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Italy - France Journal
June 18 to July 4, 1998

Day Ten: Saturday, June 27, 1998

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.
- Truman Capote

Breakfast at the Hotel Torino was served in an un-air conditioned salon around the corner from our room. Air conditioning is a necessity during Italy's hot summers, but it is still considered a luxury. (Fortunately, the rooms were air-conditioned.) Café latte - ½ espresso and ½ hot milk with a lot of sugar - was Flora's favorite morning drink. Barry enjoyed his tea naturale. After breakfast, we set out to find the Rialto Bridge. Just outside the hotel, we ran into the people we met yesterday on the train! Small world!

We ended up taking our gondola ride first thing. It seemed to us that the canals wouldn't be as crowded in the morning as they would be later in the day. Our gondolier took us up and down the small canals in the residential areas where the water was perfectly still and there wasn't a sound in the air. Sitting in the red velvet seats trimmed with gold braid, we felt like we were in the middle of a dream. Despite the cost, a gondola ride is an experience one cannot miss while in Venice.

After returning to reality, we continued on to the Rialto Bridge - the commercial hub of Venice. We had never seen so many shops in all our lives - in fact, that's all there is in Venice - shop after shop after shop. There's even a Disney Store. We bought another delicious focaccia bread sandwich and ate it sitting on the steps of the bridge. While eating, we saw smoke in the distance, and a "fire engine" boat sped down the Grand Canal to the fire. We made our way home at about 4pm, just in time to watch Italy beat Norway 1-0 and advance to the quarterfinals in the World Cup.

We found an osteria for dinner - Osteria al Mascaron - that served only seafood with a handwritten menu that changes daily based on what the chef finds that morning at the Rialto fish market. We each had spaghetti with scampi and an insalata mista. The salads in Italy are served with red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

We had eaten all of our meals at restaurants recommended in Sandra Gustafson's book "Cheap Eats in Italy" and were never disappointed. This book does not list the cheapest places to eat in Rome, Florence and Venice, but lists the best value-for-your-dollar restaurants that are not tourist-oriented. We ate at a range of restaurants - from simple pizza and sandwich places up to nice ristorantes.

On the way home from dinner, Barry decided we needed to buy a suitcase to haul our purchases home. We inquired about the price of a faux Louis Vuitton satchel that a man was selling on the street along with some other bags that he had laid out on a sheet. Once you've so much as made eye contact with these hustlers, it is next to impossible to not make the purchase. He followed us down the street for several blocks, continually lowering the price and hassling us. We didn't buy, but at one point, thought we were going to have to or he would follow us into our hotel!

Impressions of Venice:

1. This is the only place we've been that we think Martin and Melanie might like.
2. Venice is said to be the world's prettiest city. Maybe a better description is "the world's most unusual" or "most interesting city".
3. There are no cars - this is a plus.
4. It appears that nothing "happens" in Venice except tourism, and the ensuing fight for the tourist dollar seems to make Venice's magic just a little less magical.

A Gondola ride in Venice

The Main "street" in Venice

Venetian Parking Lot