Author Archives: Luisa

About Luisa

I am a traveller, a Nonna, and a wannabe Italian!

Say It Isn’t So!


How can it be our final day in Venice? Needing to “stay present in the present” we wrote out a schedule of our final “must do” activities.

I set out by myself, which I always enjoy doing at least once, to find the Fanny gloves shop which I missed last time. Passing the only traffic light in Venice on a nearly deserted vaporetto, I alighted at San Tomà and walked directly there with not one wrong turn!

Two pairs of lovely Italian leather gloves will find their way to Creekside lane, one for winter wear and one for driving Rosina. After all, doesn’t an Italian car need Italian driving gloves!!??

I was to meet Don at Accademia, and I can assure you that I took MANY wrong turns finding my way there, but in Venice you always come out somewhere you know and then can wind your way around.

Our plan called for an early light lunch at Schiavi, now open after a three—week vacation.

And since it was early and not many people there, I chatted a bit with the owners, telling them that I had previously purchased the “cicchetario ” recipe book, and made cicchetti for our book club when we Skyped with Marie Nardin, author of Beneath the Lion’s Wings.

Next agenda item was a long vaporetto ride down to Giardini to see more of the Biennale. Really, the gardens in Venice are such a welcome and surprising element in a city which I always think of as having one grand museum and palazzo after another.

The entrance was other-worldly. . .

I LOVED the Biennale exhibits here. Whether it was the openness, the lighting or the colors, they seemed alive and friendly to me.

The exhibits were fanciful and fun. . .

Three Lithuanian children (with the artist) created this exhibit from non-radioactive bricks when, as a result of Chernobyl, nuclear plants in Lithuania had to be shut down as a condition of their entrance into the EU. I think I have that correct!

There was so much more but honestly, we became aware that in a few short hours we would be starting a week of 6 tango lessons and 7 nightly milongas. Our legs and knees needed a rest!

Out of a sense of patriotism, we visited the US pavilion with its simplicity and honest workmanship in fine woods.

We bade farewell to Giardini Biennale, of necessity skipping most of the country pavilions. . .but hey, there will be other Biennales, and we now know that to do it right, we need a minimum of 4-5 days.

One vaporetto stop away we discovered an oasis! At Sant’Elena we found another wonderful park, complete with children playing on swings, mothers pushing strollers, and people reading on park benches.

But the oasis of which I speak was a QUIET, COOL, LOVELY, NEARLY DESERTED bar/restaurant in the Hotel Indigo, also known as the Hotel Sant’Elena. I learned of this place from The Venice Insider. Hallelujah, it was the answer to a prayer for a comfy, quiet, air conditioned, free wifi, un touristy spot to recover for a bit.

Refreshed, the vaporetto took us home, across the Accademia bridge, and I sank immediately into a nap.

“Lin, don’t you think we should pack?” Of course, Don was right. We did, and then went out to find dinner which I had reserved at Locanda Montin. A garden table awaited us, along with yet another scrumptious meal.

We watched the Venetian sky shift from azure to Venetian ink as our meal progressed from “sardo in saor ” to sgroppino.

A walk along the canals of Dorsoduro, along the Zattere, back across our bridge, and it was time to finish writing, finish packing, set the alarm.

My flowered sneakers have a chip connected to an app which tells us that over the past few days we’ve walked nearly 20 miles. My hips and knees feel it; two ibuprofen will help me sleep and get me ready for the tango adventure ahead.

Arrivederci Venezia! We will return for one brief night after Tangostuni.

Tango on. . . .

A Day Around Town


After a night of walking through Venice at midnight, we had a SLOW morning!! When we finally got moving we decided to go to La Fenice, the opera house, to have a tour. When we were in Venice in February we bought the Venezia Unica pass which includes admission to a variety of churches, museums, etc. I believe the pass is good for at least a year, and we had not used the admission to the opera house.

So with pass in hand, we approached the ticket desk, and when they scanned the bar code which came up with a big red symbol, it dawned on me. . .at home I picked up the pass from over a year ago, 2018, not the 2019 and indeed, the 2018 version was used up. . .by me.

Always aware of a family history of dementia, I felt like I was losing it! We left, shamed, throwing the pass in the cigarette bin on the way out. But Don’s cool hand prevailed, we re-entered, paid 12 Euros each to go hear the rehearsal of the Barber of Seville.

I tell you this story because it may seem like travel is just a dream come true, and most of the time, it is. But there are these moments, and we were to experience another one later in the day, that keep us humble, grounded, and oh-so-human.

Because we were close by a tango friend’s shop, we stopped in to say “Ciao!” Michele de Fina owns one of the finest handbag shops in Venice with exquisite leather bags handmade here in the Veneto region.

I own one which I bought last year when Savannah and I stumbled upon his shop and she recognized him from a milonga we attended. It was fun this time to “talk tango” since we’re enroute to the tango festival. We ended up going to lunch together, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Michele on our side of the pond.

A few more steps along Calle Frezzaria brought us to L’Armadio di Coco, a vintage shop which friends had visited and came away with some amazing finds. Color me under-whelmed on this one, however.

Maybe things were just too picked over by the tourists which streamed into and out of the door.

Heading home for a brief respite we passed. . .1) a Venetian traffic jam. . .

2) the ballet dancer statue which our Quakertown neighbor’s daughter-in-law posed for!

Respite accomplished, we set out for one of the places I’ve wanted to visit for the past 2 times in Venice but never accomplished. The Fortuny Museum is just a 5 minute walk from our apartment. I’ve loved the fabrics and designs since I first saw them over 40 years ago when we lived in England. Off we set, directions in hand, and after two or three wrong turns, crumpling the paper in frustration, smoothing it out, and soon found ourselves there!

We approached the two young women at the partially open door to gain admittance (opening times listed 10 am-6 pm) and were told, “You must enter by 5 pm and then can stay until 6 pm.” We looked at our watch. . . 5:03 pm. . . And with that, the door was firmly closed.

Honestly, I think they made that story up, probably had hot dates waiting for them and wanted to get home. I was PISSED. What difference would it have made to them to let us in, assuming others were already inside. Beh. . .it was futile and my visit will need to wait another year.

So back we went to our own campo where two of the collateral exhibits of the Biennale were housed, hoping that THEY would be open until the advertised closing time of 6 pm.

Yes. . .

(Where IS Azerbaijan, anyhow?!). The exhibit on virtual reality was simply . . . Bizarre.

Directly beside our apartment is the music conservatory, and the exhibit as well as gaining admission to the ancient and amazing structure helped soothe the sting of having the Fortuny door slammed in our faces.

One of my favorite installations so far is this Persian hand-embroidered biscuit box and accompanying concrete biscuits.

The description explained that in Persian poetry there is often a theme of love and death, and this piece of art depicting the love of mother and child with biscuits as gravestones portrayed that contrast.

Additional pieces of art included three slowly moving symbols of three religions. . .the Star of David, the cross, and the Islamic Kaaba. As they rotated they came to a point at which they all merged and the sphere in the middle emphasized the cohesiveness.

It wasn’t until I put this photo in this blog that I discovered that this IS NOT the photo I thought I was taking! When I snapped it, the three images were distinct as the cross, the star, and the (box). But here they appear merged! And the ceiling in the palazzo is a work of art in itself.

(I actually returned to the exhibit today to try to see what happened with these photos, but today I was able to take a photo of the three distinct shapes. I have no idea how I got the first photo!!)

More art viewed from above. . .

Another respite at home (the location of our apartment is perfect!!) and then we decided we needed an aperitivi. After all, it was 6 pm and our tongues were wagging! We decided to see if we could nab a canal side table at a favorite spot, Bar Foscarini, just 5 minutes walking. We got lucky.

Thinking we would just stay and have dinner there, but raindrops chased us away and we didn’t want to go inside. So . .back over the bridge to a restaurant on our campo . .Beccafico. Delicious meal topped off with limoncello.

Still not wanting to end the evening, we crossed Academia bridge again and enjoyed the deserted streets of Dorsoduro.

One of us felt as if we needed dessert when we stumbled across a little restaurant, where we made short work of biscotti and torta della Nonna.

I think it was somewhere during this final coffee that we hatched plans for the “50th year anniversary tour” which will take place in 2020. Stay tuned for that one!!

Buonanotte Venezia!

Arsenale Biennale


“Hey, that rhymes,” as Theo would say! As we found our rhythm and rhyme this morning and attempted 3 times to find the 4.1 vaporetto going in the correct direction, we journeyed around the end of Venice. Destination: Celestia and the Lithuanian exhibit which won the Golden Lion for best National Participation.

As we rounded the bend we saw the Lorenzo Quinn hands from the water. Seeing this was one of the reasons I came to Venice! Amazing!

As they say about the best laid plans, we arrived an hour later than we expected, and found the line daunting. On Wednesdays and Saturdays a live opera accompanies the action in the exhibit. Today being a Wednesday, it was especially popular.

So we waited over an hour. No fast passes or timed admission here. As people emerged from the 70 person limit, people were allowed in. Two out, two in, etc.

Here’s a “situation”: here we are waiting, waiting, waiting, in the heat, in a line, and the woman who was behind us has now somehow become the woman in front of us, which I think happened when I stepped to the side to get into the shade. OK, no problem. NOW she sees her two friends and let’s them in line with her. . .in front of us. Not wanting to be the Ugly Americans, we stayed seethingly quiet. But she was still on her phone and looking for someone, so I was quite sure I would have to have a few words with her if she let someone else in line. It never came to that. Is this a cultural thing?

Anyhow, in we went, finally, in an area never before Open to the public. We were greeted with live opera, sung from the beach.

I actually read that you can volunteer to participate as a beach-goer and must commit to a 3-hour shift. If I had known that we would wait in line for over an hour, somehow lounging on the beach for 3 hours now seems like it would have been a good idea!!

Opera songs focused on the loss and changes of oceans, marine life, etc.

As an exhibit, it was entertaining and thought-provoking. We were glad we saw it.

But we were really worn out from the heat and decided that the first bar we came to would be lunch. On a deserted campo we found peace, quiet, and good food.

Onward to Arsenale to the ticketed Biennale exhibits. Modern art. . .how can you describe it? You can’t and you’re not supposed to!

Although we were really thirsty, this wasn’t going to help! It was real and people were buying it.

The Saudi Arabia pavilion featured leather sculptures on fabric pillars and when certain ones were touched, created reverberating sounds.

We visited a variety of other pavilions and headed for home when we were nearly exhausted. The vaporettos were all hot and crowded, and I wondered what steerage on a slave ship felt like.

A few hours later, refreshed and rejuvenated, we headed out to meet our friends Marie and Roberto. Cafe Lavena on San Marco was our rendezvous.

Don and Roberto chuckled when they realized they dressed alike!

I’m convinced that seeing Venice at night is truly the BEST way to view the city.

To say our dinner at Antica Martini was exquisite is a gross understatement. Fine dining at its finest would be more apt.

We closed the place at midnight and walked home through deserted streets, happy to have enjoyed an amazing evening with good friends.

Oooh. . .ahh. . . .Venezia!


Inquiring minds may want to know, “Weren’t you just in Venice a few months ago? Why are you going there AGAIN?” My polite answer is “Yes” and “Why not!” My in-your-face answer would be something like, “Once is never enough; how much beauty can you take in one visit; don’t you dare come here on a cruise ship and say you went to Venice.”

And so, we are back, albeit enroute to the Tangostuni Festival starting next Saturday, but hey, if you’re going to be on the east coast of Italy, why not detour a bit to the north and spend a few days in La Serenissima.

Back to our same apartment on Santo Stefano, back crossing the Academia Bridge, and back to visiting some of our favorite places and adding new ones.

But wait, didn’t we once say we’d never come to Italy in August because its too hot and everyone goes on vaca. It’s true. . .

We thought we were so cosmopolitan and in~the~know, heading right across Accademia Bridge and finding our way to our favorite lunch spot without even one wrong turn! Closed!! But luckily it will re-open in 2 days so we’ll return. No worries. . .a few steps down the “fondamenta” was the Osteria da Squero, fully functioning with delicious cicchetti.

We decided to explore a bit more of Dorsoduro, specifically seeking an authentic working “stamperia” And along the way we discovered the first of many Biennale exhibits.

Some of these “collateral” exhibits are in palazzos not usually open to the public, and many are free entry. “May You Live in Interesting Times” is the theme. (Maybe it should be “bizarre times. . .I awoke to the NYT headline that you-know-who has cancelled his meeting with the PM of Denmark because she doesn’t want to sell Greenland). But politics aside for now, in we went to begin expanding our brains around modern art.

A surprise lovely courtyard cafe in this one. . .

The works of multiple artists greeted us in installations ranging from cinema, sculpture, and multi-media of every sort. . .

The space itself was mind-blowingly exquisite and we wondered how many million euros it took to refurbish the building. Moving onward toward Palazzo Zenobia and the stamperia which was closed, we found more art in the Palazzo, usually closed but now open. . .

After a plane ride of little to no sleep, it was time to return to “our” apartment for a brief respite.

Here’s my contribution to the art scene in Venice. It’s titled: Don’t Tell Me Venice is Crowded!

Go get lost in the back streets and be surprised by unexpected beauty!

Dinner was a 5-minute walk over Accademia Bridge to Bar Foscarini, which we’ve visited before for coffee on the Venice Bites food tour.

Really, could we be any happier?! A Select spritz, a Peroni rosso on tap, fresh buffalo mozzarella and excruciatingly thin prosciutto, a beautiful evening watching the water-colored sky slip gently from azure to midnight. Ah, Venezia. . . amiamoti molto. . .we love you lots!

Italia. . .di nuovo!!


Ok, Ok, it’s Italy. . .again. And guess what! It’s Venice. . .again. But this time it’s also Puglia and tango. Next week we’ll be seeing this. . .

And this. .. . [la Biennale Arte 2019–May You Live in Interesting Times. . . ]

And by August 24 this. . .

And eating this. . .

And dancing amongst these. . .

And feeling like this . . .

It will be a week of tango immersion. . .9 hours of lessons and 7 milongas! We need tango stamina!

So, as usual, this is my “test” blog to see if everything is working as it should. I’ll blog when I can. . .amongst walking le calle (narrow streets) of Venezia, meeting new tango friends from around the world, eating local specialties. . . .

“Tango will be your passport. . .” –Pierre Baston

Venezia. . .It’s a Wrap. . .or is it?



Despite what you might hear, “It’s always flooded,” “The water is so dirty,” “I hear it’s sinking,” the Venice I’ve come to know and love is a joy to behold.  The magic that hangs in the area is the mist of centuries of hard work, glamour, and indescribable beauty.   It is city at risk. . .from cruise ships and passengers, from AirBnB, from immense popularity, from foreign investors.

Now at home, although our luggage is not (expected today?? ), we are basking in the glow of a new love affair and the eagerness to make it last.  Before our trip, la mia amica Donna asked, “Will this become a yearly thing?” and at the time I think I answered something like, “No, we’re just going back because Don was so envious of me going last year.”

FAKE NEWS.  We will return.  Perhaps on the tail end of a trip to Croatia, perhaps post-Barcelona, perhaps any time we find ourselves on that side of the Atlantic.  We love it that much that we are willing to make a wide detour to visit.

So as I like to do at the end of a journey, on my final blog, is to include any “outtakes ” that didn’t fit elsewhere.  Here’s the collection. . .


Tango on. . .



La maschera called to me, but she is still in Venice.  Perhaps I’ll find her next time and bring her to Quakertown to live amongst the Coca-Cola girls in our house.



Vaporetto views intrigue me.  Who lived here?  Did they have kids?  What was their life?  Who designed such intricate beauty? How long did it take to create that balcony?


An exquisitely yummy yarn shop. . .my purchases. . .and the dream of finishing a sweater which I’ll wear next time I visit. . .




The floor of Maria del Salute.  WHO MAKES THIS STUFF UP?  I am continually baffled by the artisanship.

Masks, masks, more masks, each one a creative endeavor, each one made by an artisan.


Venice from the rooftop.. . .What is the history of these buildings along the Grand Canal?  What international trade deals financed them?  Will current international trade deals place them in the hands of foreign investors?

We are often asked, and were asked on this trip by new friends Paolo and Katerina, “Where is your favorite place in the world?” and we always scratch our heads because each place we’ve visited holds a special memory, an energetic heart tug, and a smile. If you were to ask me my favorite CITY (but really, Venice is just a large, spread out village), I would immediately say, “Venice.”  I’m not an easy sell; it’s taken me three trips here to totally commit, but as a 50-year marriage can attest, once I’m in, I’m IN!!

Venezia, ti voglio bene!

And so, that’s the wrap for this trip.  Next up, China.  But there will be no blog and no Facebook; there’s spotty internet and Facebook is not allowed.  So we will #Enjoy Respect, just as Venice has taught us, indeed as all travel has taught us: to immerse ourselves, even if only for a short time, in the culture and expectations of that land.


(Could this be our old VW bus??!!)



A Brief Answer to an Excellent Question


So our friend Jan Tremer, after reading these blogs asked, ” Why all the costumes at Carnevale?” In thinking how to answer and incorporate what I know, which could be incomplete or incorrect, I came across what I consider to be a good, concise explanation-

The origins of Carnevale pre-date Mardi Gras or the Rio Carnival. There’s lots of partying, no boob showing, little drunkenness, except by the few loud young Americans I saw. Costumes posers do not ask for or expect a tip, coins, or payment of any kind.

No cost is spared in the elaborate masks and costumes; people may spend 1-2 years creating them.

Here’s another great article from The Venice Insider.

So, friends, you now have a bit more education. Thanks for your question, Jan!!