What do I like about Venice in August and September? I like the fact that it has a traditional culture against which many of our friends appear in an entirely new aspect. The French Riviera is the creation of its visitors – a barbarous strip of rocky shore on which foreign holidaymakers have perched hotels and bars and Casinos. It has no history or nationality. It is morally the property of the sunbathers and baccarat players who frequent it. And they are amply justified in behaving exactly how they like, and dressing how they like, and in swaggering about as though the place did, in fact, belong to them. Venice had the gay café life of the Piazza before the American colonists had learnt to speak with an accent and I enjoy very much the fact that they insist on their own standards of propriety. The Lido is the foreigner’s property. People can dress how they like there. But if they wish to sit at Florian’s in the evening they must dress as the Venetians think suitable. Young Englishmen who attempt to appear like gross schoolboys in shorts and vests present a very vulgar spectacle indeed under Venetian eyes.
…And I relish very much the compactness of Venetian life. On the Riviera there are so many villas, so many hotels, so many plages and Casinos, so many miles of Corniche. Here there are at the most about forty English or Americans, who know exactly what everyone is doing every minute of the day. They all meet every evening on the Piazza and discuss how they dined, and on the morning after a party I love to see the convergence of patinas, canoes and bathers, sometimes into a single Sargasso Sea of gossip, sometimes into rival camps with rare swimmers travelling between and fanning the dissension.
Left and top: vintage hotel luggage labels from the collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton