After a couple of years of talking about it, and shooting our mouths off to our friends and on our website about doing it, we finally did it. On this topic people are divided into two camps: those who understand it, and those who do not understand it; those who think it’s a marvelous idea and exciting, and those who think it is insane and will lead to our ruin. I’m pretty sure I’m in the first camp.
Without belaboring the point or the history behind the decision, which I may undertake to do later, we picked a day for our departure and did it. For logistics reasons I arrived ten days before Karen and tried to set things up a little, and to make sure the apartment was fit for the two of us and our dogs. I arrived in Venice on January 15, 2008, with Leopold the Corgi in tow, along with four suitcases loaded with my stuff, including a fair number of cook books and cooking utensils.
Getting the dog there was a lot less trouble than one might think, and was certainly less trouble than I expected. We had done everything we thought we were supposed to do with respect to getting the dogs into Italy, but I am a skeptical old man, and I had visions of some irate Italian bureaucrat refusing to allow the dog in. (It had never occurred to me until now that the opposite might have happened, that is, they let the dog in, but not me). I spent considerable time thinking about what I might do were they not to let the dog in. As it turned out, my fears were unfounded.
Upon arrival my luggage came out without a problem, but I did not know where to get the dog. I wheeled my stuff toward a man in a nice suit who looked like he might know something. Before I could say anything, he asked me what was in my suitcases. This question surprised me, as I was obviously a tourist, although I might have had more suitcases than the average visitor. So, I took the question to foretell trouble. Slightly worried, I told him that they contained clothes and personal items. He said OK, go ahead. This was the extent of Italian customs. There was not even a passport check, which I attributed to having first come into the EU through Frankfurt.
But he had not addressed my question, as the question was not yet asked. I told the man that I had a dog, and asked where would I be able to pick him up. He told me back behind the luggage carousel where my luggage had come down. I went over there and saw a roll-up type metal door with a little ramp out of it, with a sign saying something to the effect of “oversized luggage.” After a couple of minutes the door opened and out slid the crate containing one fat Corgi.
A word about the Corgi, Leopold (Leo). I have had a total of three Corgis. One liked to eat and play ball, the second existed only to play ball and did not care about food, but this one cares only about eating, and does not play much. I can get him to do anything for a biscuit. He insists on having food in his bowl, even if he is not hungry, and will push it around the kitchen until somebody does something about it being empty. Quite simply, he is fat. Too fat. He has his own gravitational field, and I have seen things orbiting him. But he is cute and I spoil him, I reward bad behavior, and I am an enabler. But I know it and acknowledge it, and isn’t that the first step?
I digress. I put Leo, still in his crate, on a second luggage buggy and wheeled it and the one with my suitcases on it to the door. The same man who gave me directions before stopped me and asked for papers for the dog. I had papers, of course, but I never had a rosy feeling that there would be all the papers he would require. I took them out of the envelope and gave them to him. He pretended to look at them for about five seconds and waived me through.
Waiting for me on the other side of the door was the father of the owners of our apartment, and a woman with whom I was not familiar, but I took her to be the rental agent. I am not sure even now what her role is, but she has been generally very helpful. One more aside: this woman is a real estate agent, and has a cell phone and an office phone. I have called her on both, and there are times when she answers, and times when she does not. In any case, I was never able to leave a message. She has no voice mail. I learned later that voice mail is not really used in Italy. This, like the fact that there is no take-out coffee, is an example of the hardships that an American needs to come to terms with in Italy. There are others, which I shall describe later.
The people who met me were very nice and very helpful (not an Italian personality trait I had hitherto observed), and they had a car waiting to take me to the apartment. The man even had a nice big station wagon, instead of the usual Italian car, which is something one would expect to see clowns popping out of at the circus. We took Leo out of his crate and headed for the car. My host was able to load all the stuff, including the dog (which we put back into his crate), into the car, and off we went. There was going to be one problem, however. The auto workers were on strike, and to make their point, were blocking the roads. After a while of driving around looking for an alternate route, we arrived in Venice at the Piazzale de Roma, unloaded my stuff into the hands of some men with a big boat, and got it to the apartment, which was only a short walk away. The men delivered my stuff about fifty yards from where they had picked it up for the modest sum of 50 Euros. We got the stuff in the house and went up to look at the apartment.
Remember that we had never seen the apartment in person. We had seen pictures of it, and we had sent our Venetian acquaintance Marco to see it, who said it was ok, but that was it. I was apprehensive, but hopeful. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little shop-worn, not having been renovated in a few decades, but it did not smell, there were no unusual noises, and it had character. We were used to living in an old house with uneven floors and a little shabbiness here and there, so those features did not bother me. In fact, I liked it very much. And to add icing to the cake, it has a huge garden that is only accessible by us. After a big process of showing me how to work things, and making sure the keys worked, my hosts left and Leo and I were on our own. I promptly reported the good news to Karen, and took some pictures with my cell phone and e-mailed them to her.
Now the dog and I had some work to do . . .
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