Thursday, May 31, 2007

Save Venice

For those of you who are avid readers, I would suggest the book, City of Fallen Angels. Its about the burning of the Fenice Opera House here in Venice a few years back. The fact that a historic building on a small island burnt to the ground and the rest of the island was saved is amazing and this story covers that. But it also delves into the possible reasons for the burning as well as getting into some of the society life here in Venice. Overall, very interesting.

The reason I suggest this is that in the book there is reference to a group called "Save Venice". Its not exactly a glowing report but still interesting. Basically a group of wealthy philanthropic people from NY/Boston area who have become concerned with the history/decay/restoration of Venice and do fund raisers, etc. to fund these things. You know--the really wealthy folks! I almost didnt think it was a true organization because of some of the storyline.

I made contact with a gal here in Venice who is from Boston and married to a Venetian. Really nice girl and a newfound friend. Her and her husband have about 6 apts here that they rent out for tourists. She invited me to a lecture and cocktail event from the Save Venice group yesterday about Tintoretto (painter). The lecture was in Italian which was good practice for my listening ear but the really interesting part is that some of the people from the book were there!

It was surreal being there drinking Bellini's with people I have read about. These are 'old money' people--a crowd I have never been associated with or hung out with before in life. What a great treat. I met a famous opera singer (although I know nothing about opera, you and I will have to take it as true). Nice lady...spoke with such enunciation. Met the son of one of the founders of the organization--he is the curator of Italian art in some Boston museum, etc. His knowledge is amazing. If I could get just a one hour tour with him to some church or museum here in Venice, my life would be greatly enhanced. But let me assure you there was plenty of gossip going around and social climbing being done. I actually stepped into a whole new world and got to experience it firsthand---just like being a fly on the wall!


For those of you not familiar with the euro system of money, let me enlighten you! They have tons more currency options than we do in the US. They have the 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, 1 euro, and 2 euro coins. Then they have 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, etc bills. All the bills are different colors and sizes (Side note: I have often harassed my brother in Germany that Americans seem to be more intelligent as we dont need size and color to help us distinguish between 5 and 10!). Aside from the monoply looking bills, the coins are a big deal. I can see both pros and cons and I know the US is thinking of making more coins because they are cheaper. However, it doesnt take long before you get weighed down with coins in your pocket or purse. And despite the great effort to make the bills look distinct from each other, they didnt do all that much with the coins....very subtle difference between 1 and 2 euro coin. Which brings me to todays storytime.....

When shopping, it is apparently a really big deal to provide the cashier with exact change. For example, at the grocery store the other day, my total was 4.08 (cat food, again!). I didnt have 8 cents so I was just going to give her a 5 bill. She was not at all pleased with this and wanted me to give her something closer to the exact amount. After fiddling around in my coin purse and her digging in my hand to take out what she wanted (which is a common occurence in stores here), she was happy with two 2 euro coins and 10 cents. So I got 2 cents back. Now, the amount of time spent on this adventure doesnt seem to outweigh the benefits to either of us.

I have seen many people approach the cashier with their hand full of coins ready to make the count for exactness. Keep in mind the options are multiplied with the coins. For example, with 8 cents in the US, you either have a nickel and 3 pennies or 8 pennies. But in Europe, you can have a 5 cents, 3 pennies, or 5 cents and one 2 cent and 1 penny, or four 2 cents, or three 2 cents and 2 pennies, etc. etc. etc.

And just today, as I finally broke down after my 3 day search for non aerosol hairspray (doesnt exist but thats another story for another time), I made my purchase for 3.39 euro. But this time, I was prepared. I had the 9 cents (5, 2 and 2)!!! Ha! But, alas, still not good enough...the cashier insisted I provide the entire 39 cents and not just the 9. When I told her I didnt have it, she grumbled and gave me my 70 cents in change!

I am completely amused at this phenomenon. It gets your heart racing as you stand in line at the cashier..."Will I be able to perform and meet expectations or will I fail and have to be given coins for change"? Its just one way that I can still make use of my math degree!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Venice by Boat

What a great afternoon...very unexpected. I was up way to call at midnight, cat meowing at 5am, you get the picture. So when siesta time rolled around I pondered the idea of taking a nap. I got all cozy on the couch in my entry way with my Moby Dick novel (what a tough book to read!) when the doorbell rang. It was Gabriele, my realtor. He wanted to know if I was available to go with him to check on some apartments that will be rented for tourists in the upcoming week (i.e. make sure everything is ready, etc). I said sure since the beauty of being unemployed is that you can come and go as you please. What I didnt know was that we were going via his boat!

Gabriele has a small motor boat, less than 40hp, but the perfect way to travel. I learned so much today and the perspective of the city from the water is amazing. For starters, you get to see so much architecture and decay and history that you wouldnt otherwise see unless you were right there on the water. And I learned much about the city:

1. Gondoliers get between $100-125 for 30 minutes of cruising. You can usually talk them down to $80 during the day but not so much at night. The interesting thing about this is that they keep all the money! I thought perhaps the money went to some company and then they got a salary but that is not the case. Just do the math with me. Ten 30 minute trips a day at a hundred dollars each.....I should marry a gondolier is the answer to that equation! (oh yeah, did I mention it was tax free also!)

2. The same scenario goes for the private water taxi people. So, if I cant find a gondolier, I can marry a taxi driver...hows that for would never aspire to marry a taxi driver in the US! haha

3. The city is built on tree trunks. There are literally millions of them below the island. It starts about 6-8 meters (20-25 feet) below the surface of the water. They placed the tree trunks vertically in the mud and then placed another layer horizontally on top of that and then a third layer again vertically. The layer in the mud has not deteriorates over all these years because there is no oxygen down there...great chemical reaction and I wonder if they knew that was going to happen. So Venice is sinking but only because the trunks are sinking into the mud, not because the trunks are deteriorating. After the tree trunks starts the brick buildings. The historians and architects, etc have concluded that these buildings are constructed so much better than anything we make today (duh!).

4. You dont need a drivers license to drive the boat as long as you have less than 40hp. If you have a place to dock your boat along a canal (inherited pretty much like apartments), its about 80 euros a year in taxes. If you park at a marina type place, its about 1400 euro a year in taxes.

5. When you overtake (thats the term they use--we call it passing) a gondola in your boat, you are supposed to always do it on the side where their paddle is. This gives them the most control over their gondola.

6. Venice is a beautiful city, but it is magnifide intensly when you are in a boat!

What a fabulous 3 hour trip I had....I saw a fantastic apartment that rents for $1100 euros for the week! It was really nice--not the right part of town for $1100 but still a fantastic set up. I actually maneuvered several times getting in and out of the boat under various circumstances. Because the water was is still pretty high today, many of the step are under water. Or there is a great possibility that you wont be able to dock your boat anywhere near steps and may have to just literally go straight from the boat over a railing while holding onto a pilon. It really pays to be tall in situations like these! I wont say I was the most graceful at it, but I didnt fall in the water which is really important to me after last week.

And with that, I think I will go celebrate with some gelato!

Customer Service...or the lack thereof

The rain broke for a few hours yesterday and I ventured out to the mainland to buy a few things cheaper. You can go to the edge of the island, catch a bus and drive over the causeway for a few miles to Italy proper.

So, I finished my shopping and the bus was due to arrive in about 25 minutes for the return trip to the island. What better way to pass the time than stop into the shoe store (of course!). It was about 1030am and the store had been open for at least 2 hours. But for whatever reason, the clerk decided shortly before I arrived that it was time to mop the floor. When I approached, she was working on half of the small store and I ventured in to look at the sale items. There were these cute little ditty's that were going for 10 euros which is unheard of here. I was attempting to look for my size when she called out something. As I looked, she was pointing to the floor and I assumed she was telling me the floor was damp, dont slip, etc. I smiled and went back to looking for my size. When it was obvious they didnt have it and I was not going home with new shoes, I looked up to find the clerk at the front of the store, leaning on her mop and carrying the most disgusted look on her face. So, apparently, she wasnt warning me about the wet floor and concerned about my safety but rather more interested in the fact that I was messing up her work and she would have to redo it all!

This is not an isolated case. Last December, I was shopping with a friend (for shoes no less!) and she was trying on a pair. Keep in mind, C speaks excellent Italian and has no trouble communicating with the sales people. So, anyway, she was trying on these shoes and told the clerk that they were too narrow for her foot. The clerk argued that they were not narrow shoes, they were normal width shoes. C explained again that they were too narrow for her and not comfortable. The clerk again argued the point that they were indeed comfortable and not narrow. This diatribe went on for a few more minutes and C said she didnt want the shoes, the clerk took them back and walked away! I was truly in awe of the whole scene. One would think the clerk would have offered a different size or width because, afterall, her job is to sell shoes, right? Apparently I have that wrong as well!

I dont want to make sweeping generalizations because I am sure there are many parts of Italy where customer service exists and people aren't terminally rude, but I truly have yet to encounter this in Venice and surrounding area. I have visited here 5 times on vacation and have now lived here for almost a month. I dont think I will ever get used to this phenomenon. It truly is foreign but apparently it works for them as they have been around alot longer than the US.

Probably the most interesting part of all of this to me is the uncanny ability the Italians have at making you feel like it is your fault. Something in the posture, the gestures and the intonation of voice catches you offguard and before you know it, your tail is between your legs and you are leaving. It's not until later that you realize you did nothing wrong and you would have never stood for that type of abuse in the States....and we all know, I have never been at a loss for words when telling people what I think and feel! Kudos to the Italians on this one!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Today was a big day. In the morning a boat race and in the afternoon a regatta. The boat race was open to anyone and there were thousands! Kayaks, 2 men canoes, 20 men rowers, you name it....the basin was full. I have attached some pics for you. Then later this evening, there was the 52nd annual Race of the Historic Marine Republics. This is a competition between Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi. As I write this, the regatta is going on. It is pouring rain again tonight so I only stayed out long enough to see the parade of the 4 cities. I have attached some of those pics also. If you notice the pic with the water, Aqua Alta is on its way again tonight...there are usually 4-5 steps showing there and at that time there was barely 2! Lets hope Venice wins this year!

Its about 65 degrees and windy outside with the rain. Its bearable but the real problem is the umbrella war out there. With thousands and thousands of people walking around, you really could get your eye poked out! After the parade, the crowd dispersed and the streets were packed. Most of the streets are about 5-6 feet wide, so imagine hundreds with umbrellas trying to go in both directions. Chaos..dogs and cats living together! The police started coming to try to make people follow the rules of the road (you know, stay to the right), but it really is riot material! Its one of those things that you have to be there to understand and not something you want to experience more than once!

So now I am home in my warm robe drinking cappuccino and all is right in the world!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Aqua Alta!

What a great day...I had a visitor from Phoenix for 7 hours...we had a ball....sorry she couldnt stay longer. However, toward the end of the day it started to storm. And the tide rose incredibly. As I was walking her back to the train station we were marveling at how high the water was compared to just two hours before. Then I realized that this is the true Aqua Alta I have read about so many times in Venice. The flooding of Venice that happens over 100 times a year.

So, after dropping her off at the train station, I hoofed it the 30 minute walk back to San Marco Square. It was still raining a bit and rather windy. But I was met with an incredible sight...San Marco was completely flooded! I took my shoes off as I approached and started walking through the square as I have done countless times over the years. The water was about halfway up my calf!!!!!!!!!!!

A note to the wise: marble is very slippery when wet! Had I known this before this evening, I probably would not have biffed it in the middle of San Marco! Yep, I fell down in all my glory. Went down fast and hard and prone in about 4 inches of water. I sat up and just laughed. People pointed and laughed at me or with me, but it doesn't matter. I havent had that much fun since I was a kid.

But I got up and walked ever so gingerly through the rest of San Marco out to the waterfront...what a site....didnt have my camera so will catch the action for you next time. However, with the rain and wind and me being sopping wet from head to toe, it was getting a bit chilly andI came back home with a huge smile on my face the whole way.....really, what a great, fun experience!

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Apartment

Wow..two postings in one day..aren't you lucky! Anyway, just a few pics of the apartment....entryway, great inventions, kitchen, stair up to bedroom, view from living room window

I am official

One never knows what one is going to do when one wakes up in the morning. Today I was up unusually early again (but no running), so I went out for my daily walk while it was still cool and no crowds. Beautiful. I dont think I could ever get tired of this place. By about 830am, the crowds start descending on Piazza San Marco. So, this was a good time for me to head the other direction and check out this church that holds services in English! However, halfway there, my realtor calls and says he needs my signature on the rental contract because it is time to register it. Back home I go (as the realtor office is in the same building as my apt).

What a process. We rewrote the contract when I arrived in May indicating that I had paid for the year in full up front. But the owners wanted to re-read it themselves just to make sure nothing else has changed. Now, 3 weeks later, they have sent the contract back approved. Carla and Elena live in Padova, about 1/2 hour away on the mainland. They are sisters and born in the early 20's so I guess 3 weeks isn't so bad! Now, the fun begins. We have a few pieces of paperwork to fill out and then we are off (oh yeah, and the fee to register--lets not forget another fee!). First, we go to the bank and pay the fee. Then we stop at the tobaccharia (tobacco shop where you also buy lottery tickets and stamps) to buy 4 marco da bollo stamps which are the official tax stamps (at 14.62 euros each) that are needed to make all documents legal. Then off to some government office where you draw a number and sit and wait for your turn (much like the States). An hour later, our number is called and the man signs and stamps a million times each copy to say that he received the marco da bollo stamps (no kidding, they are pasted on the contract, silly). After that, we stop to make copies of the newly approved contract and take it to another office in the Palazzo Ducale (i.e. Doges Palace) where they accept one copy of the rental contract and send us away. Then we stop at another office where we have to register the contract because my building is considered historical (finished in 1609--surprisingly only aobut half the building in Venice are considered historical even though they are all very, very old). Having done that, we now have to go to the Questura (Police Dept) to give them 3 copies of everything (we stopped to make more copies)--the contract, my passport, my visa, and various other sundry forms. They take them all and we are done! Whew! 3 hours of the day spent delivering photocopies to various departments. And they have to do this with each rental contract! Ican only imagine what happens when you buy a place here!

Now, I didnt have to go with him today, but it was either that or the same amount of time, I could have completed almost 2 loads of laundry....its hard to say which is more inefficient..the washing machine or the government!

As a side note, I will include my address so that I receive more than one piece of mail this year! 5990 Castello (this is the address),
30122 Venice, Italy (this is the zip and city, country---its backwards from the States)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My first piece of mail

Finally, I exist in Italy! I got my first piece of mail today...a wedding invitation. I met Clara and John on the plane ride over here in October. They actually used to live in Phx for a bit...he works for Fed Ex so he gets to travel alot. Great people and they were so helpful to me in December and when I first got here. Anyway, they are renewing their vows after 8 years of marriage. And so, they have invited me. A friend asked how is it that I have been in Italy for less than a month and I get a wedding invitation? I think this just epitomizes the 'always a bridesmaid' theme in my life! haha

Another humid day....very early in the season for this much....I might have to break down and get that fan sooner than I thought...although my apartment is rather cool--between all the concrete walls and the marble floors, it stays nice..however, I am sure I wont be appreciating this fact in the winter!

Time to go to the Billa again...I have been searching high and low for cat treats and catnip..does not exist here...I have cat treats coming at the end of June via a visitor but once he is out of catnip, I guess his drug habit will have to stop!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The funeral

So I woke up early today (7am) and decided to go running. This is odd because I dont run, I dont like to run and I dont ever think about running. But I went. Not only did I run, but I ran up and down the Rialto Bridge (2X!)...for those of you who have been here or seen pics, its a BIG bridge and all steps. But as if that wasnt enough, I decided to run on over to St. Marks and check it out in the morning before all the crowds. I imagine its about 1/2 mile from A to B directly but since it is impossible to go directly in this city, lets just say I ran more than that (not to mention the countless other bridges I had to go over). I felt pretty good about the whole thing but not sure this is going to become a regular event for me.

And I figured running would be the highlight of my story today but I was wrong. After getting showered and ready for my daily walk, I decided to head over to my favorite church for a bit. There are a gazillion churches here and all unique, but for some reason I am really drawn to San Zaccaria. And, its not exactly close to my apartment, so the walk is always good.

Anyway, I stumbled over there and was greeted by the ending of a Catholic funeral in the church. Obviously not dressed for the occasion (it's 86 degrees and humid today so I am scantily clad for church services), I stood outside. And not wanting to be an ambulance chaser, I tried to look inconspicuous as I waited for what was next. Sorry but the novelty and curiousity of it all got to me! The pallbearers were 4 guys in navy blue pants and short sleeved light blue shirts. Quite frankly, they looked like they were either homeless or out partying all night. As everyone left the church, they pushed the casket on this really large flat dolly through the tiny streets of Venice toward the water. The processional was led by the priest in all his garb and for the most part, people got out of the way. Once they arrived at the water, this boat pulled up--it was similiar to a private taxi water boat but had been made to look like the back of hearse on the back half of it. They pushed the dolly/casket up to the edge of the water. One of the pallbearers cell phone rang--the humor is not lost on me...cells phone are like water and bread to the Italians...they can't live a moment without one attached to their ear. He answered it and then apparently explained he was busy and hung up! So, now 3 of the pallbears lift the casket and hold it while the other pallbearer and the boat driver pick up this huge dolley and put in the boat. The the 4th guy goes back and they all put the casket on the boat...this truly isnt an easy process and watching it is amazing. The priest did some more priestly things and then people started hugging and kissing, etc. Finally, the immediate family was helped onto the boat and they took off for San Michele--that's the island where they bury the dead in Venice....but only natives. If you die here and want to be buried here, too room.

I was told that 10 years ago, Venice had about 130,000 natives living here. Today, there are about 75,000. At that rate, in another decade, Venice will be nothing more than tourists and transplants. Very sad thought. And today, Venice is one person smaller. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My first Italian pedicure

One of the important things in life (at least to me) is a regular pedicure. I got a referral to a place but they are booked up until June (which I guess means they are pretty good) I stumbled across another place close to my apartment and decided to give it a try. Its a one stop service type of place, hair, nails, waxing, etc. Umberto is the owner and there is a pic of him outside with Gary I figured if Gary Busey could go there, why not me....what was I thinking?! Ok, it wasnt that bad..actually she did a really good job. But its nothing like in the States. First, I sat in a regular chair and put my feet in one of those small foot massaging tubs that we all buy each other for Christmas once in our life. When she came back after a few minutes, I put one foot up into this stirrup kind of thing (which only brings back memories of the OB/GYN and we wont go there). It was the first time a pedicure actually took a whole hour. And, it was the first time a pedicure ever hurt! She dug so deep into the recesses of my toe cuticles that I think she found China. Even my flinching didnt stop her--diligent little Italian girl. The insides of my toes have never been this clean! I only bled once when she got a little sloppy cutting. Thats happened to me before so I cant fault her but it certainly didnt add to the experience much. After a very short stint with some lotion on my feet, she painted two coats of a lovely shade of orange and sent me on my sitting around waiting to dry, etc. Just get up and go! They look good and should tide me over until I get an appointment at the other place!

By the is something you dont ever expect to see in Venice. As I was walking around the other day, I saw one of those people who grow hair all over their know, the ones you see documentaries about and how they always end up in the circus, etc. Well, there was this boy sitting on the bridge begging and he was about 60% covered in hair...quite a site up close..I truly felt bad for him.

Oh yeah, and for those of you betting, I have purchased my first pair of shoes! I hope you won alot on the bet. I did not spend alot but it was certainly more than I would ever spend in the US..I think it came to about $40.....there are a few places around here with 'cheap' items and I stumbled across one last week...saw the shoes and kept thinking about them for 3 days so I figured that meant I should have them. Cute little closed toe, sparkly, denim, pump number.....but I can't wear them now because I just got a pedicure!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Billa, Trash and Rules of the Road

Today, I write to you from the comfort of my apartment as I now have internet access!!!! I hardly left the place at all today because I can now see what is going on in the world.

But I did leave for a bit to go to the grocery store...this is pretty much an every other day event. What I didnt budget for this year was that my cat eats like a horse and the ever dropping dollar. However, be that as it may, I was buying more cat food at Billa...this is the biggest grocery store on the island...probably about the size of 4 CircleK's if I had to guess. As I was standing in line with the hords of others buying their daily allotments, someone dropped a bottle and it broke everywhere. What I heard was a bunch of "Mia Madonna" and "Mamma Mia" from would have thought the world was ending....hands were flying everywhere, people were talking louder and louder and time stopped as we all stared at the floor. Conversation ensued as to who was going to clean up the mess, who should pay for it and should this woman be allowed to get another bottle (since she was obviously a klutz!). It was all pretty humorous to me. In the meantime, this woman comes from nowhere to the end of the conveyor belt and starts talking to my cashier. She has some grocery items which she would like to purchase...for the life of me, I am not sure why she thought this was ok to make her own line, but it worked and the cashier waited on her (I dont imagine I would have gotten the same response). But while my cashier was busy gestering and Mia Madonna'ing she double charged me for my cheese. I didnt realize until I was about halfway home and looked at the receipt. So, I trudged back and showed her the mistake. She told me to go get another one!!!! I dont want another one I said and so she took my receipt, crossed out the second amount with a pen and refunded me the ringing anything up, no logging of mistake, nothing...I imagine she will be short this evening and it wont matter.

As for trash.....I pretty much take out the trash everyday....most people use a grocery store size bag each day for their litter--there are no 13 gallon or 30 gallon trash containers around here. Needless to say, there is whole lot of trash going on on the island...some people are to put their trash bags outside at night or in the morning or on certain days and then these people with overgrown wheelbarrows come around the city and collect the trash, put it on the trash boats and it goes to trash heaven on the mainland. I realize its just trash, but it truly amazes me. Additionally, it is next to impossible to find a community trash can anywhere....with all the trash being created by the tourists, one would think they would need a place to put it. Today, I got a piece of pizza to go (take away as they call it). With my paperlike plate and napkin empty, I searched high and low for a place to throw was enough to make me want to become a litterbug! I actually ended up walking to another part of the city out of my way before I found a place to throw my trash....again, probably not interesting to you as you read it but I am amused.

And while we are searching for a trash can, lets talk about the rules of the road. This is Europe and for those of you who have ever driven here, they take their road rules seriously. You only get in the left hand lane to pass and then you immediately get back to the right hand lane. Something long lost in America. Anyway, why doesnt this concept hold true when people are walking. Is everyone here from England and driving on the wrong side of the road??? I realize it is crowded, but as they say, Dai! (come on).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Beach

Well, Friday was beach day....I packed up my gear, took the boat and went to the Lido island....after a walk to the other side, there it was. I judiciously picked my spot, layed out my towel, lathered up with suntan oil and opened up Moby Dick (never read it before and it was one of the few books I could find in English). However, I didnt get far into the novel before my eyes were wandering at the scenery....I saw my first nude sunbather! There she was in all her glory and didnt care at all....then I noticed more of them. I am not just talking about 'wardrobe malfunctions', I am talking about nudity. Now, I know I am in Europe and nudity is not a big thing fact, I saw a commercial on the TV the other day for a tanning salon..the woman was walking around buck naked on the commercial! So anyway, getting over the nudity thing (its not like I have never seen a naked woman before), I looked the other way....and there it was....and let me just preface by saying, it was wrong on so many levels. Seeing a naked woman is one thing, but seeing a 65+ year old naked man on the beach is, just is. I also experienced enough speedo action to suffice until death. And I was quite surprised to see that there were many, many people who were not physically fit (is that the nice way to put it)....they dont care...they are there to be at the beach and it doesnt matter how they look. Nothing like you would see or experience at a beach in California. I was probably the only one who was wearing a one piece bathing suit, which I am sure made me look like a tourist. But I was happy that my imperfect body was not singled out.

So, the beach is quite a social experience in addition to catching some rays...I am sure I will be back and the novelty of nudity will be soon gone.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Park

Venice has been around since 452AD....that in itself is inspiring. So when you hear an American tourist say 'its old' with disgust in their voice, you want to turn around and say 'no s**t sherlock'!!!! But that pretty much describes most American tourists...absolutely no concept of history and no global mindedness in the least. Now, that is not to say that I am the expert here but I have a sense of what this place is about. And that is what the tourist misses. If you are one of the some 13+ million tourists who embark on the island each year for the obligatory 2-3 day spin of the major hot spots, you miss the point. Oh sure, you can see alot on an island that is only 2 1/2 miles long in 2-3 days, but you dont really SEE it.

Take for example, my walk today. I chose a new direction and within 5 minutes I managed to be right back where I started from!! But, not easily dissuaded, I tried again and before I knew it, I had left the hubbub of the touristy area and encountered a real park...right there in Venice--on the island. It was actually more than a park. With black iron gated walls and trees that were at least 100 years or older, me and the other 12 people in this secluded area enjoyed the quietness and the fragrant smell of roses and flowers and grass and trees. Although I have never been, it reminded me of Central Park. And, it offered something else that is hard to come by in Venice--park benches: a place to actually sit for as long as you want and not be charged...that is a true find and one that most tourists sadly will miss.

And now a word from your sponsor (pubblicitta).....

You probably didnt see this on the NBC nightly news and I imagine it only made page 14 of the local newspapers, but apparently the European Union passed a fashion referendum. They were concerned that there werent enough primary colors being worn on the feet. Not to be taken lightly, they polled all other nations and communities:

The Americans spend 9/10 of their life in white tennis shoes or cheap flip flops because they want to be comfortable, so they didnt see the urgency of the problem.
The Indian community wears plenty of primary colors as clothing and shoes are often optional or only sandal like, so they passed joining.
The Asian community is still trying to figure out who they want to be, so they couldnt be bothered with it.
The Post Communist countries didnt realize there was an option and they responded in silence.
The African communities dont care much about shoes but asked to be included when a ban on flies is established.

So, that left the European Union. And they took their challenge seriously. Red shoes, blue shoes, yellow shoes, green shoes, gold shoes, silver shoes, you name it, they made it. And they wear it proudly! The Italian men, however, not to be left out, wanted something of their own and since Mamma runs the household, they decided to take the primary color referendum one step further and wear pants in all the same, yellow, blue, green, pink (yes, pink).

And now there is harmony once again in the world of primary colors.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time and Weather

Time moves at a strange pace seems to move slowly because of the hords of people in your way all the time yet before you know it, 3 hours have passed and you have walked miles and miles again....I was a bit concerned about how to spend the time but it doesnt really seem to be a problem as of yet. I am still trying to figure out a daily schedule...its a bit strange not having to report in to a job or have someone tell you to be somewhere at a certain time/place. I am peaceful about it and figure it will all come together as needed...however, it is a bit strange to not talk to anyone for a whole day...Mr. P is not exactly the best conversationalist.

I try to spend at least an hour a day listening to Italian TV....sometimes easier than others...depending on the program, some talk faster than others. I am also amused by a few things. For exampe, whenever there is a commercial on, they write 'pubblicita' in the corner to tell you that this is an that really necessary? And the weatherman is also some military officer dressed in full uniform...apparently this is supposed to give some credibility to the weather forecast although I have yet to see anyone tell me a temperature...they usually talk about how rough the sea is going to be and put a picture of a cloud or sun over the general area...pretty much the same guessing game as in the States.

Grocery shopping has been an experience...I am actually building arm muscles from carrying things around all the time. The grocery store takes have to be conscious of what you are putting in your basket because you have to carry it home--now I know why everything is so small in this city!! And I never realized how much I shopped by just knowing the box a new place with new box covers, this task is much more difficult. I am also curious as to why and how the milk, eggs and OJ are never refidgerated...boggles the mind how that works...the milk and OJ I have tried and all seems well (although I do put it in the fridge after opening) but I havent yet dared to try eggs.

Rather chilly today and windy so my plans to go to the beach are scrapped but I am sure there will be other opportunities soon. Signing off for another hoping the internet angels come soon to my apartment...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Goodbyes and inventions

So...everyone left this morning...bittersweet as my brother and his wife took off for the rest of their italy vacation and I put mom on the plane back to civilization (as she calls it)! What a strange feeling when I set foot on the island again alone and realized this was real...can you really be petrified and exhilirated at the same time? So, I fight back tears now because, well, because and sit it this internet cafe to update you.....

So, lets talk about great Italian inventions....first, and probably debatable is the common as a sink in Italy but not at all functional for Americans. Mom thinks its stupid and I should put a TV table over it with a tablecloth and at least be able to utilize the space! But, the Italians are very close to their bidets and so I will keep it as is. Yesterday, we went to the beach and once back home we needed to wash the sand out of our shoes..the bidet came in quite handy for that as well as a great recepticle for drying!

Next are the windows...they open like 8 ways to Sunday....up, down,, why they dont have screens is beyond me...with so many mosquitos you would think, but then again, that is being American and I have to stop that train of, the windows are way cool...

Another great bathroom feature is the heated towel rack attached to the has 2 hang your towels, obviously but it also heats the bathroom since there are no radiators in there....way to go Italy.

In the kitchen, over the sink is what looks like regular cupboards but once you open them up, you magically have your dish drying rack. So, you wash your dishes and instead of leaving them to dry in the sink in one of those plastic thingys, you put it above the sink in a metal drying thingy and then close the dishes to look at....cant believe the Americans didnt come up with that one.

So, thats it for great inventions in the household. So many things to share....random thoughts that cross my mind as I am walking around...would love to tell you but by the time I get to the internet cafe, they have escaped me. I should have brought one of those little recorders so I could capture the audio moment.

Still looking for peanut butter....found a little, little jar of some generic thing with a great big price...oh well...seriously thinking I should open a PB Loco restaurant here in Italy...I think it would be a great success.....

So, today as I sign off from the internet cafe where I am now a regular (still waiting for the appointment for the internet connection at my apartment), I am going to grab a piece of pizza for lunch, go back to do laundry (which should take at least a good solid 2 days because of all the guests I just had), say hello to Mr. P (which is done by entering the apartment and saying, ciao gatto!) and then go grocery shopping....Mr. P is out of food...funny, the only American cat food they have here is Whiskas and he hated that in the US...but, he is eating it like crazy, so we will go with it for a while.

I also think a nap is in order during siesta today...thats probably another great invention (although I doubt it was the Italians who thought of it). And, I will embark on my book...I think I have the first few paragraphs written in my head, so must put them on paper before another fleeting thought takes its place!

Miss you all......see you most of you soon! :-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Found it again

miracles of all miracles, we found the same cheap internet cafe....time to pay some bills and check what is going on in the world...i have no idea what is happening anywhere...i heard two people talking about paris hilton going to jail...i guess thats big news....i am just living in my own little surreal island like world!

had some more visitors show up last night...had to meet them at the airport....always a new adventure..tried to take the bus through the city this time....sounds easy..its not! I left the house at 430pm and got back with the girls at 9pm....see, everything moves slowly around here!

The weather is great...a bit humid for those of us from Arizona, but nothing to complain about.

I had my first home cooked meal yesterday...managed to make my way around the grocery store and buy some fresh made gnocci pasta and some fresh gorgonzola cheese....a meal fit for a queen. Mr. Peabody on the other hand is completely disgusted with Italian cat food...I have been going to the store every day buying a different kind hoping to find one he likes....I imagine if I run out of options, he will just eat when he gets hungry enough.

The girls leave tomorrow at noon and my brother shows up around 2pm for the weekend...then all leave on Monday and I am alone in Venice for the first time....until the 25th. Looking forward to figuring out my definitely includes sleeping late and a daily cup of cappucino!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cheap Internet Cafe

Wow..found an internet cafe where it only cost 5 euros for 1 hour....actually got caught up a bit on the emails and now have 15 minutes left to write the blog...

First the good news..I turned in my permisso di sogiorno (permission to stay) and it only took 4 times....thats quite a feat for Italian now, I wait for the official paperwork but I dont care because I have the receipt and thats all that matters.

I can read many things in Italian and catch about every 3 word..forming a sentence is next to impossible...its also hard because the Italians have this knack for making everything seem like its your fault...its all in the tone....amazing what they do....keeps a person humble and off step and before you know it, you have forgotten what you wanted to say!

Have learned a few things here....when you buy a train ticket, dont tell them what train you want, tell them what stop you want..otherwise you pay for the entire train trip! Costly mistake! Also, if you want coffee (which I have really grown to like cappuccino here), you will pay more for it if you want the luxury of sitting down to drink.....if you stand at the counter its about 1 euro 50 but it you want to sit down it about 3 euros.....places to sit are a high commodity here.....

Did my first load of laundry....was only able to fit 4 shirts and a pair of pants in there before it was full....then the cycle takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to wash....can you believe that!!! Then I got to hang it outside my window (the line was already installed)...dropped a few clothespins 3 stories down and had to walk down to get it and then walk back to my apartment to continue hanging to see my undies out for the whole world to view!

Found a larger grocery store....however, you have to pay 1 euro to get a shopping cart....interesting premise.....not sure if you get your euro back once you turn in your cart.....we were lucky enough to score one as a person was leaving....still looking for some basic things here like a broom and mop, but have found most everything else.....

Yesterday I walked 6.7 miles (mostly lost) which is pretty amazing since the island is only 2.5 miles long....I am going to be so skinny when I come home!

Monday, May 7, 2007


So much to tell you..but first, let me apologize for telling you to read the blog and then not writing in it....being at an internet cafe is not only expensive but demanding...these computers are from the 19th century and the keyboards are in Italian so many of the characters are in different places.

Just when I thought the pilot had dropped me off in Seattle, the rain stopped...its beautiful now. Have made some progress with last thing to do (the big one...permisso di sogiorno).

My friends drove me to IKEA and I did a whirlwind shopping trip, then we crashed an Italian wedding and then lugged all my purchases home via boat and walking.

The cat is fine...back to his grumpy self. My Italian is less than desirable but I am trying. I have applied for my internet access and they are telling me about 25-30 days someone will call me (in Italian) to tell me they are coming over to check out the wiring for it....after that, who knows how long it will, my blog will be sparse and erratic for a while...hang in there with me, however.....I will catch you up on everything when I can

Friday, May 4, 2007

Observations on a Theme

So much rain...more in one day than in 2 years in Phoenix. But a nice change of pace. The flight was uneventful until the end when the cat got sick and the suitcase disappeared (and then magically appeared). Don't bring 5 suitcases to Italy unless you are prepared to receive many dirty looks from people...completely appalled with me! Snuck the cat in...good thing he was meowing going on. All moved in...getting used to water pressure, siesta closings, grocery shopping, and, of course, the language. Which by the way...all knowledge of the Italian language will immediatly leave you when you are talking to an official. Trying to get my internet service requested...who knows how that works or how long it takes...until then, every couple of days at the internet cafe probably. Visitors coming today, next Thursday, next Saturday and then about every 2 weeks after that for the next 4 months....hope it stops raining!