Thursday, August 23, 2012



As the train pulls in we realize this is the first place we’ve been where we know no one.  No one to greet us or help us find our way, sort through the language or the customs.  

It is again unbelievably hot.  The sun is intense and relentless as we make our way from the train to find the Tre Archi Hotel on the Cannaregio Canal.  We stumble along up and down steps through the crowded, crowded byways and as we stop to search our street map to get our bearings and find which direction we need to go, a young girl asks,

“Do you need a better map?”  
We look at her a bit quizzically, not being certain of what she means by a “better” map. 

“You need a map with every street, otherwise you'll get hopelessly lost.  Here take mine, we’re leaving right now and I don’t need it anymore.  You’ll love it here and have a great time!” and off she goes, wheeling her luggage and leaving us with her well-worn map of Venice from the Hotel Venezia…

It IS a better map and we soon see we’re actually not that far off the path to our hotel so trudge on  up and over one canal and then another which lands us in a much quieter, less trafficked neighborhood. There are wide fondamenta (canal-side streets) and we pass by what will become our daily café  MQ10  with little tables inside and out and free wireless.  Walking further still toward the end of the canal, there it is a large salmon pink edifice…Tre Archi.  We enter the lobby (dripping sweat, clothing stuck to our skin) and see a lovely chandelier and straight ahead a path to an outdoor garden tented and filled with cloth-covered tables  this is where we will have our breakfast for the next three mornings. 

Our room  our room is another story.  Marble-floored with large shuttered French doors that swing open to a small shared balcony overlooking the tent-top, it is a very small “living” area with a desk and a flat screen TV, armoire to hang clothes, and a small but functional bathroom with Venetian glass sconces and some lovely painted floral decoration on the walls and all the doors.  Surprise  thirteen steps above us on a high landing is where we find the bed!  Now, it is lovely  with more Venetian glass lights and decorated headboard and certainly there is room to stand full height  but clearly this was a room with a 20-foot ceiling that had simply been divided in half!  

   My only complaint is that it is not possible to watch TV in bed and is not comfortable to sit and watch downstairs either but they are all full-up. So if you’re planning to stay at Tre Archi ask for a canal-view room and don’t stay in room 101 unless you like the idea of sleeping above it all!

We settle in, take showers and head out to find Antice Stellato a restaurant that has come highly recommended on Trip Advisor.  When we arrive (at 6pm) the place is shuttered and as we puzzle about what to do (with another group of seven who are wondering, too) the door is unlocked and we are informed by the hostess that they are only opening for the help and that they “WON’T be open until 7pm and certainly NO COOKING until 7:30!”  WELL!

Valentina (our hostess) reassures us the wait is worth it and tells us to peer down the open alley to a place we can wait (we see people sitting outdoors ) straight ahead of where we are now (well, over a canal or two); we could go to Al Timon to have a drink and something small (cichettis) to snack on before we come back to eat so we head over but get distracted by the wide open  plaza of the Jewish Ghetto, the first "ghetto" in the world [the term is derived from a Venetian word].

“When on March 29th, 1516 the Government of the Serenissima Repubblica issued special laws, the first Ghetto of Europe was instituted. It was an area where Jews were forced to live and which they could not leave from sunset to dawn. The area was closed by gates watched by guards and up till now the marks of the hinges are visible there. Jews were allowed to practice only some professions: they were doctors, because they were the most prepared and able to understand Arab writings, money lenders, because Catholic religion forbade this practice, merchants and "strazzarioli", ragsellers. The Ghetto existed for more than two and a half centuries, until Napoleon conquered Venice and finally opened and eliminated every gate (1797): Jews were finally free to live in other areas of the city.” from Ghetto Ebraico di Venezia

Today this plaza is complete with shops and cafes on the fringes, children skipping about and playing ball, mothers carrying home cloth sacks of groceries  and a small enclosed guard house, complete with guard.  We sit watching this small piece of the world go by before returning to Antice Stellato where we have (among other things) an exquisite dish of fritto misto (mixed fry) of shrimp, octopus, squid, sardines, anchovies and who knows what else  simply seasoned with fresh lemon. 

The sun is finally setting as we end our delicious meal and drink a glass of vino to our first evening in Venice.

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