Venezia on Foot (from April 2016)

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(While going through my unfinished blog posts recently I discovered this one from my last trip to Italy back in 2016.)

Wish I could find a little pot holder just like this one.

It has been over two years since I was on this trip, yet seeing these photos quickly brings it all back to me. The devil really is in the details. The colors, curves, light, shadows, and the many kind people I met while there for two weeks warm my heart. I didn’t want to love Venezia, but I carry it with me now. It seems cliche to this cynical American, and yet, the place inspires! It’s a magical place and I wish I could have known it long ago…img_1345This was our front door for two weeks. We had the large apartment located on the top floor of this building.

Many times I walked past this shop nearby and admired these ceramics. I still think about these ceramics. While there I bought this book to practice my reading comprehension. I’m always amazed at how little I use my Italian and yet am still able to do ok with it when I need to read it. These are likely window boxes filled with Sedum palmeri. It felt like the entire place had all shared the same plant. While visiting there the first time, I’d admired this color on another building. It’s called Venetian salmon and seems fitting. After the second trip I loved the color even more. (This is Hotel Iris.)During this second trip I also learned quite a bit more about the gardens of Venice and the history of many of the plants there. (It helps to be included in a group of Italian Instagramers who know a great deal about Italian Garden History.)With so many tourists, it’s nice to hide the garbage cans with art. Many shops sell items for Carnevale. This shop caught my eye with its modern masks. On this trip I walked to see some art, but not as much as I’d hoped to see. I rested and read quite a bit. Traveling is still hard on me and this wasn’t really long after I’d had my back surgery and I was in the midst of terrible nerve pain from my old injuries. Being there made the pain better. It was even better when I saw plants. It’s a place where you always want to peek over walls. I spent a few days like this but was relieved when the tour took place on the last day there. Being invited into homes and gardens is always a wonderful treat. It seems possible to me that I loved this walk so much I could do it all over again in my mind. Then there was a cookbook store. Oh how I wish I’d spent more time lingering there!The best was saved for last. I stopped several times on my way back to the apartment to pick up this incredible sarde in saor from a vendor who served theirs on polenta. The two creamed together like this still makes my mouth water.

Venice: You’re So Lovely You Broke the Camera

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Let’s just get to the point. Not long after arriving in Venezia my iPhone went a bit nuts and ended up imploding which led to a photo dump. (I suspect it was from taking videos and far too many photo. The phone really seems to hate the videos most of all.) I’d thought the photos would be saved on the iPad we brought, but well, I was wrong. The photos will be missed, but the greatest regret is that I won’t be able to post images from our visit to the Giardini Botanici Hanbury near Ventimiglia, Italy. Much planning went into that day trip, and the photos somehow made it all worth the effort. We awoke early, took the train from Genova to Ventimiglia, bought our bus tickets, waited for the bus, and then we experienced the best of the Italian Riviera for the rest of the day. While waiting at the bus stop after our garden visit, we met a British couple who’d walked there from the French town just over the border and were taking the train back to their hotel that night, while we were leaving from the same station to return to our apartment. While chatting, a woman in a car that had exited a garage across the street asked if we needed a ride back into town. Turns out a Hanbury family member is still there—although the garden is now part of the University of Genova. She was a wonderful guide during our short ride and once again I am reminded that true plant people are a small lot of people and we love crossing paths with other plant people. 

Well, rather than cry over spilled milk, I’ll move on to the next course. 

I Giardini Reali (The Royal Gardens) as seen from one of the restored rooms in the former Royal Palace, now part of the Museo Correr.

 

During our last trip here we’d stumbled upon this little patch of green near the water at St. Mark’s Square and it immediately reminded me of Paris. Turns out that Napoleaon had his hand in the development of this spot while in power here and while he lived in the Royal Palace. Only a few of the rooms remain, but from this window, it’s clear to see how the garden must have served its purpose. 

Our apartment door is to the right. This is our little deadend street at night.

  

We’re staying near the Rialto Bridge just steps away from the Rialto Market. This is what the view can be like just walking to the supermarket in the evening.

   
Italians feel much differently about plants and gardening than many other cultures and I am not going to begin a big discussion on the matter other than to back them up. I hear time and again the remark that things could look better if they just tidied things up but then this wouldn’t be Italy and its people would no longer be the quirky Italians that foreigners so admire.

Balconies full of wild messy ivy are quite commonplace all over Italy—especially so in Vencie. With low light coming in between the buildings in the narrow canals and streets it makes sense and is very low maintenance. 

The other common combination you’ll see up higher on rooftop terraces will be something along these lines: screen plants (optional), tomato plants (not optional), marigolds or calendula, geraniums, herbs, maybe a rose or jasmine vine if their rooftop has something for it to climb on, agave (optional), other foliage plants (optional).

They really do keep it simple around here.

“Here on the night of November 26, 1944 Amerigo Perini died by a fascist bullet hastening the hour of liberation of Italy from tyranny both inside and out.”

In addition to being used as an herb, bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is still used culturally to connote victory just as it has for many centuries. Memorial signs such as this are given large frames or wreaths covered in laurel leaves, and newly graduated college students still walk the streets of Venice this time of year wearing their laurel crowns and singing together. It is nice to see plant symbolism and tradition at work.  Since I am ever the traveler wandering about while managing my own chronic health problems, it is nice to see such fine seats.  Seeing these near La Fenice made me realize I really should get some portable comfortable furniture for the garden this summer. I think that our elderly cat will approve of the idea too.  Piazza San Marco has nothing to do with gardening, and there are no plants, but it is magnificent in its design. This trip we visited the interior of the church and the mosaic work was truly stunning. When I return home, I want to begin making mosaics again. 

  

This is the view from the roof of St. Mark’s Basilica. 

  There are museums and art all over the city. Since Medusa is one of my favorite mytholical creatures, I snapped a photo of her on Athena’s aegis. This is from a sculpture that’s a Roman copy of a Greek original.   Ceramics are also a favorite and this dish depicts one of my favorite stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Cannot remember the date, but this is likely from the Renaissance.
  Yet another view from the top of St. Mark’s Basilica looking out toward the lagoon with the Doge’s Palace on the left.  The classical Venetian interior has a lot of dark, heavy wood. I doubt that was done to showcase fine Murano glass chandeliers, but it sure does work don’t you think? This museum room contained an incredible historic library with books on exploration. 

  This wouldn’t be Italy, and I wouldn’t be an Italian-American, if I didn’t share a basket of fake fruit with you. John and I both laughed when we saw it. We had to admit this one was quite stylish.  The cafes in Piazza San Marco are well known and can be a lot of fun if you’re there when the crowds are too much. We picked Caffè Florian since it was founded in 1720. For the price you pay to remain in the square to relax, it was worth it with this atmosphere. Outside our window the musicians played and we watched people walk by us.    The details in Italy are what boggle my mind and fill my heart with smiles. This incredible concrete work filled my imagination and simultaneously made me hungry. Not everyone has that reaction to tentacles, but I do. 

  This little patio is around the corner from our apartment.
  Some of my favorite spots in Venice are passageways such as this one. It too is nearby. From the kitchen porch we have a nice few of the bell tower. 
   But I must see the plants as I wander the streets. Wisteria is in bloom everywhere. It’s a very popular ornamental plant in Italy. I think their buildings are strong enough to maintain these floral beasts. 
  Everywhere you will find Sedum. This is by far the most common plant. I’ve yet to see it for sale so it must be passed along from balcony to balcony.   
   As you walk you find more and more of the usual low-maintenance suspects. Since there are so few plants here, when you do see them, their impact is strongly felt. 
   
  Then you find the little collections of potted plants and you know a gardener lives there. This little collection (in both pictures) was being cared for by an old man.   Leaving to pick up a rental car other morning I saw these boxes and thought it was strange I hadn’t seen a Dwarf Alberta spruce in several weeks. 
We also noticed this on a building. Reminds me a bit of Napoleon’s bee, but I’m not sure if this building was connected to him. He did loot the place and rearranged a few things before passing it along to the next ruler. So glad Venice is free now.   Last time we were here I really wanted to get something for the garden. This time, I am returning to this shop to pick up a few pieces. 
 Wish I could get a matching earring a necklace combo while we’re here but I can’t afford them—maybe next time. Being able to stay in Italy for a month was really the greatest treasure I get to take home. 

More from Veneto soon! 

Merry Christmas

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Hope you had a lovely holiday full of laughter and love. We filled the house with food and friends and feasted on The Feast of Seven Fishes. I’m ashamed I didn’t take more photos, but I can assure you I was busy for several hours and nothing was left on a single plate. It was delicious.
These are a few of our handmade spinach ravioli with Dungeness crab filling. This was a huge win for us because we’d never made them.
After the guests had departed I received my presents. The first was the book above. We’re planning a trip to Italy in 2014 so I need to get my green hat on again soon. This book will help me. I’ve never been, and John is taking me to see places from his childhood. He wanted to take me to Sicily too, but I’d rather see friends, so we’re thinking about alternatives. I’m excited, but traveling is always hard on my body so I have a lot of planning and special physical therapy exercises in store for me.

My second gift was this pearl necklace. No one has ever given me anything like this before and it means a lot to me. I can only afford the basics within my budget so this is a true gift. I feel a bit grown up wearing it. Last night I wanted to fall asleep with it on. I felt like a little girl playing dress up and that made me happy for some funny reason.

I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to garden with it on, but the thought did cross my mind.
I am getting John a kitten. This is crazy since we already have 3 cats, but it is what he wants. (More on that new arrival soon. We are being very careful with our choice.)
So, the future looks bright and my garden is waking up and I’m looking forward to revising it in the coming months. There will be more shared meals and laughter in this house. I hope to meet new people and have more creative energy and ideas. Best of all, I want to continue to help people and share my thoughts about what I’ve learned through managing my own chronic illness. I’ve built up more and more strength and I am ready now. It was rough to revisit where I was in my life but I’m truly supported and encouraged now by those around me.
The only immediate issue I currently have is about continuing my education. Part of me wants to study again, but I will need more strength and endurance. What to study? Horticulture, garden design, writing? I don’t know, but I’m open to developing my potential again. I want to dig in, get involved, and become more of the professional I know I am.
With that, I must bid you all adieu!
Merry Christmas!
(More from the garden soon!)