The experienced traveller returning today will discover the Venice of 40 years ago.
It is amazing, starting with uncrowded passageways, the ability to navigate the streets to admire the architecture, and it’s quiet. The droves of Asian visitors have disappeared, nor does one find Americans. Mainly we encounter German tourists, a few French, but mostly Italian speakers. It’s obvious that the rest of the world has shut down. Many of the stores remain shuttered.
Today I visited the fish market at Rialto Mercato, found Argentine shrimps; went to the produce stand, got a bag of those amazing Sicilian tomatoes; visited the cheese store and got a hunk of Reggiano, some meaty Cerignola olives; and stopped by the coffee store for fresh ground Etiopiano. I went by Rizzardini’s pastry shop and splurged on a pallet of eight pieces to take home.
I have no problem finding an open table with an unobstructed view, manned by an agreeable waiter, one simply happy to see business reappear. I take out my little watercolour kit, colours, brushes, my postcard-sized pad, order a drink, sketch, then paint at my own pace.
The weather has turned perfect, and it gets dark around 9 p.m. Venice is the ideal city for getting lost. I’ve been here more times than I can count, but the coolest thing today is the ability to meander down dead-end passages and have to double back on my own steps. It’s too empty to navigate Venice the old way, stop and go, bumping into shoulders, walking downwind of cigarettes, craning one’s neck for landmarks. That Venice has disappeared, and the days of yore are thankfully returned.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor