Travel diary from a holiday in Venice, June 9th 2004
Saint Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace
Sleep has been on/off, but contrary to Helle I feel rested. The breakfast is fine and served at four small tables in the corridor outside the rooms. Bread, juice etc. is on a mantlepiece and inside the mantlepiece Mozart plays seine kleine at low volume.
Vaporetto #1 arrives at Saint Mark's Square at 9.20 a.m. The route along Canal Grande gives you an excellent view of the grand pallazi with their faded glory and power.
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"Venice is sinking" some say, however it seems more likely that it will crumble before sinking, as many houses are in a miserable condition.
Another and very real problem is that people leave the city and that it will end up as a museum. Since the fifties the number of inhabitants has been reduced by two thirds.
Finding a job is difficult and tourism has driven the cost of housing to extremes. Prices in general are also higher than on the mainland because transportation is so laborious.
And when people move away, shops disappear too and everything gets more complicated and difficult in a city where everything must be carried. The result is decay.
The basilica opens at 9.30 and there's already a line of people waiting, so we visit the doge's palace instead and sigh properly when we pass the Bridge of Sighs to the jail, where even Casanova spent time in forced celibacy.
Many groups tour the palace and if Casanova had had a voice like the French guide he could have cut his way to freedom any time.
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When we get out at 11 the square is a mass of people and pigeons. The pigeons are a pest; their droppings destroy what water and time don't and many have salmonella.
You are asked not to feed these winged rats, but none the less locals make a living of selling fodder on the square, and if you stand still the birds will climb all over you. Enjoy.
Rialto and Lido
We walk towards Rialto and drop into a bar for a coffee and to rest our feet. Served at a table 1 cappuccino, 1 espresso + water cost 10 €.
If your daily expenses don't match your income a trip to Venice can solve the problem. The way towards Rialto and Rialto's neighbourhood is one big tourist trap with useless shops and junk galore.
When over the bridge we head west, and when Helle says that a sandwich would do no harm we find a bar near Campo San Polo, and then it is hot and time for siesta.
The sieasta does wonders and we take the vaporetto to Lido. It is a half hour ride, but there's plenty to look at along Canal Grande.
On Lido we don't walk far. Actually we went mostly for the vaporatto-ride and it is pretty hot. At a bar with shadow and breeze we get a coke, espresso and water.
Four old men are drinking and having great fun. The oldest gets a grand papa-grappa and downs it. I presume it is the cheapest and strongest because he coughs and fights for air, which his drinking mates find hilarious.
Soon his mates say goodbye. He counts coins and gets another mega grappa, downs it quickly, coughs and falls asleep.
Evening at Il Giardinetto's
We return home, change and walk to the trattoria we spotted earlier today. However the door is locked; we're to early and go for a walk where we find another likely candidate on Fondamenta del Forner. Four tables are outside facing the canal and birds in a cage chat merrily.
At 6.40 we're back at the first trattoria. It is early, but we are hungry. The door is now open, but they ask us to return at 7. I notice that what had looked like an open yard is in fact covered, the place has lost its attraction.
Around the corner is the bar where we had sandwiches for lunch and we enjoy an aperitivo sitting outside. The white wine is delicious and now the weather is like a Danish summer's evening when at its best - once every third year.
A table outside is definitely to be preferred so we find the restaurant with the birds by the canal. Il Giardinetto is the name of the place, it is a "ristorante" and the waiter is professional, efficient and his uniform reveals no bare belly.
We get spaghetti carbonara (min. 2 persons) - Helle's favourite pasta - and for main course Scaloppa Milanese (veal) with the season's vegetables and a salad. The wine list is as long as a Tolstoy novel, so I ask the waiter if they have a house red.
They don't, and Valpolicella only comes in half bottles, so I ask what he'd suggest? He suggests a Merlot. Now Merlot is not a native Italian grape, but as it usually produces mellow and pleasant wines it is a professional suggestion.
I have laboured through the whole process in poor Italian and don't have the stamina to ask for a wine more typical of the region. Not until later do I realise that the waiter speaks excellent English; he has just been polite: if the eccentric guest insists on practicing his miserable Italian, it is his privilege and to switch into English could be considered an insult! In general more people here speak better English than in Rome, but we don't know that yet.
The Merlot is excellent and so is the meal. And our position is very nice with the birds chatting behind us and life on the canal in front. Distilled romance... The bill is 69+. That is 15 more than yesterday, but definitely worth every cent. It isn't late, but we are tired and walk straight home.
[2007 comment: When we returned to Il Giardinetto in 2007, we were very disappointed. Read about this experience in the Venice 2007 travelogue.]
The hotel's front door is locked at this hour so you must use the doorbell, which is a lion's head.