It is morning in a mainland suburb of Venice (way cheaper than staying on the island, and a place for our car, which I am so happy to have back after all that train travel). When we picked up our car in Pisa the day before yesterday, we stopped by the Leaning Tower on our way out of town. I can't resist recording this story about my precocious 6-year-old godson, Julian, though my most devoted readers (hi, mom!) have already heard it. Right before we left Columbia, I stopped by his house. I explained to him and his little sister that I was going on a long vacation to Europe. "Are you going to Italy?" Julian immediately asked. I said yes, pretty impressed he connected Europe to Italy so quickly. "Will you see that Leaning Tower?" I made the decision right then that we definitely would and that he'd get a postcard from it. Pretty impressive for someone with only a kindergarten education.
The Leaning Tower was worth the effort we made to see it, which turned out not to be much. There was a big free parking lot less than a kilometer away. We walked to the tower, took a bunch of photos, bought our postcards and a little tower for Julian, and were out of there in under an hour. In all seriousness, it was well worth seeing in person. That thing really does lean. A lot.
We spent the night in Montecatini Terme, a little hot springs spa town between Pisa and Florence. There we had one of the best dinners of our trip, a truly unforgettable pasta dish that is steamed with "fruits of the sea" (mussels, clams, squid, octopus from the Mediterranean) in a light red sauce. The steaming takes place as it is baked under a tortilla-like pastry crust. We had no idea what we were getting until the waitress rolled it out on a cart and started dishing it up, first cutting into the pastry and putting that on the plates, then adding the tagliano pasta, and then topping it with the "sea fruits." We've learned in Italy than any dish with the phrase "sea fruits" in it is a sure winner.
We went back to Florence yesterday to catch the Galileo history of science museum we missed our first day there. It was pretty interesting, with video displays showing how all the old instruments worked. Galileo discovered/invented a lot of stuff.
We arrived here (our Venetian suburb) yesterday early evening, with plenty of time to settle in and get a fantastic takeaway pizza from a little place down the road called Lady Pizza. Though they had an English translation of their extensive pizza menu (probably 50 varieties), the translating program they used had a few flaws. We ordered the Katia, which was to come with speck (a Tirolean ham), two kinds of cheese and tree. We had no idea what tree would be but Chad really wanted to try speck, so we took our chances. Turned out to be nuts (get it? tree = nuts), which were great on pizza. Several other varieties listed "dwarf" as an ingredient. We've been speculating what that might mean.
Today we will take the bus into Venice and then start with a cruise of the Grand Canel by vaperetto. We'll have plenty of time there today, so we ought to make it to the glass place Larry recommended in his comment to my last entry (thank you!), as well as all the classic tourist spots.