Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Correction

So, I went out to dinner tonight and sure enough, there they were.....trick or treaters! Cute little girl witches and princesses and boys who looked like Batman and GI Joe.....but they were trick or treating at the stores and not the homes! What a great idea--go in and ask the store clerk for some candy. If he doesnt have it, how about a gelato or a pastry or a half a kilo of cheese?!

Anyway, it was fun to watch and I stand corrected.....

Happy Halloween!

Today is the are eating all sorts of candy at work and anxiously awaiting the trick or treaters this evening (or perhaps going to a party yourself). Well, I am happy to note that Halloween has arrived in Venice. But its not what you are thinking. I dont remember any reference to it last year when I was here at this time. Now, there are a few stores that have some happy orange pumpkin decorations (you know, triangle eyes and nose and one crooked tooth). They havent quite reached the costume stage or the carving stage and I seriously doubt trick or treating will be going on in this endless labryinth of a city. But it is refreshing to see Halloween as a sweet (no pun intended) and harmless holiday celebration.

I am nauseated by the American obsession with evil and sex for this holiday. What is wrong with our country? Why cant we just have a fun holiday without people getting all bent out of shape about witches and demons. They talk about it endlessly on the news and schools this time of year. They change the name to be Harvest Festival in order to align with the disgusting habit of political correctness. Its over the top. Remember as a kid, we used to watch Bewitched on TV and we read Bedknobs and Broomsticks.....they were both witches and none of us grew up tainted by it. If you raise your kids in the right environment with a healthy sense of respect and fear for life in general, they you shouldnt have to worry about Harry Potter. But if you become an alarmist (such as the Global Warming people), then you might as well shut yourself in the house for the rest of your life. Perhaps this is the problem....children arent being raised in the same way anymore. But I should get off my soapbox because I am sure I have offended many by now!

However, tomorrow is a national holiday here in Italy--November 1--All Saints Day. This is a celebration of all the saints, known and unknown from all time past. In this case, saints refers to martyrs. November 2 then becomes a celebration for All Soul's Day so that the rest of the dead are not left out of the process. Obviously, this is a Catholic tradition and not so much a Protestant one. I kind of like the idea of having a day to remember the departed but I cant help but think that you would often remember the departed in your own family often throughout the year? I guess this is a gentle reminder to remember how precious life is (or at least that is how I am going to look at it). From what I understand, however, most businessess are closed tomorrow and great flocks of pilgramages will be heading toward the cemetary island here. I might have to take a peek at this process tomorrow and head to the cemetary just to get an idea if it is truly a holiday that many participate in or if it is just another day off from work.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Cost of Living in Venice

The dollar has hit an all time now costs me $1.44 for every euro I spend here. That adds up quickly and I can tell you that I am feeling the pinch in trying to keep my budget going. The only thing that is truly helping me at the moment is that I have yet to receive any utility bills. Once those hit (when they hit--who knows), then all bets are off--especially now that it is winter (ok, fall) and I have to use the gas heater/radiator. I have been told that gas costs 1 euro per unit!!!!!!!!!! Electricity is about 30 cents per unit, so you can only imagine how my heating bill will grow exponentially in no time at all.

But aside from the dollar and the cost of heating, there are other costs here in Venice that I dont have control over. For instance, there are different prices for consumers depending on whether or not you are a native or a tourist (or in my case, an expat). Yep, thats right. Of course, its not written anywhere and most tourists are clueless when it happens to them, but I have been here long enough to see it and experience it firsthand.

In fact, I frequent a restaurant here in town and have now ingratiated myself enough (because I dont know for what other reason I would have to give) to start receiving the Venetian price for my meals. Its a pretty significant difference. Last week when my brother was here, our bill was 42 euros for dinner but I only had to pay 30!

Once I was having a spritz with a Venetian and we were speaking in English. When the bill came, the bartender asked for 6 euros (which would be 3 for each drink). Spritzes usually cost about 2 at the most. When the Venetian heard this, there were words exchanged in the local dialect and we paid 3.60 euros!

And now, the city of Venice has decided to create a water bus route that is specifically for Venetians--tourists are not allowed on this bus. How they are ever going to police that is beyond me, but rumor has it, they will also be charged less than the rest of us. Of course, they already are. In general, a tourist pays 6 euros for a ticket that is good for one hour. Highway robbery if you ask me. But you can buy a 48 hour pass for 25 euros, therefore saving some money. Because I went through some hoops, I can buy a monthly pass for the water bus for 26 euros. It is my understanding that Venetians pay less than this for their pass (when they actually have a pass--many choose not to get it and are not bothered--the 'water bus police' tend to profile tourists).

Its a difficult system to 'work' because nothing is posted in plain view and there is a general malaise about adhering to or even knowing any laws/consumer rights. I try hard not to make too many sweeping generalizations, but its difficult to get around this one. Venetians have made a living out of ripping off tourists and that reputation is starting to precede them (although they will tell you that they are not raising the prices for tourists, but rather lowering them for Venetians!). But Venice is not what it once was and it will never be the same again. Unfortunately, it has reached the stage of being a floating hotel with endless gift shops. Those who are natives have to live with the demise of their beloved city, sitting by hopelessly as there really isnt anything they can do. And that, is the most expensive cost in this wonderful place.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Daylight Savings Time

Well here is something I havent experienced in about 16 years.....Daylight Savings Time. Tonight at midnight, Europe participates in the tradition of 'falling back' one hour for the Fall. Turns out the US doesnt participate until next weekend.

So, for one week, I am 8 hours different than my father and mother. But then after next weekend, I am 9 hours different from my father and 8 from my mother. That's because Arizona is maintaining its grass roots effort to do away with this old tradition---they dont ever change their clocks.

Dont even ask me to figure out what time it is between my friends and family around the US...its just different for a week and then the same a week later. Too much for my unemployed brain to worry about!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Art of Doing Nothing

You know, there really is an art to doing nothing and not getting bored. I have to say that in my almost 6 months here, I have been doing alot with all the visitors. But now I must go it alone. I have been saying things all along like, 'Time flies when you are unemployed' or 'Sure, I'm unemployed, I have time....'.

Starting Saturday, there will be much more time as my 3 months alone begin. I am sure I will keep you updated on the progress (i.e. figuring out who and what I want to be when I grow up and the progress on the book) but in order to start off with a bang, I purchased some new jammies (see pic). I only thought it appropriate and necessary!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Massage, Part 2

So, yesterday I got another much needed massage. I went to the grocery store on Saturday and pretty much overdid it by carrying home way too many items (life in Venice is very heavy on the manual labor side for everyone). I had a bag over each shoulder and then one in each hand. Its about a 10 minute walk (15 with traffic) from the store to my apartment. By the time I got home, my upper back was killing me.

I made an appointment with my new massage place for 10am. I showed up a bit early to see if I could get an eyebrow wax. I have yet to find a good one here. For some reason, they only want to wax the bottom of your eyebrow and not the top. Odditity, but when in Rome....

Anyway, I had a different gal this time. And the only reason I knew that was because she didnt grease me up like the last one--I was basically sliding out of my clothes last time. And another reason I know is because she handed me a paper thong to put on! As you recall (or are trying to forget), I left my undies on last time much to the dismay of the therapist. They seemed to have been in her way. Again, when in Rome....

This time, however, I asked for a blanket to cover me...the high was about 52 so lying on a table buck naked (with a paper thong on) is a bit chilly! She obliged me and turned on the music. Quite the eclectic selection. Usually you hear rain sounds or maybe Native American type music. Nope, not today. I got a blend of Bach, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, accordian Italian, Manfred Mann, etc. I was engrossed more by the music choice than the massage.

She did a good massage...I felt some of the tension release. However, getting dressed and going out in the cold almost negates the positive you receive from the massage. I was sad! :-) But I went home, made some soup, put on my jammies, and snuggled in for the afternoon.

Later in the evening, I wrapped myself up in several layers and went to another free choir concert at a local church. It was Lady Margarets School Chamber Choir from London. All the gals were seniors in the school and had multiple musical talents. As usual, the accoustics in the church were wonderful and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. When you sit in a church from the 13th century in a foreign country and listen to a choir singing Vivaldi and Bach, you cant help but to be entertained and awed. Perfect day!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ad nauseum

I have mentioned, whined, griped and talked about the inefficiency of the government here to process my paperwork required to make me legal and active in this country. I am not alone obviously as there are about 1 million of us in the country waiting for some miracle to happen. After my visit to the Questura (Police Dept) at the beginning of the month, I have decided to let it lie and live my life as I came to do. Its not my fault and there isnt anything I can do about it.

However, as I watch American TV off and on and the presidential debates about immigration, I have to seems to be a problem that no country is able to grasp or solve; albeit, the issue in the US is on a different tangent.....

The world is definitely getting smaller. Technology may or may not help depending on the situation and the liberal use of the word 'tolerance' (one of those words that takes on a different meaning depending on who says it) doesnt seem to making us progress as a whole. I dont doubt that making the necessary changes are difficult for our politicians and those of other countries (mostly because of special interests) but we all know something has to be done soon and it probably wont happen in our bi-partisan world.

But in the big scheme of things, I am truly glad I took this year to come here instead of when I retire or some other time. I dont think I will ever be able to recapture this moment in time--and for that, I am blessed.

Today, on my expats website, this article was posted....its a great summary of the issue here from the viewpoint of the immigrant. Its always good to see both sides of the story and to be thankful for your citizenship.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not So Fast

So, I am just back from the airport dropping off my 29th visitor and am looking forward to an afternoon nap in order to hopefully help get over this cold and creeping crud thing. However, the irony is not lost on me that now since I have some downtime, I have construction going on right outside my windows!

It seems that that huge rain storm I wrote about a few weeks ago did some pretty good damage to the rooftop of our building. I am suddenly no longer jealous of the people who live upstairs with the great terrace and view! Anyway, about 3-4 days ago, I came home to find the courtyard filled with scaffolding materials...uh oh.

Wednesday was the day they started putting the scaffolding up and Thursday was the first work day. I am on the second floor (counting as an American) and my windows look directly down into the courtyard. The floor above me is the same layout as far as windows but there is no one below me--just the courtyard.

I am told they will be there at least a month, which really translates to an indefinite amount of time in Italian. Its not as noisy as it could be since they are working on the roof and I am a bit sheltered from the direct pounding. However, the up and down and up and down of the workers right outside my window is going to wear on me I am sure. But, life goes on and the repair must be done.

The good news is that it is currently siesta time and they aren't working.....I think I need to seize my opportunity for the nap right now!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

29 and counting

In between my annoying, hacking cough, I thought I would share with you about 5 months of Hotel Susan here in Venice.

When I decided to take this year off from America, I was certain that I was going to remain in Venice and not travel back to the US unless necessary. I also figured I would have a few visitors along the way. Let me repeat the word 'few'.

You know how when you have a party or event and you invite 50 people and expect/hope that maybe 20 will show up? Well, I opened up my apartment and time here in Venice to pretty much everyone I knew. In passing, I would invite people to come visit. It was similar to saying 'how are you' dont really expect an answer.

Well, I got a whole lot more than I bargained for. This week I am entertaining guest number 29! Next week my brother comes for a few days from Germany. But he was also visitor number 6 back in May so not sure I should really count him as number 30 yet.

Yep, 29 people. I have single handedly supported Venice over the last few months by bringing Americans here to spend more money than they should! Other than renaming my apartment to a hotel, it has been suggested that I should have had an offering box with my pic and Mr. Peabody's at my front door to help support the utilities (of which I have yet to receive a bill).

I cant complain. I have truly enjoyed all the visitors. Each one or each group was so different from the next. Not everyone wanted to see the same sights or be on the same schedule. Some stayed longer than others. Some wanted to do it all and some just wanted to sit on my couch. I have been blessed by a year in Venice and 29 of my friends and family have been blessed with vacations!

My guests have been more than gracious. I have been fed beyond all belief and care package after care package was brought in suitcases. I was treated to museums and events that I hadnt experienced before. And some have even 'forgotten' euros behind and have asked me to use it toward Hotel Susan.

However, truth be told, I am exhausted. I am an introvert and my down time to rejuvinate has been shortened. But I have survived and all the better for it. After October 26, I will be solo until Carnival in late January. (Feast or famine at Hotel Susan I guess!) Apparently no one wants to visit in the dead of winter--go figure.

I am looking forward to time alone to embark on some of my original ambitions for coming. Time alone to reassess, to figure out what I am going to be when I grow up and a new goal--to lose a few pounds from all the food I have been given! Rest assured, I will be ready for the next round of visitors next year! Come on over......

Being Sick

Well, I am in the midst of my first illness here in Venice. Its not horrible....the basic fever, chills, cold thing that eventually moves to your chest so you have a fantastic hacking cough for a few know the kind.

I am actually amazed that it took this long to catch something. I think I mentioned before that I am not a germ phobe but when one stops to think about how many things one touches when one walks around Venice, it boggles the mind. Back home I dont think I came into contact with as many things as I do here. I sat at my work desk most of the day and spent a good deal of time in my car and my home. But here, I am out to a different part of the city each day and riding the water buses, shopping, crossing bridges, opening doors, etc. Its amazing how many things my hands touch in one day and how many people have gone before me doing the same thing. Keep in mind that on any given day there are about 250,000 tourists on the island. Thats a quarter of a million people breathing and touching on an island 2 1/2 miles long and 2 miles wide! Amazing.

So, anyway, I am legally allowed to turn the heat on now and it is much needed as it was only 45 degrees when I got up this morning. I think I will just take some alka selzer cold plus and go back to bed!

Friday, October 12, 2007

I think I can, I think I can...nope, I can't

The weather has been pretty consistent the last few weeks....right around 68 for a high and 55 for a low. To me, coming from Arizona, that's cold on both ends! I know I am always remarking about being cold. I used to go outside my office building when it was 115 outside in order to warm up. 15 years in the desert of Arizona has thinned my blood to almost air and anything below 75-80 puts a chill in me.

My apartment here in Venice has independent heating which means I am in control. That is not always the case. Many buildings are centrally heated and the heat has to be turned on by some landlord or supervisor in order to distribute through the apartments. And there are people who decide when it gets turned on and off. I have even heard that it gets as technical as what hours during the day and night the heat can be on!!! This, obviously, is not a program I would sign up for.

On Wedensday, I asked my realtor if I could use the heat. Silly question since I can turn it on but figured there was going to be some rule or law dictating. And sure enough, there is. It seems that October 15 is the official day when people are allowed to start using their heaters. I dont know what is so special about this day but since it was the 10th of October when I asked, I figured I could make it a few more days.

Well, I didnt. I broke the law and turned on the heat. My apartment has alot of marble in it and there is such a chill in the air. I just couldnt wait. What a rebel I am! And now, 2 days later, with a cold and a slight fever, I dont have the least amount of guilt about doing so. Just dont tell anyone, ok?!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blog Life

I started this Blog for the sole purpose of my friends and family. I wanted to keep in touch with them and let them know of my experiences, thoughts and daily life during my year abroad-the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak. What has surprised me is how many people I dont know are reading the blog. Not a week goes by when I dont get an email from someone in this small world of ours who stumbled across my prose and just wanted to say 'hi'. I find this phenomenon fascinating and comforting in a strange way.

However, there is always a downside. And it seems that I have acquired an antagonistic reader. I cant be sure if it is just one person or more because they seem to be reluctant (i.e. cowardly) to leave a name/email/blog address of their own when they make comments on mine. Each is allowed their own opinion and I respect what they have to say as that is their opinion. However, I dont appreciate the negativity toward my experiences and impressions. Whoever you are, you are not living in my shoes and therefore cannot tell me what I do and do not know or feel or think or experience.

It seems that my blog causes you much angst, so I wonder why you continue to read??? For my part, I will continue to delete your comments as I do find them offensive and I have not written this blog for you. Your life in Venice now or whenever you were here was an experience unique to yourself. Please dont try to impress your life onto others. Find another blog to read, or better yet, create your own and say whatever you want.

For the record, however, let me clarify one thing. My friends and family know that my humor is dryer than the Arizona summer and that my tone is more often than not sarcastic. This in no way shape or form signifies that I am not having the time of my life in Italy in thought, experience and feelings. For my family and friends, you know that I am having the time of my life in Italy (and that encompasses the good, the bad and the ugly). For those of you who read this and aren't family or friends, I would just like to say that I am having the time of my life in Italy!

Money to Leave

There is a stereotype about Italian men. They live at home until well into their 40's because there is no reason to move out. Mamma is taking care of their every need. If they do happen to get married, they tend to live very close to Mamma and she is still very active in his life.

Well, its not all a stereotype. Here in Venice, I can see that trend in my generation. The younger generation is not hanging around Venice because of the lack of opportunity. But I have met plenty of single men in my age group who still have tight aprons strings attached. And I have also met several married men who havent broken the umbilical cord yet either.

In the US, this is definitely a stigma (male or female)....there is something wrong with a person who is that close to his mother. But in Venice (and vis a vis Italy), the bond between a mother and her son is STRONG. Its not a thing to look down upon and the son is not viewed 'odd' in any way because he stays. However, the world is getting smaller and questions are starting to be raised about this tradition. Thats why I was amused at the following newspaper article I saw on my expats website this week. Its a short article...take the time. I also saw it being discussed on Fox News this morning!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Questura

Today was the day I went to the mainland police department (questura) to talk to them about my permisso di soggiorno appointment for July 30, 2008 (at 12:18 as you remember!). I had all my ducks in a row and made my way to the bus station.

At 8:10am, my bus rolls around (number 6/) and I get on. Next thing I know, we are turning toward the Tronchetto (which is an island for parking cars). This is not where I want to go. Turns out this bus (number 6/) is first a bus to Tronchetto....then it comes back to the bus station and becomes bus 6/ that goes into the city (Marghera). Why? Why ask?

So after a nice circular ride on the bus, I make my way to Marghera. The stop that I was supposed to exit on was closed because of road construction. But not to be too off from the route, the bus driver goes down the street after. The only problem with this is that it is a one way street. It doesnt seem to bother anyone else but me that cars are coming toward us. I guess they figure the bus is bigger.

Exiting another stop and with no clue as to what direction to walk, we follow some other people who look like they are heading toward the police (??!!). Sure enough, they are. I arrived around 9am with about 3 people in line ahead of me. At my turn, I tell the guy I am here about my permesso. He tells me my appointment isnt until July 30, 2008 (at 12:18pm). I explain (well, actually, Marco explains) that my Visa, my insurance and my apartment contract all expire in April and if I wait until July (at 12:18pm), I will have to provide them all new paperwork and fill out the forms again.

He is not in the least bit phased by my plea. He tells us that the Italian Government is messed up (really, what was your first clue?!) and there is nothing that can be done to expedite my appointment but that I am good to go until that date. He is not going to budge. And since he is the number giver to get into the building to wait for help, my mission has been aborted.

There you have it....within 5 minutes, I have been summarily dismissed and am on my way back to the island. I have to say I am not really comfortable with this arrangement but since there are a million other people in Italy like me (literally) walking around with appointments at 12:18pm, I will just go with it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Do Not Touch

As an American, I see signs occasionally that say "Do Not Touch". Usually, they are in museums and stores that have lots of glass items. But Venice has taken this command to a new limit. I think they are trying to see how much a consumer can do without touching any products. Of course, I find this completely ironic; if you confined the hands of a Venetian (and I assume most Italians), they would become mute--its impossible for them to say anything without using hand gestures.

My first experience at the Do Not Touch 'law' happened at the Rialto fruit and vegetable market (and all other open air markets). You can look all day long and you can ask the vendor to give you so much of any product, but you cant touch any of it. Dont even think of checking to see if those plums are ripe or you will get a tongue lashing (with hand gestures for good measure). Its really impossible to buy fruits and vegetables without touching them. So, I go to the grocery store for these items. As long as I comply with their hygiene rule and place a plastic glove on my hand (conveniently provided for you), I can touch and squeeze and pick all I want. So there.

Next, leather. Alot of people who visit Venice (and Italy) like to go home with a new leather item (purse, wallet, suitcase, etc.). But, you cant touch them. Make yourself at home and stare at them all day long, but dont even think about taking them off the shelf by yourself. If you ask for help to see an item, they will hand you the leather but you can feel the trepidation in the air. So, I have learned to go to the leather stores that are staffed by the Asians. They have absolutely no problem with you touching, opening, closing, testing the products before you buy (and they are the exact same ones the Venetians are guarding).

Finally, shoes. This is beyond comprehension. I totally get that vendors dont want you squeezing their fruit and ruining it. And I totally get the fear of scratching the leather before it is sold to someone. But, for the life of me, I dont understand why I cant touch a shoe on display. Case in point. I was walking around last night and stopped in a shoe store to check out the winter options. There was a sign that forbade me to touch the shoes. But there was a rack of shoes and one of them interested me. So, gingerly with one finger, I tilted the shoe to see if it was a heel or a flat. Turns out it was a heel and therefore not of interest to me. I meandered over to another display and was rudely greeted by a sales clerk who answered my question of size options with much disdain. So, I went back to the shoe rack and before I made it over there, the male clerk stepped in front of me, with hands on hips, and informed me in Italian that I was not allowed to go back to the shoe rack because I had touched the shoes! I kid you not. Stunned doesnt even begin to explain my reaction. And because this is a public arena, I wont tell you what I told him, but lets just say we both know I wont ever go back there!

Think of me next time you are in the store and you have your hands all over everything!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Big Day was a big day for me. Of course, after you read this you may be wondering what is so great about THAT but, trust me, little strides make all the difference in the world when you live in a foreign land.

So, first, I mustered my courage and decided to go back to that infamous cafe where I hit my head 2 months ago (2 months to the day by the way). I steadied myself outside the viscious glass door and gingerly opened it allowing more than enough room between it and me. Success! I am now able to enjoy some of the best cappuccino and brioche con crema around! I feel like I just graduated college or something....what an accomplishment....I can actually open a glass door and not hurt myself.

Second, after 5 months, I have received my official Codice Fiscale credit card ID. This is a computer generated ID that everyone has to have in order to do anything around here. I would probably liken it to a Social Security number in the US. To get any services like internet or phone, you need it. To buy a car or a house, you need it. And sometimes you just need it because they ask (which by now should not be surprising to anyone). I have been carrying around my paper copy of the card since I got here and actually just made a copy of it last week because it was getting so fragile. But now, no worries....I have the official card from the government! Lets hope Mondays visit to the police about my Permisso goes half as well as today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Driving in Venice

So, I was standing at the water bus stop yesterday and something happened that I never saw before. The vaparetto driver, overshot the bus stop. He was going way too fast and couldnt slow down enough for the gate person to throw the rope over the dock anchor and draw him in.

That in itself was interesting to me since I had never seen it, but what happened next was more than amusing. Because he hit the bus stop docking station, he basically bounced off of it sideways and ended up halfway in the middle of the canal. His task was to back up and pull forward again closer to the dock. It was similar to needing to parallel park.

Have you every tried to parallel park a large boat? Perhaps its possible if you knew what you were doing, but add to that all the other traffic around you. Gondolas leaving the dock with a new set of tourists. Water taxis trying to get to their appointed destination. And supply/delivery boats trying to get around so they can dock also. Remember, there are no street lines in the water...every man for himself.

It was chaos. Cats and dogs living together. The people on the vaparetto wondering if they will ever get to exit. People on the dock wondering if they should just walk. And people on gondolas wondering if they are going to get hit. It took more than one attempt to get it right and it goes without saying that the boat was more than a few minutes late.

If you translate what happened on the water to a road/car situation, you would have easily had an 8 car pileup and a headline story for the 5pm news. Instead, I imagine that the most that will be shared about this event is some ribbing from coworkers once they hear about his motoring skills. In his defense, I guess we could be say that no one was hurt and he provided me a short story for my blog...thanx guy!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Getting Old and Rain

No, I am not making a reference to myself. Other than a few aches and pains from constant walking, I feel better than I have in years. Instead, I am referring to Venice itself.

But when one gets to be 1,555 years old, things start falling apart. And in this case, I mean it literally. Last Saturday at 2:10pm, a 20 inch long, 66 pound piece of marble fell from the Doge's Palace. Only one person, a German tourist, was slightly wounded. For any of you who have been to St. Marks Square in the middle of the afternoon, know that this is a miracle in itself. With the hords of people, its a wonder several didnt go to meet their maker. The block of marble broke off from the window of the "Maggior Consiglio", the biggest window in the Doge's Palace, which faces St. Mark's Basin. The cause of the accident is unknown, but early guesses include the recent rains and the change in temperature between day and night. Mayor Massimo Cacciari is very worried. "It's an important signal," Cacciari announced. "Venice needs money for these kinds of restorations."

And speaking of rain....on September 26, Venice and the mainland experienced one of their most dramatic meteorological occurrences. An exceptional cloudburst, which lasted through the night until mid-morning, brought Venice and many municipalities of the province to their knees. I wrote about this rain last week here, but had no idea it was truly that big of deal for the Venetians as well. There was total paralysis affecting traffic and every other activity: hundreds of cars were submerged underwater along the roads on the mainland, and underground car garages were buried under several feet of water and mud. In the course of six hours, rainfall totalled 12 inches!! This is amazing since the total annual mean of rainfall here is about 31 inches. The governor of Veneto proclaimed a state of natural disaster!