"Every glance and glimpse, every shutter blink is more gracefully deliquescent than the last"by Wendell Steavenson / March 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
The best thing about Venice is that there is no need to write anything about it because everything has already been written before. Even the idea that there is nothing new to write about Venice is not new; I think I may have come to it third hand. For a writer I found this to be curiously relaxing. No need to describe the mazy wonder of sage-green canals or bridges that trip in triplicate circles, no need to recount the 2,000 years of unbroken history from Rome via Byzantium to the Renaissance. Venice is beautiful and famous; I don’t have to pretend to discover it.
Instead I walk and walk and walk. Every glance and glimpse, every shutter blink is more gracefully deliquescent than the last. A sliding gondola, a gargoyle with one eye, a little shop with an old man marbling paper with floating oily inks, a bobbing market boat overflowing with five kinds of artichoke, immigrant vendors selling selfie sticks on the Rialto Bridge. My mind was lulled by my own metronomic footsteps; touristy palazzo, quiet backwater… ah, I am lost again!
I walked five, six hours a day. I walked and I ate. When I was tired I took advantage of the traditional respite of the Venetian bàcari, wine bars that sell cicchetti, snacks that often take the form of two-bite toasts with something delicious on top. My favourite was Cantinone già Schiavi, run by three brothers and their indomitable mother, a champion cicchetti maker with certificates on the wall to prove it. I would point to two or three: smoked herring, pumpkin and ricotta, salmon and mascarpone, egg with mushrooms and truffle, shrimp and artichoke, brie topped with nettle purée. And whatever the time of day I ordered a prosecco. Prosecco is Venetian Coca-Cola. It’s thirsty work, all that walking.
“You don’t plan to eat cicchetti,” my friend Fabrizio Paone, an elegant professor of architecture, told me. “It just happens.” In Venice everyone walks everywhere. Along the canals, over the bridges, down the narrow alleys, carrying your shopping, it begins to rain, it is lunchtime, it is mid afternoon, you bump into a friend; inevitably you need a place to stop and have a little something to drink, a little something to eat. Fabrizio comes from Genoa, Venice’s old arch-rival, and he…