I would like to share with you and romantic story of mine from Venice, Italy.
While in Venice for our school studies (Architecture), my Amore decided that he would take me on a date to have an evening to ourselves to enjoy the city of romance. The date began as soon as we showered and got dressed in our best semi wrinkled clothes that we could dig out of our bags, fix our hair with no blow dryer or straighter (I have hair that tends to do its own thing, especially in humid weather such as Venice) and in my case managed to dig up enough make up to make myself fit to be seen as a lady and not just a sweaty tourist.
Both dressed and somewhat presentable, Carlo grabs my hand looks at his watch and takes off at a breakneck speed. We are zigging and zagging through the maze which is the Venetian streets at a faster pace than most normal people run. Finally after about fifteen minutes of this sprinting through this rat maze, we come to a screeching stop. I am standing at a small bridge where just off the side there is a beautiful gondola docked with its gondolier dressed in the traditional striped shirts that we all recognize.
As soon as we reached the gondolier, Carlo rat-a-tat-ta-ed (that’s my Italian for, he asked the gondolier if he was able to take us on a ride through the canals) the man nodded and I was whisked onto the canoe like boat for an intimate and up close tour of the canals of Venice.
So as we begin our slow tour through the canals, the man asks us about our trip and other stuff…I assume…it is interesting dating a man that speaks another language and you are in his native country. You quickly realize that people also assume that since you are with him that you too speak the language…this is not the case for me, especially since this trip was my first to Italy and Carlo and I had only been dating about six months at that point.
Our gondolier chatted with Carlo about our trip thus far and he informed him that we were there for Architecture school (yes, I know this because some words never change…no matter what language you say them). The gentleman begins to tell us interesting facts about the city…part in Italian and part in his best English he could manage. I did my best to comprehend the words I could catch, but for the most part I was just enjoying spending one on one time with my love up close and personal with the Venetian canals.
As our ride came to an end, we asked to gondolier if he would take a picture of us. He obliged and he even got into it and was telling us how to pose, “Ok, now give each other a big kiss!” Italians, I think they are born romantic.
We exit the gondola and Carlo asks the man “Where is a good place to eat?” He told us of this one place that happened to be right where we docked and was on the canal. Romantic, but a little to touristy for our taste. We are the kind of couple that likes to try and embrace a culture as the locals do, so I had Carlo ask the man if there were any other places that the tourists didn’t really go. He told us a place and we were off again through the winding streets.
Where we ended up was a small restaurant that used to be on a canal but had been filled in now. The menu was in all Italian, which is a good thing because in tourist areas menus will be catered to the more American tastes and comforts. If you find a place that does not have a ‘Tourist Menu’, you probably know that it’s going to be authentic.
We step inside and are seated right away. Now I cannot say that I remember what I ordered there or what wine I had enjoyed that evening, but there is something that I do remember vividly. Seated to our right hand side at a table next to us was an elderly couple. They got my attention right away. I thought about how sweet it was that this little old French couple was enjoying a romantic candle lit meal together and still so in love.
Now I wish I could say that this was the only reason that I remember them well, but this is not the case. I remember them well because of what they were eating. As you do when you walk into a restaurant is look at everyone’s dishes that are on the tables. Well, I did that this evening and was startled a bit. The woman faced towards me and the man towards Carlo and on their table in front of each of them were heaping bowls of black sauced linguine pasta. I knew immediately what this dish was because I had heard some chefs on T.V. talk about it before, but I didn’t actually think people ate it for real.
The dish that I am talking about is called “Nero di Sepia.” This dish gets its black color from the ink from the squid. Enough said.
As the couple began digging into their black pasta and thoroughly enjoying it, their mouths and teeth quickly mimicked the dish in front of them. It began looking like a bit of a horror show. This is the one image of the evening’s meal that sticks in my head. Lesson for all, listen to your parents and eat with your mouth closed!
After we enjoyed our meal and a show, Carlo and I walked slowly this time back to our hotel which we were staying. Well, I must say that it is easier said than done. Unless you live in Venice and are navigating the streets every day, it is almost impossible to build a cognitive map of the city. We thought that we were heading back to our hotel, but we ended up in a piazzetta (a small plaza) located by a large canal. This part of the story you have already heard in Part II of my blog. It is where I experienced my first aperitivo, that bitter orange bubbly drink.
Once our drinks were finished we somehow managed to find our way back to our hotel this time. It was such a beautiful evening and we decided that we would sit out in front of our hotel at a small bar and enjoy the atmosphere for a while. After sitting and taking in the views, Carlo says “Oh, I forgot all about this…” He puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a crumpled brown bag and hands it to me. I take it and carefully open it to reveal a beautiful blue Murano glass necklace that I had admired earlier that day at an open air market while touring around the city. What a perfect ending to a perfect evening. I could not as for more.