They say Venezia; we say Venice~

Una bella vista~

We were only there five nights, but Venezia made such a strong impression that it needs more than the previous blog posts to do it justice.

With Carnevale season here, I think it is appropriate to talk about the two sides of Venice that are reflected even in the weather. Previously, I have written about how people wanted me to notice the quality of light in Venice. When we first arrived it was overcast, drizzling, and grey. It remained that way for most of our time there. Life went on as usual, the Grand Canal was busy with boat and gondola traffic. However, we did have one incredibly sunny, clear, and warm day. That is when the other side of Venice showed its face, too.

With the weather perfect, we headed up the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by Andrea Palladio and begun in 1566. From here there is a 360-degree view of Venice, the surrounding islands, and the snowcapped Dolomites off in the distance. Every time the elevator opened at the top of the bell tower, the gasps of delight, each with their particular accent, from the exiting tourists were always the same~ 




 When you are walking the streets of Venice the city seems an unending twist of rabbit runs, an enormous wild warren of shops, ristoranti, leaning towers, museums, and piazzas. From above, the warren is revealed as a small and finite “land,” contained, restrained, and threatened by its watery perimeter. Water is Venice’s master and it is only when viewed from above that one feels its crushing impact upon the city.

We did not stay in the bell tower long enough to hear the bells rings next to us. We descended and walked the adjacent boat landing, turning to face the tower as the bells struck twelve and noticing the moon still visible next to the tower. Venezia is magical even at high noon.

Italians seem to have gardens tucked away everywhere. When we are in Rome, we are notorious for stopping as a car exits a palazzo or an alley from behind a large wooden door. While the door is open, the gate light flashing, and the car slowly pulling out, we are usually bent over or standing on our toes to see past the car into the now revealed courtyard. Without fail, a lush green garden with statuary or a fountain, or both, is on display for a brief and shining moment. Sometimes the security guard will give you a dirty look, thinking you are plotting a way in, but after the car leaves and the door starts to close, you catch their eye and say, “Bel giardino—Beautiful garden.” They smile, nod their head, and are secretly proud that you took a moment to revel in what they protect. Italians appreciate beauty and the acknowledgement of that beauty.

The cloister on the grounds of San Giorgio had a sweet garden—tucked behind locked gates and iron-barred windows. As well-dressed Italians, seeming more like dignitaries than everyday employees, let themselves in and out of the gates, I was lucky enough to capture a glimpse of the cloister. As I took my photo, one of the “dignitaries” stopped, caught my eye, gave me a nod of approval that said “Yes, it is beautiful, isn’t it?”—allowing me to snap the photo before he continued on. 

The rest of the sunny day was spent much the same way…churches, buildings, towers, museums, hidden gardens as small as a window box, and an intimate lunch at Antica Locanda Montin.

There is never enough time to talk about everything one does in a day while visiting Italy, so I will end this post here knowing that there is always domani—tomorrow—to tell the rest.

The next posting will be about the restaurants in Venice and then we might move on to another town…maybe. 

Ciao e a presto~


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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.