Thursday, May 12, 2016

Trying to Keep Up


Wednesday was a miserable day, raining hard all day.  In all our visits to Venice I realize I haven't had rain, at least more than a slight drizzle, if that.  This was what much of the winter must be like in this city on the Adriatic.  No thanks.

Our friend S. from Paris arrived mid afternoon, just about the time my phone credit ran out so I couldn't text or call her to change our planned sunny caffè meeting place to an inside venue.  Luckily there was only one direction she could go from the vaporetto.  Va bene.

Dinner that night was at what is probably the only restaurant in Venice that does not serve fish, La Bitta on Calle Largo San Barnaba.  I asked the native Venetian woman who owns it why she come to focus on meats and poultry.  "Because I hate fish!" she replied. "I can't even be in the same room with it!"  She must have been a trial to her mother growing up in Venice.

The next morning we got on a train to Padua to visit the Scrovegni Chapel, entirely frescoed by Giotto at the beginning of the 14th century with the life of Christ, his mother Mary and his grandfather Joachim.  One must make reservations in advance for a 20 minute window to view the chapel, preceded by a 15 minute stay in a stabilized antechamber to protect the condition of the 800 year old work, which, when you finally reach it, is extraordinary.  Giotto is credited with the creation of Renaissance painting.  In Dante's Purgatorio he is mentioned as having far surpassed Cimabue, the previously acknowledged genius of his time.  This is more than worth the 30 minute train ride from Venice.  I'm sorry not to have done it before.

Also very much worth seeing in Padua is the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, one of the major pilgrimage sites of Europe.  Quite spectacular but equally interesting because of the pilgrims themselves, groups from many Catholic countries coming to touch and kiss the tomb of the saint in its very elaborate chapel.

A return to Venice and dinner at what may be our favorite restaurant in Venice, Antiche Carampane.  Hidden on a tiny street in San Polo, I only know one way to reach it and have to recreate my steps every time so as not to get lost in the alleys and canals.  It was worth the trouble, as usual, with the freshest fish cooked the most appetizing ways.  Moeche, delicious little soft shell crabs, were in season and incredible.

Unfortunately we had to recreate our out-of-the-way route the next day because we had left an umbrella there the night before.  This turned out to be reason to have a lunch of cicchetti standing at the bar at Bancogiro, between Rialto bridge and the fish market.  Delicious and filling at E10 for 3 of us.

We usually try to avoid Piazza San Marco at any cost.  The crowds and souvenir crap make me very annoyed.  But we were nearby at this point and Gene had seen some pictures of the elaborate marble flooring in the Basilica that he wanted to see so we went in, climbing only to the loggia level to see the mosaics as close as possible and the original horses that had been restored and moved into the museum.  Pretty good view of the Piazza from up there too.  Once every 30 years or so will do for me though.

A dash back to our neighborhood to meet G and M, friends from Paris who are spending a long weekend here, drinks at the apartment and dinner at our new favorite restaurant, Ai Artisti.  The sauté of mussels and clams in a ginger spiked sauce may be the best thing I've eaten all year.

And so to bed ( after a walk to help digest it all.)

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