Apr 04

Grantourismo Travel Blogging Competition: March Winner


By Lisa T. Bergren, of The World is Calling, the winner of our March Grantourismo Travel Blogging Competition.

In Venice, ancient city of mariners and merchants, we rented a second floor apartment facing Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. This wide avenue, once a waterway, now a canal of stone and cement, swirls with grandmothers pushing children too old to be in umbrella strollers (but in them anyway), schoolchildren, businesspeople. Here, the tolling bell of a neighborhood church awakens us each morning, calling parishioners to mass. We hear the creaks and groans of shutters pushed aside, the metallic grate of gates opened in front of tiny shops and markets and bars.

Men set up temporary market stalls, hawking cheeses, bread, fish—and enormous piles of fresh, rose-colored shrimp. One vendor teases/taunts us, tearing off the raw crustacean’s head and legs in a practiced move and offering it to us as a sample. To see if they’re fresh? Or merely as a dare? I smile and shake my head and point back to the vendor, taunting him in turn. He shrugs his burly fishnet-hauling shoulders and sucks it out of the shell—like a pimento out of an olive—raises an eyebrow and nods in exaggerated appreciation. I laugh and purchase a mound for dinner.

We move on to the small grocer, pointing to cuts of meat and gesturing with our hands to show the butcher how much we want. He chuckles at our clumsy efforts, and we all wish we knew more Italian, but we muddle through. We return home to deposit our culinary treasures—crusty bread, garlic, olive oil, fresh, bulbous mozzarella, fat bell peppers, wine—all we need to make a wonderful local meal in our tiny kitchen. We take the afternoon to tour in relaxed fashion, off the beaten path, stumbling into tiny churches that smell of beeswax and feature soot smeared oil paintings, winding through alleys and over countless bridges. As the shadows grow deep, we return to the apartment and swing open the shutters, watching as the locals gather.

Across from us, five small, round tables are set up each eve in front of a small bar. Old women in stockings that cut into fat calves—far below the hems of their skirts—deliver tiny glasses of grappa to their silent, grumpy looking counterparts. All sit, facing out to the street, watching the next generation return home from work, teens rollerblade by, a team of young men in bright blue soccer uniforms pass a ball back and forth. Four men gather in a tight circle, gesticulating in the unique way of Italians, alternately laughing and shouting. A trio of women hover over a young mother, cooing and smiling at her infant. Another frowns at a couple of young lovers walking by. They shrug off her disapproval and move on.

It’s clear that there isn’t a stranger among them and that if we joined in, we’d disrupt their evening gathering. So we find contentment in simply being near enough to feel the ebb and flow along this stone canal, lifting our glasses and silently toasting our temporary neighbors. Salute. Cin-cin.

Lisa T Bergren won FIRST PRIZE, a HomeAway Holiday-Rentals stay to the value of UK£500, in the March Grantourismo Travel Blogging Competition and a Viator tour voucher worth UK£100.

SECOND PRIZE was awarded to Matador contributor Carlo Alcos, from Vagabonderz, whose post It Beats Watching TV won him a Context tour voucher worth US$100.

THIRD PRIZE, a subscription to AFAR magazine, went to Jiffer Bourguignon from Smash and Sniff for the post Tripping Stones in the Schanze.

You can find links to other posts entered into the competition in the Comments at the end of the March competition post. Click here for details for the April Competition.


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  1. Lisa Bergren

    Thanks for the inspiration, Lara and Terry! I look forward to future months and everyone’s entries.

  2. Sophie

    What a lovely story :)

  3. Terence Carter

    Hi Lisa, you’re welcome, thanks for such an evocative entry – I personally know that feeling very well in Venice! We rented an apartment there too once and cooked every day with produce from the markets. One of out first apartment rental experiences.
    We all look forward to some great writing over the next few months!

  4. Heather Carreiro

    Beautiful post from Lisa. Congrats to all three of the winners!

  5. Lola

    Congrats to all the winners!

  6. Pygmy

    what a beautifully written piece.

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