave anything in the car.
No problem. Venice is all of two square miles, after all.
Our contact for this flat was Andrea, a young guy with fair English. We have his phone number and that of his mother, who also speaks a little English. The person meeting us, however, was his father who was rumored to speak no English. We had detailed instructions for getting to the flat from the parking garage. We headed out and over the first bridge. Welcome to Venice!
There we were, traipsing along canals, over bridges, twisting and turning through narrow passages, grinning and gawking, luggage-toting rats in a maze, following instructions to our flat, which was “very close” to the garage and thus “easy” to find. Venice is all of two square miles, right? Then again, this is Italy. Even within Italy, Venice’s numbering system for buildings is considered confusing. We missed the flat. Or the street. Perhaps both.
Luckily, Andrea’s father—we never did learn his name— was watching and waiting for us. He approached us after we’d dead-ended and asked, “Mike Weber?” He escorted us back to the flat and showed us the ropes. He did, in fact, speak some English. It was enough.
The apartment is tiny. Remember, Venice is all of two square miles, but it is home to some 60,000 year-round residents as well as about two million visitors each year, so small is what we expected. It doesn’t have an Internet connection, which came as a surprise, but for such a short stay, we’re happy to embrace the forced disconnection. It is also clean, tidy, fairly well appointed, and eminently serviceable. And snug between a restaurant and a pet supply shop.
After settling up with Andrea’s dad and settling into the apartment, what do you suppose we did? That’s right, we set out to look around, get our bearings, and find food for dinner. We didn’t buy a lot last night because we knew we’d have to haul it all here along with our luggage. You know how I feel about having food on hand.
We found an itty-bitty grocery shop just around the corner. It didn’t have all of the six or so items we wanted, but it had enough. We hope to hunt down a produce market tomorrow (Can you say “scavenger hunt”?). Until then, we won’t starve. I’m sure you’re relieved; I know I am.
It was raining, so we didn’t venture far, but we got a sense of what’s in store for the next two days and ate a yummy, if predictable, dinner. I washed some clothes in the sink to take advantage of the heated towel rack as a dryer. Barb and I opened a window so we could look down on passersby. We’ve seen residents doing this, often to smoke a cigarette, and I’ve been wanting to give it a go (not the smoking part—ick!), but we’ve been on the ground floor until now. Unfortunately, it’s chilly and drizzly, so we didn’t linger. As Barb shut the large window, it appeared to fall out—or, rather, in on Barb’s head. EGAD! We both grabbed to catch it. Ah, it has a second way to open: The top leans inward. Go ahead and roll your eyes, city dwellers; neither of us was prepared for that. Cool!
Lexi’s taking the train from Florence to join us tomorrow. I can’t wait!