Italian Pleasures at a Bargain
I’m back in Paris and back to a non-stop routine. Four days and four nights in Venice was just what the doctor ordered for a fun, relaxing and rejuvenating birthday celebration. Each day we had a good shot of something cultural, at least one outstanding meal and lots of great shopping.
Venice is non-stop eye candy, much like Paris. Everywhere you turn is another photo op. There are as many cameras and iPhones snapping away in Venice as there are in Paris. After we moved to Paris it seemed silly to always have a camera in hand — it was embarrassing to look like a tourist. Then I got over that silly idea and still, to this day, stop and photograph pretty scenes in Paris, just because it’s just that special. If I lived in Venice, I’d be doing the same thing, just as I have been for the past four days.
Italian cooking is a big rival for French cuisine and I can tell you that I could easily eat a plate of fresh cooked pasta with an “insalata mista” at every meal if it weren’t for the high carb intake. And no one makes espresso or cappuccino like the Italians. I call it “nectar of the gods!” — so dark, syrupy and delicious. On my birthday for lunch we happened into a restaurant ‘off the beaten track’ not far from the Jewish Ghetto, which I swear I had eaten in 25 years earlier. The “déja vu” sensation was overwhelming.
That evening we had reservations at Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi, a restaurant Italian friends had recommended. It was on a tiny “rouelle” (“via posteriore”) that we would never have found on our own. It was as authentic as I expected — a tiny neighborhood restaurant with a rather young clientele, untraditional, yet local dishes. It wasn’t expensive, but it was delicious. Finding restaurants more local than tourist is not easy in Venice considering that life in Venice is virtually totally dependent on the tourist trade and it simply impossible to avoid them — they are in every nook and cranny.
The Jewish Ghetto in Venice is fascinating, as is the history of the Venetian Jews. This was one of my special requests — to visit the Ghetto and the Jewish Museum. The word “ghetto” is a German, or Ashkenazi derivation of the word “geti” meaning “foundry.” It was here in this spot from the year 1516 where the foundries existed and to where the Jews were obliged to live without leaving between midnight and morning and to wear a coat of yellow — not unlike the yellow stars they had to wear during the Holocaust. They were only allowed to practice certain professions, among them money lending (Christians were not permitted to practice usury then considered to mean charging interest of any kind on loans), management of the pawn shops and the practice of medicine. They were forbidden “to own land for farming or to serve in the government, and craft guilds usually refused to admit Jews as artisans, leaving money lending as one of the few professions still open to Jews.” (Wikipedia.org) So much of what still remains as a stereotype is drawn from this period in Jewish history.
Venice seduced us into its multitude of beautiful shops we found to be meccas for bargains on top quality Italian goods. Go past the tourist shops and let the Italian manufactured products rise to the surface like cream — this is where the best bargains are to be found. Lingerie is at the top of their list of well-made beautiful things to the point that one of us (who shall remain nameless) acquiesced to purchasing eight new bras in one store that happily offered a 20% discount on top of the ridiculously low price of the sexy beautifully-made garments.
At the end of the four days we were virtual experts of the Vaporetto public waterbus system of transport that has 19 stops along the Grand Canal and travels to the nearby islands. “Vaporetto” means “little steamer.” At the airport we purchased a pass so that we never had to worry about hopping on and off.
Now we know we can hop in and out of Venice, too. Air fare from Paris was less than 150 each on Air France and our B and B only 140 each. Dining was less expensive than Paris…but the only thing to have to watch out for is all the shopping you’re likely to do…like we did! Yikes!
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
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