I actually detest “Romeo and Juliet” and I think Marlowe was a better writer than Shakespeare (don’t bite your thumb at me! Romeo and Juliet definitely had some well written passages, but the plot line?). However, Shakespeare wasn’t kidding when he called Verona a fair city. Hopping on a train from Milan and arriving in Verona was such a pleasant change of scene! Despite my dislike of the play- I mean, come on, two teenagers who think they’re in love after a day and then kill themselves over a miscommunication? Really?- going to see Juliet’s balcony was obligatory. The chances of a Juliet character ever existing are pretty slim, but for all sakes and purposes, the balcony has become Juliet’s balcony. It was interesting to see a setting from the play come to life and wonder at the lovers’ locks. Why did they choose to put their locks there? Romeo and Juliet is a tragic drama. It’s exaggeratedly dramatic and ends in death after only a few days. Not what I want my love life to aspire towards.
On the train from Verona to Venice, I was seated next to a very talkative gardener and thus got to practice my Italian and he his English. I really liked Venice, but between Milan, Verona, and Florence, I still like Florence best. Our Venetian hostel, the Ostello Santa Fosca, was ideally located on the main island in a quiet spot along the canal with beautiful grounds. We used its location along the canal to indulge in pumpkin seeds and pan di stelle biscotti (chocolate cookies with star sprinkles) with bellini, and radishes and tomatoes with lemon cookies. Yes, we feasted like queens courtesy of Billa. My camera battery died in Verona and resurrected itself a few times after that, so for a lack of photos, here’s a video from one of my favorite bands, Ödland, that shows the beauty of Venice. Yes, colorful pigeons are everywhere as the song title suggests.
San Marco is beautiful and the square grand with its golden griffon, the symbol of the city. Gondoliers line the streets of Venice as their gilded gondolas bob on the water. Venice reaches peak beauty in the morning and then again at night when you can see the stars up above and reflected again on the water as you walk down the dark and winding alleys. It’s really romantic. Too bad Paulo was off in Rome (why yes, I have started watching Friends). Having read “The Thief Lord,” by Cornelia Funke when I was younger, I kept being reminded of the magical atmosphere of the book, the Venice of hidden secrets. The winding streets, some too tiny to be named on a map, would be the perfect setting for mystery and adventure. There are no cars in the city, and I didn’t see any bikes either, so boats and your own two feet are the only ways to go. If you manage Venice in a wheelchair, I will be amazed at your navigational abilities and patience, there are steps everywhere.
You’ll find many stores and street peddlers selling masks, but don’t expect to find too much relating to the commedia dell’arte. Unless of course you wanted to find postcards with cats dressed as the characters without masks. Then again, maybe it’s only the nerd in me who goes to Vencie hoping to find something educational about the commedia. Considering how many classes the commedia dell’arte worked its way into throughout college (Italian, French, education…), I was really hoping to find something authentic related to it in Venice, where it originated. I don’t really know what I was expecting, street performances? That would have been cool, but not a realistic expectation. A museum? Postcards that were historically accurate?
If you’re looking for cheap anything in Venice, good luck. I’ve included a little map to try to show you where the cheaper areas are, indicated by the arrows and spreading out horizontally. The euro signs denote the most expensive area, which continues off to the right. We ate out only once in Venice, at Da’a Marisa, named for a prostitute and run by some no-nonsense Italian ladies who weren’t the most patient with my Italian. It’s a fixed menu which starts off with a pasta dish, followed by a meat dish with a vegetable, and then an espresso to wash it down and your choices will told to you spoken at lightening speed. I got pasta with plain tomato sauce and chicken. The vegetable of the day was artichoke. Nothing fancy in the preparation of anything, just olive oil, salt, and pepper. The steak is served carpaccio style (aka really thin), so don’t expect something thick and juicy the American way. I think you may have a better chance of being served more original dishes at dinner. It was good and filling, but not necessarily outstanding, so I’m not sure about all the awards on the door. Maybe we came on a day of boring menu selections?
Here are some photos my camera managed to resurrect itself for.