Venice, Italy ::
No story could sum up today’s activity. As I’ve stated before, or maybe not, but I’ll say it now: One of the best ways to get to know a city is to walk around using the map as infrequently as possible. This game doesn’t making getting to any particular place any simpler, but it really yields an extremely accurate overall impression of a city’s ambience—good, bad, and ugly. Because of its labyrinthian network of streets and canals, Venezia was not one of the easiest cities in which to do this. But why not? We had time to kill; there was no reason not to spend the day just waltzing in and out of shops, cafes, and ristorantes. We did exactly that. The most predominant characteristic of this city, untainted by the toxins of buses, cars, or trucks was the wide array of aromas. Take a walk through the fresh produce markets on the west side of the Rialto Bridge and be surrounded by the strong fruit flavors of kiwi, orange, bananas, and even coconuts. Just around the corner lies one of the largest fresh seafood markets I have ever seen. Here lies such an abundance of of fresh crawfish, lobsters, crab, shrimp, and other fish that shop owners must throw leftovers that didn’t sell by the end of the morning in a giant heap. The winged locals make short work of that pile. A leisurely stroll down almost any street is rarely unaccompanied by wonderful fragrances of fresh bread baking in a private shop, or cheese from a vendor’s cart, or even more seafood aroma’s emitted from the extraordinary restaurant display cases. I was amazed the first time I saw one of these displays. They were so beautiful to look at. The food seemed to be still alive…then, upon my closer inspection, I learned that it truly was still alive. An occasional clam would peek open and quickly shut while lobsters’ antennae would search and grope in desperate search of the water they once knew.
We also spent a lot of time in the shops of Venice. Glasswork and theatrical masks were very popular. During the 10 days leading to Ash Wednesday, Venetians celebrate “Carnevale” by wearing extravagant masks and costumes while dancing in the streets. I bought one of these masks for my little sister, Jenni, in a tiny shop owned by a sweet, elderly Venetian woman. She was so cute and smiley! I was pretty satisfied for waiting to by the mask here. Paying 35,000 Lira to this woman made me feel 100 times more fulfilled than if I were to pay it to a young, snooty entrepreneur. I tossed (placed ☺) the carefully packaged—and gift wrapped—mask into our faithful purple day sack and carried it around for the rest of the day. Walk-stop-shop-walk-top-eat-repeat…could some up the rest of the day. I must catch up in this journal so I don’t need to generalize like this. We went home to drop off our sack of toys and ready ourselves for mastication. On our way back from our shopping sprees, we passed some great places to eat near the Rialto, along the Grand Canal. One small café served Tiramisú. We had been searching for this glorious dessert all day, therefore, this area shall be the evening’s feeding ground.
The atmosphere of this trattoria was filled with Italian temper and ferocity as two Italian men, who seemed to be the restaurant owner and a waiter, exchange malicious verbiage. The whole scene was entertaining. Yet slightly dissatisfying—economically—was the food, since the spaghetti with lobster I ordered was prepared, unmistakably, with imitation seafood. Tan(I’m in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze, where an Aro-Italian street vendor just strutted by. I made eye contact and we both exchanged intercultural salutations and a smile. What a special moment! Don’t forget to write about the amiable vendors in Firenze.) Although the food was dissatisfying, the second piatti of Pizza Prosciutto was filling and of course, the wine was just perfect. Without surprise, we lingered over dinner for a while and culminated the experience with an under par tiramisú for 8000 Lira, because the café further up the street (where we wanted to get the dessert) had already closed. I guess we got stuck in a bona fide tourist trap. I am glad I tasted Stacey’s Spaghetti with shrimp & clams at Gianni’s. Se manifique!
It was a good night, as is any night, to spend the rest of it in the Piazza San Marco. The indifference of this evening was halted by the interjections of Italians and Americans alike along with their rapid congregation around an event in the center of the piazza. Its displayed appeal to the crowd was obvious to me through the enormous reactions but its actual content or subject was unknown to me at the moment. I moved myself closer to the alleged source of excitement only to my eyes greeted by a young man removing pieces of his clothing little by little. Now, this may be exciting to the female spectators and possibly a few of the male, but Italian men are well known for their love of the body of a female, not male. So why all the hooplah among spectators of both sexes? A quick survey of the vicinity surrendered an answer. Within seconds the hottest (perhaps) girl in the square emerged from the crowd wearing a sexy white sundress. Other than a pair of long white stockings and garters to keep them, that was the extent of her glamorous garb. I have no idea how or even why it started, but it seemed that these two, hardly modest individuals, were in the middle of a public game of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine…” This exchange or sexual show and tell, continued for a while until the drama was augmented by an erotic union of the two, in front of all. I don’t really know how to put this subtly, but the naked man helped himself to a handful of her beautiful and fully exposed v—-irginia (since by this time the sundress is lying amongst the crowd) and a mouthful of her boo—yahs that she had so thoughtfully offered him. Then the two became public lovers without any reservations whatsoever. We ended the evening on this note. This strong, resonating note.
Day 15: Plenty of Passion in the Piazza
Wednesday, June 14, 1995