Sunday, May 28, 2006

Venice and Rome in May

I recently returned from an eight-day trip to Rome and Venice. It was a pleasant week, although surprisingly lacking in comic or disastrous events.

May is probably the best month for visiting Italy, with plenty of sunshine but without the searing heat of high summer. I experienced some weather extremes on this trip, though. My first day in Venice was memorable for the heavy rain which fell without pause from dawn until dusk. And my last two days in Rome were remarkable for a tarmac-melting, sunburn-inflicting heatwave.

Favourite hotel of the trip: the Hotel Campiello in Venice.
Best meal: a welcome plate of pasta at the Trattoria di Priscilla on the Via Appia Antica in Rome.
Worst meal: never buy the prepackaged sandwiches on the Eurostar train.
Most cliched moment: an evening appointment on the Accademia bridge over the Grand Canal.
Saddest Venetian sight: the German holidaymaker locked out of his room by his wife.
Conversational topic of the month (maybe year): the emerging Juventus football scandal.

Read on for more of my travel notes.

- Day One: Venice in the rain

Monday, May 08, 2006

A night out in Venice

We were two girls out on the town in Venice, and we'd been rather disappointed with the town's nightlife (or lack of it) up till now. So after a large meal, helped down by a generous pitcher of strong white wine, we followed our guidebook's directions to Campo Santa Margherita. This long open square is apparently the busiest and most buzzing area of Venice at night. Well, there were two bars open and a few people clustered outside, which was certainly the busiest place we'd seen so far.

The liveliest bar was the Caffè, which was crowded with what seemed to be a mixture of locals, tourists and students. We elected to drink at the bar and were enjoying our dirt-cheap beverages (a prosecco and a very good local-speciality spritz) when we had our first encounter of the evening. Three young men edged nearer and nearer, speculating audibly on our nationality, before asking if we were Finnish(?).

One of our new acquaintances was a cheery American ("a firefighter from Chicago"), travelling around Europe. One of his friends was a faintly creepy Italian who looked rather like a predatory bespectacled mole, and was introduced to us as "the man behind the man behind the man". The third of this odd grouping was a bouncy young Italian from the mainland wearing a pale pink sweater and a wide snakeskin belt which kept drawing our fascinated eyes inexorably but inappropriately towards his groin area. We politely refused more drinks, and chatted in a casual fashion although frequently at cross-purposes, thanks to the language barrier (the conversation was in English to suit J and the American boy, and I didn't feel the need to explain that I spoke Italian). J laughed across at me, and Snakeskin Belt demanded 'What are you laughing at?'. She couldn't very well say 'at you' so she simply said 'Oh, we like laughing.' Snakeskin Belt pointed at me and said 'But she's not laughing'. J told him 'she's laughing inside', whereupon he leaned towards me and said into my ear, in heavily-accented English 'I want to laugh inside you'. Our mirth overcame the outrage I was trying to convey: J and I laughed and left.

We crossed the campo to the other bar and sat ourselves down at an outside table to enjoy a more staid atmosphere. The rest of our night probably merits another blog entry, but for now suffice it to say we enjoyed more drinks (for which we duly suffered the next morning), had some politer conversation, and nearly witnessed a mysterious fight. Then it was time for the night-boat home.