Tag Archives: Seafood

L’Arte di Venezia

29 Sep
29 September 2017.
Art museums are not high on my list these days. We’ve seen so many. I could live a long time without ever seeing another Egyptian sarcophagus and contemporary art usually leaves me laughing and perplexed, although we have viewed the magnificent Peggy Guggenheim Collection three times. E basta.

Biennale venue, Giardino.

But when you wander into Venezia in the middle of the Biennale, it only seems fitting to take in the event. In this, our tenth trip to La Serenissima, we unintentionally coincided with a Biennale year. So we went. Luckily we got the senior discount.
The venue at Giardino is lovely. I had no idea there were permanent pavilions. In many cases, the building eclipsed the art. Russia’s site and exhibit were very “1984.” That was our favorite of the paid-for venues.
There were some charming pieces around the city that were for public enjoyment. We did not get to hunt down all of them but saw several we liked.

A small portion of Russia’s monochromatic installation.

Korea’s pavilion. The exterior was the best part.

Super-sized and shiny, this rhino contemplates Venezia across the Laguna.

Coinciding with the Biennale was an exhibit at the contemporary museums Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, a first-ever event where one show completely filled both venues: “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” by Damian Hirst. Three of Hirst’s pieces were visible in Venezia outside of the museums and they were crazy, huge, classical-looking works of art reminiscent of much we have seen throughout Italy. That drew us in. How could this be contemporary art?

One of Hirst’s classical pieces on public display.

It is a big joke. Hirst created a fantasy about a treasure trove of items collected by a freed slave, Cif Amotan II (an anagram*) These are wonderfully displayed, many in a before-and-after manner: encrusted with sea life, barnacles, etc., then polished and gleaming after restoration. The Guardian called it “art for a post-truth world.” Click on any photo for a better view and caption.
Hirst went so far as to stage elaborate underwater photography of the salvage operation of some pieces. All of the curation supported the myth in detail. Only when one read the fine print about the materials used was the gag given away: granite, marble, resin, MDF, gold, silver….
We thought it was brilliant, although many critics were appalled. Hirst has the last laugh as people are pouring in to see it and reportedly many pieces have sold. I hope so: he spent £50 million of his own money and ten years putting the show together. When you are wildly successful, I guess you can take risks.

We stopped on Mazzorbo for lunch at Alla Maddalena. A far cry from Venezia proper.

I have to mention a lovely experience we had away from the crazy crowds. This is one of the reasons people should stay longer in Venezia: to get away from San Marco and enjoy the islands where the Venetian Republic was born.

A short vaporetto ride from Venezia is peaceful Mazzorbo, incorporating a wine resort, Venissa. Might have to contemplate staying here some time.

We often visit the laguna islands, but this time we went to Mazzorbo, specifically for a quiet lunch on a perfect day. While most people head to Burano, we got off one stop early on quiet Mazzorbo. The terrace at Alla Maddalena was full, mostly with people arriving by water taxi. And they were having the taxi wait while they dined! We only heard one other table speaking English. Seemed to be lots of Italians in the know about this place. Prices are reasonable and it was far more charming than the places we usually eat on Burano. No reservation? Plan on eating inside which is where the walk-ins were escorted.

My delightful lunch at Alla Maddalena, a mixed seafood grill. Ric had lovely grilled eel.

It was a bit of art-focused trip, more so than usual for us. Punctuated by terrific meals and of course lots of walking in one of the world’s greatest cities for wearing off pasta.

Joseph Klibansky bronze turtles entitled “Baby we Made it.”

Newest shopping opportunity in Venezia, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in a 16th-century building. Can you say high end?

Sunrise on the Grand Canal.

*I am a fiction

Minnows for Lunch

5 Sep

I don’t miss having a car, but from time to time we succumb and rent one. For one thing, we need to keep up our skills, and we also find it handy for certain shopping trips. Plus it’s necessary to have a car to see some of the more rural sites not efficiently served by train or bus. So a few weeks ago we targeted the Labor Day weekend for some daytrips and shopping, planning to rent a car.

Because our little neighborhood Hertz franchise closes from 1:00PM Saturday until 8:30AM Monday, we need pick up the car on Saturday morning. So we planned a few adventures: a trip to Villa d’Este in Tivoli to see it at night, which is only possible a few nights each summer; a shopping trip to IKEA; a daytrip to the hill town of Cività di Bagnoreggio, which is hard to reach by bus. Then Ric got roped into working Saturday and Monday, so we curtailed the plan to go to Cività. Oh well.

Freshwater lake in Lazio, peaceful, uncrowded, great lakeside dining.

Freshwater lake in Lazio, peaceful, uncrowded, great lakeside dining.

Summer is waning so although Ric had worked a long day Saturday, in the evening we set off for Tivoli with a Google Map printout in hand, the name of a very good restaurant, and high expectations for Villa d’Este.  But thanks to the genius of Italian street signs and the inefficiency of the GPS on my phone, we never found Villa d’Este nor the restaurant.

The street signs have two points of failure: street names do not correspond to what Google Maps says they should be, and the “way-finding” signs are impossible to follow.  I would turn in the direction pointed to by a neat little Villa d’Este sign, then turn at another, and then see nothing. No further directional, no entrance signs, no parking lots, lots of dark streets. So I would come around and try again. Nothing. I asked locals and they pointed in what (to them) was an obvious direction. But nothing. Maybe we are idiots but with both of us searching high and low, we could not find this place. I resorted to the GPS on my phone which has gotten us out of jams in the past, but she insisted we drive down a limited access street into a Zona Traffico Limitato, which would carry a huge fine. By this time, we’d been in the car about 90 minutes, Ric was tired and cranky as a toddler, so finally we settled on a place to eat – I would rate it as OK – and once fortified tried again to find our star attraction. Still unable to find it, we headed back to Rome, where apparently we should have stayed for this evening. I seldom get lost walking.

Cut guy I had lunch with at Lago Bracciano.

Cute guy I had lunch with at Lago di Bracciano.

On the bright side, we got to IKEA before the crowds on Sunday, then headed north to a lake I’d read about, Lago di Bracciano.  Here we found a quiet freshwater beach scene with excellent lakeside dining. We did not get lost and had a fine lunch. I had a broiled freshwater fish called coregone, which is much like some of the types in lakes in the Midwest of the U.S., and Ric had a fritto misto that included a large number of what looked like whole fried minnows. We certainly used a lot of minnows as bait for fishing in Minnesota but can’t say I ever saw them in a Friday fish fry. These were very tasty, but we got the giggles to think of eating minnows.

Next summer our niece and nephew will visit with their two kids, followed by Ric’s son with wife and four children. Since they will be here during high heat, a trip out to Lago di Bracciano might be just the ticket for cooling off. But we’ll have to rent a car. <SIGH>

Fish balls and snow

15 Mar

The food in Sicilia, and most especially our experience in Tràpani, is amazing. It is perhaps the best part of the trip: that and the people.

I am known by many of you to make a fine Köttbullar or Swedish Meatball. Beef, pork and veal meatballs flavored with nutmeg in an artery-clogging cream gravy.  These are the taste of my childhood.


“Fish balls’ does not do justice to this masterpiece. Better in Italian “Polpette di Sarde in Sugo.”

Normally I would not be one to order the unfortunately named item “fish balls in sauce.” Luckily it sounds better in Italian. We’ve had “fish balls” twice: once made of swordfish (polpette di pesce spade) in Palermo, but of particular note were the ones we ate last night in Tràpani – polpette di sarde in sugo – made with fresh sardines and pine nuts with mint in a rich tomato-based sauce. I wanted to lick the plate clean. I am going to learn how to make these Sicilian wonders. Anyone who is open to my trial-and-error experimentation please raise your hand, you are invited for dinner.

The polpette antipasto and accompanying fish dinner were the highlight of our day Thursday. The weather, in a word, sucks. Cold, rainy, violently windy, impossible to partake in the outdoor activities we came for. We have barely glimpsed the Egadi Islands we came here to hike. We finally drove to Erice despite the clouds and during a rare respite from the rain, but found it too cold to walk around. Bitingly cold. (We didn’t think to bring puffy jackets and gloves on our spring trip to the south.) So we passed the day reading, writing, napping. Not all that bad for vacation but not what we had in mind. Friday presented us with more of the same only worse. The winds are about 40 mph so we hopped in the car hoping to escape the brutal coastal conditions and headed inland a bit, planning on seeing Monreale and a bit of the countryside off the autostrada. Ha! We were greeted with terrible traffic and closed roads due to flooding, and a downpour that turned into sleet and snow. We turned around. More reading time today and maybe more “fish balls” for dinner.

More postcards from the Cinque Terre

11 Oct


Monday was a city walk (Lerici/San Terenzo) and Tuesday was a trail hike high above Manarola and Corniglia (see previous post), but our walks are always followed by lunch: sometimes substantial, sometimes a quick panino, and if possible there is wine. (Surprise! That’s how we know we are on vacation.)

Wednesday we took a journey to the north of the Cinque Terre – off the map according to Ric – to Portofino. But instead of arriving via yacht, as the glitterati would, we walked.   Well we took a train to Santa Margherita Ligure, then walked, about 1 ½ hours from the SML station, to lunch on the piazza in Portofino. Portofino is not far from Genoa, but it is a world away from the ruggedness of the Cinque Terre. It’s also crazily expensive.  Here are a few shots from our path and of our lunch.

Santa Margherita Ligure, as seen from across the bay, on our walk to Portofino. (Photo by Laurel Barton)

There are several small inlets along the path to Portofino, with beautiful houses, hotels, and beaches. (Photo by Laurel Barton)

The distinctive colors of Liguria are found here, too, along our path to lunch. Love the light! (Photo by Laurel Barton)

Wildlife in the bay enjoying the October sun. Oregon Zoo friends, please keep me honest: Are these cormorants? (Photo by Laurel Barton)

Almost there! Ric on the final leg of our walk, a paved path through the woods into Portofino. Very upscale! (Photo by Laurel Barton)

At last, 90 minutes later, we reached our objective and treated ourselves to a fine lunch in a fabulous location.


Ah, lunch! Beautiful mussels and cold Vermentino wine. On the harbor in Portofino. Una bella vista! (Photo by Laurel Barton)

Ric’s choice: a seafood salad, served warm. (Photo by Ric Barton)

Portofino harbor and piazza, on a sunny, warm, and quiet midweek day in October. I shudder to think of the crowds in summer. (Photo by Laurel Barton)

We took the easy way back: a ferry across the bay from Portifino to SML and a train back to Manarola.

Postcards from the Cinque Terre

9 Oct

Time for another vacation! As we like to say, you can only have a vacation if you have a job, and we have escaped to the Cinque Terre for hiking and seaside relaxation.  Here are a few favorite shots from the past three days. We will be here until Friday, so more to come!


We arrived in Manarola (town #2 as some call it) in the Cinque Terre on Sunday afternoon by train from Rome. Headed out on a familiarization walk above the town, through the vineyards and down to the sea. Here a view back toward the town and its gelato-colored buildings.

As night fell, we walked to the upper part of town and settled in at the charming Trattoria dal Billy. Too bad we ate our beautiful seafood before I thought to take a picture. The view was intoxicating! The walk up is quite a climb, but the food and service made it worth the effort.


Apologies for the crap smudges on my lens. Ugh!

Monday we traveled down the Ligurian coast to Lerici on the Gulf of Poets. Byron, Shelley, and D.H. Lawrence found this little corner of Italy to their liking as well. It’s a beach resort town in summer. On an autumn day it was still warm, but quiet in a post-season way. Pictured is Lerici Castle.

We walked from one end of the gulf to the other and back: Lerici to San Terenzo (pictured). I think we were the only non-Italians in the whole area. So peaceful! There were still some late season sun worshipers on the almost-deserted beaches.

Thanks to the blog http://www.apathtolunch.com/ for the guidance!

Many of you know Ric and I usually took an autumn trip to Cannon Beach, OR. This is our replacement for that habitual break. A little different, though….

Foccacia is a Ligurian specialty. Here it is in a very thin form, with a filling of spinach and a little sausage, freshly baked for our lunch, served with tomatoes and red wine. Could not finish it!

In the evening we went to the northernmost end of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare, for dinner and enjoyed this sunset.

At dinner, we were delighted to meet Christine, an American woman living in Monterosso, working at Cantina di Miky, and authoress of the blog, http://lifeinliguria.blogspot.com/  which I have been reading for months. GREAT MEAL! Again, photo not taken because we were so busy consuming beautifully prepared seafood.


We awoke to rain, by the time we had eaten breakfast, it had stopped and the sun was peeking out from broken clouds. Hopped a bio-diesel shuttle for transport to Il Sentiero Rosso, the red trail, high above the sea.

The land has been terraced for centuries. The path passes through vineyards, olive groves, and gardens at a dizzying height.

The town of Corniglia (pronounced cor-KNEE-lee-a), from high-above. Once we descended to Corniglia on a very challenging footpath, we still had 400 brick steps to descend to the train station.

A view over the Ligurian Sea, from high above Corniglia looking toward Monterosso.

Alas, it is almost dinner time and we are eating with “The Pirates” in Vernazza! Dobbiamo andare via!

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