Stumbling On Happiness

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DSC_0086By Marjorie Eisenach

It is with some trepidation that I’ve decided to write about Venice. It has been the recipient of a lot of lavish praise over the centuries, but this morning I think I stumbled upon a new twist that is worth relating to others. The key to much in life is preparation, something I stress in my daily work, and of course this attitude is carried over into trip preparations. I do my research, plan where we will stay, find what are the current best places to eat, and the sites which deserve careful attention and a visit. Our last trip to Venice was no different.

I consulted Gambero Rosso, a culinary organization and foodie magazine written in Italian, for the latest culinary hot spots, and bought a CD walking tour of Venice, which we listened to diligently one night on a long car trip. I booked our hotel, which is always a necessity in Venice since I typically never get a room at the first hotel that I contact via email or a phone.

So why am I suggesting stumbling upon happiness and being open to the moment? Because it works. Once “preplanning” is complete, you are ready to stumble on amazing possibilities. This was true right from my first trip to Venezia (when I didn’t even realize that Venezia meant Venice) to my most recent trip to the city. When I remember the best parts of our trip, it comes down to a handful of experiences: a choral practice in a minor church on the Zattere; a bookstore loaded with unusual postcards, cookbooks, and books in English which were tossed into an antique gondola; a small wooden church that we had only a few minutes to see before it closed for pranzo.

Yet, it helped that I had done my homework. Because I consulted Gambero Rosso, I found Il Veccio Fritolin, a small seafood restaurant not far from the Rialto, which was so good that we ate the same meal two times in three days for both lunch and dinner.

In addition, two of our fondest memories are tied to posted signs we casually encountered. One restaurant will live on simply because it had the chutzpah to post the following sign, “No pizza, no lasagna, no menu’ turistico.” Apparently the owners were tired of catering to poorly informed tourists! There was also a church in the Jewish ghetto which had a sign declaiming the following, “Il Signore non vi chiamate al telefono, quindi spegnete il telefonino.” Translated to English, the sign reads, “God certainly will not call you on the phone, so keep your cell phone turned off (in this church).”

Once you have done your homework, and you know where to stay and eat, you can, as the Italians say, “lasciate andare,” which means let yourself go and truly be open to the moment. That could mean an impromptu free boat ride to the Cipriani in a mahogany cruiser, strolling through an open air art show in the gardens adjacent to Piazza San Marco, taking a city bus from the Lido to the closest beach for a dip in the Adriatic, or visiting the glass museum on the island of Murano.

About the Author

Marjorie Eisenach has traveled Italy extensively via numerous trips over the past 40 years, and resided in the country for nearly two years. She currently lives in Minneapolis where she teaches Italian language courses and helps American and British travelers prepare for visiting Italy. For more information, visit