We arrived safely in Venice, Italy just past midday Wednesday and have been settling in as temporary residents, rather than tourists. Though we've been here more days than it seems many tourists spend in Venice, I'm sure we've seen fewer sights. The travel and the humid heat has been taking a toll on Mama Jude; so we feel greatly blessed to have such a lovely, comfortable (with A/C!) apartment with spectacular Gran Canal views. We love to watch the constant and varying boat traffic and exchange greetings with the gondoliers who row slowly past our windows and turn onto the tiny canal (called R. d. S. Giovanni Grisostomo) at our corner. Twice now, gondoliers have called 'ciao bella' to me and blown kisses; it's silly, but sweet.
Grateful for my sense of direction, I've wandered around our neighborhood and discovered a nearby pharmacy (where they've been wonderfully helpful and speak English fairly well on my multiple trips), the closest water bus stops, the fresh fruit and vegetable market, the local Billa grocery store, a nice bakery, the nearest Vodafone (to obtain Italian mobile phones), LUSH (hooray!) and the ATM. On our first night in Venice, we ate dinner at a cute little restaurant around a couple corners and down a tiny alley from us; it started to pour rain, forcing the waiters to run our plates outside to the tented tables using huge umbrellas. They were all very sweet and fell in love with Abby (how could you not, really?). We toasted our first night with Moscato di Asti, our favorite wine. Now whenever we pass the restaurant, which is frequently as that is the only way out from the Campiello d. Remer courtyard outside our apartment to the rest of the city by land, the wait staff greet us like old friends.
While waiting in the long line at Vodafone, I struck up a friendship with a lovely British girl named Hannah (sorry Mama for calling her a girl; I know we are women and your generation fought hard for us to be called such). Anyway, Hannah is in Venice on an international study program for anthropology and she could literally be my British twin (personality wise); it's almost scary how much we have in common and how alike we see the world and respond to it. More Diane and Mama Jude are astounded at how much we sound alike, despite the accent. Poor Hannah found herself homeless as her flatmate pulled out of their arrangement at the last moment, and so, of course, we have taken her in while she hunts for an apartment (or shared housing) and she has become part of our little Venetian family. "She adds to the fun," explains Mama Jude of dearest Hannah. Abby loves her too!
At sunset tonight, we embarked on our very first Venetian gondola ride and we were feeling very excited! (For Mama's birthday last year, I took her for a gondola ride in Oakland's Lake Merritt, near my old apartment, but it just isn't the same). So far we have already had the pleasure of Mama Jude's favorite Italian gelato, called Grom, and her other favorite Suso. I enjoyed a couple samples before I felt compelled to choose (and told to do at Suso!), but I intend to return many times. Grom's peach gelato was almost better than a peach! Of course, the peaches we got from the fresh fruit and vegetable market were seriously the BEST peaches we've ever enjoyed! Personally I was thrilled that Grom's current monthly flavor is none other than mint chip -- my absolute favorite -- and it was AMAZING!
For Shabbat, we had a lovely caprese salad spread and lit candles we brought from a previous trip to Tzfat, Israel. We have also enjoyed Margherita and vege pizza and Venetian-style artichoke hearts. Yes, we tend to travel by stomach; we're foodies, we can't help it.
Our front door opens onto a hidden (read: mostly quiet and hard-to-find for throngs of tourists) courtyard, which houses a dock onto the Gran Canal along with a sweet little taverna (Italian pub) popular with locals, a beautiful well and a few other residence doors. One evening this week, we enjoyed a traditional Italian spritz at this little taverna, where we expect we'll likely become regulars. To date, we've seen 2 small weddings and a bachelorette party in our courtyard. We also saw a Venetian funeral on another nearby canal; the coffin, loaded with flowers, was loaded onto a boat with both crying mourners and fascinated tourists watching.
Yesterday Mama Jude was feeling especially ill so she and More Diane stayed home to rest. Because of this, we are so glad that we splurged our budget on the apartment to get the Gran Canal views! By evening, Mama Jude was feeling a bit improved and we went out for a spritz with her friend (and former landlady) Elisa. Having heard many stories of the fun Mama had with Elisa, it was a pleasure to finally meet her.
Since we'll be here for an extended time, as will Hannah, there are certain errands to run, which are more fun to do with a friend (i.e. grocery shopping, transit cards, etc.). So yesterday, while the Mamas rested, Hannah and I walked down the Strada Nuova to Piazza del Roma to get IMOB water bus transit cards. These allow us unlimited rides on the vaporetti (motorized bus-boats that stop at public docks throughout Venice) in September and then we'll be able to buy a few discounted rides for the first few days of October.
Luckily Mama has had the opportunity and ability to go out - even close by and for a short bit - each day. This is important as she has been finding it very difficult to be less mobile and agile in her favorite city. Tonight as we were riding the vaporetto to S. Marco where we would meet the gondolier, I was simply overcome with emotion at the breathtaking sight of Venice at sunset. It was magical and spiritual and inspirational - and in such a way that photos simply cannot capture, it seems. Venice might well be the most beautiful city in the world to me. I finally felt like I got it, like I got why Mama Jude simply had to return to Venice once more, why we had to take this special trip. And I felt so happy to be able to share that moment and those few happy tears with Mama and sweet Abby. These are the beautiful memories we are here to create. And I'm so glad to share it with all of you, my dear Nosy Parker readers!
PS: Please make sure to also follow Mama Jude's blog, www.Giudditalia.Wordpress.com for her stories from the trip. And, as always, we LOVE your comments and suggestions and encouragement. It truly fortifies us and makes us want to share more!