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How Do You Know They Are Not Killers? — An Italy Trip Report

How Do You Know They Are Not Killers? — An Italy Trip Report

Old Apr 19th, 2011, 10:51 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
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"pausing to tour the Billa supermarket as if it were a museum."

Now, is't that the truth! No Bellinis, except in bottles, though! No Titiians, except in hair colouring!

Your report is just terrific.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 03:44 AM
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Eager for more!
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 05:12 AM
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This is delicious ellenem, thank you. Following vicariously in your footsteps.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 06:06 AM
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Eagerly awaiting the next installments! Great report with lots of details and a wonderful way with words. Are you going to post any of your pictures? It sounds as if you are getting some unique shots.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 06:54 AM
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Lovely, ellenem! I feel as if I am walking along with you as I read!

Do you journal when you travel?
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 07:06 AM
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This is terrific.

You can write.

You have good travel intuitions. Seeing Venice by seeing churches is one of them. We sort of did the same thing in Rome last fall by visiting the churches and monuments in our old art history Janson books.

You are not afraid to take "risks" on a board that often seems devoted to avoiding risks.

You have a sense of adventure in choosing restaurants and gelato flavors! Not all meals can be life changing.

You figured out public transportation right away (well, on a previous visit, maybe) and so you experience some of the place the way a local resident might.

I can't wait for more!
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 08:27 AM
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Thanks for all the nice thoughts. There will be photos — have to upload them to my Shutterfly site — though I often forget to take photos. Contrary to my journaling (yes, I end each day by writing about it), I don't feel the need to have my photos show exactly what I did on vacation. I need to be inspired by something to take a photo.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 08:49 AM
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During our two weeks in Venice we found our Chorus Pass to be very rewarding . It forced us to travel to different areas of the city and the art we saw often had been created for the location where it is hung.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 09:36 AM
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 01:34 PM
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Thanks for the great report, I'm really enjoying it. I haven't thought about going to Venice, where I have only been once before, but this is making it sound pretty tempting.
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 01:42 PM
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DAY 3: Tuesday, 22 March 2011 -- Venice

Dead Chickens, Fish Innards, and a Phoenix

After breakfast, Sandro confirms that we will move to a bigger room today, so we should pack our bags and leave them in our current room. The hotel staff will make the move. Then he asks in a skeptical tone, “How WAS the planetarium?” He goes on to explain that the planetarium is the idea of these two guys and they don’t have much money and maybe it wouldn’t be good — exactly my original thoughts! I assure him that it was nicely designed and a good presentation.

We had hoped to begin our day with a visit to the Museo di Storia Naturale (Museum of Natural History) near our hotel, but arrive to find that, contrary to the information in my guidebook, it is not open today. So we switch plans and visit the Church of San Giacomo Dell’Orio, which is nearby in the campo of the same name. I think of this as our “local” campo, less than five minutes walk from the hotel, our own corner of Santa Croce. There’s a pastry shop, a small Coop supermarket, another small food store, a few good restaurants, and you’ll always find some local people on a bench or some kids playing.

The Church of San Giacomo Dell’Orio is a church dedicated to St James, the namesake of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The church itself is a lovely proportion with morning sunlight streaming into various chapels, enhanced by the chant-y choral music that is playing. The brochure provided gives good descriptions about most of the art, but I find even more incredible stories inspiring two of the paintings in the book, “Secret Venice.” (Thanks to Fodorite Peter_S_Aus for this recommendation.)

One painting shows the dead/sleeping Virgin being borne away, with the severed hands of a non-believer clinging to her sarcophagus, the non-believer on the ground below with arms as raised stumps. He dared to disbelieve her sainthood. Quite an image.

The other image looks like a dinner party, circa 500 years ago. However, the two chickens in the center of the table that have been cooked for dinner are about to come back to life, thanks to St James, to help prove a young traveler innocent of theft. The randy innkeeper’s daughter caused the fellow to be wrongly accused so that he would have to remain in the area.

Reforming our plan again we head toward the Riva del Biasio vap stop, stopping along the way at the Church of San Giovanni Decolleto (St John Beheaded). The church is not open, but we pause and I share another story from “Secret Venice” about the legend of Biasio, the Sweeney Todd of Santa Croce. Then we catch the #51 boat and ride around the unseemly side of Venice, but with the advantage that in just a few stops we are deposited at Zattere on the other side of town. Since we are right there, we duck into another Chorus Pass church, the Gesuati. Rococo and simplistic at the same time, nothing here strikes my fancy in a big way. I have a favorite church in the neighborhood I’m really looking forward to visiting.

Taking a route past the San Trovaso Squero, we’re heading for another Chorus Pass church, San Sebastiano. I have a happy memory of my first visit there, of the newly restored space and the beautiful Veronese ceiling. It had been a complete and memorable surprise to me at the time. But when we arrive, there are notices warning visitors of renovations. Most of the inside is draped in scaffolding. The ceiling paintings have been completely removed to a lab for restoration. The one benefit: the gaping openings expose the ancient roof structure to view. Fortunately, the sacristy is intact, a lovely little room with some paintings that were enjoyable to see.

Since it is nearby, we also stop at the Church of Angelo Raffaello, with no idea what to expect. Another apocryphal story, the church honors the book of Tobit. In the story, the angel Raphael, a boy Tobias, and his dog experience a miracle with a large fish, or, rather with the fish innards. Different parts of the fish cure husband-killing demons and blindness. (Who knew?) A number of paintings in the church show Tobias with his dog and fish. The best part: the organist was playing during our entire visit.

Thanks again to Peter_S_Aus, we have lunch nearby at Osteria di San Barnaba. Just as described, Pop welcomes us to a table while Mom is busy in the kitchen. We begin by sharing a delicious gnocchi with duck sauce. For second, P has coniglio veneta (rabbit with cherry tomatoes and parsley) and I have polpetti di manzo (meatballs) in a bright tomato sauce with grilled polenta. (52€)

We decide we’ll have dessert later and walk back to the hotel through San Polo. Along the way, through shop-lined streets, P comments that after just 2.5 days we must have seen at least 3,000 masks. Shall we estimate our mask total for our eight days?

Sandro shows us our new room on the third floor. It is twice the size of the other, really a room for four, a day bed with trundle bed beneath in addition to our beds and the table and chairs. This extra space to spread out will be wonderful for the remaining six nights. Our new view is over the garden behind the hotel.

After a little rest, we stop for dessert at Gelateria Alaska. The owner remembers us from the other day and we discuss the purity of his flavors – he hardly uses any dairy — as we enjoy our cups. (P: Carote and Zenzero; E: Zenzero and Mandorla) Really good — we will be back.

From Ferrovia, we catch the #2 boat to Vallaresso and then walk to La Fenice to do the self-guided free tour. We discover that, contrary to what we were told yesterday, today there is a rehearsal, so we can still tour but must pay 12€ each. This is not much of a problem because once in the theater an attendant unlocks a box door and we have front seats in a private box on the royal box level — a glorious view of the stage and the theater itself. Half of the boxes on our level have occupants.

We have joined a dress rehearsal of “Rigoletto” at the beginning of Act 3. We’re just in time to hear “La donna e mobile” in the theater for which it was written. The staging is spare and dark in color and nature, the singers dressed in contemporary clothing. The singers and orchestra proceed straight through the act, with the occasional appearance of a stagehand or director wandering into view on the stage to check something even as the music continues. At the finale, there is a smattering of applause from the audience, a five-minute break, and then the four principals repeat a particular scene. It is obvious that this repetition is about the staging, because we can barely hear the singers who we heard so clearly before. They are saving their voices for the real performance. After this, the orchestra begins to leave, but the company returns to the stage to practice their curtain calls.

Eventually we are chased from the box and the door is locked behind us. We begin our audiotour in earnest with the others who were in the audience. There are 15 different stations on various levels, including the royal box. The narration gives the history of the building, through its many fires and its most recent reincarnation. We both thought the tour was pretty interesting and worthwhile.

After La Fenice, we notice the free exhibit, “Vivaldi and His Music,” at the nearby Church of San Maurizio. It seems like this exhibit is mainly as a venue to sell Vivaldi concert tickets and CDs, but there are a good number of antique string instruments on display and information about how they are made to catch our interest. We haven’t crossed the Accademia Bridge yet, so we decide to climb it, enjoy the iconic view, and walk back to the hotel via Dorsoduro and San Polo.

We’ve been having trouble finding postage stamps for our postcards at tabacchi. I ask Sandro if this practice has been discontinued, and he explains that the owners of the tabacchi shops are supposed to sell stamps, but have become unwilling to do so. The stamps are the equivalent of currency, and unfortunately there have been a number of robberies of stamps. It’s become too big a risk with little reward.

Dinner is at Muro Pizza e Cucina practically around the corner from the hotel. The décor is modern clean lines, and the menu has some interesting choices. We begin by sharing a delicious pumpkin soup with shrimp, an unusual combination that works. P has tagliata di manzo (steak) in herb sauce and I have carpaccio di manzo with shaved parmigiano, arugula, and carciofini. P protests that he is eating too much, but then orders a dessert of semifreddo, while I have tiramisu. (58€)

Before going back to the room, I check my email. I have messages from the Fodorites who are already in Venice, checking in before our dinner on Saturday.

TOMORROW: More Dead Animals and a Colorful Afternoon
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Old Apr 20th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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Since we are right there, we duck into another Chorus Pass church, the Gesuati. Rococo and simplistic at the same time, nothing here strikes my fancy in a big way>>

you weren't blown away by the marble curtains, swags and tassles then? we thought they were great, especially DS who insisted that we visit a 2nd time when we were just going past, to have another look!

loving your report, BTW!
annhig is online now  
Old Apr 20th, 2011, 04:36 PM
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You are thinking of a different church, the Gesuiti near Fondamenta Nuova in Cannaregio/Castello. We go there a different day. This was the GesuAti, on Zattere in Dorsoduro.
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 07:28 AM
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I think Venice (and any other place one vacations) is what you make of it. Even the most obscure, innocuous town can offer big rewards depending on your attitude.

Many complain of the crowds and commercialism of Venice, but because we spent much of our time off the beaten path, the crowds we encountered were a surprise, even jarring. Vacationing off-season also helped.
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 08:52 AM
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Thank you for a lovely report so far! I'm planning my firs trip to Italy, and Venice will be the first stop. I love the hotel, and that is already on my short list
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 01:18 PM
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DAY 4: Wednesday, 23 March 2011 — Venice

More Dead Animals and a Colorful Afternoon

We’re ready to set out by 8:00AM on yet another beautiful day, so I ask Walter where the nearest post office to get some stamps. He suggests the post office in Campo San Polo and so we wind our way through shop-lined streets just coming to life. We note the location of the restaurant Vecio Fritolin as we pass and study its menu. This restaurant is on my list as well as the list of the woman from Gelateria Suso. We also spot some interesting pastries in a few different shops and vow to return. At this hour, the post office is empty. Mission accomplished.

After a roundabout walk through San Polo and Santa Croce, we return to the Museo di Storia Naturale. We had some confusion at the entrance and end up paying 4.50€ to enter, only to discover when we’re done that the museum is part of our museum pass. (P and I agree that we mentioned our museum passes and the staff was unhelpful.) We climb one flight up to the main level to find a very modern display of dinosaur bones and fossils and excavations with didactic panels in Italian only. The display is cleverly done, with hands-on opportunities and dramatic lighting. A school group of 9-year-olds is touring this section, so we find ourselves hurrying to the next room each time the school group arrives.

The next section moves forward in time (but really back in time) to the display area on which the museum was established, the exploration and “conservation” methods of 150 years ago. Walls of display cases feature artifacts from African explorations and plenty of taxidermy — many animal heads and other dismembered animal parts mounted high on the wall. Then I step into one small dimly-lit room and find myself surrounded by a great variety of animals stuffed and standing, facing the center of the room. As their glittering glass eyes meet my gaze, I feel accused and hurry from the room.

We reach another section, a connection between this old section and what appears to be a new display. There’s a fun computer/table/projector we play with for a few minutes that shows shared characteristics of animals. Then we turn the next corner to discover that the rest of this new area (about half the entire museum) is closed and has been under renovation since 2008. Disappointing. Back on the ground floor there is an aquarium of lagoon fish and a display of a whale skeleton, and we are done.

We hop across the Grand Canal at San Stae to Ca D’Oro and have a quick lunch at Trattoria Ca D’Oro “Alla Vedova,” choosing a few cicchetti to share: baccalá mantecato, breaded fried meatballs, and assorted vegetables, including beans and artichoke hearts. (19€) I’d never tried baccalá mantecato because I thought it was made with a huge amount of mayonnaise. Then I read this blog by a writer who had the same fears. It’s just fish and olive oil and, as the writer describes, tastes like butter.

Our plan is to spend the afternoon on Burano and Torcello, so before taking the long boat ride, we fortify ourselves at nearby Gelateria Ca D’Oro. (P: Tiramisu and Pistachio; E: Bacio and Malaga)

As we stroll to Fondamenta Nuove to catch the LN boat to Burano and Torcello, I recount for P my last visit to Torcello with our mutual friend, another P. The adventure is an interesting story with an unlikely ending. Scroll down to near the end of this thread to read about it.

We catch the LN vaporetto from Fondamenta Nuove and ride across the lagoon for 30 minutes to Burano. We have a good view of some dredging near our route. It’s a clear day so we can also see the airport and the snow-capped Dolomites in the distance. We arrive at Burano and immediately make the switch to the T vaporetto to Torcello. The boat is quite crowded, but once we land and walk along the canal to the center of Torcello, the crowd thins. After days of the close tight alleys of the main island, it is a pleasure to walk in the sun along this path, beside grassy fields just coming into spring bloom. This island is where Venice began, and here we will visit some of its oldest buildings.

We make a brief visit to the simple church of Santa Fosca, but quickly opt to concentrate on the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta. We approach the entrance – there is a booth on the left with Woman A Woman B gestures to a doorway on the right, just as the Woman A hurries through the doorway. Inside this room, Woman A sells us tickets (5€ per person) to the church, and now we return to the Woman B who punches our ticket. P and I share a glance, commentary on the convoluted nature of the ticketing system. Considering the crowds on the boat, we are surprised to have the basilica all to ourselves. I love mosaics, and the amazing Last Judgment here is one of my favorites — heaven, hellfire, and plenty of gold. Eventually more people enter, and the spell is broken.

Knowing that the T vaporetto has a limited schedule, we snap some photos of Venice “country” but keep our eyes on the clock. We hop the next T back to Burano and spend some time wandering the streets away from the main drag. As we walk, I wonder if the residents find it tiresome to have tourists snapping photos of their colorful houses. It’s obvious that some must have adjusted to the idea since so many have attractive flowerpots and other features that make their homes even more photogenic. I’m also fond of the variety of laundry, the colors of the laundry against the colors of the house, the changing shapes as it shifts in the breeze. I suspect that some people have chosen particular bathmats and towels just to enjoy that particular color hanging on their clothesline in contrast to their home.

After a long crowded ride back to Fondamenta Nuove, we stop at the Church of the Gesuiti. The front facade of the church is imposingly white as we approach. But inside . . . I’ve been to the Church of Gesú in Rome, so I’ve seen the Jesuit taste for opulence. Still, the interior of this church is difficult to imagine without seeing it. Imagine a boldly patterned fabric used to line the walls and columns and even parts of the floor of a large church. Imagine how the fabric would have to wrap the various parts and how a skillful seamstress would have to work diligently to match the patterns where they meet. Then imagine this same concept, but created not from soft fabric but cold, hard marble. The same pattern used on flat walls wraps around curved columns and up and over the altar steps. Even the pulpit has sweeps of marble draperies with marble tassels in the pattern. The baldachino over the altar has spiral columns reminiscent of Bernini’s baldachino at St. Peter’s in Rome. Sometimes when I see a space like this, all I can think of is the amount of time, the years it must have taken to accomplish. And money.

We decide to do some Chorus Pass church hopping and walk to the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli. What an incredible contrast. This is a simple but beautiful space. The façade reflects the interior. P and I are the only visitors and we just sit and smile inside this little jewel box with its delicate color and carvings. My guidebook mentions that this is a favorite church for weddings, for its size and beauty.

We try to add one more church before closing time, but arrive at Santa Maria Formosa just too late. Since we’re close by, we visit a different kind of museum — the Ratti housewares and appliance store at the south end of Salizzada San Lio. We poke through the hardware and kitchenware, but are most intrigued by the miniscule washing machines upstairs. We walk back to the hotel through the dying light for a little break, up and over the Rialto bridge, tourists snapping photos, Venetians walking double-fast to get home from work.

Tonight our dinner at Vecio Fritolin will be more of a splurge. Many items on the menu had attracted our attention, so we’d eaten a lighter lunch in anticipation of a multi-course dinner. The front dining room is cozy with just a few occupied tables. P begins with fresh tagliatelle with duck and chestnuts, while I choose grilled large shrimp with baby artichokes. For secondo I have the same duck and chestnut pasta — totally worth it — and P has frittura mista of seafood — fish, squid, eeny teeny octopus, large and small shrimp. I chose a quarto of prosecco to go along with this variety of foods. We continue to indulge with dessert — P has crème brulee and I have vin santo with a lovely variety of biscotti. (110€ — this was the only bill we received that had a line item for a 10% service charge already included.)

Tired and well-fed, it is a thankfully short walk to our hotel. I think to myself— This is a great vacation!

TOMORROW: There Are 117 Churches in Venice
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 01:38 PM
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What a lovely report. Thank you.
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Old Apr 21st, 2011, 01:50 PM
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of course ellenem you are quite correct - the church that so captivated us - and you as you show with your fantastic description of it - is the Gesuiti. thanks for putting that straight - I would hate anyone to miss it due to my error.

thanks also for posting the link to your story about the lost bag, and the link to the living venice blog. one question - isn't the bacala-mantecato specifically made with SALT cod?
annhig is online now  
Old Apr 21st, 2011, 06:35 PM
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Most other recipes I've seen did mention salt cod rather than fresh cod.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2011, 10:25 AM
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DAY 5: Thursday, 24 March 2011 -- Venice

There Are 117 Churches in Venice

After our afternoon in “the country,” today’s plan is to visit more churches and finally visit the Basilica of San Marco. Estimates vary, but I’ll accept the total provided by the author of this interesting and comprehensive web site: There are 117 churches in Venice proper, and another 23 on the lagoon islands. By my count, we’ve already visited 11 — just 129 to go.

We arrive at the Church of San Polo before opening time, so we wander a bit, window-shopping in the neighborhood. P is attracted to the gated courtyard at Casa Goldoni, as I have been in all my years passing by. I’ve never gone in, because I have no idea who Goldoni was and I’ve never wanted to pay to find out. However, our museum pass gives us free admission, so in we go. We climb the steep, leaning stair to the second floor. There are only three rooms to see. The first has seats and a short video all about Goldoni. It’s playing in Italian, so we sit and watch it through, and then watch the English version. The museum was the family home and birthplace of Carlo Goldoni, an 18th century Venetian playwright, the author of some of Italy’s best-loved plays that moved Italian theater away from commedia dell’arte toward plays about real life. One room features display cases with puppets of the period and a large puppet theater. The other room features printed pieces and artwork about Goldoni, and a large table map of Venice that is a hands-on game to locate the many theaters in Venice during Goldoni’s time. A quick visit — I think we spent more time taking photos in the courtyard than viewing the displays. (On another floor there is an extensive archive and library of theater resources for scholars.)

At the Church of San Polo, I’m most interested in the oratory featuring stations of the cross by the younger Tiepolo. Unusual in style for the period and for the artist, most see these paintings as the artist’s only opportunity to NOT paint like his famous father. Oh, the family pressure of 250 years ago . . . The Church of San Giovanni Elemosinario is a surprise tucked in among the shops of the Rialto markets. I’ve passed this for years without realizing it was a church. I’m surprised by its brightness inside considering its constricted location. My favorite object: the ancient stone relief depicting a bull and donkey kissing baby Jesus.

We’ve been saving a visit to the Basilica of San Marco for a time when we could be there at midday when the complete interior is illuminated. (I’ve found varying info online, but the consensus seems to be that the lights are on 11:30AM–12:30PM.) We checked P’s backpack at the bag check around the corner and had barely any wait to get in. The line snaking out the front had more to do with visitors being sent away to check their bags or a slowdown climbing the steps. The ceiling is illuminated and we can see the glittering mosaics above us. I’m also attracted to the beautiful though undulating stone floors in geometric and animal designs. I’m nostalgic for the days of my first visits here, when one could just go in and roam about. Now visitors are herded through in a set direction. At least the low number of visitors at this time of year means there’s room to pause and examine details. We don’t feel the need to pay extra for the treasury, Pala D’Oro, or even the museum upstairs; this taste is enough for us.

A short walk away, we return to the Church of Santa Maria Formosa. I love the fact that “formosa” means both beautiful and buxom — this is the Church of Attractive, Shapely Mary. The church is high and light, with a feeling of open space. The standout art for me was Palma il Vecchio’s polyptych of St Barbara.

Tucked away on a small street nearby, we have lunch at Al Vecio Canton. I stumbled upon this place on a desperate rainy day during my previous Venice trip, and knew I would be a good place to grab a pizza. We arrive a bit early for lunch, but the sight of three gondoliers already lunching when we arrive confirms my choice. It is a restaurant as well as a pizzeria, but we choose pizza. P has cipolle (onion) while I have prosciutto and mushrooms. (26€)

To show P the political power of Venice, we visit the Palazzo Ducale. I’d taken the Secret Itineraries tour on my last visit, and explain this option, but he is happy to tour just the main sections of the palace that are included in the museum pass. (Personally, for me the Secret Itineraries tour had too much Casanova and not enough secrets.) We don’t opt for the audioguide, because I discovered on a previous visit that the lengthy didactic panels in each room are the same as the audioguide. If you don’t mind reading, you’ll do fine with the panels. As we tour the grand rooms, we’re noticing all the different clocks, perhaps influenced by our clock tower visit. In the Hall of the Senate, there is a clock that is numbered backward from the standard. This becomes a query for us online and in books for the remainder of the trip — Why is this backward? Anyone know?

Continuing today’s theme of churches, we take the #1 vap to Riva di Biasio to stop at Gelateria Alaska (P: Mandorla and Malaga; E: Limone and a magnificent Mandarina) before a quick walk to the Church of Madonna dell’Orto before it closes. I’ve admired the facade for years but always seemed to come by when the church was closed. This was Tintoretto’s neighborhood church and he contributed many works to its decoration. The church itself is named for a venerated Madonna statue, now in the sacristy but originally located in a nearby garden (orto). It is sad to see the empty frame of the stolen Bellini in the first chapel.

We vap hop across the Grand Canal to take a break at the hotel. Sandro asks how our week is going, and we mention that we’re enjoying this less touristy time of year. Sandro shares this information: 21 million people visit Venice each year. Of that number, 7 million (one-third) actually stay overnight in Venice hotels (not including the Mestre area). The remaining 14 million (two-thirds) visit just for one day. And the majority of those 14 million day-trippers visit between May and September — an incredible daily influx of tourist over a five-month period. I’ve tried to check his numbers, and have found yearly visitor estimates of 15-21 million, but all sources agree about the percentage of day-trippers during the busy months. This explains the crush of tourists along the main routes between Piazzale Roma, Ferrovia, Rialto, and Piazza San Marco during the summer. It is also the reasoning behind Fodorites desire to chose a hotel away from San Marco.

Osteria Trattoria Al Nono Risorto is close to the hotel and often recommend by Sandro and Walter for its simple, good food. We arrive just after 7:00PM opening, because if you wait any longer, you will join the line of locals and tourists waiting for a table. We skip their excellent pizza, and choose to begin by sharing a platter of grilled vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomato). P orders Penne alla Putanesca and I have Spaghetti al Scoglia (clams and mussels). We decide to have dessert as well, P has Tartufo in Amaretto (an ice cream bombe) and I have a really satisfying Torta della Nonna stuffed with lemon cream. (40€) After that meal, we really need our stroll around San Polo and Santa Croce before heading back to the hotel. P estimates our mask count has surpassed 10,000.

TOMORROW: Four Vineyards and a Funeral
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