The posts on the Best memory of Venice keep coming in and I am very pleased that the Best memory which Robin Locker Lacey of My Mélange has taken back is that of food (my best memories are always of our Venetian food) and of the kindness of Venetian people, which many times is overlooked by tourists. Venetians are, for sure, very different from the people of South of Italy: we can be cold, diffident and sometimes abrupt! We are, after all, the descendants of one of the biggest trading Empires which Europe has ever known! Venetians are at heart merchants! And up here it is much colder and wet and foggy than in the south, so we do have a bit less to be thankful for! And after the recent floods – acqua alta, we probably have even less to be thankful for! But Venetians can be warm, funny and generous! We will leave everything at a drop of a hat if we see someone in need of our help (let’s not forget that when in Italy there are some major disasters like earthquakes, floods ect. Venetian volunteers are always the first to set up and go and help!). How many times tourists have asked a local for direction in the maze of calli and canals and rather than explain how to get there, the Venetian has just taken the poor lost tourist to its destination, many times going way out of his own way to help the poor soul!
So I would like really to thank Robin for pointing this out to the readers and I hope next time some of you will visit Venice, you will look past the cold and diffident approach you might get from some of the restaurant staff or from the local shops and remember that Venetian are not really like that, you just have to get to know them!
Venice and its people
When Monica mentioned doing a post on my most memorable experience in Venice, I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. It would just be so hard to decide on one.
Since Venice was the first place that I set foot on Italian soil, you could certainly understand how there would be tons of wonderful memories created in an Italian city, sans cars, that floats on water, couldn’t you?
From my first sighting of the island as we approached on the Alilaguna to our first gondola ride. From lugging our bags up and down footbridge after footbridge on the way to our B&B to enjoying the orchestra music under the start at one of the historic cafes in Piazza San Marco. Venice, simply put, is magic.
Most of my Italian memories, which are near and dear to my heart, always involve something food-related, and Venice is no exception.
The owner’s son greeted us and lead us to a table in the courtyard, which was open to a cloudless sky. Perched high above our heads was a clothesline from which laundry dangled precariously. The tiny dining room was composed of about three small tables, which were full at the time. A large family of locals at one, a British couple at the other and ourselves.
Though I was excited at the thought of eating family recipes at such simple place, I quickly realized that the star here would not be the food. Instead, it was our hostess, who I will affectionately refer to as Nonna.
Nonna flitted about the dining room, displaying such antics as trying to convince my vegetarian boyfriend (now husband) to eat meat, pouring the wine at the Brit’s table and then helping herself to a generous gulp from their glasses and finally, showing off each dish as it exited the kitchen, proudly, to everyone in the dining room before serving it to its intended owner, as if to say “See how good this looks – aren’t you sorry YOU didn’t order this?”
I was in awe and enamored of Nonna. She could have served me dog food and I wouldn’t have enjoyed my evening any less. In fact, thinking about it now, I couldn’t even tell you what I had to eat that night.
Wanting to extend myself by speaking in her native tongue, I leafed furiously through my Italian-American phrase book until I was satisfied I’d figured out how to ask if I could call her Nonna.
As she brought us the check at the end of our meal, I smiled and blurted out in the best Italian I could muster, “Ti chiama Nonna?”
She approached me, hands spread wide apart and as she came closer, patted both of my cheeks, ever so gently, looked me right in the eyes and said enthusiastically, “No Nonna…Mamma, Mamma!!”
After the laughter in the dining room subsided, she noticed my camera resting on the table. She grabbed it and insisted that someone snap a photo of the three of us, which I still have and treasure.
When she snuck back into the kitchen, the London couple confessed to frequenting the place. “Not so much for the food, but more for the show!”
I fully understand why.
Robin Locker Lacey is a travel consultant for Italy and France, freelance writer, photographer and foodie. Her website, My Mélange, features info on her favorite European cities, travel essays, photos, restaurant and hotel recommendations, recipes and budget travel tips. As the self-professed Queen of the Carry-on Bag, she offers practical advice on traveling light. She is addicted to social media – you can follow her on Twitter @MyMelange or join her Facebook community.