Thursday, June 15, 2006

After 31 years, we return!

Could it really have been 31 years ago that a moment of fate changed our lives forever? And that we have never been back in that place until now? Our return to Venice felt like magic; like a dream come true.

The Re-enactment: Mindy!

On October 5, 1975, this is where I stood, in Piazza San Marco, as I waited for my date and was intercepted by Bob! He`approached from the foreground. He smiled at me, I smiled at him. He asked me to have cappuccino at the cafe behind me. When I told him I was waiting for someone else, he convinced me that he should join us, and our fate together began.

The Re-enactment: Bob!

This is the spot where Bob was when he noticed me! The rest is history.....

The romance of Piazza San Marco

Once again, we listened to the music played by the orchestras of the cafes in Piazza San Marco. We ventured between them as they played songs of romance; we danced to the music as if we were in a dream. It was surreal to be there, and also to see other couples in love all around us.

My romantic husband!

As we walked around Venice and the sun was beginning to set, we crossed a bridge and as if by magic a gondolier named Marco appeared and asked if we'd like to take a gondola ride. I said no, but Bob grabbed my hand and insisted we go. We took no photos, just tightly held hands and looked in awe (this was our first night back in Venice). During the day, the canals are filled with gondolas and tourists, but that evening we were alone (or so it seemed). We glided through the waters as the previously gray skies marked the return of the sun at the day's end with streaks of pink and lavander. We told Marco our story, and he took us into the Grand Canal so we could view Piazza San Marco. When he told us it was a tradition to kiss when passing under the Bridge of Sighs, we didn't hesitate.

Is it 1975 again?!!

We still have a photo of me taken in 1975 in this spot in this same pose!

A last moment in Piazza San Marco

We returned in the morning to hear the music from the orchestras one last time!


Bob loved the olive bread, but for me it was the Venetian cookies!

5 Euro

That's Bob's title for this photo. As we were walking through this piazza, these musicians strolled over to me and started playing. I joked around with them and they continued playing. I thought this was because they liked me, but when they finished, it was clear that it was because they expected payment!

A picnic lunch!

We so enjoyed this lunch in a square near the Rialto Bridge. I bought fresh local apricots from a street vendor, and from a local gastronomia (could be described as a gourment shop or deli featuring local cuisine for takeout) I got something I'd been hoping to try: baccala mancatta. It's a Venetian specialty of baccala (dried salted cod) mashed and whipped with olive oil and cream so that it's a puree spread on bread. Bob got gnocchi with shrimp, and marinated artchokes. We bought bread from the panificio, and had prosecco wine from the bar in the square. What could be better!

Bob at the Rialto Bridge

Looking at the Grand Canal

Postcard Perfect!

View from the Rialto Bridge

Laundry everywhere!

Something about seeing people's intimate garments hanging everywhere around the city really fascinated me. I had to resist taking tons of laundry pictures!

But, of course...

...I couldn't resist taking a photo of this aptly named street around the corner from our hotel!

A Flea Market in Venice

When I came across this flea market, I could hardly believe my luck! But I actually resisted and didn't buy a thing.

A Venetian wedding

Walking behind this group as they approached the church was a photo I couldn't resist!

An eery moment!

Walking alone for a few hours while Bob napped back at the hotel, I turned a quiet corner and almost ran into this manequin. Masquerade items abound in Venice and are a part of its history.

I just loved this shop window!

Beauty everywhere!

Another street scene

I could have taken hundreds of photos in Venice: every street seemed like a beautiful scene from a movie.

A Venetian Street Market

Dinner at Birreria

This restaurant was recommended by the clerk at our hotel, and turned out to be terrific. I had smoked swordfish carpaccio: tissue-thin slices of fish drizzled with olive oil, served with bread and tomatoes. We shared homemade pasta with a sauce of crab and cherry tomatoes, and a large salad of arugula, pears, asiago chesse, and radicchio. Bob also had Pollo al Mattone- chicken flattened under a brick and grilled.

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice

Deciding to stay an extra day in Venice allowed us to take a very long walk to spend time in the Jewish Ghetto section of the city. We discovered this Holocaust memorial comemmorating the Jews of Venice that had died during World War II. It is comosped of bas-relief panels created by artist Arbit Blatas. Each panel illustrates another facet of their experiences, such as mass graves, concentration camps, and cattle cars full of children. A plaque reads:
"Men, women, and children
masses for the gas chambers
advancing towards horrors beneath
the whip of the executioners.
Your sad holocaust is engraved in history
and nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories
for our memories are your only graves."

It was an unexpected, moving, and somber part of our trip.

Bill and Julie

Part of the joy of traveling is being open to others who cross your path. This couple sat on the bench next to where we were sitting looking at the public art piece in the ghetto. We began to talk and soon time disappeared as we shared stories and philosphies. Bill and Julie live in Montreal, but are originally from Poland. They came to Canada as child survivors of the war. Our lives were enriched by meeting them.

A kosher bakery in Venice!

I just thought this bakery in the Jewish Ghetto section was so interesting. One more example of a great Italian/Jewish combination :)

A Painter in Venice

Seeing this artist made me fantasize about staying in Venice longer and doing some painting myself, but it was time to leave and explore Marche...

Bob at Castello di Monterado

This was our splurge of the trip and totally worth it! This castle bed and breakfast is run by a young couple, Orlando and Kira. It's been in Orlando's family for a few hundred years, and he just opened it as a B & B last year. It's on a hill at the top of the small town of Monterado. When we arrived, Orlando greeted us and showed us around the vast grounds, which includes a woods specially planted many years ago by the family with nature paths, as well as many manicured gardens. Orlando also showed us around the inside of the castle, and introduced us to his grandmother, who was visiting him from Rome, where she currently lives. The outside, as amazing as it is, was nothing compared to the inside, which was filled with priceless antiques, artifacts, and art everywhere, and frescoed ceilings (restored withing the last 20 years) were in most rooms. The frescoes are by nineteenth century artist Corrado Corradi, one of the most reknown artists of Marche.

The castle's history begins in the middle ages, and was once owned by the Duke of Urbino. It was where Prince Maximillian de Beauharnais, nephew of Napoleon the 1st, chose to spend his honeymoon after the celebration of his marriage to the daughter of Czar Alexander of Russia. We stayed in the suite that was decorated by his commission!

The gardens outside the castle

The hallway

This is the hallway that leads to our bedroom. I was in love with the bench, which is painted with angels.

Amazing ceiling #1!

This is the first part of our suite. These two armoires are part of our entryway. You enter through 2 huge doors, then the next door opens into our sitting room.

Our sitting room!

A detail of the sitting room ceiling fresco

Our bedroom

This is actually just a part of the bedroom. There were 2 big armchairs, a desk and chair, a bureau, a table, and another armoire. There is also a bathroom and a seperate dressing room.

The suite, called "Suite degli Sposi" has frescoes that were comissioned by the nephew of Napoleon the 1st (Maximilian de Beauharnais) for his wedding to the daughter of Czar Alexander of Russia.

A detail of the bedroom ceiling fresco

We even had a terrace!

Bob on our terrace overlooking Monterado

A closer-up view from the terrace

On our terrace!

The castle's reading room

Bob and I took some time to read, though we didn't really need to do it here, since the size of our suite was almost as big as our whole house back in Medford!

Breakfast in our sitting room

We were served breakfast by Kira in our sitting room. We had fresh fruit salad, pear juice, cappuccino, marble cake, croissants, rolls, jams, and these cookies I loved: they were buttery vanilla balls with raisins and pine nuts inside, covered in corn flakes!

The moat

This gives you a sense of the scale of the castle. Orlando took us inside this "basement", which covered the entire square footage of the castle. There were "wine caves", cavernous arched brick ceilings, a giant kitchen, an old olive press, wells, and a huge space that was being set up for 2 weddings from the area over the weekend. We were there on the day of one of them. We left before it bagan at 11:00am. When we returned at about 6pm, it was still going on. We saw a tired bride and groom leaving and were told by Orlando that they were going to take a rest, since the party would be regrouping and continuing into the night.


We spent a day exploring the area of small medieval walled hill towns, though the weather was a bit gray. We loved Corinaldo, with its small winding streets and peaceful atmoshere.

The Olive Boys (Bob's title!)

These guys had a cart in the center of town. They were very friendly and we chatted a bit. They asked us to take their photo.

Flowers in Corinaldo


I think that you can get a sense from this photo of what it really means to be a "hill town".

Exploring Corinaldo

Il Tavernetta dell' Aia

This restaurant was the best of our trip! Right down the street from Castello di Monterado, it was truly unique. No written menu- our waiter told us (in very fast Italian) our choices for each course. We got a shock when our food arrived: the portions were enormous, different from Venice. We arrived when it opened at 7:30pm; by the time we left at 9:45 it was jammed to capacity with all locals- we were certainly the only tourists there. Our waiter moved like the wind- he flew, taking care of every table in the place! The owner (in the photo with Bob) stopped at every table to chat. Since there was no written menu, we had no idea of what anything would cost, and didn't ask, thinking it would either be an amazing deal or over our budget and we didn't care! What great food it was, all local and fresh. Our primi were asparagus risotto (the creamiset risotto I ever had, though each grain of rice was separate and tender; it was infused with the flavor of asparagus, and small pieces throughout) and white truffle and porcini mushroom ravioli (the ravioli were filled with dense chopped mushrooms, the sauce was the most amazing flavor, very smooth and creamy). Our secondi were one winner, and one that we ordered by mistake- oops. The winner was bistecca, and what a steak it was! It was simply chargrilled with salt and pepper, and it was the largest porterhouse steak we'd ever seen! The 'oops' was ordering something when you're not 100% sure of what the word means: 'cinghale". It turned out to be wild boar stew! We each had a bite and knew it wasn't for us, but since we had enough food to feed a family of 10 anyway, it didn't matter. Our contorni were a giant insalata mista and sauteed spinach. We were also served great fresh bread and a local bread called pantadini: a flatbread served char-grilled. We were stuffed but had an urge for a sweet taste, and like magic the owner appeared with a beautiful ceramic pitcher and 2 small glasses. He poured us what tasted like a magical elixar- I've forgotten the name, but it was a mixture of hot espresso, limone, and cognac. It hit the spot! So this feast, with aqua frizzante, and a carafe of the house wine (a Verdicchio) was a total of 45 euro for the 2 of us: the best deal ever!
We decided to return the next day, though determined to order less! We began with antipasto, and it was amazing. A wooden platter of proscuitto, salamis, and cheeses, the bread and pantadini, and a seperate dish of bruschetta with pate, roasted vegetables, asparagus frittata, and olives. We ordered a primo to share: we asked if the paparadelle (served with ragu di anatra-duck) could be made vegetarian. The answer was yes, and we got the most amazing dish- fresh tomates, garlic and grilled eggplant on the pasta. We got 2 insalata mista, and shared a dessert- dolci di nana which was a type of zuppa inglese (truffle). We had wine and aqua frizzante and our bill this time was 22 euro!

The Conero coastline

We were thrilled to find this spot right outside of Ancona as we made our way from Monterado down the coast of Marche towards Monterubbiano. We had read that the Conero area was the most beautiful scenery of the Adriatic and this was a beautiful start. That's Bob in the yellow shirt on the step.

Making our way down to the sea

That's Bob by the railing.

Mindy catching some rays!