Towards the end of August I had an urge, it was not just one of tiredness of my routine, but one of wistfulness. I didn’t want to slide into another British winter, with the dark days to come, without having been somewhere for a much needed change of scene. It has been four years since I’ve been anywhere abroad and with the many family connections and roots in Europe and America, Italy answered my needs. Colour, beauty and sun.
My hotel was near San Toma, which had a convenient Vaporetto stop nearby and is half way down the grand canal in the San Polo region. From the airport I made a conscious effort to arrive by boat this time as I had never done that before. Previously I had tended to arrive by car, or from another nearby city. So I had the experience of arriving by boat.
The beauty of the place was just as intoxicating as ever. Nothing much had really changed, thank goodness. No modern trends here. My favourite shops were still there, although the art shop in Campo San Margherita had gone and I never managed to find the one that is meant to be behind the Academia. Another time perhaps. After exploring the main areas near St Marks, which were crawling with us tourists I had to get away a bit more….I enjoyed Cannareggio region a lot, and the San Polo region nearer the Piazzale Roma area. These back streets are mellowed with a warm Naples yellow, we artists say. The canals are quieter. My legs ached by the end of the first day, I had to slow down.
Next day I lunched with a colleague who lives on the Lido. It was a kind of fish caught by her husband in the lagoon, everybody fishes in the lagoon, this was a fish called, I think, a Guillett. Looks silvery with white firm flesh and very tasty, with olive oil, lemon and herby sauce on top, with polenta, all cooked on the barbecue, with pimento peppers in oil. Heavenly! I asked about ‘normal’ life, where are the schools and hospitals in Venice? They are apparently hidden behind old monasteries and other buildings that are converted to modern use inside. Clever. Nevertheless I still wondered how you coped here. This is a city for the healthy.
Back to the main Venetian islands and more work to be done, I started a few drawings to keep my hand in and discipline myself. It was quite nice chatting to other tourists, some from America, some from Switzerland (who were lost in the dark), and others Russian, some German. A real mixture.
My last hours were spent at the earthy Rialto market, where I enjoyed taking in the fish market, which was a splendid sight. If one could hire a flat, one could really cook something good with this lot, crab, dover sole, the guillet, prawns, langoustine, tuna, monkfish, fresh Porcini mushrooms. I managed to buy a few of these and got them home to cook with tagliatelle, and they tasted like a subtle truffle, rather special. The dried ones I also tried. Virtually every fish was there you could think of. Imagine the fish stew one could make….it was a good end.
Taking the boat back along the grand canal was a lovely way to leave, with that view of the lagoon, as we sped back to the airport. But even there at the airport, there was time to linger, and the shop sold some lovely Italian gifts and foodie things. A bar of chocolate would fit, and soap was lovely….I really do have to go back another year, for another short break perhaps. (article shortened for archival record).