half truths about venice

There were warnings before I left for Venice: I hope you are good with maps, it’s impossible to navigate.  You’ll get hit on a lot.  The food is terrible there. It’s so hot, you don’t even need clothes.

The warnings, it turns out were true, but somewhat inaccurate.

It was blazing hot our first day in Italy as we dragged our luggage up the hill in Monselice, but cold enough for long pants and sweaters for the rest of the week. My only pair of jeans which were unfortunately white became increasingly colored as I sat at the end of streets eating pizza next to the rio or in the shade of a church in a large campo sketching (dirt, grease, graphite = irreversible stains).

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Jackets, scarves, long pants and warm cappacinos to shield against the cold. In Padova outside a surprisingly good illy cafe. Photo credit: Reem

The Venetian men, for the most part, greeted with a  “ciao bella”  and a genuine smile which felt complementary and unthreatening as they glided by on their boats. Far less questionable than anything that happens in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

Depending on your luck, a young handsome Italian with stylish sunglasses will call "ciao bella!" to you from his boat.

Depending on your luck, a young handsome Italian with stylish sunglasses might call "ciao bella!" to you from his boat.

As for navigation, Venice is quite impossible to navigate with a map but not impossible without one. We found that walking in the general direction of something with the sun as our guide was a far less frustrating and more colorful way to get around Venice given ample time, comfortable shoes, and willingness to enjoy ambling into dead ends. When time, shoes, or lack of patience was a factor,  a few  ‘Dove Campo ____?” set us back on the right track. But more often,  pride was in the way of asking, so we wandered through rhythmic changes of dark and light until we came up that bright open space we were looking for.

An attempt at an artistic map of the streets I wandered down off one of the biggest campos in Venice. The city is small streets some as wide as one person connected by small square and big plazas.

An attempt at an artistic map of the streets I wandered down off one of the biggest campos in Venice. The city is small streets some as wide as one person connected by small square and big plazas.

When it came to food, the best and worst of my trip were both in Venice. The worst:  pizza in  Campo S. Margarita at a cafe with orange chairs. It was undoubtedly on the same level of New York Public School lunch pizza – the thick and flavorless crust, bland cheese, sauce reminiscent of tomatoes only because it is red.  There were other terrible things in Venice like places that charge 4.50 euro for a cappacino or gnocchi with salmon that could have only come out of a can.

On our last night in Venice,  I was brought to a tight, cozy place called Osteria ai Quattro Ferri just off of Campo S. Barnaba. The menu was all italian, hand written which made it all the more impossible for the Californian couple next to us to decipher with their electornic dictionary (they were actually much more versed in the ways of Italian menus and explained a few things to us).

I have no pictures of food at Quattro Ferri sadly or a sign or anything! When we went back for lunch the next day, a waitress dog was there as the watch dog for the restaurant. He was my favorite dog of the trip: dignified and loyal. Here he is asking for a stomach rub.

I have no pictures of food at Quattro Ferri or a sign or anything! When we went back for lunch the next day, a waitress' dog was running around the restaurant looking dignified and alert. Here he is asking for a stomach rub.

We gave our order to a tough looking Italian hostess for mista verdura and a pasta that we pointed to at random. The grilled mixed vegetables were deliciously flavorful. The  pasta we choose was apparently spaghetti with tomato sauce and small-lobster like crustaceans (or were they large shrimps? I forget) In my memory, however exaggerated it may be, the tomato sauce was magical,  richly infused with full  seafood flavor, and good with the house red wine. Somehow the food, the atmosphere, the waitresses made me feel as if I had reached some small nook that existed there because it is Venice and Venice is wonderful and not because it is  good business to feed hungry travelers.

I went to Venice three times this summer. Once for the first time as a day visitor, another as a night-life partier, and for a third time as a passerby whizzing through Venice on my way somewhere else. Each time the city seemed to unfold and fold back in different ways reavling that what I had thought was truth to be untruth or at best, half-truth.

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2 Responses to “half truths about venice”


  1. 1 ytiffanie August 20, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    ah, i was hoping you’d start writing about your travels 😉

  2. 2 Maggie August 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Nice map rendering! Did you end up buying a lot of stuff? Like more scarves, etc.? Also one of my male friends went to Italy this summer too! And he said that foreign girls were treated MUCH better than foreign guys. Lol. Some ppl were apparently openly racist =.=


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