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Gondola Lessons in Venice

Author: Carolyn S.B.
Date of Trip: October 2009

Charlie weighs in on the best spots for hanging out in town -- these include Santa Margherita and, further afield, the beaches of the Lido. If you want pizza, he advises, avoid restaurants in Venice (they just cook up frozen) and head instead to dedicated pizzerias like Al Nono Risorto in Santa Croce and Pizzeria Vesuvio Trattoria, near Cannareggio.

For Jane, this effort to teach the art of Venetian rowing to tourists is more than a job. It's also a way to ensure that this style of rowing lives on, and she has a lot of company in that regard. If your interests are more with other traditional Venice art forms then rowing, per say, a new organization called The Venetian Club offers small group connections in areas such as bookbinding, mosaics, jewelry making, masks, and cooking; Jane's rowing lessons are available through the organization, too.


While I'm never going to morph into any kind of serious rowing aficionado, today's lagoon adventure was more than just a way to pass a couple of hours. The experience was a first glimmer for me of a connection below the surface of the tourists' Venice that is so difficult to penetrate.

Tonight, for the first time on this trip, we chose our restaurant well, thanks in no small measure to a suggestion Jane offered. Ristoteca Oniga is a small, cozy place at Campo Barnaba whose cooking philosophy is part of the Slow Food movement that's growing here in Italy and even at home in America. It subscribes to the theory that you take your time and rediscover your tastebuds. The restaurant, packed with locals rather than tourists and featuring an all-Italian menu that refuses to condescend to those who won't learn Italian, was a refreshing change. In two days, we'd already had way too many forgettable meals at places whose menus featured third-rate color photographs (and fourth rate food) and whose servers bustled you in and out with more efficiency than passion.

If, after my first ever (and quite romantic) trip to Venice a certain ho-hum, overly touristic cynical attitude had begun to seep in, this visit, especially because of the rowing experience, gave me a fresh new look at this venerable old place. Ultimately, if I lack the passion to be a serious rowing aficionado (though I would like to graduate to the canals, just for that experience), I feel newly re-energized and ready to return, and soon. The Venetian Club's list of possibilities intrigues. Next trip -- mosaics, Venetian mask making or cooking? Maybe I'll expand my stay to try all three.

Info: A two-hour session with Row Venice (http://www.rowvenice.com/) costs 50 euros for one person, 40 euros for two. Two's the ideal number though Caporal can handle a maximum of four people. No credit cards accepted.

For more details on The Venetian Club opportunities, go here: http://www.thevenetianclub.co.uk/.

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