Thursday, May 29, 2014
Lagoon Islands, Italy
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you! Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium
The morning deliveries are coming in as we glide down the Grand Canal – just one stop, then we’ll walk to the north side of the island and catch the vaporetto for a 40 minute sail to the outer islands.
We get off at quiet Mazzorbo, where you can almost hear the grapes growing in the hush,
then cross the long bridge to Burano
for a quick cup of coffee and a short stroll beside the brilliant homes.
Then back on a boat for a 5 minute trip to Torcello, where this island nation began centuries ago, in the first millenium.
A nun is telling her class tales of their ancient heritage – what a privilege to go on a field trip in such an historic place!
We pass a few trattorias, grass trimmed, flowers abundant, tables ready for lunch-time diners, and come to the core of Torcello, with the 13th century church of Santa Maria Assunta. Inside, the exquisite byzantine mosaics are the star of the island – a beautiful piece of ancient history still intact.
Attila’s chair provides a convenient photo op, then we head back to Burano,
its bright colors quite a contrast to the quiet stones of Torcello. You’ve heard the tale, no doubt – these bright colors made it easy for returning fishermen to spot their own home as they returned from the sea.
Gatto Nero has our table ready, right by the canal,
and we feast on fresh seafood to our stomach’s content – here, Sarde in Saor, a lagoon specialty of fresh sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce.
More colors await us after lunch,
and a glance at the tilting tower of Burano’s church – doesn’t look like it’s any worse than last year!
The long ride back is a prime opportunity for a nap after that delicious lunch, then one more Venetian treat awaits – an evening cruise through the back lanes of San Marco and Castello neighborhoods, our multi-tasking gondolier telling us tales of the buildings we pass, crouching under bridges, chatting on his cell phone, pushing off a wall or two.
An intriguing sky shimmers across the water as we stroll by Saint Marks Basilica,
and as we walk to dinner we’re stopped time and again by the beauty of the sunset-blushed canals.
A light dinner is plenty after our abundant lunch,
and our perch beside the Giudecca Canal is the perfect place to take in the sunset as we dine.
There’s just nowhere like Venice, is there?!
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Burano &Venice, Italy
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you! Join us on a summer tour in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium
From the Fondamenta Nuove, rimming the northern edge of Venice, we catch the Vaporetto for a 45 minute ride to Burano, beginning our day ON the water.
It’s so clear today that we can see the snow- capped Dolomites in the distance – lovely!
Those playfully colorful houses of Burano will wait… we’re catching the little ferry for a five-minute ride to Torcello, the now almost deserted island where this lagoon republic began millenia ago after the sack of Rome. The barbarian hordes were spreading across the mainland, and refugees escaped to the lagoon, first settling in Torcello.
Walking down the canal to what is left of the settlement, it’s hard to imagine this desolate and quiet place as a busy trading center, alive with towers, docks, grand houses.
Beside a pretty little vineyard splashed with poppies is a grassy area sprinkled with old carvings, wellheads, and the so-called Attila’s throne, a stone chair.
Today all that is left of the glory days is a truly amazing church, begun in 639 – amazing on the inside, that is.
One of those places that you walk inside and are just astounded at what has endured for over a thousand years.
One one end of the church is a vast glittering mosaic of the Last Judgment, and at the other, above intricate mosaic floors is the high altar, with steep steps leading to the throne of the Patriarch of the church. A design we’ve never seen elsewhere – a meeting of eastern and western orthodoxy.
From the quiet of Torcello, we return to the bustle of Burano, snapping photos of the impossibly picturesque homes all the way to lunch at one of the island’s best, Gatto Nero.
It seems that it’s always laundry day when we’re in Burano… perhaps just because we’ve been fortunate enough to arrive on sunny days!
We fill up a canal- side table
and begin a feast of sea -and- lagoon- fresh tastes: scallops, tiny octopus, creamy cod, chunks of squid, several sizes and types of shrimp.
Are moeche in season? Yes? Oh please bring a platter! And we each get our own unique soft-shell crab of the lagoon – yum!
And then there’s the main course… a roasted branzino to share, expertly prepared, then deboned and plated for us.
Chef Ruggero comes out to make sure we’re enjoying our lunch – teasing us about all we’ve eaten!
Sated, we continue to take in the colors, meandering along to the dock for the ride home, on which we all fall asleep.
Before this evening’s concert we’re packing up, preparing for our transfer to Padova, just inland from Venice, tomorrow. As I pack I hear a beautiful aria broadcasting across the Campo San Zaccaria and look out the window…. a massive cruise ship is exiting Venice, bidding the city arrivederci with glorious music. You can’t hear the music – but take a look at that city- size ship beyond the buildings!
At 5 pm a long siren blasts through the city – the warning for Acqua Alta (high water), a more- and- more frequent problem in Venice. We stop for a light dinner on the way to the concert, and ask our server for details, watching the adjacent shop- keeper slip a metal barrier into his front door.
Knowing that Piazza San Marco, on which our guest’s hotel, the lovely Concordia, is located, is the lowest part of the city, we discuss our evening plans as we dine. High tide, when the water will be deepest on the Piazza, is at 10:15. Do we still want to go to the 9 pm concert, knowing that it may be impossible to avoid the high water on the way home? Of course no one wants to miss Vivaldi, Venice’s pride and joy, so we opt to go for the first half of the concert, hoping to find a dry patch to get home before 10. As we approach we watch the water trickling relentlessly up between the stones and overflowing the canal beside the church of San Vidal, where the Interpreti Veneziani prepares to play.
This Venice – based group never disappoints, and as the shuddering strings of Vivaldi fill the historic church (with a gorgeous Carpaccio of St. Vidal himself above the altar), the water rises outside.
I offer to stay with one guest who really wants to hear the remainder of the concert, but the others convince him to return to the hotel.
It may not be quite high tide yet, but as we descend a bridge to a knee-deep pond where a clearing used to be, we laugh and do like the rest of the walkers (those who don’t have knee or hip boots on over their suits) and roll up pants legs, take off shoes, and splash through to the dry sidewalk beyond.
There are certainly high and low patches, and it’s warm enough that we’re not chilled as we walk through the knee-deep water,
pausing once and again for photos.
Sure enough Piazza San Marco’s the deepest… and some people are just sitting at the flooded tables, watching the show!
We make it without a mishap, up the gangplank into Hotel Concordia. Yes, we started the day ON the water, and ended it IN the water due to this very unusual springtime Acqua Alta (which more normally occurs in the winter). The combination of a full moon, high tide, and a strong scirocco wind from Africa brought this just for us – what a memory!