Part VIII | Arrivederci
"I opened our window to the sound of a gentle pitter-patter and breathed in calm and quiet. Dawn stretched across the Venetian sky for our final full day in Italy, the morning fresh and ready. We fueled up with coffee, chocolate-piped croissants and salami and cheese - the breakfast of a firecracker.
Clothed for cool weather, we set off for San Marco but were immediately lured into a bookstore where we found a few spectacularly illustrated books for the kids. I've never been one to resist the siren call of an establishment selling pretty pages. Were space not an issue, I would have bought a dozen, but alas, our bags were limited so my choices had to be, too. We marched our prizes back to the hotel in order to avoid having to carry them around - and risk damaging them - and then we set out again.
We crossed the bridge and got a little lost here and there - a beautiful diversion - but eventually found the stream of pilgrims and crossed under the arch that led to San Marco. The piazza was lined in endless arches and windows, filled to the brim with tourists sporting selfie sticks and pigeons trying to catch a break. Cafes hid in the colonnades, gloriously outfitted in leather couches and gold gilted windows, offering 10 euro cappuccinos and exorbitantly priced pastries. We browsed, adored, and passed.
At the end of the U was the domed and turreted Basilica di San Marco, detailed in statues, mosaics and gold to the nth degree, every square inch adorned in some sort of treasure. The line to enter was an 1/8 mile long so in keeping with tradition, we opted to stay outside and enjoy the views. Photographing each segment was a dream and I found myself envious of only one other person - a student nestled in front of a tower armed with paper and pencils, etching the sites before her. Sigh.
The Mister searched to exchange cash for euros while I slowly meandered the length of the Doge's Palace, taking in those pinkly hued marble arches, each face and figure etched, the shadows and highlights playing a delightful game of chase around every feature. The wind swept along, blowing a fresh sea breeze down the colonnade, temporarily ridding the air around me of cigarette smoke. Deep breath, eyes closed. I walked back to find JD in the throng of bodies there to worship and take selfies, and we passed under an astronomical clock on our quest to find the best tiramisu in Venice - I Tre Mercanti.
Five minutes later we discovered it, a corner place across a bridge where you can watch them mix and bake behind glass walls. We bought a classic cup of their famous dessert along with 4 boxes of chocolate and 8 macaroons (amaretto, caffe, chocolate orange, and rose). There was no place to sit nor coffee, so we got our goods to go and walked down the street for cappuccinos and unloaded our sweets. Mmmmmmmm. JD had to go get another tiramisu - sharing isn't an option when a thing is that heavenly. Coffee, creamy, sweet and delectable - easily the best dessert of my life.
We tarried awhile and set out for Dorsoduro - much drier today - for a chichete and spritz lunch at Osteria al Squero. We loaded a plate full of small, open-faced sandwiches with various toppings: caprese, fish, pesto and shrimp, and my favorite: Gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar. Small glasses of wine accompanied our spare fare inside and then we got a few more and a limoncine spritz for a seat on the wall of the bridge outside. Barges barged through and waved heartily. Tourists flocked to the quaint little find and finally we finished and made our way to the hotel for a restful nap.
Window open, cool breeze, white sheets, warm cuddles...a sublime couple of hours. Recharged, we went back out in search of the elusive, beautiful book I spotted the night before while lost and tipsy...and we found it! But it was closed. So we waited patiently on the bridge nearby enjoying the view while the Signore was gone. Ten minutes later he returned and I entered his shop, overwhelmed with decisions. So many patterns! So many colors! So many sizes! I deliberated and agonized over which to bring home with me and eventually chose a large blue and white floral pattern (for what purpose I have no idea) but it was the one for me and my heart knew it. Arms and spirit full of my new prize, I gleefully carted it back to the hotel to stow away safely with our other books.
After that, we went back through San Marco in search of a gondola ride and decided on one we had spotted earlier at I Tre Mercanti (a good omen). Lines for the quintessential Venetian experience piled up near then piazza but were non-existent farther away. We crawled aboard the black-lacquered canoe and I couldn't help but adore the golden dragons pacing on each side. Our spritely gondolier navigated the smooth canals for a romantic journey through the jade-colored streets of Venice. Buildings of peach, papaya and mustard sprouted at the edges, each in varying stages of splendorous decay. Exposed brick patches peeked out, flower boxes and trees unfurled at each terrace, the occasional local singing from an open window. The sun gleamed on our guardian dragons, now and then casting delicious shadows under bridges. Our gondolier called out to others of the same profession as a friend greets another friend. We enjoyed our golden ride and then clambered back to the street - a street that conveniently housed Round No. 2 of tiramisu :D
We bought another classic and one pistachio tiramisu (perhaps even better than the original) as well as a mini canoli with candied orange-peel and took our dessert picnic to the square where we savored in sunlight under the sentry of the basilica. Pigeons and tourists multiplied, and we enjoyed people watching while eating sneakily. We hid our tiramisu from la policia lest it be confiscated and we be fined, and finished it in a few savory bites. After our snack, we found a cute little kitten card for Linda and mailed it off by the river so she'd have a surprise birthday present to greet her.
Next on the agenda was an unfortunately mediocre meal at Osteria la Barnaba with a sub-par dish of scallop and pesto tagliattelle (a little too reminiscent of tuna casserole for my tastes) served by humorous servers, one of which resembled Andre the Giant. We dined and went back to the hotel to change, hoping to traverse the twisty lengths of paths and bridges back to Muro for takeaway fries and a makeshift affogato we concocted with an espresso from a cafe and crema gelato from a gelateria. French fries and milkshakes enjoyed, we made our way back to the hotel to pack for the last time and turn in for our final night in Italy.
I'm anxious to see my Alice & Milo; to kiss their cheeks and wrap my arms around them, smiling, breathing them in. I haven't pined for them like I expected, but whenever I dwell on them much I feel a deep ache that will only be satisfied when I sink my kisses deep in the nape of their necks, tickling and loving them.
The next morning we awoke early and readied, climbing into a glorious and private water taxi to the airport. We had the whole of the Gran Canal to ourselves and could take as much pleasure in uninterrupted views as we wanted. The sun shone on the lacquered boat roof, buildings reflected in its sheen surface. It was cool and smooth and perfect. The canals eventually opened up to the wide sea, rocketing across at top-speed. The beauty trailed off as soon as we docked, sharply re-entering the reality of lines, luggage, transport, waiting, and other trivialities of traveling. But home is worth it.
Looking back over the last 8 days, we found ourselves saying and thinking a great many things over and over...
- ...I'm so glad we didn't pack a giant rolling-bag...
- ...I'm so glad we didn't bring the kids...
- ...I'm so glad we ate that extra gelato/crepe/espresso/glass of wine...
- ...4 cups of tiramisu in one day? YES.
- ...Thank God for my mom...
- ...we're so lucky to have friends taking care of everything while we're gone...
- ...those gardens!
- ...amaretto gelatto...that's where it's at...
- ...youth. *Shaking heads*
- ...Alice would love this!
- ...we're in ITALY!
- ...what's next?
Lord, thank you for a beautiful trip, beautiful places and delicious food. Thank you that we could get away as lovers, friends, husband and wife, and take care of only each other. What a gift you have given us in these 10 years as helpmates and soul mates. Thank you for the chance to marvel at your creation, your imagination and the creative spirit you have shared with us. Thank you for the rest, the "idle hands," the lack of cooking/dish washing/cleaning and mothering - I am renewed and ready to work again. Thank you for the many friends you brought along our path and the memories of good food in gorgeous locals. God, you are so good to us, and we are grateful. Help us bring you glory and grow us into children that reflect their Father & Creator. We love you so very much.