Until I visited the island of Burano I had never felt like a tourist in Venice. In Venice itself I have always managed to feel apart from the hordes of tourists that infest the narrow city streets. I never take any photos, I do my best not to gawk, and I am privy to some of the best culinary secrets on offer. These locations are not known to tourists. When I enter with the good wife we immediately act to put the locals at ease that we are not about to begin asking them to pose for pictures. The best way to manage this is to order some wine and perhaps a few tidbits to eat, and then seat yourself in a corner and shut the fuck up. That I am able to do this in fluent Italian is also somewhat of a help. But still; Italians come to Venice as tourists as well. You see them wandering around the streets in large family groups, complaining that the food is not the same as it is back in Calabria or wherever the hell they’re from. So just speaking Italian isn’t going to do much for you if you can’t blend in.
I’m in Holland. It’s very cold and I’m staying with the in-laws. Worse than that I have no purpose. In Italy we were on holiday. Here we are “catching up” with family. There is only so much catching up that I can do. At a certain point I am all caught out. Unfortunately that point tends to arrive more quickly than I originally gave credit for when I booked my return flight back home. So we are keeping ourselves as busy as possible while drinking lots of tea, eating lots of bread, and having lots of discussions.
One thing I like about the Dutch is that they say it like it is. Or rather, they say it as they see it. I’ve had some good discussions in the last few days and I’ve been surprised at the openness with which my ideas and thoughts on current topics have been accepted. Yes, my resolution not to talk about politics is out the window, but that was only ever for the Italians who need to live in a world of semi-fantasy in order to survive. The Dutch are different.
Now that the good wife and I are safely away I can reveal that our winter skiing interlude was spent at the lovely Italian resort town of Madonna di Campiglio. With some of the best skiing in Italy, it is located just over the hill from the valley where we used to live. The town is very chic and an evening walk around the center in one’s best clothes is de rigueur for any serious skiing acolyte. Although the snow has been scarce this year, the slopes were excellently groomed, although there was one day where the two of us negotiated just two slopes and then gave it up as being far too icy and terrifying.
It snowed in Venice the day before we arrived by train. The same snow that I enjoyed on my snowboard high up in the mountains. It was great boarding but if I could have chosen I would have taken snow falling in Venice in January. After checking out of our mountain hotel we caught the train down through the Adige valley and out onto the Veneto plain. We passed through Verona and Padova before finally arriving in my favorite town in the world.
I have had several acquaintances complain to me about Venice in the past. Specifically they complained about the food. To me on the one hand this is perfectly understandable, while on the other it is simply astonishing. For if I think back to all the great dining experiences of my life, the best of all have one thing in common:
They were all in Venice.
Another day on the Italian slopes. There isn’t any snow but the artificial snow makers have been pumping it out faster than that Italian chick who’s decided to give blow jobs to something like a dozen Italian cities. Actually she’ll be in Verona when we’re passing through. Just saying …
Anyhoo, the snow quality is surprisingly good. We’ve been having a fine time between bouts of malingering in the hotel spa and stuffing our faces with glorious Italian haute cusine and all of it washed down with simply gallons of Italian red wine. No silly ‘no alcohol January’ crap for us. What moron thought up that piece of brilliance anyway? There’s nothing more depressing than another January; another reminder that another year has whizzed by and pretty soon people will be calling me sir and standing up to give me their seat on the train. That’s what alcohol is for, people. Dulling and washing away the pain and agony of our miserable and futile existence on this wretched planet.