Thursday, March 30, 2006

Venice, Italy.

A small Caprihana at the Westin bar, Canalside…14.50EU ($17.40)...
A Single Cappuccino at a café in San Marco Square…9.50EU ($11.40)...
A one way Private Water Taxi for two from the airport to San Marco Square (approximately 4 km)….90EU ($108)...
Watching Pigeon-phobic girl freak out in San Marco Square while her friends sprinkle her with bird feed and the Pigeons swarm….Priceless

I have the slightest urge to say that Venice is a tourist trap, not because it has been an unpleasant place to visit, but because of the outrageous number of tourists and the exorbitant prices that are charged. That aside, it really is a beautiful and romantic city, literally a maze of alleys and canals, and no cars. It is a unique place, a place like no other that I have seen. If you can get past the throngs of tourists, and explore an alley and discover an empty square all on your own, this makes life all the better.

I am upset, though, that some of these establishments get away with charging these outrageous prices. I mean, $17 for a small cocktail? Geez, good thing it was a strong one, because when the bill came, the buzz from the booze made the shock of the price not as..well, shocking.

So, to keep with our budget, we took to searching out the good deals. Typically, better prices are found farther away from San Marco Square. I even made it my mission to find one of three grocery stores in town that I knew of, which wasn’t entirely easy. It seems so interesting to me, that there are so few supermarkets.

Does anyone actually live here?

Supposedly, the population of Venice dwindles as the city sinks, and as the amount of tourist’s increase. I actually think that the city, on a given day, has more tourists than locals. I can definitely understand why the locals might want to flee. Rising waters aside, I would want to get the heck out if my city was invaded by thousands of map-wielding, loud and lost people on a daily basis. It almost seems like the city was made solely for the tourists, which I know is not entirely true, but it seems difficult to find the amenities that you would normally find in a city setting. (like Dental Floss and Visine for instance…)

So, we opted for exploring the maze like alleys and the Modern & Asian Art Museums over waiting in lines and paying high price to see some of the Churches and other major sights here. I feel like, for me, seeing a city isn’t all about seeing the insides of all the churches, but seeing how the culture behaves and experiencing it through sitting outside a Café in a square where Musicians are playing, and the music is reverberating off the buildings just perfectly, or getting so turned around by the mazes of alleys and discovering a cute Café in the process..

Even on a budget, I realize that one of best things about Italy is the food. Some of the simplest and cheapest meals have been the best ones:
* A Panini sandwich, for instance, toasted, with Prosciutto, Tomato, Cheese and Arugula…and the best part, a drizzle of Truffle Oil.
* Gelato. Pistachio and Stracciatella (chocolate chip)…need I say more??
* Breakfasts have included a good pull of Espresso and Sweet Raisin Bread Rolls from this great little bakery that we discovered.
* After three days of finding this one pastry shop, with great looking hunks of Torrone (nougat) in the window, closed, today I made it my mission to ‘happen’ by it one more time. This time, it was open. So, I bought a sizeable chunk..with almonds. I was not disappointed.

* Many of these little sidewalk to-go type Cafés sell these wraps, which are basically like a rolled up Pizza, with a spicy Salami, Arugula and Cheese. For the last two nights, we have had these, grab and go style, while we walked around the canals..
* And Today, I had my first Italian Pizza. Bianco style, which means hold the tomato sauce, just give me Cheese and..more Cheese, Per Favore. Grazie.

After giving ourselves a few days to get into the rhythm of Venice; to submerge ourselves into the crowds, and weave ourselves out of them, I am able to say, that despite all of the people, we really had a pleasant and relaxing stay here. I think that a little bit of the Italian Culture, in its slowness, has rubbed off on us. It helped too, that all of T’s travels in the past have paid off in the form of hotel points. We were able to redeem some here and enjoy a great room with a great view, where after long days getting lost in the alleys, exploring and braving the crowds, here, in our home away from home..there was peace.

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