© Photo by Robert Landon
I have loved many things about Venice. Here they are, more or less in chronological order. The strange fact of its canals. The viscous light of its painters (Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto). The odd balancing of delicacy and strength in its architecture (Palladio, Sansovino, Longhena). Its ever-ready cicchetti and tramezzini. The sprawl of its once-mighty empire. The hydrating buzz of its spritzes. The brackish ecosystem in which it sits. The singsong lilt of its language. And, most recently, the peculiar humanity of its citizens.
Upon conquering Venice, Napoleon ordered one of his aids to write an analysis of its people. Eventually the poor man threw up his hands and declared the task impossible. There was no making sense of them. I discovered the existence of the Venetians only because I was researching the Lonely Planet guide to Venice & the Veneto and, so, was forced into contact with them, whether they liked it or not. I was completely surprised by what I found, and also puzzled. They were at once lavish and thrifty, party-hearty and standoffish, gossip-prone and closed-mouthed, worldly and parochial.
I looked for a book that could confirm what I was finding, and teach me more. I found none. So, I decided to write that book myself. It has been the most difficult assignment I have ever undertaken. One moment, I think I have been invited behind the curtain, only to find myself stonewalled.
Then by chance, I met Sebastian Fagarazzi (Venetian by birth) and Valeria Duflot (Venetian by adoption), founders of Venezia Autentica. They work tirelessly to preserve the thing I was trying to write about, a living Venice of and for Venetians. Our first conversation was so rich, and our interests so compatible, that we soon decided to join forces and write the book together. We are calling it How to Be Venetian.