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2010 - Dream the day away
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venice     the city of romance

Josefina & Wolfgang Bleier
Austria, October 2010

"We were serenely independent and content before we met, and yet we’ve grown accustomed to our looks, accustomed to our voices, accustomed to our faces ..."

This page is about Venice and the two of us, written twenty-five years after our eyes have met. We can look back at many good years, and on a marriage on which we grow. Venice was our first choice to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Since then it is our destination in October, every now and then.

2010 - dream the day away          Photo Gallery

Venice is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the world. Well, after all it is among the world's greatest and most beautiful cities of art. Venice is also the most romantic city, if you manage to escape the tourist crowds. The city receives about 50.000 tourists a day. Lovers who want to waltz along picturesque canals hand in hand should be careful when making their plans.


Apart from the beaten tourist tracks Venice gets quiet in the evening, and in fact it's also nice to visit tourist spots at night-time after the crowds are gone. Monuments and churches are shaped by artificial light and the canals unveil Venetian melancholy much better after sunset. At midnight St. Mark's square is almost empty, yet most atmospheric when the last Jazz tunes from the Gran Caffe sound over the square. At that time our worries about the price for a cup of coffee or two have vanished - the music and atmosphere were greatly worth it.
October is still high tourist season in Venice, and yet it is very pleasant to wander in districts off the touristic attractions. Dorsoduro is a district where one can mingle with locals to absorb the day-to-day Venetian life. In Dorsoduro we discovered quiet tranquil squares, a small boat market, romantic canals and narrow lanes with shops selling worthy handcrafted goods. Later in the evening we ate dinner restaurants that are also favoured by locals, before we entered one of the shuttle boats to bring us from St. Mark's square back to San Clemente, where the Palace Hotel stately resides on an island in the lagoon.


Thinking of genuine Venetian food we can highly recommend the Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti, the family-owned tiny restaurant of Francesca Ciancio and Vincenzo Buonfiglio. Francesca prepares delicious "cucina locale tipica" and Vincenzo keeps their business running smoothly inside the restaurant. Francesca's father is a wonderful, friendly host and the man for "public relations", making a homely atmosphere for their guests. Francesca shops daily fresh products at the Rialto Market, which is the solid basis of her excellent interpretation of venetian cuisine. In the Ai Artisti we've treated ourselves to some very delicious dishes, made from fresh ingredients cooked with the minimum of fuss. The wine list is respectable and prices reasonable, and we've always been recommended excellent wines to perfect our meal. These lines are our simple "thank you" to this lovely family and all the other folks making the Ai Artisti to what it is: a pleasant place where guests feel well, not to forget the delicious "Cucina Italiana". And since life sometimes can be very sweet - we'll never forget Francesca's exquisite Montenegrina chocolate tart baked with the inspiration of an old, traditional recipe.


On the day we discovered this lovely place we threw over board our initial plan (Danieli) for our wedding anniversary and had dinner in the Osteria Ai Artisti. We had no regrets - after all we came to experience the genuine Venice and its people, not luxury hotels. Another place we love to visit is the Enoteca Già Schiavi. It's a very nice place to snack homemade bruschetta in many variations and sip some good wine alongside locals. Being in Dorsoduro it was nice to stop by and hang out for a while at Schiavi's. It has a large assortment of wines, particularly wines from Italy, with the extra that it is a very authentic place.

Have you ever asked yourself how the houses in Venice can stand there since centuries? Venetian houses are built on closely spaced woodpiles. Under water wood does not decay, due to the absence of oxygen. The woodpiles get somehow petrified because of the constant flow of water around it, which in the end becomes a stone-like structure. The woodpiles penetrate a layer of sand and mud until they reach a hard layer of clay. These piles remained intact even after centuries of submersion. The buildings' foundations rest on the piles, and brick or stonewalls rest on these footings.


Aqua Alta (high water) is what Venetians fear. Between autumn and early spring buildings, squares and lanes can be flooded by tides pushing in from the Adriatic. Venice began to subside during the 20th century, when artesian wells were made to supply water for the industry in the periphery of the lagoon. Since the 1960s artesian wells are banned in that region to slow this process. But still the city is affected from low-level floods that can reach a height knee-deep over the quays.
Tourism has been ever growing in Venice due to its uniqueness as well as its rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. Over time it became also a favored place for the rich and famous, and also for those who put it on. Today one of the most famous events in town is the Carnival of Venice, which revived in the 1980s and attracts visitors from all over the world ever since then. Venice has also become a major centre of international conferences and festivals such as the prestigious Venice Film Festival.


The traditional Venetian boat is the Gondola (what else), which almost everyone knows for its typical shape and black color, and almost everyone knows the Gondoliere and their traditional dress. Nowadays it is mostly used by those tourists who are in generous mood, but also by the locals for weddings, funerals, or festivities. Locals and most of the tourists travel with the ACTV public transport system, which combines land transportation with buses and transportation in the canals with the "Vaporetto" water-buses.


It was a brilliant idea to visit Venice, at long last. We have learned that Venice is not only a place for tourists. It was the best we could do to break everyday life and remember our twenty-five years marriage in this unique city. Not only because of its famous clichés, but mainly because of the genuine way of Italian lifestyle in the "other Venice" off the bustle of tourist spots. For sure there will be "a next time" for us to return to the city of romance. If not soon, then at our fiftieth anniversary.

2011 - absorbed in venice          Photo Gallery

A photograph can be worth a thousand words . . .
We returned to Venice after just one year - it must have been love at first sight. One could write books about Venice, but to put into words how much we can enjoy Venice was in vain. We let our photographs talk instead, photographs of "the other Venice".
This time we didn't book our room at the San Clemente Hotel. We stayed at the Ruzzini Palace Hotel, located at the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. It is a perfect location in the Castello district, near to the city center but off the tourist crowds. Being again in Venice, of course we had to visit our favorite restaurant, the Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro to say hello to signor Franco, and to taste the delicious dishes prepared by Francesca. From good food to good wine, there are many reasons to return to the Ai Artisti. But most of all it is this family's passion for what it does and how nice they care about their guests.
Aside from that, Dorsoduro is the ideal place to dream the day away in an old cafe or to taste some good Italian wines and mingle with Venetians. On our tours we made it also to the colorful island Burano, well, last but not least with the hidden agenda in mind to eat risotto and fish in the famous Trattoria Da Romano. In this restaurant one can follow the footsteps of great artists, such as Maria Callas, Henri Matisse, Frederico Fellini, Katherine Hapburne, Ernest Hemingway or Charlie Chaplin.


Besides of countless but easy to spot tourist traps, Venice has excellent places to eat. Many of these are small, simple restaurants, where people from all walks of life meet to enjoy local cuisine. To name but a few, we accidentally discovered Adriano's La Palanca snack bar. We have greatly enjoyed eating in Adriano's place, which is much more "cucina" than a "snack bar" (molto simpatico, but to tell you the truth, we don't want to say more about it). Another nice place to eat is the Ae Sconte, an osteria nestling at a tiny, quiet piazza in the heart of Venice, but barely noticed by those heading for Rialto.

Once you got to know the other Venice off the beaten tourist tracks, it is a marvellous place for a romantic getaway. Writing these lines makes us feel like visiting Venice again soon. Charles Aznavour has put into words, what is so hard to express:

How sad Venice can be
When mist is in your eyes
And you can hardly see
As pigeons fill the skies.

I find the little street
And then the old cafe
Where we would always meet
To dream away the day.

How sad Venice can be
Beneath the silent moon
That rises from the sea
And silvers the lagoon.

(Charles Aznavour)


2013 - lazy days in venice          Photo Gallery

It became a beloved habit of us to travel to Venice in autumn, remember our wedding anniversary and swap happy memories with each other. During our previous visits we always did these "things you must do in Venice". But this time we threw that overboard, except for a visit to the Doge's Palace early in the morning and to the Venetian Ghetto. The Doge's Palace was very, very impressive indeed. Our plan was simple: give up the idea to see everything, because anyway we won't manage to do so. In Venice, which is so rich in culture, museums and historical places, it would be the temptation of the impossible. Since by this time we are quite familiar with the city, the best thing to do was to embrace the city and wander along the canals, enjoy the traditional Venetian cuisine or relax with a good cup of coffee in our old cafe . . .


and live the "dolce far niente". Appreciate the sights and sounds, see what happens, nothing else.
How nice Venice can be . . .

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