Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Days in & near the Veneto 8.3.06

It's raining. I awoke to the sound of rain in the early hours of the morning and rushed to bring in the small load of laundry we had put out last night, closing the shutters in the living/dining room to keep the rain out and climbed back into bed, pulling the sheets up over me. The foam in my morning cappuccino is dissolving in the humidity as I sit here in front of the computer, on this grey and gloomy morning. Not that I mind grey and gloomy. Just the opposite, really. I have always enjoyed a good rainy day and as we haven't had many since we arrived in the Veneto, this is a treat. Well, there have been a few cloudy days with wonderful lightning and thunder but then just a tease of 5 or 10 minutes of heavy rain and the clouds moved away and the hazy blue skies (and heat) returned.

It has been hot. No sooner had we settled ourselves in here in Borgo Roma, just 5 minutes outside Verona's old city, the heat settled in too. We bought a couple of fans (which Laura & Giorgio, our landlords, kindly reimbursed us for), since we don't have air conditioning and tried to keep as comfortable as possible, reminding ourselves that we were living simply, that it was not as hot as Phoenix, surely, and that we could go off to the lake whenever we wanted to. Cold showers helped. Cold drinks helped. An ice pack helped! It was completely still. No breezes blowing in the windows whatsoever. The leaves on the trees did not move. The curtains did not flutter. We were pretty lethargic.

We went to the lake again. Relaxed in the cool waters of Lago di Garda at Punto San Vigilio. It was so hazy the mountains that had been layers of blue and purple on our last visit disappeared in the distance. Like Mt. Etna on all those days that there were clouds and it became like a phantom and you wondered "was it really there or just a figment of my imagination?" We kept moving our deck chairs to stay in the shade of the big trees by the lakes' edge. Drank lots of water. Swam. A lovely way to spend a hot summer day.

Another day we drove to Lido di Jesolo, a beach along the Adriatic, near Venice. This is the time of year that Europeans go on vacation. The road to the beach is like the road to the beach anywhere on earth, I think, in the hot summer months - crowded! Venice is only an hour away from Verona, door to door, so to speak. But on this day, we spent one hour sitting in traffic just trying to squeeze through the tollbooths at the Venice exit on the freeway! We couldn't believe it! We thought at first there must have been an accident. Some reason why we were completely at a standstill. Men got out of their cars, stood by the open doors trying to see, walked down a way to inspect, to assess the situation, to give reason for this stall. Then we realized there was just that much traffic going into Venice! Some going into the city, others to the beaches, but just going to Venice!

Our destination was actually north of there. We had decided that the Venice Lido (beach) would probably be expensive and crowded at this time of year but hadn't really expected this type of traffic situation. Once we passed the exit for Venice the road was clear and we spent maybe another half hour or 45 minutes getting to the Lido di Jesolo. This seems like more of a locals' beach and many healthy looking athletic young people were enjoying it. We watched a group of 4 young women in the very skimpy bikinis lying in the sun all day tanning themselves, getting up every now and then to take a quick dip and then back on their towels, soaking up the sun, bathing suit straps down, shoulders and etc. exposed. A very attractive young man nearby kept standing up and preening like a rooster but they didn't seem to take notice.

It was not overly crowded however and there were enough oldsters like us around so that we didn't feel self-conscious and enough activity to keep us well entertained! A family arrived later, an extremely overweight man wearing a skimpy bathing suit and his wife and two daughters. They were carrying a large inflatable raft, settled into a spot on the sand and then into the sea. But first, the mother, a woman probably in her forties, not particularly beautiful or shapely, removed the top of her bathing suit and went into the water like it was the most natural thing in the world to do. This must have made some of the other women braver because after that we noticed several others had done the same. Most of the women wear bikinis here. Most look terrific. Even many of the older women, and by that I mean my age and older. Italian women do take good care of themselves. I don't know how they do it, surrounded by all the vino, pizza, pasta, bread and gelato, but they do. We decided they must spend a lot of time at the gym working out! Because we see them eating all of this stuff! But some, well, let's just say, some of these bodies could use a little more cover up!

We love the sea! We spent all day there, alternating between sitting on our deck chairs under the umbrella we had rented, reading our books and swimming in the sea. The tide was out and we had to wade pretty far to get in up to our shoulders and the water was cool but not cold, not like a bathtub or anything, but warmer than the lake had been. It felt soft and was salty to the taste. The sand under our feet felt firm and comfortable, no beach shoes needed and I like my feet bare underwater.

Heading home late in the day we made the decision to bypass Venice and that dreaded tollbooth area and take a route to the north, past Treviso, back to Verona on smaller roads. Not a really good decision, because the route was not particularly attractive and ended up taking us around 3 hours to get home anyway!

There are other beaches along the Adriatic coast that we might have to try but it's probably just going to be crowded through August with all the Italians and other Europeans on vacation now. We've seen so many cars and campers from the Netherlands, we don't think there are many people left up there!

Lago di Garda (Garda lake) is very nearby and there are many little beaches along its shoreline that we can explore. We have discovered that in the Veneto plain (a good name for it, because it is very flat and not very interesting in many places), the views along the road are not particularly beautiful. It is very industrial up here and not always the most picturesque. But the cities we have seen have been very beautiful and interesting, like Mantova, Padova and Modena, so we will keep exploring. There are also many Botanical Gardens in this area I want to see. In Verona, we have been to the Giusti Gardens already and to Padova's Orto Botanico. These are lush green spaces in the middle of these old cities, and some of Europe's oldest gardens. I loved the greenhouse plants in Padova's garden especially, with some wonderful exotic specimens to sketch!

It's still raining. Now just a light, almost misty drizzle, but still grey and cloudy and cool. Yesterday we did a lot of driving. We left kind of late in the morning, around 10 and headed for Modena (with Roman origins, and famous for their balsamic vinegar) and I enjoyed making a painting of their 11th century Duomo in the main Piazza Grande. We were just sort of getting the lay of the land, never having been there before and by the time we got there, ate a slice of pizza at a little bar and I sketched the rooflines of the church, everything was closed. It seems a very prosperous place and with its wide streets and covered walkways it was an easy city to navigate. The colors were bright oranges, reds and golds, strong colors against the blue sky and white puffy clouds. We found a wonderful covered market.

We drove on to Bologna, capital of the region of Emilia-Romagna, about 40 kilometers away but were not prepared for the size of this city of half a million people. Our GPS system failed us here and we couldn't locate the information office and frustrated, decided we would have to return, next time a little more prepared.

We took the slow way home, avoiding the toll roads and found ourselves in some lovely farmland, not really rolling hills but fields of tall corn, lush green tobacco, sunflowers, already turning brown, and large and small farmhouses and small clusters of houses, more like little borgos than actual towns and not industrial like some of the other roads we have traveled. We have been listening to an Italian radio station called "Sorrisso (smile)" that plays Italian oldies that we like and that's been fun. But this day we had our "Broadway Hits" CD playing and sang along to all those old Broadway show tunes we love. We're cornballs, I know, but I just can't resist singing "Oklahoma" or belting out the words along with Liza to "Cabaret" or "Don't Cry for me Argentina" from Evita, and making fun of "The sun'll come out tomorrow" from Annie. Cornballs, I know.

We made a quick u-turn when we noticed a shop along the road selling "ricotta fresca" and just had to buy some, along with another hunk of cheese - similar to a parmegiano but with a slightly different flavor. The proud owner of the store said it was his own specialty and offered us a taste. We know we have to go back and find out the name of it and buy more when we've eaten all of this because it was just the most wonderful, slightly salty taste with that little bit of crystallization we love.

These last couple of days it seems the weather has changed a bit. It's not so very hot, the weather forecast has been calling for rain, and finally, day before yesterday as we drove into Verona, it poured. I tried to remember how to say, "it's raining cats and dogs" in Italian (piove a cattinelle). So much so that we had to use an umbrella and it felt really good.

Today I think we will just hang out in the apartment and be lazy. I'm reading an interesting book called "Casa Rossa" about an Italian family in Puglia. Jessica brought us a bunch of books and our friend Janet Gould in Phoenix sent us a care package in Sicily that we are still enjoying. We have no shortage of reading material!

I needed to catch up on my blog writing and now we'll have to pull some photos to show you what I've been talking about. Bob has to move photos off the hard drive, onto the backup as we download what we've shot and it fills up all of our storage space. He also burns to DVD as a secondary back up, in case you were wondering what we are doing with all the thousands of images we have been gathering.

I think I'll go make some more coffee and see what I want to eat. All this writing has made me hungry!

End of August we will do some more traveling. We will visit our lovely young friend Helena (from our school days in Perugia) in Switzerland and meet her family. We're very excited as we have never been there and are looking forward to exploring the cities of St. Gallen, Zurich and Basel. We plan to drive then through France and visit with Vincent's family (the new husband of our "German daughter" Andrea) who kindly invited us to come and see where they live in the south of France.

We hope all of you are well and enjoying the summer. We know it has been a hot one in many places and hope you are surviving the heat.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for following along with us.

Con affetto,
Rosemary e Robert

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