Galley Gossip: Flight attendant vacation – Venice (Cannaregio)

You’ve thought about going to Venice. Come on, admit it. Don’t deny it. Of course you immediately talked yourself out of it, considering you absolutely detest crowds and tourist traps. Yet Venice, you must admit, does look magical, like the kind of tourist trap you should see at least once in your life. But the problem is you can’t stand crowds and tourist traps. And that’s a problem. A very big problem.

For me, too!

When a flight attendant takes a vacation, the flight attendant will do everything possible to avoid anything that resembles a layover. Layovers equate to work. Yeah, I know, work ain’t so bad when you’re laying over someplace nice, but at the same time, laying over somewhere nice usually means you’re at a chain hotel surrounded by chain restaurants, not too far from the airport. Of course, life could be worse, I know. But when you’ve been doing the layover-chain-thing for thirteen years, it doesn’t matter where you are – New York, Paris, Rome – it all starts to look the same. Which is why a flight attendant looks for something different, someplace unusual, somewhere special, when it comes to a vacation – wherever that vacation may be.

When I went to Venice in May, I stayed in Cannaregio, otherwise known as the Jewish Ghetto. You don’t have to be Jewish to stay in the ghetto. And don’t let the word “ghetto” fool you, because this ghetto, is unlike any other ghetto. It’s amazing. And quiet. And tourist free. Okay fine, as tourist free as a tourist trap can be.

I knew Cannaregio was the place for me when I read in Frommer’s Italy 2008 the following…
It’s outer reaches are quiet, unspoiled, and residential (What high season tourist crowds, you may wonder?) One third of Venice’s ever shrinking population of 20,000 is said to live here…”
So where, exactly, did I stay in Cannaregio? See that picture on the right? That’s where. At the hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente, a small Turkish hotel located on a quiet canal, just a fifteen minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. Where did I eat? When we weren’t enjoying the complimentary breakfast of fresh fruit and salami and ham on a crusty roll at the hotel (the husband was in heaven), or the pizza, anywhere pizza could be found, which was pretty much everywhere, we’d go wherever Guido, the concierge at the hotel, suggested.
“You want something rustic, some place not too much money, someplace I’d go?” he asked, looking at my heavy travel book with disdain.
The husband and I nodded frantically, as I placed the 2008 edition of Frommer’s Italy back in my bag. It was a big bag.
Not once did one of Guido’s recommendations let us down. Especially the night we visited Osteria Ai 40 Ladroni (right down the street/canal from the hotel) where I found myself sitting at a candlelit table under the stars, beside a quiet canal, surrounded by other tourists looking for something not-so-touristy, immersed in a small plate of heaven – gnocchi with crab smothered in a delicate tomato sauce.
Did I just use the word delicate? I did. It was delish!
I don’t need to remind you that Cannaregio is in Venice, not too far from everything you ever wanted to avoid. Yet won’t. Because even that is a must see. But then, as soon as you’ve had enough (which won’t take long), it’s back to the ghetto for you, where all of the other tourists who don’t like tourists find themselves. On your brisk walk back to the hotel, make sure to run into a loaf of crusty bread, a bottle of olive oil, a hunk of cheese, and half a pound of salami at the local grocery store, the store where you see that little yappy dog staring intensely into the window. Trust me, this will be one of the best (and cheapest) meals you’ll ever experience. In your room. Away from the crowds. Don’t worry about all those calories, you’ve already burned them off walking from San Marco Square back to the peace and quiet. And yes, you really do need to experience Venice. At least once in your lifetime. For the gnocchi alone.