Notes from a Summer Tour Part 3: Off Week

First part of the shoot over, I have 7 days to get from Venice to Berlin.  Freedom to what ever the hell I want in between.  At this point I just want to drop my bags in some fishing village and spend the time sunbathing, drinking local wine and eating the catch of the day.  Renting a car and driving to the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia seems like the jam.  Alexa got in today, and we charged into vacation life.  After a balcony picnic overlooking the Adriatic, we hit the beach.  In Lido they have this thing I’ve never seen before.  Its fucking awesome, especially for a man-child like myself.  For 15 Euro an hour you can rent these paddle boats WITH A SLIDE BUILT ON TOP!  So you just paddlepaddlepaddle past the small breakers and have your own person water slide into the sea.  Add a bottle of prosecco, and you got yourself a hot date. first meal lido paddle slide thing

Finished the night by taking the vaporetto over the lagoon to Venice proper.  Dinner over looking the Grand Canal, an evening stroll in San Marco Square, and we were feeling the full charm of La Serrisima.  San Marco square is one the more breathtaking places I know.  Yes there is an unavoidable Disney aspect to it, with hawkers selling their weird light up “toys”, hordes of tourists and over priced cafes, but it was easy to imagine the hub bub around me must have the same energy its had since the hey-day of Venetian culture way back when.  I’m sure even when Napolean came here to conquer and fell in love, there were guys selling crap, victorian visitors dressed in their finest holiday-wear, and certainly the competing mini-orchestras were battling for the open air audience.

san marco cafe life cafe floridian  at night

***

Make a long story short, we never got to Croatia.  Or Cinque Terre.  Or got a car.  Or had that relaxing week. Amidst financial woes between the two of us, the reality of being in Venice (or Lido for that matter) during the high season was an expensive and difficult trial.  No cars to rent for less than a fortune and few hotel rooms to be had.  After a couple days trying to escape via car, we had to accept the fact that we were “trapped” in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  Bums in paradise.  We ended up spending the next couple nights on Lido but in a different hotel, Villa Edera.  It was closer to the port (to avoid the 15 Euro cab from the port to Hotel Petit Palais), in the main part of “town”.  Still over priced, but a cute building seemingly attempting to be in the french style.  They have a good breakfast (from which we would poach enough bread and cold cuts to feed us for the day), and outdoor patio that is a nice place to have a beer, stress about what to do the next day, or simply people watch in the warm evening air.

villa edera villa edera room lido port at night

We took turns cheering each other up, and did a good job of making the best of things.  In the end, we were still in Venice, and didn’t need to have money to enjoy it.  Pictures are free, strolling is free and window shopping is free.  Prosseco was cheap, and luckily we enjoy sharing food.  A gem of the time, and something I would highly recommend to anyone, was the sunset we watched from the Lido dock.  It’s up there with a sunset ride of the Staten Island Ferry for top cheap dates on earth (if you don’t know fellas, you should find out).  We got a bottle of $5 prosecco, grabbed our cameras and watched the sun dip down over the Venice skyline.  Lido looks back directly west over Venice proper and with the bubbley wine, orange glow and lapping waves its a pretty damn pleasant time. lido staple venice sunset

***

We eventually decided we had to get the fuck out of Venice.  It was sucking dry our already meager savings no matter how basic we lived, and we’d pretty much reached our fill of what Venice had to offer on the cheap.  A bartender acquaintance back in NYC told me once he went to Verona on a trip and found it was his favorite city in Italy.  So we decided that was the next stop. Short train ride from Venice, and I hoped off the expensive tourism grid.  We were only there for a short time, but Verona was indeed a nice place.  Best city in Italy….ummm I don’t think so.  But quaint nonetheless.  It was almost equally packed with tourists, and pretty much as expensive as Venice (goddamn high-season!!), but at night the medieval streets go silent aside from small groups of voices ricocheting off the brick and cobble stone, and the orange light draped in patches over the narrow walkways is idyllic.  Being the home town of Juliet and having the historic basis for Shakespeare’s ode to star crossed lovers is the major draw here and you can wedge yourself amongst the crowd in the very courtyard under the balcony that Juliet famously implored “Romeo, Romeo.  Wherefore art thou Romeo…”.  Again my favorite moment comes out of the Poor Man’s Guide to Romance.  Verona is home to the third largest Roman colosseum remaining, and one of the best preserved.  It is still the venue for many big concerts, and in the summer they still do an opera ever couple of days.  We walked passed around sunset, and seeing the dressed-up opera goers asked a scalper how much tickets were on a whim.  They were more than free obviously, and therefore out of our budget, but we found a little cafe tucked just under the colosseum walls.  Over wine and pasta we chilled in the outside area listening to the opera’s beautiful lyrics echoing up and out of the open air arena.  The best seats not in the house.

verona's river

juliets balcony dinner and opera

***

I was determined to get to Milan.  Alexa wanted to go see the fashion center, and it was basically the next stop after Verona, so I figured I could make it happen.  Honestly I had low expectations of Milan.  I figured it would be like Soho in New York at best or Rome minus the history at worst.  The “hour and a half” train ride on the local Trenitalia shit-box version of a locomotive ended up taking over three hours, so our short trip was cut even shorter.  I think we were in Milan for 3 hours, and we both agreed that was enough.  It was actually surprisingly cool in parts, but not a place I was looking to stay in at that point in my journey.  The Duomo there is awesome.  Like a Notre Dame on crack.  And the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest/coolest mall around.  One whirlwind circle, and Milan…check.

milan's duomo galeria vittorio emanuale II milan guys

***

Just like that, and a week goes by before you have time to savour it’s highlights.  My flight to Berlin was out of Venice Sunday night, so we made our way back to Lido Saturday night, and stayed in our old standby Villa Edera.  It was bittersweet since I had to fly out that night, but in those last hours during my Italy stint we did the only thing that had been missing all along.  We relaxed.  That Sunday afternoon, we stopped by the local market.  Grabbed prosciutto, bread, melon, a bottle of prosecco, and headed to the beach.  You have to pay to sit on most of the beaches in Lido (a la Jersey Shore), but the piers are free, so we joined the other locals on the cement strip and set up camp.  At about $13 we shared a picturesque brunch I’ll never forget for its simple perfectness, and spent the rest of the afternoon laying out on the warm rocks.  Heaven. lido pier bum's brunch

***

Arrivederci Italy.  As I write this (didn’t take many notes at the time, so from memory), its funny how the stress and anxiety of a vacation gone awry shlep off.  As with most things in life, in hindsight the bullshit sheds with time, and the good times rise to the top.  I’d say if I was in Venice with a fortune to blow, I don’t think I’d do it much different. Maybe splurge on a gondola ride.  Each voyage has its own unique learning experiences.  Anyway, next stop Berlin.  Up, up and away. shitty picture of venice from the sky

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