Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Glass Aisle and Colorful Burano

I'm back beneath the grapevine drapery with my friend the journal, a cuppa, and a great Hoyo de Monterrey cigar. It is 8:30 on a crystal clear Sunday morning without a trace of clouds in the sky. Our opera playing neighbors must be sleeping in, because the only music I hear this morning is a chorus of church bells ringing off in the distance. We did our laundry (the beastly machine in the bathroom is wash only) and it is now hung over the drying rack and a good portion of the deck railing. Thinking back to yesterday and our visit to St. Anthony's these are the memories I expect will linger the longest. I've struggled my entire adult life with the question of faith. For the assemblage in the church and the millions of pilgrims who have walked by St. A's tomb, that question (and many of their prayers) have surely been answered.

Sunday - September 19, 2010

Everything is glistening this morning, little evidence on the streets left from all the rain that fell yesterday. The local people we pass by are animated and smiling this morning, and why not. It is a gorgeous Sunday morning. The boat from the airport had just docked and we watched people lugging their suitcases up the ramp, obviously the first day of their holiday. It seemed so long ago that we did that. The air was so dry that we could see Venezia and even make out the campanile in St. Marks square. As had become normal there was an enormous cruise ship slowly making it's way through the lagoon.

Today is our day for the islands, so we grabbed the first boat going to Murano and were surprised at how long it took to get there. Unlike Venezia which was built upon pilings sunk into the marshes, Murano is a series of small islands connected by bridges and feels a little more permanent. The island dwellers built their homes on dry land and their doors open onto solid little courtyards instead of canals. One of the real highlights of the island is the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato (the island's top sightseeing attraction). It just sits there looking perfect in sandstone colored brick and tiled roof alongside the canal.

Back in the old days Venice was the center for creative glass making and Venetian glass was all the rage. Then some of the swells realized that besides silica sand and lime, the key ingredient for making glass was heat, a lot of heat from big furnaces, and it would probably be better to remove the glass foundries from amidst all the wooden buildings and relocate them to a nice isolated, mostly deserted island. So way back in 1291 Murano glass was born.

That's given them eight centuries to build aisle after aisle of glass stores, and more than enough time to hone their sales pitches. Each proprietor will tell you that they sell the "real" Murano glass so when you see the low prices in other stores - they are probably imports from China. His (or her) stuff however is the genuine article (made it himself/herself) and can vouch that it's authentic. It was fun to browse and since neither Kat nor I collect stuff, we were not tempted by some of the incredibly beautiful pieces of art. We did buy some small items for the grandkids, and didn't care where they were made; they were bought on Murano.

It's a cute island with a great lighthouse and some pretty amazing glass sculptures in the squares. One in particular is the female match for plastic man on the Lido. They both seem to have the same expression on their faces.

After lunch we grabbed the next boat to Burano. Every year at the end of September they close off the harbor and hold a boat regatta/festival. Well, today was the day and we didn't know that. That is until the rather burly driver suggested we either get off one stop short of the center or accompany him to Torcello or wherever he was headed next. One thing was clear, he was not going to dock at downtown Burano. Fine. It was a lovely day for a walk, and the stops are only a half mile or so apart.

Burano is lovely. Known for it's lace making and fishing village history, it was quaint, charming, colorful and not crowded at all. Of course not. Everyone was down at the harbor watching the gondola races. There are no pastels here. Every house is painted in bright, vivid, living color, and reminds us of Rainbow Row in Charleston. The story is they used these colors so that the fishermen could see their houses when returning from sea. We couldn't imagine how they could miss them. There's an old church with a leaning campanile, lots of back alleys to explore and an atmosphere that induces you to slow down and relax. Nice.

Kat and I decided to head back to the Lido for a walk on the beach while Rich and Lu headed to Venezia to make reservations at our restaurant of choice for dinner. Highly recommended by Giulia, the "Trattoria da Remigio" is noted for it's authentic Venetian cuisine, and moderate prices. She told us this is where she and her family eat when they dinner off the Lido. After a long boat ride back to the Lido and an abbreviated walk to (not on - that will have to wait til next time) the beach, we caught the boat back to Venezia disembarking at the stop before St. Marks. The restaurant is on Calle Bosello near Scuola San Giorgio dei Greci, which seemed straightforward enough when we were looking at the map. It is not. Thank goodness Rich had walked from the restaurant to the dock and met us as we entered the maze, or we'd still be looking for it.

It was a good thing Rich and Lu had scouted out the place in advance and made reservations as it was packed. We were seated immediately in the back room and had a leisurely dinner on our last evening in Venezia. The gentleman who served us could not have been nicer, taking his time with us and explaining our choices. His father had opened the restaurant in 1954 and coming from a restaurant family, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to my father. We guessed he had been working the crowd as a young boy the day it opened. The food was good and the prices were reasonable; just what we wanted.

Back in our Lido pad, over our customary glass of wine, we realized how quickly the time had passed. We still have plenty of trip ahead of us with two new (to us) countries to explore. We won't miss Venezia, but we will miss Rich and Lu. They have been so generous to us and we enjoy their company a lot. Two unique, very good souls.

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