Where’s Gina?

At SeaTac on standby ...
At SeaTac on standby ...

Ciao from Italia!

Sunday, September 27, 2009:  Venice
Many of you know I’m in Italy right now conducting a practice run for my upcoming wine tour business which I plan to begin next year.  My brave and willing guests are a few members of my family and close friends.  I thought it would be fun to report back and share some highlights of our trip so far. 
Our wine tour is based in San Gimignano, but before we arrive in Tuscany 6 of us made a two day stop in Venice. With me on this trip is my husband Kenny, his brother David and mother Gretta both from Northern Ireland, as well as grandma Betty and aunt Paula.  We decided to stay on the nearby island of Lido (home of the Venice film festival) away from the masses in Venice.  Our hotel was a beautiful 15th century palace, located in the charming commune of Malamocco at the southwest end of Lido. If your idea of experiencing another culture is blending in with the locals, then you would appreciate the type of stay we had in Lido. In order for us to get to Venice, we first walked through the picturesque neighborhood of Piazza del Erbe. From there we caught the #A bus for a 15 minute bus ride, nearly the length of the island, and through its cool neighborhoods.  What a treat this was to ride the bus with the people of Lido. We marveled how both young and old packed the bus on their way to shopping, school and work. We dreamed about what it would be like to own one of the old homes along the beach looking out toward Venice. (Yes, we would certainly need our own boat to reach the old city.) Looking out the window we passed endless shop owners opening up for the day, folks out for their morning caffe, groceries and strolls.

Gina_Tuscany_Venice by boat_Sep 09Once arriving in the main square of Lido, we hopped onto the Vaporetto (water bus) to Venice. For anyone who hasn’t been to Venice before, it is quite a wonder to behold, and seeing it from the water is just breathtaking! I have been to Venice several times before, but had always taken a train into it. Photographs cannot capture how beautiful it is; you must see it for yourself and see it from the water. Unfortunately the thousands of tourists (like myself) can be overwhelming, but once you get out of the main square, there are plenty of quiet corridors (and shops) to soak in everything Venice has to offer.

Gina_Tuscany_Scampt_Sep 09One thing they don’t offer is a mind blowing culinary experience. Not only is the food in the Venice area mediocre at best, it can be excruciatingly expensive.  I would avoid eating or drinking in San Marco Square unless you are willing to average €12 for a caffe.  We did manage to have one decent meal in Lido, where the veal scaloppini was tender and the lamb chops flavorful and juicy. The best dish though, was the scampi my aunt had. Butterflied, then perfectly grilled and garnished with lemon; it was simply delicious! Grandma Betty got to try gnocchi for the fist time (why not in Venice?) dressed pleasantly with pomodoro sauce. We drank house wine (merlot blends mostly) in the restaurants since it was the best deal (€ 8). Venice was bleeding our euros rather quickly, so we decided to wait for Tuscany to really get into the wine.  If you do to travel to Venice someday, there are some great wine regions you can visit since it’s located in Veneto. The Veneto wine region is home to Soave, Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Valpolicella and best of all Amarone. But this leg of the trip was for my grandma and mother-in-law who had never seen Venice, so the vino was secondary.  Stay tuned for news from Tuscany…

GINA_kenny at the airport_092209_25%Monday, September 21, 2009
We didn’t get on our flight (standby) looks  like a long day at the airport. Kenny didn’t take missing the flight too well (good actor eh?)