Today I indulged in a guided “walking tour”, led by an archaeologist, obstensibly to see the Hidden Treasures of Venice. We met at the top of the Rialto Bridge and not a one of the 14 attendees was under 60. Each person was outiftted with a little wireless radio and earpiece so you could hear the guide's commentary, but unfortunately our guide held the lapel-style microphone too close to her mouth and a lot of what she said was lost to distortion. I'll be sending them my technical recommendations for a better microphone choice.
The highpoint of the 2-hour walk was the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, one of the greatest churches in the city. The artwork inside, including terrific paintings by Titian, is remarkable. Many very large churches like this collapsed over time due to Venice's sandy foundations but this one survived and was worth the walk.
We also learned why all gondolas are black: when the powerful Venetian Republic collapsed after Constantinople's rise to power, the gondolas, previously painted in a riot of colors related to the noble families that owned them, were made all the same color, black, to foster solidarity in the city.
On a somewhat different ecclisiastical level, I started my evening (after a refreshing nap) at Harry's Bar and communed with the ghosts of Hemmingway, Toscanini, Charlie Chaplin, and other glitterati, over a martini. They all said to say hello to you. Opened in 1931, Harry's remains moored in the 1940s, with their signature Bellini drink (Proseco and white peach juice) served up by white-dinner-jacket-clad bartenders. It's always a treat worth the sky-high prices.
I followed that with a trip to Al Peocetto Risorto, a hidden treasure of a restaurant up near the Rialto Market, for a lovely meal that began with salami slices with grilled polenta cakes, moved on to Spaghetti ai Olio ai Aglio (pasta cooked perfectly, with olive oil, and a little pepperoncini tossed in for bite), and then Saltimbanco all Romana, veal topped with pancetta in a wonderful sauce. Heavenly! A carafe of tasty Bardolino rounded out the picture and a great Creme Brulee put a bow on it! If you're ever in Venice, put this place on your list!
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