Venice, from both sides~

“Venezia, Venezia…Chi non ti vede non ti prezia”~

What can I say about Venice that hasn’t already been said over the centuries by people more brilliant than I? Nothing.

The above quote is from Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost and translated in the play it means, “Who understandeth thee not, loves thee not.” Shakespeare obviously loved Italy and Venice. He set many of his plays in Italy’s Veneto region…Verona, Venice, Padova (Padua as it is called in The Taming of the Shrew).

I was excited about finally traveling to Venice—Venezia. It had been on our list of cities to visit in Italy for years, but we held off until this past November. Part of the decision had to do with economics. Venezia è una molto cara città—Venice is a very expensive city, which is why we decided to travel there off-season. Hotels are a lot more affordable—not necessarily cheap—during the off-season. We stayed at the Hotel Paganelli ( and had a room overlooking the lagoon—where the Grand Canal connects to the Lagoon. It was a perfect location.

Several Italians friends in Montgomery were thrilled to know that we were going to Venice in November. “The light on the city is so beautiful that time of year. The light is more gray and does wonderful things with the marble. It is much more magical in November than in summer.” I believed them. Venice is notoriously hot, crowded, and displeasingly aromatic during Summer’s high tourist season. I am glad that we were able to avoid the sweltering throngs and go in November.

When we arrived on that Friday morning, it was chilly and rainy in Venice. Gray light, indeed! Arriving into Venice is like no other place in Italy…the train pulls into the station and you are almost immediately at the water’s edge waiting for a valporetto—a water taxi—to take you to your destination along Venice’s canals of “streets.” There is nothing glamorous about the valporetto. It is an inexpensive way for the masses in Venice to get from point A to point B. In a sense, it is Venice’s “on water” subway system. There are private taxis for hire, but those boats can be expensive and, sometimes, just as unglamorous.

Our room at the hotel had tasteful, golden fabric-covered walls, rich woodwork, and a nice marble bathroom. The room wasn’t terribly spacious, but we could fling our window wide open and, standing side-by-side, lean on the sill and gaze out over the lagoon. Directly across from us sat Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore and gondolas bounced with the waves in their moorings directly in front of our hotel.

There is something magical about this city and, as the title of this entry points out, there seems to be two views, two perceptions, two atmospheres of Venice. Even in the mist of the afternoon’s overcast sky there was a richness about Venice. It was a friendly elegance. Sophisticated, but elegant. At night, walking through the narrow, twisting, rat-maze-like streets one could imagine the masked and cloaked figures of the Carnevale turning the corner and making you gasp, only to disappear into the misty, yellowed streetlight night. Here, Venice was mysterious, ominous, and disorienting.

I will write more about Venice, its people, and its food over the next several posts. Enjoy the photos and maybe put on some opera—Don Giovanni—to get into the masked and cloaked mood!

Ciao e a presto~


(**The photos: Statue is in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace, view from the Hotel Paganelli, and San Giorgio Maggiore at night.)

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.