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Sunday, October 28, 2007

To Live in Venice, Part One

As most of you know, I had a unique opportunity to live in a private home instead of a hotel. My home base, La Casa Bella, gave me the chance to truly experience a life lived fully in Venice, not insulated from the city as I would be had I stayed in a hotel.

To me, living in an apartment is the best way to travel and experience a place authentically. Instead of being planted in an area full of tourists and all things catering to them, I could develop roots in a neighborhood that became very familiar and homey in a short amount of time. Also, I am a very independent traveler. My inclination is to travel alone, mostly because I feel compelled to pursue my own agenda and don't want to impose my itinerary on others.

La Casa Bella is situated on a small canal, the Rio Ognissanti (see picture below), in the sestiere (section) of Venice called the Dorsoduro. In doing my homework on the Dorsoduro, I learned that this area initially was not as populated as the other parts of Venice, due to the frequency of pirate attacks! Okay, now how cool is that? (Well, maybe not too cool if you were the one being attacked by pirates...)

Having always had a serious fascination with pirates (and not the lame Johnny Depp variety), that piece of trivia set my imagination afire when I walked along the Zattere, the large open quay that runs along the Giudecca canal, a wide waterway which divides the Dorsoduro from the Giudecca, another island in the lagoon.

The Dorsoduro is remarkably free of tourists considering the enormous volume of people that visit Venice for daytrips. In the waterway along the Zattere, it is common to see these gigantic cruise boats beached like whales as they have dumped off their passengers for a few short hours. Incomprehensively, a large majority of Venice's tourists arrive for a day's visit, only to depart again by nightfall. The conceit that a person could "do" Venice in the span of a few hours is so amazingly short-sighted that I wonder why such a person would even bother at all. I was there for an entire week and still felt as if I had merely scratched the surface. *rant ends here*

I was really glad I stayed in the part of town that I did. Even though the neighborhood was quiet, it was nice to see local people walking to and from work, congregating at small eateries, and generally carrying on about their daily business. But the canal was just a couple minutes' walk to not only the major sights in the Dorsoduro (of which there are many, including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Accademia, the Palazzo Dario (which I saw from my gondola), and Ca' Rezzonico, but to the rest of the city via the wonderful Ponte dell'Accademia bridge.

PS. This has nothing to do with Venice. If you're like me, and you like a good read about pirates and the savage life on the sea, try some of the books I've read within the past year (Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, and Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail. Oh, and if you're in San Francisco, you've got to visit 826 Valencia, the only pirate supply store/writing studio I know of. It's not as cool as Venice, but it's pretty super cool.

Okay, enough about the pirates.


Tina October 29, 2007 at 9:14 AM  

I love your travel style.

I totally agree about staying in an apartment, brava!

And pirate attacks? I had no idea!

tangobaby October 29, 2007 at 4:06 PM  

The other interesting thing I learned about the Dorsoduro is that they call it the "spine of Venice" because it has the most solid land (not marshy) of all of the Venetian islands.

And grazie for the compliments! If I can't be in Venice, at least I can enjoy myself by writing about it.

Tina October 29, 2007 at 9:25 PM  

Oh yeah!! Hey, you know now that I think of it...

Dorso - back

Duro - hard

Therefore, "Dorsoduro" = hard back.

like a solid spine.

HA! There ya go! :-)

Tina October 29, 2007 at 9:30 PM  

actually, I should correct myself...
"Back" is usually "schiena"

While "spine" is "dorso" or "spina"

so yeah. Dorsoduro. Love it.

tangobaby October 29, 2007 at 9:40 PM  

Tina, siete brillante!

(Did I say that right?)

La Nuit Blanche October 30, 2007 at 12:07 PM  

that's what alberto told me, as he and his friend giaccomo (?) were taking us over to his birthday gathering... that they say dorsoduro is called "the spine of venice".

he said that the rest of venice was built on wood, and that's technically actually "floating". amazing!

La Nuit Blanche October 30, 2007 at 12:07 PM  

p.s. the floating part may be an urban myth... gad, i can be gullible.

tangobaby October 30, 2007 at 12:30 PM  

That's why there are all of those big wooden logs sticking out of the canals. It's what they tie the houses to so they don't float away!


Silly little girl! They gave you too much wine. How can Venice be floating AND sinking?!

But then I believed you about the duels and the hot chocolate, so who's the gullible one?

La Nuit Blanche October 31, 2007 at 7:18 AM  

"blanc sur rouge, rien ne bouge...
rouge sur blanc, fous le camp!"

never ever let me mix it up with cute italian men, ever again...!