You, Big Man, Front of boat, Prego
I don’t know if I can cover our second trip to Italy this summer in just one blog post. It might take two; it was that fun/funny/awesome. Mr. Big and I were meeting friends (another group of friends, not the Florence/Tuscany friends) in Venice. We set off in our car from Switzerland, intending to drive about 5 hours, (Mr. Big’s car trip limit), just spend the night wherever and continue on into Venice the next morning to meet their 9:40 a.m. plane at the Venice airport.
Since we didn’t leave from Switzerland until late afternoon, we only got to Brescia before Mr. Big was ready to call it a night. We did as we always do, (and as you should do, too, if you plan to travel like we do, i.e., by the seat of your pants), and followed the signs to the “Centro”. Please note that this is the point where you should follow the actual, real directional signs and abandon your GPS. Our GPS, Margaret, is good but she is not that good. Margaret never knows about the myriad one-way streets and she is especially confused by Pedestrian Only Zones. Margaret is always trying to get us to take a right when we KNOW that taking a right will only result in mayhem.
Turning off Obnoxious Margaret for the moment, we made our way to the Centro and we were met with a giant dilemma. All of the street signs would seem to indicate that we had arrived in a Pedestrian Only Zone, yet we were still following a long line of cars who all seemed to know where they were going. Blissfully and obliviously following the line of cars because they were heading EXACTLY IN THE DIRECTION WE WANTED TO GO, we found ourselves in the center of town. Not only were we in the center of town, we were in the main piazza. And, we were being herded by many, many Italian traffic cops around many, many bollards and guard rails TO PARK DIRECTLY IN THE CENTER OF THE PIAZZA BECAUSE WE WERE IN A LINE OF CARS FOR A CAR SHOW. Yes, Mr. Big’s Audi was now lined up in the middle of a town square for some car show. Everyone else that we had been following was getting out, opening up their trunk lids and hoods and getting ready to show off their cars which I then noticed all had WRITING AND ADVERTISING all over them.
Yeah. Us, not so much. I turned my head to my beloved and said, “Dude. Our car is not Car Show Ready. A) It is filthy and B) I believe there is unrecycled trash in our trunk.”
Peeling backwards out of that primo-bitchin’ parking space, Mario Andretti weaves his way around a few confused cops, multiple pedestrians giving him the finger and some tricky cement bollards only to find ourselves on a nice, quiet side street where I spy a hotel sign. STOP, MR. BIG! PULL IN HERE! ACT LIKE YOU KNOW!
And that is how we found the Hotel Vittoria in Brescia, Italy.
Our room was lovely, the breakfast was lovely, the town center was lovely. More importantly, they gave us a handy little sticker to put on our car so that we could park on the street and no Politzei could have us towed. The best part was later in the evening when we walked the block back up to the main piazza because Mr. Big actually wanted to go the stupid Car Show. He was like, pffft, I so coulda been in this show. My Audi is hot.
Whatever. Anyway, onto Venice the next morning. Okay. Who knew? I mean, I knew it was cute and picturesque and historic, but I was not prepared for just how fabulous it was. I knew there were canals and gondoliers, but it is waaaaaaay more intense than you are picturing. There is actually, like, no land. It is all water and bridges. How do the houses stay afloat? I still don’t get it and I was there for four days and, let me tell you, I was studying the phenomenon.
Anyway, Giuseppe was up on the back of our boat, our friends were on the “couch”, I was perched on a little stool on the right hand side of the boat and Mr. Big was a few feet beyond me on a stool on the left hand side. (I’m sure there are proper terms for right and left on a boat, like “lee” and “port” and whatnot, but I don’t know them. Let’s just go with left, right, front and back, shall we?)
Anyway, a really low bridge approacheth. Suddenly, Giuseppe stops his diatribe about gondolier lineage and yells, “Excusi, big man, front of boat, prego!” Now, the only other guy in the boat besides Mr. Big was our friend, who is the size of a jockey. So, Mr. Big looks at Giuseppe with inquiring eyes and points to his own chest, as in “who, me?” Giuseppe nods and gestures that he should move his large, American-sized body up to the front of the boat. It took me a minute, but I quickly deduced that Giuseppe was using my husband as, you guessed it, ballast.
“Dude, you are ballast!”, I yelled. And then, when poor Mr. Big still had a perplexed look on his face, I pointed to the rapidly approaching bridge abutment and clarified, “Your ass is being used to weigh down the front of the boat!” I was laughing so hard, I thought I was going to rock myself off the side and into the water. It wouldn’t have been so funny except that Giuseppe was right: every time Mr. Big stood up or just shifted his weight from side to side the whole boat bobbed up and down and left to right like a toy in bathwater.
So, this summer we ended up spending about two weeks in Italy, baking in the sun, buying some nice leather goodies, some silk ties, a fabulous Carnivale mask to hang on the wall in the bathroom in the chalet and eating a lot of pasta. I will have to tell you in the next blog post about the lovely couple that we met—she is from Charlotte, North Carolina and he is a Venetian local—and the delicious, typical Venetian meal that they introduced us to. Heaven!