A Very Different Kind of Trip

Venice, Italy (Going Down the Gran Canal by Vaporetto)

I’m living in Venice, Italy this month. I have the fortune of living here for a month — in a city most tourists seem to think they can “see” in a day or two! You’d think having been here a week already, I would have seen and done everything Venice has to offer. You’d be wrong. This is a very different kind of trip.

I’m here with my AMAZING, beloved terminally ill mama (see tribute post here!), who I’ve been caring for during the last 1.5 years (here’s the skinny on that) and our sweet little Boston Bull Pug medical alert service dog, Abby (yep, she gets a post too). My mama’s childhood friend, whom we call More Diane, rounds out the traveling party (post here, of course)… though we also had a brief houseguest of my British personality doppelgänger, Hannah, who is studying in Venice this semester and was homeless (read more about how we met in my first Venice post)! Essentially, we are three women writers and a dog sharing the trip of a lifetime.

Da Raffaele

Each day, we remind ourselves (as our bodies insist on reminding us), this is a VERY different kind of trip. The last year and a half has taken a real toll on all of us and we simply can’t accomplish all we once did. Mama is not always able to go out and explore; and it is on these days we especially appreciate our wonderful apartment. We spend these days writing, resting and observing the life of Venice. (Wonder what we’re all writing???  More Diane writes beautiful poetry and children’s stories, Mama writes her blog Giudditalia, and I write here for you! Plus I’m slowly working on a book.)

We watch the constantly changing crowd of tourists rush past our windows in a variety of boats and (the lucky few who can find our little courtyard) by foot. But we aren’t here so much to “see” Venice as we are here to experience Venice. We feel blessed to be able to do just that from inside our beautiful Venetian apartment on the Gran Canal. That’s not to say we aren’t going out to museums and tours and such. It’s that we aren’t cramming it all at once.

We went swimming on Lido, took a (seriously frightening and troubling) tour at San Servolo, enjoyed a sunset gondola ride and repeated trips for the best gelato in the world (Grom and Sosu, in our opinions), and truly the BEST Italian dinner EVER last night at Ristorante Da Raffaele (thank you Shaul!!!)… don’t worry everyone, I took pictures of everything as well as with the owner Renato, who turned red in the face from my gushing over how wonderful the food was… gorgeous setting too with a lovely candlelit outdoor table on a sidestreet along a canal with a small dock for gondoliers just feet from our table. It was truly fantastic!

What we most appreciate are our encounters with locals. After dinner, we met a lovely shopkeeper and artist, a native Venetian called Allesandro, who was eager to share local tips and narrated his beautiful graphic painting map of Venice to us before walking us home across the city. Having officially gotten LOST in Venice for the first time on the way there, we weren’t about to turn down an escort home. Meeting wonderful locals like Alessandro and Renato are what make traveling special.

Allessandro and his fantastic graphic map of Venice

Apparently, people wonder how we meet all these locals and make these new friends abroad. I guess you could call us expressive… we voice our appreciation of beautiful art and craftsmanship, a well-put-together outfit, random acts of kindness, and just about anything we fancy, in fact. This often starts interesting conversations and forges wonderful connections. Having Abby with us doesn’t hurt either, as almost everyone we pass or encounter makes note of her in some way… a comment to us, a motion to their companions, a photo or question… and Abby laps it all up like she’s famous!

When Mama visited Venice previously, she proudly boasted a daily average of 10-20k steps on her trusty pedometer as she loved to walk everywhere! That everyone walks everywhere — and even better that there are no cars — is one of Mama’s favorite aspects of Venice. But, as I keep reminding Mama, it isn’t fair to compare her previous steps average to her current one. A lot has happened since; it just can’t be like it was before. This simply has to be a different kind of trip. Yet we strive (and mostly succeed) to go out and enjoy something each day. We refer to Mama’s energy reserve as her “candy bowl.” Typically, her candy bowl now has enough for one excursion each day.

“This is not the way I wanted to BE here,” Mama tells me sadly, the stress of her continued abdominal/back pain weighing on her. Mama had a clean abdominal scan earlier in the year, but her rare brain cancer (anaplastic hemingiopericytoma, yes I’ve got that memorized) is said to be likely to spread to this area so it has us worried, as well as leaving Mama in pain. We spend a lot of time at the hospital back home and we’ve no interest in doing so abroad unless absolutely necessary so the plan is to repeat the scans when we return home next month.

Got to wear our warm clothes at San Servolo

Though I’m pleased to report mostly wonderful snippets from our special trip, there are some not-s0-wonderful bits I admit… Lately we’ve been plagued by terrible banging noises from above (heavy-footed neighbors and what must be construction) in our beloved apartment, which are driving us all crazy, but I guess that’s the price one pays for living on the ground floor. Otherwise, the noises we hear are mostly church bells, boat traffic and gondoliers. When we first arrived in Venice, it was VERY hot (the sticky humid kind), and we were so grateful to have air conditioning in the apartment! Then it rained for a day and a half (but we’ve all got mini umbrellas, of course!); but now the weather has been perfectly pleasant, fresh and warm! Besides the weather, we’re also having some some nasty encounters with giant mosquitos (I’m completely bitten up!), but thanks to More Diane’s daughter Lisa we are using Fenistil to stop the itch and make them disappear. Yes, we brought bug repellant, but these mosquitos seem mostly immune to it!

Of course, there are many more wonderful bits than not… at least that’s what we focus on. We are so grateful to be able to take this special trip together. We love exchanging daily greetings with everyone at our local taverna and restaurant. The cooks, wait staff and owners greet us like old friends each day.

Please read more about the highlights of our trip on Mama’s blog Giudditalia!

Special Note:
Dearest Readers, Supporters, Loved Ones, Friends, Strangers, Etc.,
Please accept my apology for not blogging every day as I had planned. This special trip has been a true blessing and a struggle. Thank you for your support, encouragement, love, comments, etc. You help keep us going!

30 thoughts on “A Very Different Kind of Trip

  1. Can’t find Jude’s blog! It says: WordPress.com
    giudditalia.wordpress.com doesn’t exist
    Do you want to register giudditalia.wordpress.com?

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  2. Just the switching from one platform to another is enough to excuse a delay in posting! That’s a huge thing to take on in the middle of all you have to deal with. Congratulations on the move! I’m happy to learn that you get out just about every day – that’s more than I expected. Love to you all!

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  3. Oh, I’m relieved you have moved! My Vipre security system deemed your old platform an ‘evil site’ and wouldn’t open it! How about that? I wish your time in Venice would move at the pace of a geriatric snail. Hugs to your mom, skritches to the Wonder Dog, ciao to your travelling companions. Yvonne

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  4. are you all “dolce far niente’-ing? thank you for the uplifting update on life in Venezia. I’ve been kinda down in the dumps…just found out that another close friend has terminal cancer. Ugh! As the French poet, Ronsard wrote, “Cuillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.” Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…love to you all!

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  5. Whew! I finally got through on wordpress. Now, it could be my normal cyber-challenged state; but, I kept getting bounced back. My Google Search couldn’t find you. But., this posting was worth the wait!! ‘So glad that you’re having the best time possible. Maybe just sitting outside your apartment will bring all of Venice (and Johnny?) to you! ‘Hope Jude doesn’t have too much pain for the remainder of your stay. Her birthday celebration, Venetian-style is getting very close!! love to four of you, Nan

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