Venezia – 3 Giorno – On This Day In Venice

Lunedi 8 maggio

On this day in 1798 on the island of Murano, my great great great grandfather, probably best known as Lord Byron’s gondolier and bodyguard, was born. The fact that I am in Venice this week was not a part of my plan, it’s just the way the dates fell on my AirBNB booking.

After breakfast at Goppion, where I met two tourists (one of whom teaches English on mainland Italy), I headed off to Fondamenta Nove to catch the vaporetto to Murano to meet my new cousin.

Paola Falcier is a writer and Murano resident whom I met on the internet a couple of months back. We were both researching our Murano Falcier ancestors and there was a reasonable chance we were related. As it happens, we’re not directly, but we’ve stayed in touch and she’s been a willing victim via Whatsapp as I improve my Italian. We’re still hopeful of finding a connection somewhere. The research continues.

We did a huge circuit of Murano taking in the Fondamenta Venier, which used to be the Fondamenta degli Angoli which is where my Falcieri family lived and where Tita and his siblings were all born.

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We also visited all the churches, a glass factory, the cemetery and I was introduced to a whole host of friends and relatives who had all heard of my impending arrival.

My ancestors on Murano (Falcier, Nichetti, Gaggio and Caurlin) were liberally spread across the southern part of the island and were hanging out around San Stefano, San Pietro and San Ciprioni but there are also connections to San Donato. Between  1814 and 1818 Tita’s father, who had drifted between being a wine seller and a boatman, had picked up his wife and children and decamped to Venice where they had taken up residence at the Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova as ‘gondolieri de casada’ to Lucia Mocenigo, famous of Andrea di Robliant’s books, and later residence for 3 years of Lord Byron after he left the Frezzeria. Why they moved I have no idea. I am guessing they had contacts, probably a family member, already there.

After we parted I headed off to Al Timon. I had found a language exchange group via ‘Meet Up’ and, even though I had spent all day with Paola speaking almost nothing but very broken Italian, I had the chance over cichetti and Aperol to give it another go with my host Michele.

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After this I cut the day short. Paola reckons we clocked up about 8 miles today and tomorrow is another full day. My visit is now half way through. This makes me a bit sad, but I have plenty left to do.

For now, Tita, wherever you are, Buon Compleanno.

What Did I Spend?

Today was quite a cheap day. Breakfast at Goppion was 2.60 Euros and I only picked at cake and cappuccino during the day. Water is freely available throughout Venice at the various fountains so you have no excuse for dehydrating here. Cichetti and two Aperol at Al Timon cost me 10 Euros.

The vaporetto return to Murano Colonna from Fondamenta Nove in Cannaregio cost 10 Euros.

Venezia – 2 Giorno

Domenica 7 maggio

Waking up in Venice was quite surreal. I’d forgotten where I was. The day began with breakfast at Goppion Caffetteria. A cappuccino and a chocolate croissant set me back a tiny 2.60 Euros.

Today being Sunday many of the shops are closed. Cafes and restaurants, largely, aren’t. You won’t go hungry even on a Sunday. So I took my time to wander on my first full day in the city. Here ‘la passeggiata’ is easy. No map, most of the time. I lost count of the number of dead ends I went down. But that’s all part of the fun. It’s like a giant game of pacman. Although with less ghosts.

My journeys took me through Cannaregio, Castello and a bit of Dorsoduro as well. Today was also gelato day. So, one more espresso later (you can get those for just 1 Euro) I passeggiata’d my way right into Bacaro del Gelato in Cannaregio. It was worth the wait. A double cone will set you back 3.50 Euros. (and that’a lot of icecream).

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The morning was spent largely free of the tourists. If you really want to get away from them though, churches are a wonderful way to do it. They are ‘tranquilla’ and works of art both inside and out. I sometimes stop to write notes there.

Lunch was at the Bacarando al Corazzieri – another recommended spot on my travels. Tick. Never feel obliged to eat all the courses. It’s traditional but if like me you’re a one course kind of eater, you don’t have to. A fabulous clam spaghetti, Aperol (my first – at last), an espresso and as much bread as you can comfortably eat, set me back 24.09 Euros. My appearance as a single woman in a restaurant encouraged some lively banter with one of the waiters. but it’s all in good jest and there’s never any harm done.

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After lunch I took a slow amble down to the front and the Arsenale. I passed Via Garibaldi, off which I stayed the last time I was in Venice in 2006 where I remember having a very punchy Gorgonzola gnocchi. And I went to see the Serre dei Giardini which I had read about earlier this year. I then took my chances amongst the tourists and headed down towards San Marco Piazza.

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Ramps are now a thing here in Venice at the bigger bridges. Tourism and our modern age dictates accessibility for all and it’s nice that if you struggle to get around Venice is a bit more accessible than it once was. But they are ugly and largely commendered by lazy tourists who probably think they were put there for them. I saw a more subtle version down near the Danieli Excelsior (near the Bridge of Sighs). Maybe they’ve been put in for the Biennale which I’m only just avoiding (it starts on 13th May).

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Danieli excelsior

Tips for tourists:

Walk at the side and do not stop suddenly in the middle of your trajectory. Behave as you would if you were driving. Would you stop in the middle of the fast lane of a motorway? Pull over to a side street or vacant shop front if you need to stop.
Do not drop rubbish. One of my major bugbears.
Look where you are walking. A lot of dog walkers pick up after their dogs (locals and tourists), a lot do not (locals and tourists).
Dress decently. You are not on the Lido.
Do not picnic on bridges. It’s annoying and you get in everyone’s way.
Never use a shop as a toilet stop off unless you are going to buy something. Public toilets are not common in Venice (the main ones are near Rialto) and they are not free. Offer a shop your patronage and you’ll be allowed to use the facilities. It’s the decent thing to do.

Note: Many of the bad things that people niggle about in Venice are not Venetian things. They are typical of anywhere with a lot of tourists or anywhere with a large population.

Learn some basic Italian language. Memorising your basic niceties will get you far and it will endear you to your hosts. I notice the attitude is different if you use some of the language and the more you use the same basic phrases the easier it becomes.

Buongiorno / Bon Di – Good morning/good day (and the Venexian version)
Ciao – Informal hello but it’s used a lot by people meeting for the first time in an informal setting such as a restaurant or cafe
Per favore – please (this is a good one, manners cost​ nothing)
Mi dispiace – I’m sorry
Scusa – Excuse me. Can be used when asking someone to move or to catch someone’s attention such as a waiter in a restaurant
Non capisco – I don’t understand
Io parlo pochi Italiano/Non parlo Italiano – I speak a little Italian/I don’t speak Italian
Grazie / grazie mille – thank you/many thanks

Many of the people I came across this week did not speak any English, although there is usually someone familiar with the language lurking about. They will tell you their English isn’t good, but it’s always way better than my Italian.

That’s it! Tomorrow is a special day so watch this space. To end, here’s a few more passive aggressive signs I potted on today’s travels.

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Primo Giorno a Venezia – Arrivo!

Sabato 6 maggio

I have always taken the alilaguna to Venice. I love that arrival by Vaporetto and seeing the spike of the campanile appear on the horizon. I love the slow amble through the islands. Amo viaggiare sull’acqua…

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My airbnb host Pietro said take the bus to the Piazzale Roma and get the Vaporetto back down the Grande Canale. And for just a moment I was torn between seeing a little bit of the mainland whilst saving a few Euros and sticking to my old routine.

But for me, arriving should always be by water. It is what makes Venice what it is. I am of course a slave to my heritage – i gondolieri are the all encompassing symbol of Venice. And so it seems wrong to arrive by road, even though the Vaporetti are hardly a friend to the gondola. I want to get my first glimpse of them before I have even placed one foot on Venice’s esteemed flagstones.

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Thankfully, having been here a number of times I know how it all works, And so I took the ‘Linea Arancia’ and hopped off at the Rialto, walked back up over the most famous of all the bridges and down the Riva del Vin to meet my host at our appointed place at the San Silvestro water stop.

As I only had hand luggage it was no problem. Thanks to ever increasing costs for luggage on flights I am reduced to hand luggage only. I want to spend my money in the city, not getting to it and I don’t have a lot of it to spend. To be honest I have no intention of using the vaporetto now I am here except for getting over to the other islands. Walking is the only way to truly explore the city.

If you want to visualise it, there’s a live web cam at the Palazzo Bembo and you can see my first official landing point in Venice after 10 years right here:

As soon as I was settled, I was off, quite literally champing at the bit to be let out into the street, like a small child who has spotted the adventure play park. By 2.15 I had unexpectedly fallen into the path of ‘Cantina do Mori’ and had experienced my first ever cicheti e ombre. This is a great way to eat. It suits me, picking at food rather than eating huge meals. And at least here in Venice it’s healthier. Most of the traditional menu here is frutta di mare, so if you don’t like your food to come with scales or fins, your choice is limited.

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Dinner was a different matter. I really wanted a sit down. I’d been wandering for several hours on no sleep the night before. Most of the places I spotted on my list were stand up cicheti and cocktail bars and / or vastly over my budget which I thought reasonably healthy. Eventually I opted for the no frills ‘Osteria ai Storti’ which seemed to be frequented by long standing locals and the occasional desperate tourist more than anything else. One of the staff eyed me suspiciously, no doubt thinking, oh please not another tourist. I think I had eyed the menu outside for too long.

But I pressed on. They spoke no English, the theme for me today. But I got through it, sunk two glasses of pinot grigo and a two course meal of Gnocchi and then Venexiana cicheti which was basically a lot of seafood with all its appendages still on. And that was fine.

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Osteri/Bacari

Sabato ho avevo un pranzo tardi , e ero molto fame due to me arriving so late in the morning. I had already bookmarked on Google maps all the food and watering stops I could possibly want for the week. Whilst I have my general sense of direction here I don’t know how to find my way to individual places so this was a handy tool. Day one has given me a good idea what to expect. No English and good hearty fare. I can cope with that.

Lunch set me back 12 Euros whilst dinner was 32. It’s kind of what I expected and I’m happy to go with that. That’s three small glasses of wine a day! I never do that at home. And I’m not buying off tourist menus. I haven’t had my gelato yet. The ones I saw aren’t on my preferred list so I am restrained myself. Tomorrow is a different matter. I’m on a mission.

What Did I Spend?

My major spends were already dealt with in advance including flights, accommodation, airport parking, transfers to Venezia and travel insurance. All of that came in at £451.77 and I have 590 Euros in my pocket.

I pre bought a 24 Euro round trip ticket online for the Alilaguna from the airport direct to the Rialto stop on the Grande Canale. So whatever I spend in Venice now, I know I can get back to the airport to catch my flight. Good tip.

More tips for tourists:

Although I always bring a bank card for emergencies I prefer cash (as do most of the shops – they don’t have our credit card culture) and I only take a small amount out with me every day for security and to stop me overspending. Never ever take all your money and your security documents such as your passport with you. I always leave my passport at the accommodation and carry a photocopy just in case I need it. It’s not the end of the world but replacing passports is an expensive job and very inconvenient. Not that I was expecting trouble in Venice, it’s one of the safest places you can go, but I always do this when I am so far from home. And it’s remarkably easy to leave your bag somewhere or drop a wallet. Fai attenzione al portafoglio.

Other things you might want on your arrival:

Wifi – if you’re one of those tourists that doesn’t want to be left out of the loop back home, you will probably want some wifi. Free internet in Venice is not easy to come by- some tourist restaurants have the to lure you in. I have some at my accommodation but out and about I need access for things like this blog. I thought about trying the Venice Wifi network. 20 Euros for a week is a bargain and the map suggests there’s quite a few throughout the city. However, I can get a roaming package with my EE contract for less which means I can call or text home if I need to so I haven’t bothered. The roaming signal here is fair. However, if you just want to dip in every so often this could be the option for you. Here’s a map from the website to give you a feel for it:

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Honestly there are more accessible wifi spots here than in Manchester where I’d usually use my data if I was out and about. Pretty soon this is going to be a thing of the past though as they’re scrapping roaming charges.

10 Years – And….?

I thought it would useful here to add some thoughts on how Venice has changed since I was last here 10 years ago. It doesn’t SEEM any busier. But then I used to go in August (the height of the season). And I haven’t attempted San Marco Piazza yet.

The general attitude towards tourists has not changed. You can hear locals muttering under their breath as tourists wander idly down the stradas blocking up the lanes. But to be honest I found myself also cursing them within an hour of my arrival. Tourists are the same wherever you go. Passive aggressive notes are also common and tourists picnicing are EVERYWHERE. The Rialto was a minefield, but then it always was.

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I’ve noted a huge change in some of the shop fronts too. Big name brands have moved in and ripped the insides from the buildings. It’s a ridiculous juxtaposition for Venice as a facade and I think it makes it look really naff. And I can’t tell if people are shopping in them. But what do I know…

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After lunch I lost the tourist throng as I left Campo Manin and headed to my first important stop of the holiday – the Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Nuova – which is where it all began for Tita Falcieri and Lord Byron. The Palazzo is non accessible though you can creep up to the street doors if you’re careful.

But if you take the next street on your left – The Palazzo Mocenigo Casa Vecchia – you can go right down to the Grand Canal and poke out on a jetty and see the front facade of the Palazzo where Tita and his father would have tethered their gondolas and where Byron would have stepped out and into the Palazzo. As I headed down Casa Vecchia I was joined by three Canadian tourists on a wander. They arrived in Venice at the same time as me and I gave them a history of why I was there, talked to them about the Palazzo and Byron (of whom they had never heard) and gave them some history of Venice and its development and of what my lot were doing in Venice.

The day had been punctuated by people interested in why I was there. On the aeroplane I had been sat next to two English tourists using Venice as a short stop over to catch their cruise to Athens. I had to bite my tongue. Those grande navi!

But in a queue for the toilet on our flight I met Suzy, an artist and writer, who was going to Padau to see her daughter who was studying there and Tony, an 80 year old Glaswegian artist out to spend a week drawing Venice – one of many return trips for him. He hadn’t been out here in 16 years. Not only were they fascinating in their own right, but Tita’s story captured their imaginations.

That’s enough for day one. I hope you enjoy this. It’s tipping it down outside now. But tomorrow promises to be brighter. A presto.

Di Venezia Con Amore

Forgive the impersonal nature of this blog post. Today I arrive in Venice – actually I’ll be somewhere over mainland Europe when this drops onto your timeline. I don’t know when I will get internet access so this is damage limitation, by way of a quick pre-published introduction to say hello from here. If you are in Venice, drop me a line. I am open to all sort of interesting liasons over prosecco, cichetti and anywhere else dreamy and romantic as ever Venice is.

The aim over the next six days is to document my time here with observations, the kinds of photographs you don’t normally see (I promise no Grande Canale panoramics), thoughts on prices, where to eat, artesans, people and the history I see as I trace my ancestors back and forth. I will also be tracking my spending, to see just how true it is that Venice is an overpriced tourist trap. I am very budget conscious so this will be an interesting exercise.

Ciao. Ci vediamo dopo…from somewhere over Europe.

My Venice Review – Countdown!

This post is written mostly in English but with a bit of Italian as well. I’m still learning so translating takes agggeeesssss! But it is good practice!

When I first went to Venice 15 years ago, I was oblivious to the problems. I went five more times, still unaware of what was going on. This year I have returned after a 10 year gap. I am now educated and aware of the problems, the pros and cons. Largely this is also because I know so much more about my personal connection to the city. It is my ancestry. It is my family history. It is my past and it has also been a huge part of my life and my future.

To record my return and my new awareness of the city, I am going to write, research, visit, eat, drink and photograph my six days and blog here. I will be blogging in both Italian and English which I hope will have some accuracy! Excuse my errors!

Please follow my posts. I don’t like to be considered a tourist, but I suppose I am and I hope some of what I say will be of use to other tourists who want more than the tourist experience, and of course for those who live in and care for the city in a small way.

Quando mi primo andare a Venezia 15 anni fa, ero non consapevole dei problemi. Ho ritornato cinque volte, ancora non consapevole. Questo anno ho ritorno dopo 10 anni. Sto più istruito e più conscio dei problemi  – la buona e le male. In gran parte, questo è anche perchè conosco molte di più riguardante la mia connessione personale della città. E il mio antenati. E la mia storica famiglia. E il mio passato. È stato una parte enorme della mia vita e della mia futura.

A ricordo il mio ritorno a Venezia e della mia consapevolezza nuova della città, scriverò, ricerca, visita, mangia, beve e fotografia il mio sei giorni e blog qui. Sarò blogging in Inglese e Italiano quale spero è accurato. Scusa il mio errori! Io sono una studente nuova della lingua Italiana (quattro mesi).

Per favore seguito il mio posti. Non piace le persone pensare io sono una turista, ma io sono suppongo e spero che cosa dico sarà utile per oltre turisti che vogliano più che la turista esperienza, e naturalmente per le persone che vivono e occuparsi della città nel un piccolo modo.

And now for more English because I’m all out of Italian words for today…

My two primary guides on this, my first trip as a solo traveller, are Venezia Autentica and Her Grand Tour. Most of the recommendations are for food and drink because Venice is a minefield of tourist hotspots that I really don’t want to repeat. I hope to add to their recommendations but I’ve pretty much included everything they have to offer on my Google Map (I was writing it all down but it’s turning into a novel on its own). There is no way I am going to manage everything in six days. Thankfully my next trip is just four months away so here’s to multiple returns to the most beautiful city in the world.

Ciao ciao!

Bradenham Manor – A Home For 16 Years

I probably write too much about Venice (as if that could ever be an actual thing).  For those of you who do not know Venice, this might make my recent timeline boring. For those of you who do, you will get it. Even so, it is time for another subject.

Towards the end of April I retraced my steps back to Bradenham Manor in Buckinghamshire, once the home for 20 years of Isaac D’Israeli and his family, and where Tita eventually landed himself in 1832 and for the next 16 years. It is also where he met his future wife.

Bradenham is a beautiful building nestled in the Chiltern Vale. It is also possessed of a uniquely tranquil ambience that everyone notices when they enter. This of course is in direct contrast to the recent and extraordinary adjustment in the internal furnishings of this country manor cum training centre. We are all at a loss.

Even so, Bradenham for me represents a poignant time in my family history. I have visited it before, but not since reading the many letters from and to Sa Disraeli. Most of them are written from the house, and often about the goings on in it. It has a formed a substantial part of my book rewrite, and for obvious reasons once you see it.

Her letters are an indispensible gem in our knowledge of Tita Falcieri’s life not just at the manor, but also what was going on back in Italy and also in London. I’m saving all the interesting bits for the book rewrite. But I have included here a few of the quirkier photographs I took when I was last there.

I was blessed with the opportunity to wander about the house at leisure. It is a jumbled assortment of rooms, corridors and staircases, confused further by the numerous alterations over its life which make it a challenging but fascinating jigsaw And this of course makes it a lot of fun to explore.

Towards the end of the day as things began to wind down I sat and read the chapter from my book that deals with Bradenham and read a few scenes from the script, the section also set at Bradenham. And it really is quite an extraordinary feeling – reading of events that took place in the very rooms where you are now sitting.

Conquering Your Duolingo Tree

On 12th April after 97 days I completed my tree on Duolingo and my owl got his Italian scarf. But this is just the beginning and you can’t learn in isolation. I don’t believe in learning one lesson by heart and then moving on to the next one. I can’t learn by rote and certainly you can’t make sense of one set of words without understanding their context. In Italian many words change not one, depending on the context.

And so I ploughed through the whole lot with a basic understanding, memorising as I went. I’ve managed to implement a lot of it and I can now read basic Italian across social media, understand most of the articles I read and I can get most of my own basic sentence construction right. Italian is now a part of every day life.

But the tree doesn’t end there. You constantly need to update and refresh. Italian is far more complicated than English. And there are far more words to learn because each word has singulars, plurals, are gender sensitive, and have various past, present and future tenses. Quite simply you need to combine Duolingo with a whole bunch of other learning techniques if you’re to master it.

There are a multitude of things you can do. If you want to get good you’ll have to spend a lot longer than a few months. In fact, unless you have a photographic memory, language learning takes a lifetime. But it’s been liberating and I intend to press on.

What I have noticed is how much more advanced my reading and writing is compared to my spoken skills. Talking to an app is one thing, doing it in the real world and with native speakers is quite another and I don’t have many opportunities for that here in Manchester.

And so I joined some language exchange groups on Facebook. I am going to be meeting Italian people. Also, I get randomly messaged by Italians hoping to improve their English so I am constantly having to think on my feet.

I am using a range of elements to improve my language and make sure every day is a new learning and practicing experience. To sum up here’s what I use every day:

  • Facebook and Twitter articles and status updates – I read, write and respond
  • Read a book – someone lent me an Italian book. It’s hard work but handy for dipping in
  • Meet Up – I’ve just joined a language exchange group which meets in Manchester
  • Whatsapp – I have Italian friends in Manchester and Venice I chat to.
  • Duolingo – lesson plans are still set to ‘insane’, you never truly finish your tree
  • Learnitalianpod.com  – spoken lessons only, handy for not using the written word as a prompt
  • Italiano Automatico – Facebook and Youtube – Alberto specialises in teaching Italian. He has slow podcasts – I drop them on to my player for the car.
  • Weila Tom – Youtube – easy explanations about all aspects of the Italian language. This has been my saving grace on so many occasions when I’m struggling to understand structure and variables
  • I back everything up with the vidulingua.com app for checking individual words or checking my sentences before I post to social media
  • I converted all my gadgets to Italian
  • Post it notes – I put them up in strategic places I look every day like my bathroom mirror – I use this mostly for words I struggle to remember – subliminal learning does work
  • podclub.ch – advanced but just hearing the language is beneficial – I drop them on to my player for the car
  • RadioVenezia – or any Italian radio station. Again, just hearing the language is beneficial and that this station is based in my favourite city encourages me
  • Try and think in Italian, I talk to myself a lot. I try to do it in Italian and practice imaginary conversations that I would use regularly such as talking about what I do, or where I am going. It becomes second nature, believe me.
  • Films with or without subtitles – my favourite is ‘Venezia, la luna e tu’ – if you watch it you’ll understand why

In a nutshell SURROUND yourself with it.