Ciao Venezia

Nav­i­gate the canals and back streets of this Ital­ian city to dis­cover the finest palazzi and most de­li­cious gelati

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - By Jenny Southan

There’s a cer­tain magic to the an­cient city of Venice that only emerges af­ter dark, once the hordes of tourists have re­treated to the am­ber glow of invit­ing trat­to­rias. Mys­te­ri­ous wa­ter­ways slide into dark­ness; the quaint foot­bridges that arch over them lie empty.

Walk across the famed Pi­azza San Marco and you’ll see the el­e­gant ar­cades that sur­round it on three sides il­lu­mi­nated by a triple row of starry lights, del­i­cate as di­a­monds. On one side is the Gran Caffe Quadri; op­po­site is Flo­rian’s; both in res­i­dence for sev­eral hun­dred years. Be­tween them they have hosted the likes of Proust, By­ron and Casanova.

Stroll straight down the mid­dle of the square and you’ll en­ter a shared space where mu­sic from each of the es­tab­lish­ments’com­pet­ing orches­tras meet. Nightowls and bon vi­vants are seated at the many al fresco ta­bles and chairs, sip­ping ex­pen­sive di­ges­tifs, while ro­man­tics sway in in­for­mal cou­plings to the sound of up­lift­ing baroque.

Rul­ing the Waves

Venice is made up of a marshy ar­chi­pel­ago (the Vene­tian La­goon) of more than 100 is­lands—Mu­rano, Bu­rano and Tor­cello be­ing the most well-known—di­vided into six main dis­tricts, or ses­tieri (Cannare­gio, Castello, San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce and Dor­so­duro). Both Tre­viso, about a 40-minute drive, and Marco Polo air­ports are lo­cated on the main­land—fly into the lat­ter, just five miles away, for a quicker con­nec­tion to the city, by boat di­rect from the ter­mi­nal.

Com­ing in by plane, you can see why the marshy is­lands and salt­wa­ter la­goons pro­vided a unique hid­ing place for the early Vene­tians who set­tled here in the fifth cen­tury to es­cape barbarian in­vaders – war­riors who were able horse­men but un­ac­cus­tomed to the sea.

By the time Venice be­came a repub­lic in the sev­enth cen­tury, it was one of the rich­est na­tions in the world. Its ad­ven­tur­ous mer­chants sailed the globe ex­chang­ing salt har­vested from the la­goon for gold, sil­ver, spices, silk, ebony, hemp, co­coa, cof­fee, vel­vet and per­fume.

How­ever, in a tragic twist, the ships that fre­quented the ex­otic shores of Cen­tral Asia and the Mid­dle East were also car­ry­ing a cargo of rats; rats that were in­fested with fleas in­fected with Yerse­nia pestis — the deadly Bubonic plague. It was

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