Wednesday, May 18, 2016
After a hearty breakfast in Portenone, we drove a short way down to Sacile to take a train into Venice. We got off at the main station, and grabbed a all day vaporetto (water buses is the only way to describe them, really) pass at a handy tobacco shop and then did a fast fade off into the old Jewish quarter, where we surmised that the crowds would be lighter, as most tourists head directly to St. Mark's square, the Doge's Palace, and the Grand Canal. A very successful strategy, actually.
The crowds were nearly non-existent in that part of Venice, and we were able to stroll about looking at little shops and just inhaling the atmosphere of this unique city. We managed to wander into some mostly residential areas along the northern edge of things, where we saw the little old grandmothers making their way home from shopping, trattorias packed with smoking locals, and a great little kosher grocery where we picked up a bottle of prosecco and four plastic cups to keep us from being too parched on the way out to the island of Burano.
Venice was first established in the swamps of the coast by the merchant princes in the 6th century to provide a very efficient machine for separating tourists from their money, and it retains those ancient traditions to this day. There are a zillion shops filled with kitsch, African street vendors illegally selling knock off Prada, and more than enough high end legitimate shops hawking local wares to give you reason to leave home without your American Express. Burano lace and Murano glass were ubiquitous, but most vendors are touchy about photos, so you'll simply have to come and see these amazing and exquisite creations for yourself some day.
We enjoyed late lunch in Burano at Su E Zo of sea bass, salmon and calamari, talked with local glass makers whose families have been in the business for centuries, and very charming little old nona in a lace shop.
The day was too short to really see it all, so by the time we made it to St. Mark's the museums had closed, and we didn't get a chance to see them, but we had a marvelous dinner by the Rialto bridge on the Grand Canal at Cafe di Saraceno with a water side table where we got to watch the gondolas go by with their cargos of lovers, young and old. Spaghetti a la Vongole, Broiled Dorado, Beef Steak with Peppercorns, a couple of nice bottles of Chardonnay, capped by a boat ride back down the canal to the train station again made it a most memorable day.