The water changes everything. Light is refracted, reflections magnified. Movement becomes vertical, as well as horizontal. Sound is absorbed. Winding, narrow alley ways create architectural canyons, with a peacefully comforting uniformity. The regular drum of passing cars is replaced by irregular bursts of sound. You are not in a city or in the country, you are somewhere else. Somewhere wonderful.
Mr French and I arrived early Friday morning. “Its much more dramatic arriving by train,’ he informed me. I nodded naively, having only ever arrived by bus after a short flight from Paris. We grabbed our bags and headed out the door to the quais in the pouring rain. It was the first time that either of us would be arriving by water taxi. The rain stopped and chipper captain greeted us from his vintage, wood trimmed motor boat, shooing us from the front deck into the back of the boat where the roof top slid open, allowing us to stand and enjoy the breathtaking view.
Our chauffeur had a brief errand to run on the island of Murano, and asked if we’d mind a detour. We were thrilled with the free ride and our unexpected stop at a boatyard. Pulling up to the dock of the hotel was luxurious experience and within minutes we were ready to hit the town.
First stop, the Punta della Dogana, the large warehouse space that houses the phenominal contempory art collection of François Pineault (CEO of the Gucci Group, now known as Kering). Getting there would require a long walk or a quick trip by vaporetto. Knowning Mr French and his inability to get from point A to point B without stopping at every other church, museum, and shop window and knowing Venise, with its plethora of churches, museums, and shop windows, I insisted on boating it. We didn’t have tickets, or any idea how to acquire tickets, so we just walked on and hoped for the best. Turns out, local authorities rarely check for tickets and we could have gotten free rides our entire trip.
The museum was closed until June 1. So we hopped on another vaporetto to check out the Fortuny Museum, featuring the fabrics of the Art Deco artist. The museum was closed until June 1. We walked a few blocks back towards the canal when the Plazzo Grassi, the second Pineault museum WAS open. A huge palazzo that belonged to the Fiat family before being acquired by the Gucci gang, the Grassi is gorgeous. For the first time ever, the museum was displaying the work of a single artist; Rudolf Stingel. The artist commissioned a ginormour oriental carpet and used to cover all the walls and floor of the entire palace. The effect was mesmerizing, and like it or not, it was art.
Our quest for art had left us both famished, which made us both a tad grumpy and we got lost looking for our next destination. Just when we started to bicker we came upon a square with a restaurant that had several tables under large white parasols. Mr French grumbled that it looked like a horrid tourist trap. While my stomach was doing sumersaults of joy. We had stumbled upon Aquapazza, one of my top favorite restaurants on the planet. Mr French was somewhat skeptical of my enthusiasm, but was quickly seduced by the fries courgete flowers with a light-as-air ricotta stuffing, while the linguine with lobster was just as good I had remembered. Italians are not known for their dessert, and coming from Paris, we often head straight for the espresso, but this was Aquapazza, where they have fruit gelati served in their original shells; from chestnuts to walnuts, medlars to strawberries, it is all simply divine and served with a frost encrusted bottle of house-made limoncello.
We spent the rest of the afternoon meandering the medieval labyrinth of the city, ending our evening over bellinis at the mythic, historic, Harrry’s Bar.