Tales of a wandering lesbian

Venice day 3

Every day in Venice has been like a gang initiation.  I wake up, pretty much alone.  I’ve been stripped of everything familiar to me, and wondering what the day will bring.  Even when I think that I’ve figured something out – where a building is, how to get there – the city, which I swear can sense pride, knocks my feet out from me.  Then, on its own terms, it gives back to me.

After breakfast at the hotel, I gathered my supplies for the day (I still had half of my picnic from the day before, and was confident enough to take only about half of my tourist info with me).

The plan for the day was to see the rest of St. Mark’s and then, maybe see another museum.  I absolutely knew how to walk to St. Mark’s now, so I’d probably be done by noon, leaving lots of time to do whatever I found myself in the mood to do.

I’d had good success with the tragetti yesterday, so I thought I’d try again.  Consulting a map, I found a stop.  It was a decent hike away, but it would put me right at St. Mark’s, and the hike would take me past a the Salute church, which I’d wanted to see, out on the point of the peninsula on the east end of Dorsoduro.  I have no idea how I did it, but I ended up on the wrong side of the peninsula.  I think I picked the wrong church to navigate by – or I held my map upside down, or something.  I walked for at least 30 minutes, maybe more, before I realized that the open water I was dutifully keeping on my left was the wrong water, and I’d walked in the entirely opposite direction from Salute.

It may have been at this point that I realized I am in possibly the worst shape of my life.  I think it’s even worse than when I was a baby and unable to hold my head up.  My calves were like granite from the week of intense walking I’d forced upon them, but one of my feet was refusing to flex appropriately.  Only when I slowed down to a stroll did the pain go away.

Fricking city slowing me down.

So I turned around and walked the entire length of the peninsula, slowly, past the pink-glassed lanterns of Venice, to the tip of the peninsula and finally to the Salute church.  Where there was no traghetto stop.

Pink lamps

I consulted my map and felt like “Tom Tom” recalculating routes on the fly.  There was another traghetto stop just on the other side of the church.  I could bop in, take a look around, and then catch the boat across the canal.  No problem.


The Salute church is beautiful.  I played musical tabernacles, trying to figure out which of the 6 or so chapels housed the Eucharist.  (I try hard not to totally offend every culture I come in contact with, but there were candles lit everywhere, and it was practically impossible for me to tell.  So, I chose the one with holy water close by, genuflected, and continued my walk around the church.)  The sacristy had some beautiful art, and I felt compelled to light a candle for the health of my family.

Health candle

Then I was ready to make my way to St. Mark’s, which was, after all, my original goal.

I was able to find the traghetto stop, but it was roped off and clearly closed.  The detour treated me to some beautiful views of the Canal, and now I was in a totally new place – an opportunity to see new streets and squares.  Also, I was hungry and caffeine deprived.  I’d only had one cappuccino, and breakfast seemed ages away.  I needed coffee and pastry asap.

This should have been easy, but for some reason, I chose only the streets that had no food and very few shops.  I started to panic a little.  This is Italy.  Where, for the love of all that is holy, was the coffee?  Perhaps I should have lit a candle at the church of caffee and paste.  Finally, I passed a moderately busy bar and walked in.  They had pretty much no pastry, but did have a pile of sandwiches and an espresso maker.  I picked out a crustless wonder and pointed.  “Questa” and a macchiato.


I’ve stopped drinking cappuccino after noon, because of the looks I get.  Macchiato, which has about half the milk but all the caffeine, seems more acceptable to the locals.  When in Rome…or Venice, or whatever.  The sandwich was egg and asparagus, and it was perfect.  I should have had three or four.

After my refueling, I took a peek at where I was on the map and plotted a course for St. Mark’s.  It was now almost lunchtime

When I arrived at the piazza, the sun was starting to peek through the grey mat that had lain over the city for two days.  St. Mark’s was even more luminous than it had been the day before.

St. Mark's daylight

Today, I took in the murals of the basilica, saw the golden altarpiece, and climbed the steps to see the horses that adorn the face of the church.  Both the replicas and the originals were beautiful, and the views from the terrace were excellent.


While in Venice, I got a number of workouts.  My legs walked me all over the city, my mind got a nice dose of orienteering, and my stomach went through a stretching routine.  Every night I packed it full, and every afternoon it demanded refilling.  It was maybe 30 seconds after I walked out of St. Marks that I jammed the remains of yesterday’s cheese into my mouth, having unwrapped it as I walked down the steps.  Passersby stared a little as I munched and raised my eyebrows in greeting.  The cheese and remaining bread was good, but I was in serious need of something more.  I needed pizza.  And I needed a nap.  Growing up, it was common wisdom that you shouldn’t eat and sleep immediately, but it was also common wisdom that you don’t drink coffee right before bed, either.  I’m still getting used to both ideas.  This day, however, I was going to eat pizza and climb into bed.  I might even bring pizza back to the room where I could eat it IN bed.

Once again, I chose streets that didn’t have food.  This was one of Venice’s cruel tricks, breaking me down to build me up again.  And it was working.  I was frantic.  A sandwich just wasn’t going to cut it this time.  I wanted pizza.  I was almost back to the hotel.  This was not good.  I’d decided not to eat at the same place twice, but this was bordering on emergency.  I pulled out the map, located the square where I’d had pizza the first day, and headed directly there.

One bite, and I was okay.  The city had given back.

Return to Pizza

I resisted the urge to have another 6 pieces.  It was afternoon, and I wanted to have a decent dinner.  Plus there was a gelato shop on the way back that I wanted to try.

My brain was addled form the scare of not immediately finding pizza, so I forgot to take a moment to shift my language to Italian.  I spent a lot of time alone in Venice, which meant talking to myself in my head, which is still in English.  If I can take a minute before I step into a situation, I can shift my language to Italian as much as possible.  This time, I forgot.  This might have been partially due to the attractive woman who was standing behind the counter.  It’s kind of a miracle I didn’t smile nervously and run out of the shop.

Instead, I picked out a size – in Italian – but she responded in English.  That’s always disappointing.  With a simple “questo” I’m found out.  Oh well.  Momentarily, I gave up.  Instead of nicciola, I ordered hazelnut.  “Just hazelnut?”  She was surprised.  “Oh, no…what would you recommend.”  I almost always choose hazelnut and then ask for a recommendation for a pairing.  That way I know I’ve got something I’ll like, and I also have the opportunity to try something I wouldn’t otherwise.

She smiled, and disappeared to a back bank of freezers.  I paid, wondering what I’d get.  When she reappeared, she was still smiling and handed me the cup.  “Grazie.”  My language shifter was stuck between English and Italian and I couldn’t think how to ask her what it was.  As I walked out, she said after me, “oh, con marron glace!”  I tried to look excited, smiled and stepped outside.  What the hell was marron glace?

Marron Glace

I filled my little plastic spoon.  Marron glace is damn good, that’s what it is.  I tasted the gelato, trying to isolate one of the chunks that dotted the creamy goodness.  It dissolved.  “Perhaps chestnut?”  I thought to myself.  The consistency wasn’t quite right, but the flavor was close.  Soon, I stopped trying to figure it out, and just let the excellent gelato melt in my mouth.  Tasty.  The shop was the exact right distance from the hotel for eating a medium gelato.

I ate the last spoonful as I walked in the door to the hotel, up the stairs, and climbed in bed for a nap.  Maybe it was a bad idea to nap directly after pizza, but napping directly after gelato felt utterly acceptable.

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December 2, 2009   2 Comments