Loves of my life.. #2

Venice.

I think that’s all I need to say, isn’t it??  To be honest, there are other things that I could have written about but tonight seemed pretty perfect to write about Venice.  Because as of tonight I’m going in September…

This isn’t a top 10 of things I love, but to be fair even if it was Venice would feature up there.

The first time I went to Venice (pre fibro), I hated every minute.  It was on a day trip from Lake Garda and after following a woman with a yellow umbrella in a packed St Mark’s Square in the midday sun, eating McDonalds with my legs dangling off the Grand Canal, having a gondola excursion included in the price but being coralled into tipping just to be helped off the damn thing, I swore that I would never go again.  That it wasn’t worth it.

Then my parents went again for their anniversary.  Gave it another shot. And suggested that perhaps I might enjoy it.  Really???

Lots of research ensued (I’m a bit of a research freak).  In that research it was suggested that I might like to ask for a Campari Spritz when I was there. And see some stair things, and see St Marks early morning.  And go to some place called Campo Santa Margherita.

And just like that I fell in love.  We stayed in quite the posh hotel on the Grand Canal.  That suggestion of a Campari Spritz became a lifelong love (as you may already know).  The staircase happened to be Scala Contarini del Bovolo.  Campo Santa Margherita turned into a bit of a disappointment.  However, there was still something that told me that I wasn’t getting the proper Venice experience.

I itched to get back.  And when the chance arose to go with the girls, to do a different Venice experience, I jumped.  And found…. I found… Ca Della Corte.  In Dorsoduro.  The most beautiful, special B&B that there ever was. I booked for me and the girls, and then the parents threw themselves on the bandwagon and went there before me and fell in love with it too.  And the Campo Santa Margherita which was disappointing to me the first time turned out to be my happy place.  The square bustling with students, fruit and veg sellers, restaurants and bars  – and  where the bar Ai Do Draghi was situated.

So.  My Venice.  It kinda doesn’t matter to anyone else.  I know this is cliched, I know I may be romanticising the place, but you find your own Venice.  You really do.  It’s what I tell anyone who goes. I tell them some lovely places but say to wander.  To get lost.  To sit in a cafe and drink espresso and live in that moment.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could cry when I think about how happy it makes me to be there.  How when I go to Ca Della Corte (September will be my 4th time there) I feel like I’m going home.  How when I walk into the inconspicuous bar that is Ai Do Draghi in Santa Margherita that most people would walk by (I did the first time I saw it – small bar, lots of Italian students and Venetians, inconspicuous yet a wee bit intimidating) and order that Campari Spritz (or some wine off their amazing list, most of which are about €3 a glass),  I’m home.  So much so that the 70-odd year old parents, last year, somehow given the tight space, managed to do a full on dance to a bit of Queen.  I have the video. It is quite frankly awesome and said dance was fully deserving of the applause they got from everyone there.

So many people say that Venice is expensive and oh my word it is.  If you’re in the wrong place. I’ve been to Venice, and lived on about €20 a day.  You would think given my penchant from Spritz that’s pretty impressive but in Venice it’s about €2.50 a glass.  And you can get a bloody good main course for about €8.  In the right place.

I’m not quite sure what it does to me but it makes me happy.  It’s not just a holiday.  I still have the pain.  I still have the no sleep.  But there’s this sense of adventure, this sense of beauty and discovery.  This sense, as corny as it sounds, that I’m at one with it all.  I’ve been on holidays post fibro diagnosis and I’ve never found anywhere that’s made me feel like Venice does.

Last year, I stepped into Piazzale Roma and had a little cry because I was so happy to be there.  I walked into Ca Della Corte and Caterina the owner said to me ‘welcome home’.  I just can’t describe the feeling.  The last time I was there I actually got to climb said spiral staircase as it was open to visitors.  Again, I shed a few tears.  I go to the Ghetto, and look at the buildings that are so out of character with the rest of the city, and see how the Jews had to live, but how they persevered, how they prospered, how, in the face of adversity they were so stoic, and I stand there in awe.

I don’t know what it is.  Is it that most of the time I’m in so much pain and while it doesn’t go away when I’m in Venice, the joy of being there and the beauty of it minimises it somewhat??  I find new things every time I’m there.  Last time I found a new restaurant and a year later we’re still talking about it now and going to book up for a meal when we’re there.  And oh, by the way, for the three of us – x6 spritz (I chose spritz instead of coffee!), 1/2 litre of wine, x3 pizza, x2 desert and x2 coffee + tip.  I got change out of £50.  Really.

There are times that I can walk around Venice for an hour and only see Venetians.  Chic older ladies buying their shopping from the fruit and veg boat that I walk by and drool at. Young guys with their bright orange and red trousers going to a meeting.  Teachers with their uber cool  glasses heading home. Or go to the islands and eat the most beautiful food and drink stunning wine and nap on the boat home!  I’ve also pretty much done every touristy thing imaginable, been in the throng of cruise passengers following the umbrellas I once followed, nearly passing out because of the heat and crowds.  And I still go back for more.  And am slightly more sensible now – only do St Marks before 10am. Avoid Le Mercerie.  Wander and find Bar Ai Artisi for an amazing coffee instead.  And if it’s any time noonish or after, get a Spritz!

You’ll find that one of my main loves is cooking.  And cooking Italian food mainly.  That fruit and veg boat I mentioned.  I stare, longingly every time I’m there and tell myself that one day, I’ll take a sabbatical from work, rent an apartment in Dorsoduro and live like a Venetian for 3 months.  In my dreams of course.  Oh yeah, Dorsoduro.  I’ve said it a few times, and no matter how many times I’ve been to Venice, it’s my favourite area.  Less touristy, if that’s what you like.  I would go so far as to say quaint. Stunning.

In September, it’ll be my 6th time in Venice, the parents 12th.  And I know that I’ll find somewhere new for us to see.  It’s actually a little scary.  That for somewhere so small, there are still these teeny tiny places that are so wonderful and that are waiting to be discovered.  Or, as in the case of the last time, huge big Palazzos……

I have no idea if I’ve described how it really makes me feel.  Down to how it makes my tummy leap with happiness. But here is me, post fibro diagnosis, up for goodness knows how long, just off the plane, with my Campari Spritz.

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