Stumbling On Happiness

“God certainly doesn’t make phone calls,” the handwritten sign in a baroque Venetian church said, “so keep your cell phone turned off in here.” My husband and I laughed. It also showed us, once again, how being open to the moment can make a trip better, even in a city you know and love.When I remember the best parts of our trip to Venice last May, it comes down to a handful of experiences: a choral practice in a minor church on the Zattere; a bookstore loaded with unusual postcards, cookbooks, and books in English which were tossed into an antique gondola; a small wooden church where we had only a few minutes to see the highlights before it closed for that all important luncheon repast, pranzo.

These discoveries were accidental, but we have learned that serendipity is more likely to come if you do a lot of planning first. It helped that I had done my homework. After consulting Gambero Rosso, an Italian culinary organization and monthly magazine, I found Il Vecio Fritolin, a small seafood restaurant not far from the Rialto, which was so good that we ate the same meal two times in three days. The mixed seafood grill served in brown paper on an elegant white plate, was the best we have ever had in our many years of traveling to Italy.

“The only way to care for Venice as she deserves it is to give her a chance to touch you often—to linger and remain and return.” – Henry James, On Italy

Purchasing a CD set and book on the art and architecture of Venice, we knew how to organize our walking route to see important paintings in churches, several of which are closed for various reasons during daytime hours. It helps to know church locations and visiting hours in order to construct an efficient walking tour.

We have traveled to Venice numerous times and have found that the classical concerts advertised throughout the city typically feature first rate musicians. The acoustics and the architectural beauty of the Baroque churches are unbeatable. Arrive early to secure the best seats, as these concerts typically do not have assigned seating.

The Italians have a saying for this- “lasciate andare,” – let yourself go, and truly be open to the moment. That can mean taking an impromptu free boat ride in a mahogany cruiser to the famous Cipriani hotel, a recommendation offered by famous Italian chef, Marcella Hazen; strolling through an open air art show in the gardens adjacent to Piazza San Marco; taking a vaporetto, a city waterbus, to the closest beach for a dip in the Adriatic; visiting the Venetian fish market at dawn when it first opens up; or deciding to visit the glass museum on the island of Murano on the spur of the moment.

But that doesn’t mean we leave everything to chance. We give serendipity a nudge by planning, researching hotels and restaurants well in advance, underpinning the trip with a few reservations so we don’t lose time once we arrive in our favorite city, checking out upcoming events and art shows so we know what’s going on ahead of time. Then we can relax into that “lasciate andare” state of mind and thoroughly enjoy Venice.

Selective sites Posti importanti

La Basilica di San Marco

– go when it opens at 10 am

Il Rialto

– the only bridge that spanned the Grand Canal until the 19th century

Il Campanile

– belltower, great view of city from the top, there is an elevator ride

Il Palazzo Ducale

– ducal place/Doge Palace

Il Ponte dei Sospiri

– bridge of Sighs adjacent to Doge Palace


-the art museum in Venezia

Hotel Danieli

– grand hotel, see the foyer or have a coke or tea

Santa Maria dei Frari

– closed from noon until 3 pm, paintings by Bellini, Titian

La Scuola di San Rocco

– famous painting by Tintoretto

La Fenice

-the Phoenix, the opera house which has risen from the ashes several times


– ride the vaporetto (water bus), look at the architecture and just walk around

Rialto fish market

– go in the morning, closed Sundays and Mondays

Restaurants Ristoranti

*** top suggestions

***La Riviera Dorsoduro 1473; Tel:  041 5227621

closed Sunday and Monday

***Il Vecio Fritolin Rialto, Calle della Regina, 2262; Tel:  041 5222881

closed Mondays
great seafood, try the mixed seafood served in brown paper

Trattoria Anzolo Raffael Dorsoduro 1722, Piazza Angelo Raffaele; Tel:  041 5237454

open 12-14 and 19:30-21:30 closed Monday and Tuesday
no credit cards, moderate

Locanda Montin Dorsoduro, Fondamenta Di Borgo 1147 Tel:  041 5227151

Fiaschetteria Toscana Cannaregio, San Giovanni Grisostomo 5719; Tel:  041 5285281

closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Corte Sconta Castello, Calle del Pestrin 3886; Tel:  041 5227024

closed Sunday and Mondays

Al Covo Castello, Campiello della Pescheria 3968; Tel:  041 5223812

closed Thursday

Da Fiore San Polo, Calle del Scaleter 2202; Tel:  041 721348

virtually impossible to find unless you take a left at the shop called La Corte on Campo San Polo
noon -3pm and 7-10pm Closed Sunday and Monday
try the shrimp risotto


Harry’s Bar San Marco, Calle Valleresso 1323; Tel: 041 5285777

open 10:30 am until 10:55 daily
celebrated for carpaccio, expensive Bellini’s and people watching

Da Mori San Polo, Calle dei Do Mori 429

oldest wine bar in town, opened in 1462

Shops Negozi

Il Pavone

paper and lithograph shop near the Guggenheim Museum

Typical Venetian food Cibo veneziano

seafood:  seppie – cuttlefish, branzino – sea bass, vongole – clams, calamari – squid

risotto – Italian, short grain rice and risi e bisi – rice with peas