I am one of the fortunate few who were asked to contribute a chapter to “Dream of Venice: Architecture,” a thrifty little tome that carries a surprising heft of prose, poetry and imagery, all devoted to Venice, Italy. It’s photography is by Ricardo De Cal, and its publication was made possible by JoAnn Locktov of Bella Figura Publications. The book, a 2017 Silver “Ippy” award-winner, now has excerpts online, with my essay its inaugural one. And here it is:
I’m an eighth-generation Virginian, a fact that carries some weight in certain parts of the Commonwealth, but precious little elsewhere.
It mattered even less in Venice in late September 2012. There, Virginia seemed a quaint and claustrophobic universe. Venice, on the other hand, was a dream state, totally untethered from the 21st century – which made it a fine and lovely place to get lost.
After arriving at the airport and making that long, purgatorial trudge from terminal to vaporetto dock, I hopped onto a waterbus. A breathtaking ride followed, past buildings too old and too wondrous to comprehend. I disembarked at my prescribed stop, seeking Philippe Starck’s Palazzina G Hotel, which was no easy quest.
Wandering streets and bridges for 30 minutes, I finally located the service entrance to the hotel restaurant. The staff fell all over themselves. There was no signage, they said, so guests like Naomi Watts and Johnny Depp could avoid the paparazzi. “But: please – have some cake and prosecco!”
A nap ensued, followed by a visit to the concierge, who tapped the address of Peggy Guggenheim’s palazzo into my GPS. I plunged into the twilight for a flaneur’s 45-minute stroll, now feeling not-quite-so lost.
At my destination, I ascended a stairway for a boisterous rooftop view of the Grand Canal. After a glass of wine, I slipped down to the courtyard for dinner. At dessert, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Would I like, my host asked, to tour the galleries?
And, ecco! The Peggy Guggenheim Collection—the Pollocks, the Picassos, the Magrittes, the Mondrians, and the rest—were all mine for 15 quiet minutes until 75 guests roared in.
I stepped out onto the portico. Turning left, I noted a bronze plaque, its raised letters praising the courtyard’s restoration by Nelson Byrd Woltz, Landscape Architects from Charlottesville, Virginia.
It was my 60th birthday in Venice, and I was at home.
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