Travelogue from a holiday in Venice. Saturday 12th June, 2004
Exploring Cannareggio and Castello
Up at 8.10 - an hour later than usual. Again there are new guests at breakfast, or maybe it is because we're late.
We want to explore the neighbourhood Antonio introduced to us yesterday and take the vaporetto to Ca' d'Oro. It is a bit cloudy and the weather is more pleasant (= less hot) for walking than the previous days.
We walk around with no goal in particular but try to keep a southerly direction towards San Marco. However the direction must have been more to the east because suddenly we are at Fondaco Nuove and can see Murano and the cemetery.
The sun is winning its battle against the clouds; the temperature rises dramatically and makes the shadow magnetic.
We walk alongside the water for a while and then dive into the labyrinth again. The neighbourhood gets more residential and having searched the map we realise that we're now in the heart of Castello.
There are almost no tourists here, but there are many useful shops and local life: laundry on strings across the street, greengrocers with fruit and vegetables in colourful pyramids, fishmongers, butchers, a slippers-shop and of course many bars.
You drop into a bar for a coffee or something stronger and a chat with the neighbours, unless you chat outside, and the little girl runs in with coin in fist to buy gelato, ice. The toilet is the squat-type and very low, but it is clean.
The map helps us to find Campo Bandiere e Moro and further to the water and quay east of S. Mark's. On the last street from Campo Bandiere e Moro useless shops pop up and Helle buys some more Murano glass pendants.
From here it isn't far to S. Mark's Square with its multitude of tourists, and we take #1 to San Tomŕ. In Calle dei Preti Corsera we spot a trattoria with a promising menu and tables outside for dinner tonight.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
We walk a bit further and cross the canal, Rio della Frescada, and are suddenly outside Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The Venetian painter Tintoretto spent 23 years of his life decorating the walls and ceilings here, and we enter to see his work.
Tintoretto was truly industrious. Everywhere the walls and ceilings are richly decorated with paintings - motifs from the Bible. On the first floor you can take a mirror to study the ceilings without breaking your neck.
The impression is overwhelming and people walk quietly and whisper. From the floor and some two meters up the walls are covered with richly carved wooden panels, and the floors' marble mosaics are beautiful. We do not stay to study details, but take in the overall impression and leave.
At a bar nearby we get a delicious toast (foccacio genovese, bread with ham, cheese and tomato), a glass of water and white wine. We are close to home and in the reception are two orientals, probably Japanese, with a load of luggage.
The porter talks on the phone with another hotel and tells the Orientals that the other hotel has a room for 200 €. In front of her is a printed voucher that looks like the one we brought along, and it is certainly not good if the Internet reservation hasn't worked considering the poor sods have managed to find the hotel!
At 4 p.m. I go for a short walk and a cup of coffee. It is still pretty hot. At 6 we have changed from casual to presentable and leave for an aperitivo. We settle down at a café on the small square just before you enter Campo San Tomŕ.
We want to taste the spritz, which is so common here: white wine with Campari or Aperol, sparkling water and a big olive. It is nice.
At the next table two American men close to sixty are having white wine and soon a chic girl with a diminutive Papillion dog joins them. The guy to the left is small, stocky and silent while the other is a bragging bohemian: naked feet in sandals, straw hat, shirt with big flowers and baggy pants.
He has a comment for everything and everybody and plays the clown with rose allergy when one of the many flower-sellers tries his luck.
After this stunt the girl asks if we are English, because "you kept a stiff upper lip". It obviously doesn't occur to her that we don't find him funny; however she seems like a nice girl, feeds the dog with peanuts, which it must bite in halves, and tells us that the silent guy is a famous painter and that his wife owns a gallery. Oh my...
The Worst Restaurant in Venice?
We walk to the restaurant we spotted earlier. A table outside is nice; then I can smoke and the weather is very pleasant. Just across is a huge official building - some kind of interior ministry and fire station in one.
Helle orders spaghetti carbonara and grilled sole while I go for vegetable soup and veal cutlet. We both order vegetables of the season as side dish. The compromise wine for sole and veal is a Bardolino rosé.
Three flower sellers try their luck within three minutes. As in Rome they look like Tamils and the flowers here are long-stemmed roses too. I wonder if it is a cartel?
Grissini and stale bread arrive with the first course. Helle prefers the carbonara at Il Giardinetto where they prepare it with Parmesan cheese, and my soup is definitely deep frozen fresh from the microwave.
It is a stock with tasteless spongy vegetables. A pinch of freeze-dried parsley gives a false shine of freshness. The sole is grilled ok but is tasteless. The veal cutlet is thin and dry and fortunately not bigger than 100 grams.
The vegetables of the season are 3 slices of aubergine, 2 small slices of squash and 1 slice of yellow pepper - all grilled and dry.
The only good thing is the wine at 18,2 €. In total we are robbed for some 72 €, and this disaster fully qualifies for the saying that "a Venezia si spende tanto e si mangia male" - in Venice you spend a lot and eat badly. The lady was very wise not to ask if we liked the meal.
Vino Rosso di Cabinet
Osteria Vivaldi is on the corner of Calle del Forno, 50 meters from the hotel - we need to flush! We get a glass of the house white and then a glass of red Valpolicella.
The bartender arranges beautiful plates for the diners and it looks appetizing. We wouldn't mind eating here some day although we do not fancy baccala (dried cod) stewed in milk.
The bartender's face and body language is like an open book, and at close range we read his annoyance when he needs to write a bill and cannot find the slip with the order. And we read his relief when he finds it in the garbage.
The cask with the house red dries out and the bartender asks us politely to move a bit so he can put a new cask into the sideboard on our side of the counter.
Moving the sideboard and manoeuvring the cask requires quite an effort before the wine again runs freely. We finish off with a glass of Nobile di Montepulciano, a wilful wine, and when we get the bill the house white is on the house.
Maybe the tired bartender liked my remark that the hidden house red must surely be a "Cabinet".
A shower has passed and a few drops reached the bottom of the alley, but in the distance we see lightning.