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EV Day #30 – Another Busy Day

Well, sad but true, we’re winding down our Italian adventure. Today was our last full day in Venice, and we were determined to make the most of it. So even though we had a light day with group activities, we were up and out on our own early.

Before I start with today, though, I have to tell you about the fabulous meal, or rather “dining experience” we had last night.

We have come to appreciate the joy of “dining.” We don’t do that so much in the US. The restaurants need to turn the tables so they can get in a second seating. You barely put down your fork after your dessert, and the check is there.

That’s not the case in much of Europe. When you sit down for the evening meal, the expectation is that the table is yours for the duration of the evening, no matter how long that is. Most times you have to ASK for your check. That’s one of the things we love about Europe.

Tonight we “dined” at a place called La Columbina.

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Mr Tattered found it on Trip Advisor, having been given just tons of positive reviews.

Our new friends Mike and Mary Jo, joined us.

Our hostess Adrianna and her son, the chef, run the small, quaint, cozy, inviting restaurant that is off the beaten path. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there.

We were greeted warmly, seated, then invited to look at the display case of appetizers. They explained each one, and we were able to choose which ones we wanted.

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I opted to have a glass (or 2 – or was it 3? I forget now!) of Proseco. The other 3 are red wine drinkers and they discussed the benefits of several with the chef before making their selection. We were all very happy with out choices.

From appetizers we moved on to the most delicious soups.

The star of the evening was the Crispy Fried Canneloni, basically ricotta rolled in lasagna noodles, fried on the ends, tied together in darling little packets and topped with a delicious red sauce.

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Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. Oh, and did I mention, yum?

We knew we were going for gelato for dessert, but we wanted to try their version of Tiramisu, so we ordered one to share for the table, and were glad we did.

Between every course, the chef came out to see if we were pleased with his efforts. It was so sweet. And so, La Comumbina will be getting a glowing review from us, and by the time we get back, we may need a reservation a week in advance!

So. Back to today.

We had so much fun in the Rialto area, we headed back there, and I decided to do something a little crazy (who, me?) The last time we were there, I saw a little shop offering “fish pedicures.” Yeah. There was a girl inside with her feet in a glass tank, little fish fish swimming around nibbling at her feet. I laughed and continued on, but the more I thought about it, the more fun it sounded, so000000…I did it!

And it WAS fun! The whole idea is just a little gross – fish nibbling the dead skin off your feet – but then it’s kinda gross that a person would touch your feet and grind it off, so whatever!

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It tickled at first, but you get used to it, and the very idea of trying something so off the wall was enough to make it a blast!

While I was enjoying it, 2 little girls about Hannah and Bea’s ages saw me and started begging their dad to let them do it. He said no and they walked off, but they apparently kept nagging and within a few minutes they were back signing up! I wish the girls had been there. I’m still wondering if they would have tried it!

Then we roamed around enjoying the area again…

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Before we knew it, it was time to meet up with our group and catch the vaporetto for Murano and a tour of the glass-making school.

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As a part of the tour, some of us got to try it, me included, and let me tell you, it’s way harder than they make it look!

murano2-wOf, course it doesn’t help when they make you laugh!

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Murano glass is beautiful, and the Chinese are making wonderful copies, but our guides showed us how to look for the real deal. I had hoped to buy a necklace made from it, but was unable to find any that was “me,” so I “settled” for necklace that was made by an Italian designer, and is made of Italian glass, but NOT Murano, just because I LOVE it and will think of Venice every time I wear it. Mr. Tattered encouraged me to get earrings to match (I think I’ll keep him!) but, in my own crazy way, I’m thinking I need to modify them just a bit (don’t tell the designer, K?)

Tonight was supposed to be our “good bye” dinner with our group, but were feeling like a romantic dinner alone for our last night in Venice, and scooted over to see if Adrianna could fit us in again, and she did, so we did a repeat of the night before.

We are so sad to be leaving, but also excited to begin our next adventure! Amsterdam, here we come!

EV Day #29 – Busy, Busy Day!

Heading for the vaporetto this morning to go to the Rialto Market.

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Fun place. If I lived in Venice, that’s where I’d go for my fruits and veggies.

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But wandering around the neighborhood was fun, too…

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Then it was off to yet another church…The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, or more commonly, the Frari. I keep thinking I’m churched out, but they keep surprising me! More super cool stuff!

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Today was our group gondola ride. We were going to pay extra and go by ourselves for a romantic little get-away, but the truth is the IDEA of it is better than the reality. We were checking them out on the canal, and the gondoliers don’t seem to give a darn whether you’re having fun or not. So glad we went with the group and saved the money. Ours spent most of the time either smoking or checking his phone. BUT, it was fun and we laughed a lot with the 2 couples we rode with. We bought a little black glass gondola with 2 red hearts on it to commemorate that the THOUGHT was there! And Mr. Tattered volunteered to buy me a little trinket (the jewelry kind!) instead…win-win!

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Busy, busy day. Next up, the Doge’s Palace, which meant another trip to St. Mark’s Square. What a great place, full of amazing history.

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Instead of going back to the hotel, we jumped on the vaparetto ourselves and took a little water tour of the city. Took about a gazzillion pictures, but I’ll save them for another day (Through a Tattered Lens Venice Part II, maybe?)

We went to a highly rated restaurtant for dinner with Mike and Mary Jo. Wow! Some of the best food and best service of the trip. We’ll probably go back again tomorrow night, so I’ll tell you about it then…this is turning into a day of epic proportions!

 

EV Day #28 – St. Mark’s and the Accademia

Well, we started the day with a lovely buffet at our hotel, the Hotel Principe. It’s a nice place. We were expecting small rooms, but they are a good size, with lots of surface space for storing our junkola, and a bidet (which has become almost mandatory!)

Our guides gave us our passes for the “vaporetti” or steam buses, which are really the only form of transportation available in Venice. No cars, no bicycles, no skate boards… just walking  and vaporettos. They seem just a little intimidating until you actually get on them, and then they make all kinds of sense. We’ve gone from being a little nervous to being anxious to try them on our own.

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For our first outing on one, we went along the Grand Canal to Piazza S. Markos, for a tour of S. Marks Square, and S. Marks Cathedral. It was a rainy day, so the Piazza was quieter than usual. Even though it was a little sloppy, it was a pretty good trade-off.

S. Marks was built in the 13th century and has more than 45,000 square feet of mosaics inside (be still my heart!) The guide told us that photos were technically not allowed, but everyone does it, so she wasn’t going to tell us not to. I was hesitant at first, but once I saw the number of people doing it (and saw the poor quality of post cards they were selling) I couldn’t help myself. But I felt guilty. For what that’s worth. And I bought a few crummy postcards.

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After a quick lunch, we headed to the Gallerie dell’ Accademia, where they house pre-19th century Venitian art.

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I’m lovin’ the St. Mark Lions…

Dinner was at the Taverna San Trovaso, followed by a walk around town that MAY have involved gelato…what happens in Venice stays in Venice. Isn’t that the way the saying goes???

 

EV Day #27 – Venice Through a Tattered Lens

Today was a travel day, getting from Florence to Venice, with no organized outings, so I thought it might be good time to show you some of the random photos I took on our first walk-about in Venice. I’m telling you, at first glance, me and Venice were made for each other. Everywhere I look I am seeing things I NEED to get a picture of…I’m driving Mr. Tattered (and a bunch of my fellow travelers, I suspect, CRAZY!) I’ve tried to adopt a pause step technique, where I set my camera on the sports setting, and barely pause – just a split second – to set up the photo and click. I can’t help it. I HAVE to do it! These are not photos you’d find on postcards…they are all what my eye see that many eyes do not.

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and finally…

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Don’t they just LOOK like me????

 

 

Let’s Talk About Bidets

What’s a bidet, you ask? First, it’s pronounced bih-day, and if you’ve never traveled to Europe or Japan, you may never have come into contact with one.

It is a special toilet-y kinda thing, designed to clean off our hineys and other special places.

Here in the US of A, we’ve kinda resigned ourselves to a rather archaic way of bathroom clean up, doncha think? In the past few years companies have tried to sell “wet tissues” for bathroom use, but sales are flat. We are just determined to suffer. And have have less than clean hind ends. Why is that?

Well, even in the UK and Italy, where we had bidets available, I was slow to warm up to them, unlike Mr. Tattered, who embraced not only the concept, but the actuality of it. I didn’t try it until just before we left, and I have to say it was quite nice.

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So. We are about to remodel our master bathroom, to take out the whirlpool bath we never use, and make the area into a walk in shower. AND, we were thinking about knocking out a wall, and adding a bidet. Then, at dinner last night, our dinner companions mentioned that they have an “after-market” addition to the existing toilet that accomplishes the same thing.

It is called a “washlett” by a Japanese company called Toto. You can find a funny, but accurate article about the product,  here.

It is actually a toilet seat that fits onto your existing toilet, and adds the features of a bidet, including a nozzle for squirting off your delicate parts with warm water. What a novel concept. Actually WASHING rather than just wiping. And it even warms the seat! What’s not to love?

I think it’s about time Americans understand that we DO have things to learn from the rest of the world. And how to keep our bottoms clean is one of them.

 

EV Day #26 – Bargello and Duomo (and yes, I’ll explain!)

So. Two things I’D never heard of. I’m guessing you may not have either.

The Bargello (otherwise known as the Museo Nazionale del Bargello – or National Museum) is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Florence dating back to 1255, and has seen some interesting times. For all of the 18th century it was used a prison, and not a very nice one. In the mid-19th century it became a museum, and now showcases some amazing pieces, including works by Donetello and Michelangelo.

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From the Bargello we walked to the Duomo, otherwise known as “The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral,” the main church of Florence. It includes Brunelleschi’s Dome and is an architectural masterpiece that has to be seen to be completely appreciated.

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From every vantage point, it is just incredibly beautiful. One of the things that cracked us up was that you can tell who was getting along by the colors of marble used. This one had pink and green in addition to white, so things were going pretty well. The place with the pink was often on the outs with others, so it’s a little unusual!

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We weren’t allowed to photograph inside, but it was awesome.

From there we went to the workshop where the craftsmen do reconstruction work, which was pretty timely, because the structure incurred a fair amount of damage in a freak hailstorm just a week ago. There were sections that were under scaffolding.

The craftsmen use pretty much the same tools they used back in the day. We enjoyed seeing what they were up to.

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From there we went to drink (I mean lunch! Heeheehee!) well, we had a pre-lunch glass of wine before our glass of wine WITH lunch (this has got to stop. Some day soon. Just not today.) Then we had free time and were off to the Baptistry. Another cool place (circa 897) with gorgeous mosaics, even though some of them were kinda creepy. One of them showed Satan eating people and pooping them out. I texted my daughter-in-law that the Catholics sure had a good way of scaring people into being good. She replied, “now you know why I worry so much. BTW, I was just worried about rotting in hell. Now I have to worry about getting eaten and pooped out!” Bwahahahaha! It’s fun to keep in touch with the family even though we’re so far away!

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Mr. Tattered decided to go back to the hotel (I think he was checking the inside of his eyeballs!) while I trekked out with my camera to see what kind of trouble I could get into. Believe it or not, I was unable to find any…just a cup of espresso and a dozen or so photos of ducks and geese down by the river.

Tonight we had dinner at the Palazzo Borghese complete with Renaissance entertainment as would have been found in the palaces of the time. There was a lot of audience participation. Mr. Tattered was chosen to be the Lord of the Manor and pranced around looking high and mighty in a cool outfit. He did a great job, but I was taking a video, not stills, so you’ll have to imagine what he looked like!

Then it was back to the hotel to finish packing to leave for Venice in the morning. I’m really sad to be leaving Flornence, but I’ll be saying “arrivederci” not goodbye. Pretty sure we’ll be meeting again!

EV Day #25 – The Uffizi and Overview of Florence

One of the things I like the best about this tour, is the lectures we get in preparation to go on an outing. The people Road Scholar brings in are passionate about their subject matter, and in turn they get us excited, too.

Our lecturer explained to us the 20 or so pieces she thought would best help us understand the Renaissance and encouraged us to seek them out in the museum. It was almost like a scavenger hunt, and helped turn it into a bit of a game.

There was a marathon being run through the area around the Uffizi building, so it was a bit of a mad house trying to get there.

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But once we got in, it was well worth the effort. I’ll post just a few sample photos of the treasures we saw…

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From one of the windows of the Uffizi, we saw the Piazza Michelangelo, and remembered someone said there was a killer view from up there and decided to head up and check it out.

But first we needed some sustenance (I think it’s illegal to miss a meal when you’re on vacation!) so we headed to the sandwich shop our guide recommended, but half the planet was already there…couldn’t believe it, the line was out the door and a block down the street! So we decided to wing it and get out of that area and hope we’d find some quieter streets. It’s hard to find a bad meal in Italy, so we felt sure we’d find SOMETHING.

And did we ever. “La Buchetta.” Remember that name for if you ever go to Florence. It’s MUST GO TO restaurant.

We had the best ravioli EVER. And I mean EVER. Although I have to say, you could have put that sauce on just about anything and made it MAGNIFICENT. The chef holds the recipe close to his vest. The waiters claim to not know how he does it, but would only say it takes 4 days to make. All I know is that it has tomatoes, capers, onion, eggplant, garlic, EVOO and chilis, and I’m going to experiment doing it in a crock pot when we get home.

They served it in a foil-wrapped pouch that the waiter opened so we wouldn’t burn ourselves on the steam. Be still my heart. I’m about to hyper-ventilate just thinking about it!

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From there we caught a cab to the outlook (couldn’t see waddling all that way when we were in a bit of a time crunch.) And whoever told us it was a good view wasn’t kidding.

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I’m not sure how we ended up at Santa Trinita, but let me say how happy I am that we did.

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Yes, all by ourselves, we found the best gelato in Florence. Maybe the world. This would be worth moving to Florence for, but only if wanted to to be the star of “My 600# Life.”

From there we waddled walked to the Galileo Museum. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we had fun looking at what we looked at! Uh oh…just remembered how we found the gelato, and it wasn’t by ourselves. We got to the Galileo Museum and asked the guy working there where to find the best gelato in town, and HE directed us to Santa Trinita (where we went BEFORE we came back to the museum!) Sorry about that Museum, Guy! We owe you a debt of gratitude we’ll NEVER be able to repay. Oh, and I’m blaming you for that last 5 lbs as long as we’re assigning blame giving credit!

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From there we met up with our new pals and ducked into an Irish pub (can you believe they have them in Italy?) for ale/cider before heading off to meet the group for dinner. Then back to Santa Trinita for another gelato.

Yeah. I’m embarrassed to say it, but we did.

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