The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Venice: Day 8 (Land of Fuckery)

[Although this is the least food-centric entry of all my Italy-based entries, it was probably the most memorable day and fun to reminisce about. PLEASE, ENJOY.]

Yes, that is the best title I could think of. Soon you shall find out why.

view over the bridge
Over the bridge

Venice looks lovely, even if walking through it gives you the sensation of being a rat stuck in a maze in which the reward for finding the end is a nice chunk of pungent cheese or lack of starvation. Of course, you're not a rat sniffing around sharp corners as a lab worker looks down at you, but a human wandering around shadowy alleys between buildings hued with reds and yellows in an attempt to follow the numerous signs that point to Piazza San Marco, aka The Nice Chunk of Pungent Cheese.

Both ways! THIS WAY
Did someone forget to kern?

Sometimes the directions are neatly printed in a black serif typeface on a mustard-colored sign attached to to the corner of a building—other times they're less elegantly spray painted directly on the wall, which kind of breaks the whole, "Wow, this place is charmingly pretty and clean," aesthetic. Not that I'm complaining; it still gets the job done.

I think the main reason that I didn't get lost (and perhaps Diana, although I shouldn't speak for her) is because Kåre had a general idea of how to reach the main square, having been to Venice twice before. There are also things called "maps" that helpfully chart out the layout of the city, but unless you're trying to find a specific street there probably isn't much point in getting one since you'll either 1) get lost anyway, 2) be unable to open the map fully without bumping elbows with another tourist, or 3) end up with a soggy mess of paper after being caught in a downpour while unsuccessfully trying to open the map due to the mass of slow-moving tourists encroaching upon your breathing space. The first reason is the most likely one.

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

So...about the title of this entry. Things started going downhill once our train arrived in Venice about two hours later than it was supposed to, which basically doubled our travel time. Kåre said he should've known the day was going to suck ass once he realize shortly after leaving the apartment that he had forgotten his bus ticket in his other pants. (These kinds of mishaps where one forgets something important in another pair of pants makes me wonder if everyone should only have one pair of pants.) Diana probably got the feeling that things would go awry when she was unable to get in contact with a friend who had suggested to meet in Venice on the 18th before we had even left for Italy.

I, on the other hand, wasn't given any signs about a possible doomful day and was thus qualm-less. I was put off by Morten's warning that there wasn't any particularly notable food there, but finding a good restaurant wasn't a big deal to me as I wasn't going for food. My main interests lay in seeing what all the canals and whatnot were about, and perhaps checking out the Guggenheim.

Doge's palace + stuff it rained
It rained.
tourists need shelter
Tourists need shelter

Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit the Guggenheim or step inside anything particularly notable. But on our walk from the train station to the center of the city (about an hour at our rate of walking/getting lost) we did get to experience an authentic Venetian downpour. The sky unsurprisingly decided to relieve itself of buckets of rain at just about the same time as we arrived at San Marco. Because nature's a bitch. The good part about the downpour was that it made most of the tourists flee out of the square and take shelter near the buildings. The bad part was that every part of our bodies got soaked.

And now we wait.

We walked back towards the train station after spending a few minutes wandering in the rain (we couldn't do much else, really) but huddled under the awning of a random restaurant when the rain changed from regular buckets, bigger buckets? Really, God? When the rain gave signs of lightening up we stepped out from under our protective covering, naively unafraid of what nature would unleash next.

And then the crunching sound came. And the clinking sound. And Diana's exclamation that she had been pelted by something small and hard.

We ran for cover as marble-sized ice chunks shot out of the sky. At us. I guess it's not surprising that nature would have good aim considering she's been practicing for billions of years.

OO torrone, so much! mm, torrone! pistachio cookies pistachio cookie innards!
The only food I ate in Venice

By this point we were pretty much fed up with having to contort our bodies to pass loads of people in narrow streets while being drizzled/pelted on by water in various states of matter. We quickly headed towards the train station on a different route than the one we walked on a few hours earlier, stopping in a bakery for a hunk of light green-hued pistachio flavored torrone and another bakery for some nearly radioactive-green, coaster-sized pistachio cookies that tasted more like almond than pistachio.

Due to a chemical imbalance in my body I was able to keep myself happy just noshing on the sugar-laden torrone and cookies. Diana and Kåre, on the other hand, needed something more in the realm of "real food." They stopped into a sandwich shop for things where sugar wasn't the main flavor component and the three of us sat on a nearby ledge to tuck into our Venetian sustenance. Some sickly looking pigeons also decided to tuck into our food, or the crumbs at least. I noticed that one pigeon looked particularly gimpy; a moment later I realized that its left foot consisted of a toe-less stub. Kåre said he saw another pigeon who must've possessed the IQ of a tea bag for the way it failed to spear a large chunk of bread on the ground with its beak despite that the piece of bread was so large it actually seemed more difficult to miss it than to hit it. Venetian pigeons are bred tough. And stupid.

Manatee says hi!!
Yes, this is the only photo I took from our bench. I brought Manatee with me to prevent Morten from turning him into a voodoo doll.

We arrived at the train station much earlier than our train was supposed to leave. Not wanting to re-enter the horrors of Venice Land, we viewed the swarms of tourists consistently filling Venice's tiny streets and boats to maximum capacity from afar, specifically a calm little benched surrounding a fountain slightly west of the station. On the way over we noticed some policemen (or rather a policeman and a policewoman) interrogating some harmless looking people on the steps to the station, but thought nothing of them.

It shouldn't have been surprising then that the policemen, who were making not so pleasant pleasantries with all the people in our corner of Venice, came around to our bench and asked to see our passports. Funnily Diana had just showed me her photocopy of her passport, which she carried around in case of an emergency.

"Passports, please!" barked Angry Policewoman. Her partner stood silently next to her, not looking particularly nice or mean, just neutral.

Neither Diana nor I had our passports. Actually, neither of us carried them around on a regular basis, figuring it was safer to leave them in our apartment (making sure to carry other forms of ID on us to prove that we exist in case our solid physical form isn't enough). Angry Policewoman was unhappy with our inability to relinquish our identification, not caring to look at Diana's photocopy either.

"Only Italians don't need to carry around their passports! You must have your passport on you at all times, whenever you leave your hotel! Did you know that we can arrest you, take you to the police station and fingerprint you for not having your passports?!" Angry Policewoman looked as though one of her major veins was about to rupture and unleash a poisonous snake that only ate the heads of passport-less tourists.

We sat there, not saying much because there wasn't anything to say, but also thinking that we could probably fit in a trip to the police station before going home, which would've provided a lovely and unique conclusion to our Venetian adventure.

Kåre handed over his passport. Neutral Policeman read its mishmash of vital information over his walkie-talkie-esque thing to some distance police station where his identity was being recorded into a grand database of harmless tourists. After he was done rifling through Kåre's passport, he handed it back and the law enforcement duo moved onto their next victims, which—I kid you not—appeared to be a trio of nuns.

waiting out of the rain
Random violence + Venice
I doodled while waiting. Gotta pass the time somehow.

Relieved that we didn't have to do time in the Venetian slammer and not wanting to sit any longer in the place where we almost got taken to the Venetian slammer, we relocated to the landing outside of the train station. After standing around and staring at the never-ending swarms of tourists for a minute or 30, it started to rain again in the same bucket formation as before.

OMG where's the train
Inside the station

Rinse and repeat. This happened for a while. We eventually decided to look at the train schedule inside the station to see where our train would depart from. Strangely, there were platforms listed for trains that were supposed to leave an hour ago. In the "Arrivals" column many trains were delayed for an hour or more. Doom was in our midst.

We closely watched the board, sucking in air every time one line would flick flick flick through its database of names and then...not say Bologna. It was like waiting for our lottery numbers to come up with the jackpot not being 500 million dollars, but the chance to get the fuck out of there. After much patient waiting the golden word BOLOGNA finally appeared at the bottom of the "Departures" column about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to depart at 6:57, but without a platform number.

"It'll show up soon," we thought with innocent glimmers of hope in our eyes.

As to not ruin our streak of bad luck, Trenitalia decided that, no, we did not deserve a platform number. When the line that said BOLOGNA flickered again, it was replaced with nothingness. We didn't think it was possible, but our train had dropped from the realm of existence.

This would've been more of a shock if we had a super excellent day in Venice, but our souls were so battered by the first train delay, the thunderstorm and Angry Policewoman that we happily added it to our list of "SHIT THAT HAPPENED IN VENICE" and laughed it off. Or maybe we were going delirious from the lack of nutrients.

We checked out the monitor on platform 11 where our train was supposed to depart (something we deduced from the full schedule that lists the weekly trains and such) and only saw a dance of jagged black and white streaks, kind of like the way a TV goes berserk right before an evil dictator takes over the airwaves and says, "Hello, I'm taking over the world now." It would've been more comforting to see blank monitors than malfunctioning ones.

All we could do was stand in the main hall of the station (stand because all the seats were taken up by other people waiting for trains that were late or were in a similar state of nonexistence) until the next train came, which was an hour later. We realized that Venice was overly crowded because people weren't allowed to leave.

The next train thankfully existed and only left the station 10 minutes later than it was supposed to. When about two hours later our train rolled past large blue and white signs that read "BOLOGNA", I felt a happy warmth enter my chest, which took the form of a crazy-looking grin on my face.


We were overly joyous when we finally reached our apartment sometime past 11PM. Just as we requested of Morten, dinner (gnocchi with crispy ham bits) was ready when we plopped ourselves down around the kitchen table. Morten said he ruined the dinner by cooking it for too long (which is why I didn't take a photo of it), but I thought it was delicious. ...Okay, a little saltier than I would've liked, but I was probably deficient in sodium before eating dinner.

Although going to Venice was possibly the most messed up day of our vacation (and Morten's most relaxed day except when we had to climb out of our apartment to unlock the security bolt from outside since we locked it not knowing you couldn't unlock it from the inside), it was also the most memorable and masochistically fun.

Not that I feel compelled to go back or anything.


They won't help you in Venice.

Nothing will.


Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy / October 12, 2007 5:25 AM

That sucks!! I actually love Venice, mostly because of the shopping. I think people have a good or bad experience with have to know where to eat. I usually get a quick sandwich and do aperitivo and snack the rest of the day.

Mahar / October 12, 2007 6:04 AM

Oh Venice. La Serenissima.

It's beautiful but not when it's raining. Venice without Italian sunshine (Actually, Italy without sunshine) = bleh.

Anyhoo, glad you went to Milan, which is my favorite Italian city. Isn't the Duomo something? Beautiful. Was lucky enough to be there during Fashion Week. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Mahar surrounded by cute models and Italian food. How fab is that?)

P.S. Just realized that on your blog I sound rather boy crazy. Only on your blog. Why is that?

Laffen / October 12, 2007 6:15 AM

I rather love Venice, actually. On the day Robynzilla and her posse went there I felt pooped (Robyn term) and just wanted peace and quiet so I stayed in Bologna while the others went. I had no idea it'd be such a good decision.

I've been to Venice three times before and there are several good places to eat, good places to shop, peace and quietness and amazing beauty. On one of my previous visits I was lucky enough to be there with a friend who'd lived there for four years so he could show us all the quiet routes, the beautiful back alleys that tourists had no idea of, and we even ate at a great trattoria.

But that's just the thing about Venice. It's not a foodie city, it's not the best city for shopping, and it's absurdly touristy most of the year. If you don't have a guide and you don't enjoy the main strip of shops and sights you might just not enjoy Venice even when it's sunny and people treat you well, but hidden behind all this is my favorite city in Italy when food is just a side order.

Tina / October 12, 2007 7:40 AM

That sucks that your visit to Venice was bad to say the least.

It's weird about your odd scenario with the police that they were about to attack a bunch of nuns?! WTF? I guess the police doesn't trust anyone...

I'm still a bit surprised that your manatee isn't bald yet, considering how much petting he (or it?) usually gets.

Anyways, at least you had some yummy pistachio torrone.

roboppy / October 12, 2007 7:58 AM

Sara: I haven't met ANYONE who had as bad of a time in Venice as I did! Everyone was just like, "Oh it's great, do this and this!" OH GOD, THAT SO DIDN'T WORK OUT.

That rain killed it. Eeeuh. :(

Mahar: Milan was awesome....cos of SARA! :D I mean, if I went there during Fashion Week maybe I could join your glee about the models...okay maybe not. (cough)

Yes, you sound very boy crazy. [pat pat] It's okay. You can be yourself on my blog!

[inches away slowly] ;)

Mortboop: Whenever we found quiet, we were interrupted by RAIN.


Not that we found much quiet.

Things are always better when you have a local. I swear that's the only way to travel. Sigh. I'll only go back if I can get one of those to hold my hand and shield me from the tourists...and weather, if that's even possible.

Tina: Those police didn't trust anyone. I assume it was routine to check people's know, because two policemen can get a lot of work done in a city of 200,000-something people.

Manatee has so much fur! He's alright. :)

kim / October 12, 2007 9:38 AM

omg! we were attached by the evil police duo, too! took forever for them to radio in our passport info to who knows where. bummed out the morning.

there IS good foodie food in venice... just gotta wander away from the tourist places and into some place where no one speaks english. i wish i knew the name of the place we went to. ahh well.

enjoy the rest of italy!

Mahar / October 12, 2007 9:51 AM

But that's the point, usually I'm NOT boy crazy. :P

I'd rather draw caricatures of myself than stare at boys. I'd rather act in a musical than stare at boys. I'd rather blush nervously and laugh really loudly than stare at boys (so that they would stare at me instead.)

Hahaha. Which only goes to show...nothing.

Agree on touring with a local. Don't you just hate it when people are rude to you because you're a tourist? I mean, we're TOURISTS, cut us some slack.

Oh, got some gelato. Was good, but not up to par to what I'd tasted in Milan.


Annie / October 12, 2007 2:26 PM

Robyn, when my best friend La Skolnique comes to New York in December we will have to have lunch at Barney Greengrass together (she is also a fan of yours) and we will tell you about our misadventures in Europe circa 1979.

To mention just one, I have never warmed up to the actor Milo Ventimiglia because of what happened to me one night in a little town called Ventimiglia on the Riviera.

Also, the Alps are very frightening when you don't expect to find them around and suddenly there they are. See, I had thought the train was heading north.

Jess / October 12, 2007 7:26 PM

Crikey! I had a similar experience in Venice (rain, wandering lost for an entire day, rain, so-so food, rain). The best food we found was at this tiny, tiny wine bar we randomly ducked into to avoid (you guessed it) rain! Although, we saved the crappy Trenitialia experience for the trip between Pisa and Florence.

roboppy / October 12, 2007 11:29 PM

kim: YOU TOO! Ah. ...Fun memories, eh?

I wasn't very hungry in Venice so I don't regret missing the good stuff. If I ever get stranded in a forest of something, I'll probably last a pretty long time...before I starve to death.

Mahar: I'd rather do most things besides stare at boys. Because I'd be kind of mortified if I did...yeah... -__-

I get bothered by tourists (silently bothered)...and I am one! Oops. Can't control myself!

akatsuki: She was scary. I didn't encounter any more scary police (or any police for that matter) for the rest of the trip!

Annie: I would love to hear about your adventures. In Ventimiglia. And...the ALPS.

Graeme: There must be wine EVERYWHERE in Italy!

Jess: I just got hit with all the crap in one day. Never had a problem with Trenitalia at any other point in the trip!

Kathy: I'm glad you noticed. ;)

Cat / October 13, 2007 12:24 PM

It totally sucks that you had such a rough time in Venice!

Bad weather makes usually me completely miserable and grumpy. We got stuck in a torrential downpour while we were in Venice a number of times too, but that totally did not phase me because I just found everything else about the city so charming!

jodie / October 14, 2007 1:24 AM

what kathy said. haha!

(i'm patiently waiting for when more poofy shirts are made...)

eatyourheartout / October 14, 2007 5:52 PM

the long awaited entry has come!
reliving it this way never hurts as the real thing.

I think eating any nugget will remind me of Venice from then on.

roboppy / October 14, 2007 10:41 PM

Girl and the City: Thanks for stopping by! I shall read your blog so I can be even more sad about not living in Paris!

Cat: I didn't get enough of the charm. Waaah.

Jodie: If I had an intern I could get this t-shirt thing off the ground more quickly. Hell, if I had an intern I could do a whole lot more...


Diana: Wait, you mean nougat? :D


I'm sad that the combination of "nougat" and "nugget" would still only result in "nougat." Or nouget. Or nugat.

LIsa in Toronto / October 15, 2007 9:04 PM

I hope you have time to give Venice another chance when you are not in a rush (and it is not the downpour season).
It is pretty amazing to only decide whether to take a boat or walk everywhere; I enjoyed not having to deal with cars.
It seems that every corner has fabulous art tucked in a niche of a church, and many churches are free when there are no services.
Unfortunately the only food suggestions I have are panini and supermarkets, and yes it is one of the most expensive places to eat out anywhere in the world (even compared to NYC perhaps?).
I recently heard about a chain of steam table cafeterias, Brek, but I haven't tried them.
happy eating!

roboppy / October 17, 2007 7:54 AM

Venice will get another chance when it stops RAINING!

...Just kidding. I know it must be great if so many people love it! But...ahh! Ah. I doubt I'd go back for a while. I'd rather huddle in the comfort of Bologna, where I was not pelted by hail. ;)

I heard Brek was good! Perhaps something else I can try when I go back...

Maryann / October 17, 2007 7:52 PM

Loved your post. It's nice to read something a bit quirky now and then. Perfect is boring. Your story was interesting :)

val / October 26, 2007 1:18 AM

Was in Venice end of August this year...We were walking around trying to get to the Doumo but got sidetracked with all the stores selling knickknacks...we gave up trying to get to the church and just ended up catching a Venetian Concert :)

I know what you mean about the train!! We were supposed to catch the 10pm one but OMG, we got back to Bologna past 3am already...

sorry to read you had a bad experience...

Something random from the archives