Portrait of a Bellini

For the most part, arriving at any new destination is unremarkable, since airports and freeways have a generic sameness no matter where they are. For me, traveling to Venice for the first time was an exception. Even the name of the train I was on was impressive, the Direct Orient Express. Leaving Santa Lucia Station, I boarded a water taxi—the No. 1 vaporetto—that would transport me up the Grand Canal and into another world. It was a warm August evening and the gothic marble palazzos that edged the water—just like in a Canaletto painting—were tinted pink and gold by the setting sun. I can still hear the diesel engine of the boat, churning up waves, and the squawk of the sea gulls. The air had the scent of salt from the Adriatic and the underlying musk of mildew and antiquity. I watched openmouthed as famous landmarks like the Rialto Bridge and the basilica of passed me by, headed toward my destination, the Piazza San Marco.  Critics of the city will say it is moldering, expensive and full of tourists. Undeniably it is one of the most sensual and beautiful manmade places on earth. 

One of Venice’s relatively modern monuments is . Giuseppe Cipriani opened the now famous restaurant in 1931 and named it after his American patron, Harry Pickering. Cipriani worked as a barman at one of the city’s most elegant hotels and wanted his own bar and restaurant to be luxurious, but without the pomp so prevalent at other places then. His genius for simplicity—in décor, service and food—became the hallmark of Harry’s Bar that survives to this day.