One of my favorite stops to Venice but not for the reasons most people might give. Since I have been to Venice at least twenty times, I am not much of a snapping, gazing tourist. In fact, I can pretty much say that the worst day I ever spent in Europe was one day in a Venice downpour and no place to tuck in. Today was quite the opposite. I am sometimes here when it is blistering hot so today was incredible. I brought a sweater for the occasion but found that I was over dressed.
I took the train into San Lucia and then caught water taxi 4.1 which will in sixteen minutes take me to Isola Giudecca across from Piazza San Marco. If one were to go straight across, they would arrive Planca in three minutes but (except for the Stucky-Hilton Hotel) a million miles from tourism. I arrived around 2:30 and met by Piero’s wonderful wife and two children, Natasha, Cristiano and Lavinia. Right away, they walked me the two hundred meters to their cute apartment. Natasha is a Moldovan completely fluent in Italian and I know enough Italian to carry on a rather good conversation until Piero arrived about thirty minutes later.
I love the Italian approach to life. Though Natasha began working on supper we would not plan to sit down at the table until nearly eight in the evening. This gives room for lots of walking, talking and aperitivi at the local bar. These bars are lively spots between 6:30 and 8:00. The food and social environment cannot be beaten. Neighbors and colleagues join in celebrating the end of the day. The nice thing about Italy (unlike Ireland, England, Slovenia) is that people remain sober and coherent. It is extremely un-cool to get loaded so people usually limit themselves to one drink. We stopped in to see friends that were soon leaving at the end of their Hilton work contract.
From here we returned to an amazing supper! Piero decided that I needed to eat something totally Venetian so they went to the fish shop that morning and bought and roasted branzino (a long sea bass type of fish), canoccia (I’ve never seen anything like this shrimpy looking crustacean boiled and served cold with garlic – in English “squillfish) and bacala (a fish spread for crostini). Natasha added to this, polenta (a heck of a lot of work but perhaps worth when it is made properly) and finally salad.
After a few hours of visiting I went off to bed and rose this morning to macchiato. I spent most of the morning around the house and playing with five year-old Cristiano. Lavinia is new and though she didn’t appreciate my hat, she liked what was under it and became quite happy to spend time with me.
In Venetian style, Piero is a master with a boat. He almost always takes me to the train station on the Grand Canal and delivers me right to the steps. Today we passed around Giudecca and then across to one of the most famous sandwich shops in all of Venice where we with what seemed to be thousand others our lunch of the most interesting combinations in the universe. As Piero pointed out, this is what makes Italian cuisine the best in the world. It is always simple but only those who know what to put together in what portions can make it memorable.
Now, I have discussed many small things but I really get it when Paul would win people to the Lord and then commend them to the Holy Ghost and then moved on to the next place. When it comes to Christian fellowship, Venice is a bit of a desert, especially for those who work evenings and weekends and then happens to be what is an ocean away. In fact, I would say Venice has no believing community unless it might be Filipino. Yet, quite amazingly, Piero continues to grow in his faith and has everything in the right compartments. There is nothing screwing at all. He doesn’t have Christian friends and doesn’t watch internet Christian broadcasting (What a blessing!). He is so committed to his faith that he bought Cristiano his first Bible story book in Italian (Thank you, Usborne Books). Natasha is Orthodox but I never get from her a religious spirit but a simple faith in God’s provision, purpose and grace. On this trip I was able to refer her to Bible Gateway and there she can learn English by reading the two versions Italian and English side by side. I also connected her to www.evangelici.net the Evangelical radio station from Milan.
I led Piero to Jesus almost ten years ago and he is among my dearest Christian friends in all of Italy. If for no other reason than this, I would have given myself to this work. Thank you, Lord.