Overheard by innocent Italians in Italy who pretend not to understand English:
Amy: So, is this where that famous artist is from?
Me: Which famous artist?
Me: His name is not Pistachio.
Amy: I know.
The sweetest morning of record in Venice is the day we take the Vaporetto to the Ponte dell’ Accademia. By now we are buongiorno-ing and grazia-ing like pros. I am working my way up to a “Prego!” but it’s best to move cautiously with these things. We sit in the early morning drinking exquisite coffee in exquisite sunshine served to us by an exquisitely rude woman. We sit next to professorial types who chain smoke, exhale their smoke at us, and are so completely Italian they have espresso flowing through their veins.
Smoking is very much de rigueur in Italy. In fact, people travel to Italy expressly to be able to smoke. During a thunderstorm Amy and I ducked into a little café to take shelter and immediately insulted the proprietor by asking if he sold any cheese. A tall dark beautiful woman stood in the doorway, smoking a cigarette. I asked her if she spoke English. Then I had the sublime pleasure of a tall dark beautiful Italian woman slowly blowing all of her smoke in my face before screaming “No!” as if she thought I was not only a stupid tourist but a deaf stupid tourist who might murder her and so she would have to murder me first.
Native Italians are easily discerned from the madding crowd. For starters, all of us stupid tourists are constant hazards to ourselves and others by continually abruptly coming to a dead stop in busy thoroughfares, getting mowed over, mowing other people over and in general wreaking havoc by constantly stopping to gape, weep and take pictures of ancient and mythical works of art and churches and statues and things of that nature. In Venice this happens approximately every 1.3 seconds, so if you imagine 2000 stupid tourists crowded into a narrow street with each person crashing to a halt every 1.3 seconds, and crashing into somebody else every 1.3 seconds because every single person is taking pictures with a cell phone, you get some idea of how hazardous life can be while in Venice. The native Venetians seem to have a built -in radar and can part the seas of humanity with a single glowering pursed lip sultry look, so fortunately the only people harmed by the stupid tourists are other stupid tourists.
Most Italians wear black and are extremely beautiful (even and especially the older ones) and are the only species on this planet able to cultivate an expression which says “come hither you know you want me but if you do I will snarl and smack you one so shut up.” They stride around with lit cigarettes drooping from fingers and lips, even if they don’t happen to smoke. They are incredibly stylish in the way that a panther is stylish just before it eats you.
This makes them irresistible. Panthers and Italians. Same thing.
Having escaped from our Hovel Hades in San Marco we discover that the area surrounding the Ponte dell’ Academia is our style of Venice. One can easily imagine Ezra Pound sitting in a café working on the Pisa Cantos. One can easily imagine knowing what the Pisa Cantos are. In the academic district my IQ immediately zoomed upward. Artists, musicians and random elegant people swan around creating, singing, dancing or just simply being the epitome of sexy.
I never did figure out the relationship between the Italian waiter and the bread basket. It appears mysteriously and is whisked away at random, still half full, often with your hand still in it.
On this day we went to the Peggy Guggenheim exhibit, which is in Peggy Guggenheim’s Palazzo, next to Peggy Guggenheim’s grave, which is right beside all the graves of all her little Guggenheim dogs.
Amy finally got to meet her Pistachio.
He did not disappoint.
The Guggenheim experience is best described as Alice in Wonderland for everyone. The range of art work is unbelievably extravagant. It is a whimsical, mind-blowing experience. We tried to move in (all the better to escape our Hotel Hades) but our idea to pose as living art didn’t go over too well.
Amy: It’s ok. When we get to London we’ll just take the chute everywhere.
Me: The what?
Amy: The chute.
Me: The what?
Amy: The chute. You know. The tube.
On my bed at the moment lies a quilt hand made by my late grandmother Mommy Butt. In Italy I learned for the first time about the skill set and precision of hand made lace and linens. We by chance discovered the Succ. E Kerer (find them at www.kerer.it) owned by Silvano Lasala. His son Alberto was there on the day we wandered in and he told us that this art form was dying out in Italy and that once his father died so, likely, would the store. Amy was enamored of a blue tablecloth that sold for over 2 thousand dollars in Canadian funds. At that moment even she was speechless. Alberto is also a renowned artist. This being Venice, we could never find our way back to the store again. The best way to find things in Venice is not to look for anything. It will find you, in whatever guise or shape or thing it wants to be.
Cheap flights abound in Italy. How clever we felt when we booked our way from Venice to London for less than 80 euros each.
How clever we felt when we arrived at the airport two and a half hours early to find only a short line in front of the airline of our choice.
Our cleverness was short-lived.
The person on the desk told us if we wished to check in “in person” it would cost an extra 40 euros each. It cost nothing to check in on-line and she was helpful to point out that we had only 20 minutes to do so or we would have to pay the extra fees. Then we discovered that there is no free wi-fi at the Treviso airport and so you have to sign on and sign up and have to pay for that in order to check in on line for the cheap flight. And the allowable size of carry on baggage is roughly the size of a postage stamp, so that’s an extra 35 euros to check in your bag. And for that you have to line up again in one line and then go pay for it in another line and then go back to the first line up. Here. Now go over there. Now pay this. Now go back over from whence you came. And we discover that seats come in three categories: No leg room. Leg room. (in which you get to know the person in front of you super fast.) And extra leg room. All for add on fees.
All in all it is very difficult to get out of Italy. In every way. Most especially so because as we lifted off I realized I had left behind a little piece of my heart.
Amy was correct. When we finally made it to London we did take the chute everywhere and it blew us out into the London atmosphere like soap bubbles.
To be continued…