Melissa's Travels

Venice’s Eternal Seduction

Jeweler Joel Rosenthal (the man behind JAR) recently wrote a little guidebook on his favorite artisans of Venice. In it, he highlights some of the most talented creative spirits of the city like lovely Antonia Miletto, who is known for her sinuous wood and gold rings and bracelets. In his introduction, he writes, “My life is measured not in birthdays or their numbers, but in leavings and returns to you, Venice—it has been this from the first kiss.”

Those words echo my feelings for the city. It was love at first sight when I arrived at sixteen on a Riva water taxi and saw her domes and towers rising from the water like a dream, and though I have visited many times since, her beauty still takes my breath away. The noble arches of St. Mark’s; the glow of the rose colored glass in her lampposts; the parade of palazzos on the Grand Canal; flamboyant, lace-inspired marble bridges; a quiet Campo or forgotten canal of sudden and deep silence—each can plunge me into the feeling of existing in a fairytale and not in the 21st century.

Yes, massive crowds now do mar views and signs of water wear appear everywhere, the creep of rot and age. The native population continues to decline (down to 50,000 by some reports from 120,000 in 1980). Many restaurants that cater to tourists are owned by foreigners and serve spaghetti with meatballs, an insult to Venetians. Local bakeries where bread and cornettos were formerly made on site have been replaced by mini-markets. Natives complain, “the city is becoming a museum.” And yet, Venice’s decay, her fragility and slow deterioration, her constant reminder of loss—of youth, of beauty, of power of both a civilization but also of each one of us—has always been part of her seduction. As Thomas Mann wrote in Death in Venice in 1912, “Forbearance in the face of fate, beauty constant under torture, are not merely passive. They are a positive achievement, an explicit triumph.”

On my latest trip, a short one, I returned to favorite restaurants, run by families with only a few tables outside and a menu based on what is in season in the gardens of Sant Erasmos island or caught by fishermen that day. The September light warmed the orange and yellow facades of the ancient churches and houses. An Aman hotel now occupies the palazzo where I had once visited friends when the garden was not manicured like it is today but wild and filled with children’s laughter instead of polite cocktail conversation. Its historic Tiepolo frescoes have been restored and music enlivens the rooms at all hours. The grand halls were once the exclusive realm of aristocrats, but now this extravagant existence is open to all for a high price; such is change and consistency in Venice.

Rosenthal measures his own time in visits to Venice, but for me, her beauty lies in how she makes me so poignantly aware of the passage of time, while simultaneously deepening my appreciation for the discovery, beauty and constant innovation possible in every moment. As Rosenthal says, “We have left our habits, become calm, confused, reassured, all beyond time—at last we have stopped here in the center of the world, its eyes looking at us in unforgettable intimacy.”

Published onSeptember 24, 2015

More Inspiration

Plan Your Trip With Us

We only feature hotels that we can vouch for first-hand. At many of them, Indagare members receive special amenities.

Get In Touch
Indagare employees walking up stiars

Enjoy 30 Days On Us!

Start your Self Planner
membership trial today.

Unlock access to 2,000+ first-hand hotel reviews, 300+ Destination Guides and the most up-to-date travel news and inspiration.

Already a member?

Welcome back,
log in to Indagare

Not a member?

Forgot Password

Enter your email and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Type the first 3 letters to begin