Excerpt “Departures, Arrivals”

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. ~ Truman Capote

I arrived in Venice on a balmy afternoon by private water taxi. Visions of Othello, James Bond and gondolas had long since captured my imagination.

The boat pulled up in the oblique shadow of Saint Mark’s Basilica. Two stout men that smelled of the sea helped me and my bag off the boat. One man pointed an outstretched arm in the direction of my pensione and I thanked him.

Prego,” he gruffly nodded.

The crowd lurched in the thick air as I navigated cobblestones, shiny from aeons of salt, sun and pedestrian traffic. My bag reluctantly moved, a soft jack-hammer as I dragged it along the uneven surface.

Within two minutes, I found my pensione neatly tucked down a side street that muted the low rabble. I was shown to a room of soft furnishings and high ceilings. The bag fell on parquet floors as I launched myself on the bed, landing with an equally soft thud. There were museums and churches and galleries to explore.

But first, pasta!

I found a charming osteria close to the pensione, humming with Venetian families. I was greeted with warm animation:

Uno?” asked a lithe, middle-aged man. His receding, raven hair gave him a hallowed appearance. “Si. Uno, per favore,” I smiled, thus sharing the full extent of my Italian vocabulary and praying the conversation would end forthwith.

The wonderful thing about language is that so much is non-verbal: intonation, eye contact, body language. He found me a cosy table with some privacy yet close enough to others to avoid isolation. “Acqua!” he announced, a statement not a question. I nodded in assent.

He handed me the menu as I fished my spectacles out of my bag.

Tagliatelle Con Ragu D’agnello Alle Erbe,” I said proudly.

The waiter seemed genuinely pleased with my order. And I was genuinely pleased when he presented a culinary triad of carbs, meat and herbs. I can still recall the aromas and instant drool of my salivary glands. It was delicious, simple, satisfying.

Peppery olive oil-soaked bread had the pleasing effect of catching in my throat. A glass of Sangiovese washed down the meal. I could taste the earth. Despite the waiter’s best efforts, I couldn’t stomach dessert. I promised to return for tiramisu and coffee:

“OK,” he acquiesced, as a glass of limoncello was ceremoniously placed on my table, thus sealing the deal.

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