I love Venice the most late at night.
The way light on the canals dance dapples on stone walls. The way voices echo from what sounds like a bar, but you can never find them: each narrow street seems to dead end on water, and you have to backtrack and start over again.
I loved wandering back from a late dinner and buying a glass of grappa from a bar near the Rialto bridge. I took my drink over to the Grand Canal and leaned against a pillar, or sat on old wood, and listened to the waters lap at mossy pilings as they have for centuries.
I love wandering the old palazzo of wealthy merchants, and imagining myself inhabiting those rooms.
I don’t picture myself growing rich by controlling the seas or the flow of wealth from the East. I just have vague images of writing in a wood panelled room, of eating beneath elaborate chandeliers of Murano glass, of the echo of my footsteps as I wander my rooms looking at art. And of reading in a latticed window seat while a gondolier splashes past far below.
I love eating crostini standing up, and Aperol spritzers for a lunch time boost.
We found a nice little bar on the San Trovaso canal, right across from the workshop of a gondola builder, where we could take our sandwiches and drinks outside and sit on a wall soaking up the sun. There were a lot of nice places like that in Dorsoduro.
I love the sea level view you get by taking a water taxi.
The gentle roll of the boat and the smell of the sea connects you to the city in a way that walking just won’t. And if you go there, be sure to approach the city from the lagoon. You can catch a water taxi right from the airport, and approach Venice slowly, the way merchants and pilgrims did for centuries.
I love sipping a negroni at a quiet pre-dinner bar, and then eating by the side of the Giudecca canal.
We had one of our nicest dinners there, on a quiet breezy night. Seafood and then rich liver washed down with a lovely Veneto wine. And I watched boats and car ferries slide past, and wondered what was over on the other side.
And most of all, I loved getting lost.
Sure, Venice gets packed with slow shambling tourists, and the lengthy crocodiles of flag-led groups, especially on weekends. But it’s very easy to escape them. Try wandering around a quiet residential district like Cannaregio or Castello and you’ll see what I mean.
And read John Julius Norwich’s mammoth History of Venice before you go. I promise the streets and palazzo will speak to you if you do. And you’ll feel the weight of that long line of history all around you.
Venice was glorious once. It wasn’t just a cliche.
And you’ll find that in what is still one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.