Like fathers, like daugh­ters: Friends re-cre­ate their dads’ long-ago trip to Venice.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

Our read­ers share tales of their ram­bles around the world.

Who: Wendy Larimer (the au­thor) of Wil­liams­burg and Kristin Doney of New York City.

Where, when, why: For 20 or more years we have talked about go­ing to Venice to trace the foot­steps of our fathers, who made the same trip 40 years ago. A writer and an artist, re­spec­tively, they helped pay for their trip by writ­ing about it for a news­pa­per, com­mis­sion­ing paint­ings and pub­lish­ing a small book called “Re­turn to Venice.” Our goal was to find the lo­ca­tions that were high­lighted in their book as well as the scenes de­picted in nu­mer­ous paint­ings that line the walls of our homes. In April, we fi­nally pooled our re­sources for a week-long trip to Venice and ful­filled our plan of see­ing for our­selves what was so won­der­ful about this is­land that had kept our fathers rem­i­nisc­ing for many years and our moth­ers grum­bling about be­ing left be­hind.

High­lights and high points: A visit to Venice brings the ex­pec­ta­tion of see­ing great art at ev­ery turn, but noth­ing pre­pared us for Scuola Grande di San Rocco. A some­what unas­sum­ing build­ing from the out­side, we ques­tioned whether it was worth the price of ad­mis­sion. Think­ing that since we were there, we should just see it, we en­tered. The ground floor walls con­tained an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of Tin­toretto paint­ings, in­clud­ing “The As­sump­tion of the Vir­gin” and “The Ado­ra­tion of the Magi,” but it was the up­per hall that left us slack-jawed and suck­ing in our breath. There was not a bare square of wall or ceil­ing. Tin­toretto’s works cov­ered the ceil­ings and walls in be­tween in­tri­cate gold carv­ings and a col­lec­tion of wooden sculp­tures by Francesco Pianta that de­picted the arts and pro­fes­sions. Stand­ing com­pletely sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful art was a high­light that left us both, sur­pris­ingly, speech­less.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion or dis­con­nect: If you go to Venice you will get lost. Ev­ery trav­eler must get that warn­ing, but un­til you ex­pe­ri­ence Venice, you have no idea just how lost a per­son can get. Stop­ping into restau­rants, shops and ho­tels to say to the staff “We are com­pletely lost” be­came a daily oc­cur­rence. In ev­ery place, we would get a sim­i­lar an­swer: “Go over two bridges, turn right and then just go straight.” Sim­ple enough, but af­ter you cross the first bridge, is the sec­ond one to­wards the right or left? Then af­ter you make that right turn, is “straight” the jag to the left or right? Noth­ing in Venice is a straight line. A few days in, though, we learned land­marks, we learned that the signs do make some sense, and we were given a bet­ter map. We also learned that if you make a wrong turn, you can end up on pic­turesque street, ad­ja­cent to a blue-green canal with only the pi­geons to keep you com­pany.

Big­gest laugh or cry: We went to the Vene­tian is­land of Bu­rano to find the res­tau­rant whose owner was wor­thy of nearly a chap­ter in our dads’ book. The col­or­ful homes with etched glass doors, the neigh­bor­hood feel and the per­fect blue sky al­most made us for­get our mis­sion, but as we sat sip­ping cof­fee, I no­ticed right across the street was the fa­mous Ris­torante Galuppi. We walked through the door and were met by walls com­pletely cov­ered in paint­ings and by a nice Thai gen­tle­man. My fa­ther had given me a snap­shot of him­self stand­ing with the res­tau­rant’s owner and Kristin’s dad. We showed it to the waiter and watched as his eyes grew big and a huge smile crossed his face. He was the brother-in-law of the owner and, through tears, told us the man had died two years ago. But he went on to share story af­ter story about how won­der­ful the owner had been. As we sat feast­ing on fresh seafood and pitch­ers of wine, a woman ap­proached us, and we quickly learned she was the wife of the owner. More tears and more sto­ries fol­lowed, and we un­der­stood why our fathers had found this man so spe­cial. We left with hugs, prom­ises of a re­turn visit and bags of bis­cotti.

How un­ex­pected: De­spite our ef­forts to map the lo­ca­tion of the ho­tel where our fathers stayed and fa­vorite restau­rants and squares, we ended up find­ing the sites through com­plete co­in­ci­dence. I was stand­ing wait­ing for Kristin on a busy street when I looked up and re­al­ized I was stand­ing be­fore the Ho­tel Min­erva, our fathers’ home for three weeks. We went in­side armed with our book and told the man­ager our story. He flipped through the book and showed us that one of the sketches was ob­vi­ously from this ho­tel. He took us up to a room so we could see the view. The man was so ex­cited about the book he tried to take it from us un­til we promised to send him one of his own. In re­turn, he gave us a book by a lo­cal au­thor, as­sur­ing us that if we re­turned with the re­ceipt from when our fathers stayed at the ho­tel, he would let us stay there for the same price.

Fond­est me­mento or mem­ory: We saw Venice through not only our eyes but those of our fathers’. To have that ex­pe­ri­ence was a mem­ory we will never lose.

To tell us about your own trip, go to wash­ing­ton­ and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite photos.


Bu­rano, near Venice. Wendy Larimer and Kristin Doney fol­lowed in their fathers’ foot­steps here, con­nect­ing with the rel­a­tive of a res­tau­rant owner who had been a part of that first trip 40 years ago.

Larimer, left, and Doney made good on a life­long goal and ven­tured to Venice to sa­vor wine, Re­nais­sance art and the (oc­ca­sional) beauty of get­ting lost.

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