February 29, 2012
The Venice Experiement
The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane with Ben Robbins
Nonfiction – Travel Memoir
2011 Savory Adventures Publishing
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Lured by Venice’s colorful history, Barry Frangipane was determined to experience its labyrinth of walkways, canals, and bridges, as more than just a tourist. With this in mind, he convinced his wife Debbie to join him in this grand experiment, a year long cultural immersion in the most legendary city on earth.
Through their initiation into Venetian society, Barry and Debbie discovered the close-knit family of inhabitants and innumerable cultural oddities of living in Venice, the improbable city built upon millions of tree trunks driven into the mud sixteen centuries ago. From the exasperating bureaucracy to high tides endangering their ground-floor apartment, these expatriates get far more than they bargained for.
The quintessential storyteller, Barry leads us deep into the inner workings of life in Venice. With his inexhaustible humor, he draws the reader effortlessly into his daily exploits, a journey filled with a cast of remarkable characters who will touch your heart.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read an entire book in one weekend. Granted, the font size is almost as large as that of a “large print” book, but once I started reading, the pages practically turned themselves. I wound up spending most of a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch, lost in the magical city of Venice.
I have several pages marked with sticky notes for future reference (yes, I will get to Italy one of these days!), but upon reflection, it was not the writing (which reads like a personal travel journal or blog), but rather the destination that held my interest. Frangipane’s humor was lost on me, and as a matter of fact, there were a few instances in which I thought he was rude toward—and disdainful of—tourists in general and his wife in particular. Had I not been so interested in reading about Venice, I might have called it quits.
Slowly, Venice came into view. All the bell towers seemed to grow as we neared the city, with the famous campanile towering over Saint Mark’s Square.
As we left the station, the city of water opened itself up to us. The Grand Canal, directly ahead, was bustling with activity. Two vaporetto, or waterbus, stops perched on the edge of the canal with people waiting at each one. We watched people going about mundane daily routines in this exotic place that seemed to emerge directly out of the sea. Traveling down the canal were merchant boats carrying wine, toilet paper, and Coke, while a UPS boat delivered packages to businesses on the canal. Palaces rose up from the water with beautiful blown-glass chandeliers glistening in the windows. The aroma of fresh pastries filled the air.
San Daniele, a quiet little spot in the foothills of the picturesque Dolomites, was home to arguably the best prosciutto in Italy. Tiny restaurants specializing in the local delicacy were found on every corner. Many of them offered beautiful views from outside terraces, where thin slices of prosciutto were served on silver platters paired with homemade grissini breadsticks and white wine.
Serene canals near Fondamenta Misericordia along the backside of Cannaregio.
Rialto market at sunrise and Piazza San Marco at midnight.
Go here to read more about Barry and Debbie's venture in Venetian travel tours.
Debbie now has a cooking show, which you can learn more about here.
Final Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised when I received The Venice Experiment from Bellezza—she knows my passion for travel & foodie memoirs so well—and was delighted to add the book to my stack for the Venice in February Reading Challenge.
This is neither A Year in Provence nor Under the Tuscan Sun, but I was entertained nonetheless.