When I rolled into Venice Tuesday evening, so did the fog. The moody atmosphere it created seemed just right for photographing the Bridge of Sighs. (Plus, it was the only thing that really showed up in photos.)
The fog cleared late the following morning. By afternoon, a faint pink began to appear on the squares and buildings and grew more robust by the minute, as if the blood were really pumping again through the city's stony veins.
This is my photo essay: La Serenissima, Pretty in Pink:
I’ll leave further paeans and baedekers to the city to those more qualified to write them. I will, however, offer up 5 very specific things I love in Venice:
1) Restaurant: Trattoria Al Giardinetto da Severino (Salizada Zorzi, 4928, Castello)
I’ve sometimes heard, and for a while thought myself, that you can’t get a bad meal in Italy. You can, and chances are you’ll get it in Venice. That’s what makes Al Giardinetto, a place my foodie father discovered decades ago, such a stand-out.
I arrived at the check-in desk of my hotel, Palazzo Priuli, in the early evening and asked immediately to have a reservation there. I couldn’t wait to get a fork in my greedy little hand. You can imagine my dismay when I was informed that the restaurant was closed for renovations! Proximity to that trattoria was the whole reason I’d booked into this particular hotel, which is back behind San Zaccaria. I was planning to go there for lunch and dinner and lunch again because it’s not only my favorite restaurant in Venice, but very possibly home to the best arrabbiata and clam sauce I’ve ever tasted in Italy. To say nothing of the atmosphere of gondoliers and local families celebrating First Communions and such in the covered garden outside. Let that be a lesson to me to check ahead -- even about restaurants that seem likely never to close for foolish things like renovations.
I wound up at a place recommended by the concierge called Bacarandino. It was picturesque and cozy enough, but crowded with American and Japanese tourists. Never a good sign. The purportedly spicy guazzetto broth seemed just short of canned and had all the sting of a peach pandowdy, and the vongole veraci were so sandy I nearly broke a crown. I did have the chance to vent to the owner, who followed me out to ask how everything was. He offered me another dinner, which didn’t seem an entirely logical solution given the review I’d just hit him with.
In my experience, hotel recommendations in Italy are never good. I don’t know if they all have an arrangement with restaurants in their neighborhoods, but they usually send you to a place where you’re invited to choose your type of pasta and sauce accompaniment. Also never a good sign.
2) Treat: Il croccante Venezia at Pasticceria Rizzardini (Campiello dei Meloni, 1415, San Polo)
There are other croccanti on offer in the city, but they don’t hold a candle to this one. It’s made of paper-thin slivers, almost shavings, of almonds stacked in caramelized sugar, and is so dense and crisp and chewy it can keep your mouth entertained all afternoon. I got the last few pieces!
3) City feature: Street lanterns
I do love a street lantern. Not the way a woman loves a croccante, you understand; more as a friend or second cousin.
4) Site: Church of the Madonna della Salute
I'm almost compulsive about taking one picture after another of this silhouette. I even took a selfie with my pal the basilica, who as you can see was a little standoffish.
I love the idea that Venetians annually make a pilgrimage —in November — across the canal to pay homage to the Madonna and ask her for good health, and they do it courtesy of an ersatz walkway of boats lined up to allow them to walk on water, as it were. It must be quite a spectacle. I have to believe it can't be that good for your health if you're getting on in years or have a wonky knee.
5) Shopping item: Harlequin masks from La Bottega dei Mascareri
Brothers Sergio and Massimo Boldrin do all kinds of masks, but the jocular arlecchini always pull my eye. The two brothers’ masks were featured in the movie Eyes Wide Shut, and, judging from photos in their studios, they have a lot of celebrity fans. I’ve bought a number of masks from them over the years. I expect I’ll probably go up on the celebrity wall someday soon next to Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.