Monday, October 22, 2007

How tired are my tootsies?

I find Venice, as you may surmise by now, an incredibly magical city. However, doges, are you listening? I would like to lobby for more seating areas in La Serenissima. I don’t mind the Byzantine streets, the getting lost. I don’t mind nearly falling into canals, or the fact that everything here costs about six times as much as it does everywhere else in, oh, say, the entire world. But for the love of mike, could you please install more benches and take off the “Do not sit here” signs from the sitting spaces throughout your museums? Would it kill you to put a few more stools outside your cicchetti bars?

It’s our last day in Venice, and we wander to and fro, into the wonderfully bizarrely mixed-style, but neighborly Frari church to see Canova’s Masonic tomb and Bellini’s Assumption. Over to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco to gawp at more Tintorettos per square inch than one could ever imagine possible (How on earth did this guy paint all of these miles of canvas in one lifetime? Is this what is possible if you don’t have TV or internet taking up all of your time?).

In the afternoon, we plow through an exhibit of celestial spheres at the Correr Museum near Piazza San Marco. I begin by earnestly examining each object, we peer closely at the table inlaid with beautifully carved blue cameo panels, we debate over the accuracy of the placement of Ursa Major on this sphere, or the shape of Baja California on another. But soon, I’m mostly glancing around for a place to sit.

In the café at the Correr, the woman at the counter comes out and gives us a sympathetic smile as we sink into chairs.

“Prego,” she indicates the next table over – which looks very far away to me suddenly. “You can see out here,” she says. And indeed, it’s a lovely view from which we can watch the crowds milling about the square.

We, I think to myself, are going to nurse these drinks for an hour. Maybe two. Quite possibly until dinnertime. How long do you think she’ll let us sit here?

Venice, I know you know this, because why else would you charge such insanely high prices if you sit down for your macchiato, versus if you stand up? You want to run every tourist into the ground until they’re willing to pay oh, about 100 Euros if only you’ll let me, for even a second, take a load off my bloody and blain feet. Why else would you make the most affordable food in the city that which you can only partake of standing up?

Ah, cichetti. Ciccheti? Cicchetti? The famous Venetian snack. You didn’t think we’d leave the city without trying it did you?

Actually, we’re wondering ourselves. It’s Sunday and though tourist stalls apparently do not observe the Lord’s day, things are pretty quiet in the food department at the Rialto Market. A well-known place called Bancogiro, located on the square hidden behind the tourist trinket stalls, is open, but looks like they’re just setting up. There’s a place next door that’s a little more ready for business. We wander closer, like animals warily sniffing out potential prey, but we hesitate.

This is it, the moment of truth. We can either forge ahead, knowing that they are going to say something to us very quickly in Italian that we won’t understand, look in disgust past us at the Italian customer behind and completely pass over us, or we can bail out now, admit defeat and get a slice of pizza.

But boy, those things in the case look good.

My Omnivore has fewer misgivings about it than I do, and he’s already bellied up to the bar to confront the woman. In a few minutes, we’ve got two glasses of wine, a Sharijs and a spritz, and a wooden plate with bacala and salami cichetti on it. They are in fact, completely addictive, and thoroughly yummy. If I didn’t have this desperate need to sit on some surface not anointed with pigeon droppings, I’d do this all the time.

As the day starts to fade, we dodge and swim upstream against the throngs along the Riva degli Schiavoni and steal a spot on the edge of the pavement along side the water where we can watch behemoth cruise ships make their Sunday night exeunt. Lights flash from the decks where hundreds of cruisers take one parting shot of the San Marco’s campanile, the Doge’s Palace, the Riva—and us.

Then a sapphire curtain of night descends on Venice.

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