Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 08/04/10
IBERIA2001 #55 Venezia in October
Marcia drove the 95 miles directly north to Milano and the GPS took us northwest to get to Dimitrii's house in Arese at 9:15 (a 2 hour drive). We unloaded the car and it was emotional this time because it was for the very last time. You wouldn't believe the amount of junk we had amassed after three months. We spread it out in our guest room and all over Tania's living room, as we had done last year. Now it was Marcia's goal to get it all consolidated so that they would actually let us on the plane. When we got in the house little Anastasia played a song for us on the piano; she was very good. This time she gave her godfather a real hug and a kiss. Dimitrii was still in Paris and on the phone he said it was rather cool and drizzly. We recommended he go to dinner at Pied de Cochon in the Des Halles district. Tania prepared us a wonderful dinner and it was sure neat having a home-cooked meal for a change. We had lox and salami antipasti, then spaghetti bolognese and pork roast with gelati for dessert. By now it was midnight and I went up to Dima's computer to send out Chapter 46 and do real email for a change but it was still on AOL Anywhere and just as slow. I finally gave up and went to bed at 4 AM.
I woke up at noon and today is the day we had scheduled in July with BMW to have Harms pick up the car since it has to be driven back to Munich and then shipped. We organized our packing and I called the Harms agent. The guy went slightly ballistic because in July (I had forgotten) we had told him we would be at the Hotel Buenos Aires in Milano and they had been trying to reach me there for 3 days. I told him we had a change in plans and apologized. He said Fritz was driving from Munich to Milano to pick up two BMWs and he would have to have him call me to make arrangements and get directions to Arese. This all made me a little tense, so at 3:30 I went out for my run in Arese and when I was done I returned to my old haunt, the Il Gran Cafe for a cappuccino and a crossword. On the way back it was a little chilly so I ran back instead of walking and as I passed Dimitrii's new house (under remodeling) I went inside to see how things were doing. My impression is that they had a lot of work to do and I didn't think they would be moving in in mid November as he was told. When I got back I did some more packing and email and then Tania brought us all a pizza. The Harms guy was supposed to get to Arese by 6 PM so we could catch the train to Venezia. He called and said he got hung up and would be late, so now we had the upper hand. We told him he could arrive whenever he wanted and could pick up the car from Tania. He was forced to accept this and we gave the key and papers to Tania so he could take the car. We each packed our one separate bag for our train trip and at 8:15, Mario, our driver picked us up and got us to the central Milan train station by 8:40. Trains for Venezia leave every hour but the last one goes at 9 PM. We paid for the tickets and then it was real trouble finding out which track it was leaving on. We finally found it and boarded the train at 8:50 and it took off at 9:05. After crossing Italy and the bridge to Venezia we arrived in the station at 11:55 and it was dark, drizzly and cold so we opted for the expensive water taxi which took us directly to the door of our hotel for $50 after cruising down the Grand Canal. We checked into the Star Splendid Suisse at 12:30 and got our bags unpacked to relax for the next 3 days and see what Venezia is like in the fall. We wandered over to Piazza San Marcos and the place was like in the movies, very quiet and very few people; exactly what we were hoping for. It was 1 AM when we sat down at one of the places in the piazza (Gran Caffe Chioggia) outdoors that was still playing live music. While the sax player combo played "New York, New York" and "My Way," we drank some vino rosso and made dinner of a couple of panninis (sandwiches). As they closed down and the people started departing, we left and walked our way back to the hotel and got to bed at 4 AM.
I woke at 1:30 PM all excited to run through Venezia without all the crowds of summer. This is the whole reason we came here; to see Venezia in the non-tourist time. This is the 96th day of our trip and the impending sense of returning home is both pleasant and foreboding, with all that has gone on recently. By 3:15 I started my run from the hotel toward St. Mark's Square and as I started down the street it became practically impossible to run because of the crowds plying through the narrow streets. I figured it would thin out once I got into the Square but boy, was I wrong. The entire place was as crowded with people as I remember it was in July when were here the last two times. The Venice Marathon is tomorrow so they had ramps set up on all the bridges but that didn't help me because most of them were blocked off. Running was very difficult because of the crowds until (like the previous times) I got past the 4th bridge and up near the park. Later I asked people and they said Venezia is "always like this." I stopped and had a perfect cappuccino at Bar Romina e Sara near one of the bridges. I had gone past many places I had seen before and it was nice knowing I didn't have to be a tourist, but instead just be a visitor and enjoy the ambiance. On the way back I bought a pin and a T-shirt for Kaylin then I walked back to the room and changed. I took my computer to a nice little place where I could sit and relax and finish off diario Chapter 47 and Chapter 48. The cappuccino was great and woke me up. We are farther east now and in October, so dusk comes much earlier and more quickly. I got back to the hotel, got Marcia and we headed to find the internet cafe which was hidden behind tiny streets. I paid the $4.50 for 30 minutes online and trying to sign on I discover AOL has cut me off for the 4th time. So we gave up on that and at 8:00, walked to the Rialto bridge to find Bar Omnibus nearby where Gianni and Luigi, the owners, might be. We found out from Gianni's son that they had just left and since they were closed on Sunday, we wouldn't see them until Monday. We chatted with the sons and had proseco (Italian sparkly) and a pizza which was very good. They wouldn't let us pay for it. Gianni and Luigi are school mates of Gianni Paoletti, the owner of Peppone's Restaurant in Brentwood where we have hung out for the last 25 years. It was Paoletti who recommended we try the BMW European Delivery plan on our '97 trip to Italy, the best advice we ever got. When we were here in '97, it was Luigi that took Marcia and I on a boat ride through the canals and last year hooked us up with Ugo for a real romantic gondola ride. We then walked back to St. Mark's and through the square to Harry's Bar to enjoy again the outrageously priced Bellinis they are famous for. They invented the drink in this landmark restaurant (there is one in Century City but the Bellinis are lousy); it is made of freshly made white peach juice (with lots of smooth pulp) and champagne mixed together - they are fabulous. We each had two and the bill comes to $45. While sitting at the bar we struck up a conversation with a delightful couple from the wine region near Vienna, Austria named Edith & Gerhardt Reiter. Maybe we will visit them someday. They gave us their list of special restaurants in Venezia. We also watched a lady get bit in the face by her friends little dog that took a chunk of skin off her forehead. When I asked her if I could be of any help she asked me to mind my own business. We left there and headed toward Rialto again, looking for our favorite place from last year, Gondoli. As we arrived a little late they told us the kitchen was closed and they were not open on Sunday. Now we had to find a place still serving dinner after 10 PM. We went into one of tourist traps along the main street called Ristorante Al Calici at 1502 Frezzeria.
After vino bianco and aqua, I had spaghetti bolognese and lasagna while Marcia just had salmon and flan for dolce. The food was much better than we had expected under the circumstances. After an espresso we left and went hunting for an after-hours nightclub we were told about called Martini's. It was easy to find because there were stone signs in the pavement with arrows pointing the way. We walked in at 11:30 to hear a live music group playing good music. We went to the bar and had prosecos and the dancing by the beautiful people was so infectious we wound up dancing the night away until at least 2 AM when we finally called it a night and walked back to the hotel. What a fun and romantic evening in Venezia. We got to bed at 3 AM.
I woke at 9:30 and drug my carcass to 10:00 Mass at St. Mark's Cathedral for the first time (we were never there on a Sunday). I went to Ristorante Ai Falciani nearby outside for a cappuccino and did a crossword. I took some photos and walked back to the hotel and called AOL in the US and they told me that they not only shut me off but they had canceled my entire account totally but would reactivate it and gave me a new password - just incredible. So I raced over to the same internet place to use up my $4.50 and sent out Chapter 47 and read some email. When the half hour was done I signed off and went back to the hotel to change for my run at 3 PM. This time I ran in the other direction away from the touristy areas and made it through the back streets and bridges to the famous wooden bridge that crosses the Grand Canal to the Guggenheim Museum. As I crossed the bridge there was a guy on the bridge playing the shell game. I could easily tell which matchbox the pea was under because it caused the box to jiggle a little. I mentioned that to another man standing there next to a girl who was betting and he tried to urge me to make a bet. Being cautious, I pointed to my running attire and said I had no money. After a half hour of running on the other side, I began wondering if the guy was in cahoots with the other guy and when I came back and crossed the bridge, the same girl and guy were still there - I was right, they were both in on the con. As soon as I would have bet the pea would have changed. Glad my instincts are still sharp. Got back to the hotel at 4 and worked on photos and then went for a walk back to the place I went yesterday but he was just closing up shop and recommended I go to Rialto bridge to Mr. Sandwich. I got there and found a table and had two cappuccinos while working the computer. Two beautiful blond Italian girls sat next to me and were drinking proseco. I could understand their Italian very well as the glasses became emptier they became louder. I left there and went back to the internet place to send Chapter 47 photos and then met Marcia at the room at 8 PM and we left to find the Ristorante we were told was excellent on the other side of the Rialto bridge. We found Trattoria alla Madonna easily but had to get in a long line since they don't take reservations. After 20 minutes we were seated and let me tell you we were in heaven; the food laid out made me want to order everything I saw. I had a bier and Marcia a proseco and then we ordered a bottle of Merlot and aqua minerale con gas. For antipasti I had spaghetti bolognese and Marcia had crab meat in a crab shell both of which were fabulous. For main course I had bronzino and Marcia had veal Milanese and we both enjoyed some calamari fritti. For dolce annanas for me and chocolate cake for Marcia followed by limoncellos and an espresso for me. It was all so good that even though "servizio incluso" (tip is included in bill) I left some more. On the way back, Marcia went to the hotel while I walked to St. Mark's Square to listen to the live music from the outdoor cafe's that ring the Square. I sat at one place and had to order something so I had an Irish coffee which wasn't bad. As I went to leave the camera strap on the camcorder broke and the camera dropped on the pavement. Thank God nothing happened, not even a dent. As I approached the hotel, I remembered that I had left my camera bag where I was sitting and ran back like a madman because they were closing. I couldn't find it anywhere near the seat I was at but when I went inside a waiter had saved it for me - another close call. It had my batteries in it. I then walked back to the room and got to bed at 12:45.
I woke at 6 AM with the most vivid dream that I had already flown home (for what reason I don't know) by myself and I had to decide to fly back to get Marcia for the return trip. It was amazingly real and a sign that my brain was getting ready for the fun of flying home. I went back to sleep at 7 not to wake again until 10:30 and I felt completely rested which is unusual. By 1 PM we had packed our bags and checked out of the hotel and I did my run in a similar direction but really tried to get to Piazza Roma but I couldn't find it. I wound up in Piazza San Stefano and discovered another internet cafe so when I finished my run I went in there. This place was fantastic; at one end was a real cafe for coffee and lunch and at the other was a clean (no smoking) place with 40 brand new fast computers WITH A drives. It wasn't cheap but it was worth it. A great cappuccino and I sent out Chapter 48 and finished up a lot of email. At 2:30 I left there, walked back to the hotel, changed in the men's room and got our bags for the trip home. I didn't realize it at the time but while changing jackets where the bags were stored I left Dimitrii's cell phone on a ledge in the storeroom.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #56
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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