One thing that I learned about over time was a special offering of Venice- Cicchetti and an Ombra- a selection of little snacks with a glass of wine meant to hold off hunger during the late afternoon or early evening. At first I thought this may be an inexpensive way to get a meal. Selecting from a wide range of little plates and exotic delicacies to have with a glass of wine is fun. For me, it ends up being an exercise in trying to figure just what that actually is that you’re considering eating. The first cicchetti place I went to was on a tiny little street in Cannaregio- Calle de l’Oca, right near the end of the Strada Nova. After selecting your little bites and glass of wine you could take your purchases, trying to hold on to everything at once, through another door to a small courtyard and sit down. It is when you pay that you realize this is very satisfying, but not really an inexpensive option. I think my late afternoon snack cost me something on the order of $22. It was probably the baby octopus… The last time I went there they were closed for renovations; they may have needed to expand in part because they got a write-up in the New York Times.
As I’ve mentioned before, when I take students to Venice I always play a game called “Let’s Get Lost in Venice”. It is very easy to play this, whether you intend to, or not. The last time we started in the Piazza San Marco and one volunteer led the group, turning this way and that for about five minutes, or so. Then the next leader steps forward and continues on. I don’t say anything, but I’m hoping the whole time that we really end up in some far-flung corner. Some places look familiar, some don’t- at all. My total time in Venice has been very limited, probably a total of eleven days. Each time I’m there I get turned around, go in a different direction than the one I’m SURE I’m going in, sit in a campo studying and turning a map around and around in my hand, and generally end up befuddled. I actually have an excellent reputation for finding my way around a place. Friends have said that I have a grid inside my head and, generally, I can go to a new city, take a quick look at a map and find my way around- no problem. Not Venice. She plays with me. I think I’m going the right way, start to see that I don’t recognize the area I’m walking in, and then end up where I wanted to go- from a different direction. Or I won’t recognize an area at all, then see something that I do know- “Oh, of course the Scuola Grande di San Rocco!”, or, “This is where the craftsman who builds the gondolas has his workshop!”, or “Up here is the bar where I got a good price on beer before!”, and then immediately back into the blankness of unrecognizability. She isn’t at all cruel, though. She wants to make sure that I know that she is largely unfathomable to me, and then I find myself again.