Even though I’ve visited Venice several times in my life, I still found that every where I turned there seemed to be another photo op beckoning. I’m convinced I could spend a lifetime here, and still never unravel all the mysteries that lurk within the piazzas, palaces, churches, and winding canals.
I am utterly seduced by it’s history, art, and architecture not to mention the romance and the intrigue it inspires. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of modern day life existing side by side with the magnificent Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance facades of the Basilica di San Marco or Palazzo Ducale (Dowager’s Palace) casting cool shadows over the throngs of tourists that seem to meld before my eyes into visions of the opulent garb worn by the city’s inhabitants during bygone eras?
A city defying logic, built entirely on water , that ruled for centuries over trade between Europe and the Orient, and provoked the imaginations of the world’s most illustrious writers. Lines from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice run through my mind, and faint recollections of a red cloaked murderer disappearing through foggy canals haunt me (okay, maybe I have watched Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Back one too many times).
The sheer contrast of the masterful sculptures, paintings, and tapestries woven in the colors Venice was so well known for during the renaissance period playing host to one of the worlds largest and most famous modern art shows, the Biennale excites my sense of aesthetics. Being an artist herself, my mother dreamed of coming to see the Biennale as a child, so it was a particularly happy coincidence that our visit should coincide with the show – one Tatjana and I will also remember for a lifetime too.
When I think of Venice, I can feel that welcome breeze coming off of the grand canal chasing away the pungent smell of the city, while affording a brief respite from the scorching Mediterranean sun beating down on our skin. I often wonder what it would be like here in the dead of winter when the chorus of tourist voices would be more easily overcome by the chiming of church bells.
Where the overgrown child within me would delight in donning a costume and intricate mask! Most certainly beguiled by the mystery, glamour, and decadence of the worlds most elegant carnival. Then…
… the next thing I knew we were gliding through the lagoon (Venice lies in it’s center with 40 smaller islands surrounding it) to Murano where the furnaces of the Venetian glass industry were moved as a fire precaution in 1291, and the secrets of the technique involved in making the exquisite hand blown glass could also be well guarded. Today that technique is on display, as are it’s products throughout the world. Indeed, I bought my favorite vase there many years ago – it was a deep forest green, with a frosted surface, blood red handles with gold leaf accents, and it had an almost ancient feel to it. I’m still cursing the nanny who chose to use it (of all the vases we owned) while we were out of town, and then subsequently dropped and destroyed my precious vase. Despite the fact that prices have since soared, I tried to replace it this trip, although I came away empty handed when everything was either too modern or too granny-fied for my taste, plus I was frustrated by the lack of time to carefully explore the vast array.
Off we went to the quaint, colorful, picturesque island of Burano. This 16th century fishing villiage was once known throughout Europe for producing the most intricate, finest quality lace. Sadly today the industry is threatened with extinction, because very few young people have the interest or the patience to learn the craft.
I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to live in Venice where life seems so majestic and serene. Then I got practical, thinking about hoards of tourists gaping through my windows, and the logistics of something as mundane as grocery shopping. I complain about the traffic in LA! What about life without cars – where the streets are composed of water?
Apart from the odd yacht dotting the waterfront (dream on Jewels), my only mode of transportation would be limited to extortionately expensive gondola or water taxis rides, or water buses – which I do have to admit are remarkably efficient once you get the hang of them.
Well, if “every picture tells a thousand stories” – the food in Venice could also paint a thousand calories onto your thighs. Freshly made mozzarella that melts in your mouth, and the masterful sweets and pastas that inevitably send you into carb heaven. I’ve already told you about the Bellini’s invented at Harry’s Bar, but they are also responsible for inventing a dish best described by Jay Raynor in the Guardian as “Carpaccio of beef, a plate of trimmed sirloin sliced wafer thin and dressed with a Jackson Pollock spray of mayonnaise mixed with lemon juice, which was invented for an Italian contessa who was on a diet free of cooked meat. It too was named after an Italian painter, Vittore Carpaccio, who was famous for his love of deep reds.”
Still not completely satiated by the sites and intrigue of the city, we sailed away from Venice with very full bellies and wonderful memories that will always leave me longing for more. Arrivederci for now Venezia!
Simple Grilled Vegetables
Thankfully, I learned many years ago to use grilled vegetables to combat the many other indulgences whist in Italy. In fact, I love making a huge batch of these vegetables up at the beginning of the week to snack on and provide a quick and healthy side dish to any grilled meat, poultry, or seafood I throw on the grill for dinner during the week. Switch it up periodically with different vegetables and seasonings to keep it exciting.
This post was first published July 2, 2013