Visiting La Serenissima part 1 of 3- Venice, Italy

Visiting La Serenissima
Venice, Italy

After we have done something for our education, we are starved! We take a walk which even leads us across famous Rialto Bridge with its little shops and lovely lights, and finally get some proper Italian dinner. And ice-cream, too – even though it is the middle of winter!

The next day we decide to discover more of the island we live on, Lido. As I have mentioned before, it has wonderful beaches. So we walk down to the beach and stroll along the water, find some curious things the sea has spat out and left behind; lovely shells, bottles, branches, seaweed, and odd bits and pieces. We watch the water recede, and then sit in the warm sunshine, enjoying the silence. Actually – even the gulls can barely be heard, they are far out at sea fishing for breakfast, or lunch.

lido beach

low tide, the water
has left rippled sand,
fine lines, bubbly foam,
rocks drying in the sun.
small ponds starve
in front of silent cabins
- green white green white
behind protective planks.

the gulls play far offshore,
irritated by a ship’s siren
echoing across the water.

shells crack under my step
and the sea is tame,
the sea is tame.

When we finally get up again to walk on, we suddenly notice this guy in bathing trunks and a t-shirt. It IS nice and warm for January, but still … I am quite puzzled. He joins some friends in playing boccia in front of the cabins, the guys are all in pants and t-shirts, and only the woman wears winter clothes (including a warm jacket). One cabin door is open – and this guy walks out in his trunks, soon followed by another Italian in his fifties or even early sixties! I can’t believe it! We sit down in the sand, and I just say, “Don’t tell me they’re going to take a swim! They can’t possibly …”

Both Sepp and I watch with our mouths open as they put on bathing-caps and goggles and head for the sea!! They walk into the water (and it is very cold water, believe me!), and then take a swim for about five minutes. Everybody around is staring at them! I suppose they do this every day and are used to it, but it looks like madness to most people. The funniest thing is when they come out of the water and run into someone they know: they stand there dripping in their bathing gear next to this woman in her fur coat and hat! It looks so absolutely funny!

We proceed further along the beach until we have walked halfway along the island, then we turn around and walk along the promenade, quite impressed with the old villas and very exquisite hotels along the way. We also pass by the ugly Palazzo del Cinema, a concrete block that lacks any kind of charm, where the film festival is held every two years, and the Hotel des Bains where Luchino Visconti shot most of his famous film version of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”. Back on the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta (the name of the main street) where our hotel is located, we decide to do some shopping and buy pasta, artichokes, parmesan cheese, etc to take back to Austria with us. After a stopover at the hotel, we go to the main island for more exploring and walking and enjoying the beauty of the place.

We decide on dinner at “Trattoria Vittoria” – and the evening turns out to be really lovely. We’re still outside, looking over the menu, and I am fascinated by all the seafood behind the window, when this one waiter walks up to the window inside and grins and winks and makes a gesture as if to tell me “delicious”. He immediately reminds me of that hotel manager in “Pretty Woman” played by Hector Elizondo. He does look like him, Sepp agrees. Since we simply cannot turn away now, we let “Ettore” (we call him that since he looks like Hector, and Ettore is the Italian form of the name) lure us inside to a table for two.

Then another waiter shows up – and I tell you, he looks at least like Charles Aznavour‘s brother – taller than Aznavour with a longer face … but close! And there is a third waiter who definitely reminds us of someone in an old movie, he is a little chubby … about 50 maybe … so we feel as if we have walked into a Hollywood production! The three of them are having quite some fun together, always signalling to one another, grinning, and winking. There are two middle-aged Austrian women at another table, and they cannot seem to decide whether to take one cappucino or two, and when they finally have that settled, “Ettore” turns round and makes some faces in our direction, rolling up his eyes, etc. He is too funny.

The scene inspires me to write a poem, and for a while I don’t even notice that “Charles” is standing behind me, looking over my shoulder … this attracts the attention of “Ettore”, and he comes over, and with his hands behind his back, he begins to sing “Caro amico, ti scrivo …” (Dear friend, I am writing you …) – the first lines of a famous Italian song (“L’anno che verrà” by Lucio Dalla; meaning “The year to come”). I just cannot help laughing … now I think I should have copied the poem and left it on the table.

trattoria vittoria, venice

the waiter looks like hector elizondo.
his wink and smile make me feel
like pretty woman vivian.
he serves whiskey and water,
runs his fingers through his beard,
grins at the indecision
of two austrian women on holidays
from husbands and hearths.

smalltalk at table two,
german gaiety fueled by wine;
behind a column, a girl rubs her eyes,
an italian picks fishbones
on his plate; he’s handsome,
but his ears are too small.
his girlfriend looks much older;
she stabs her salad,
drops a remark about me.

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