Sunday, September 5, 2010

Forget Venice, Go to Murano - 9/5

Gondolas. Canals. Masks. Pigeons. If you need more, check out Wikipedia. Or better yet, go to EPCOT or Vegas, the lines will be shorter, there will be fewer tourists and you’ll get almost the same experience on a slightly smaller and cheaper scale.

Let me step back here – I enjoyed the Venetian experience for what I knew ahead of time it would be. I’m glad we saw Venice; it truly is a unique city. Once it was a pioneering, powerful, majestic city-state, long before the tower in St. Mark’s Square collapsed (1902), before the churches erected souvenir shops and pay stations amidst their pews and parishioners, before Piazza San Marco began waiting like a pained woman of the night for the next mega-cruise liner to sweep in and out, unloading hordes of photo-hungry turistas.

But every anecdote I heard proved true: go to Venice, they said, but one day is enough. We rolled in Saturday at 4pm – by our train’s 6pm departure Sunday, Danielle and I were yelling to each other over the throngs of noisy gawkers, “let’s get the fuck out of Venice.”

Venezia, however, did reveal glimmers of her former self. They were in the back alleys and quiet bistros we encountered when we purposefully got lost, wandering through a beautiful part of the city where locals – if there are any – would probably live.

On a whim we hopped a bus – a water bus – to the island of Murano about 30 minutes from Venice proper.

Since this is a blog about travel and marriage, full disclosure here: at this point in Venice we had our first little honeymoon tiff. It revolved around direction, which boat to take and me always being right. I won’t get into details but turns out, I was right. I just had to let Danielle think she arrived at the correct route without my help. To her credit, she admitted as much and gave this post her blessing, begrudgingly.

We arrived at Murano after the majority of its shops closed for the night. This island is famous for its glass products, which are beautiful. But what I’ll remember it for is the silence. A dog’s bark or a few local children playful noises were the only sounds fluttering above the intermittent low boat motor hum. Almost no tourists. The few that joined us there were seeking the same thing we were – authenticity.

That fell onto our plates, quite literally, at a small waterside restaurant, one of the few still open. Here we ate the best meal of our vacation so far. Grilled local king prawns (think uber-shrimp) and a frutti di mare I’d swim the Grande Canal for. I don’t know how they do it, but the Italians can take anything and make it delicious. Seafood pulled from the waters three feet to our left doesn’t hurt the process.

Venice also provided us with the best beverage we’ve had on this trip so far. After feasting in Murano, we slid into a small liquor store on our walk back to the hotel. The shopkeep let us try a few different after-dinner drinks. Mostly variations on limoncello. Our favorite? Pistachio. It was amazing, enough said. We bought a bottle to take home and a smaller (slightly) bottle to drink on our private hotel room patio.

Our Venice wasn’t the one buzzing and snapping along the crowded streets and canals on the other side of Hotel Bellini. Our Venice was just Danielle and I sitting at a tiny bistro table right outside our room, on a private roof deck, sipping pistachio liquor and taking in the quite side of Venezia.

Stupid Tourists: 5 - I can't name just one - just take my word for it here, people. Tourists are stupid - especially ones in Venice.

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