Bruce Anderson

Wine by the jug in Venetian Venice

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We were discussing travel, that forbidden delight now tantalisingly close. Where would be our first destination? Forswearing originality, I chose Venice. Among the world’s greatest paintings, one in particular does not merely come to mind. It fills the mind. I have never been in the Serenissima for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, probably just as well. In mid-August, there are bound to be pedestrian traffic jams all the way from the Piazza to the Rialto. But it is possible to imagine the event. Go to Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Use your inner eye to fill the church with the entire nobility of Venice, festooned with gold and jewels. The choir and the censers are both in full cry. Process down the nave, and there, to the left, is the Titian masterpiece which adds lustre to Gloriosa.

There is no finer female portrait. The Virgin has cast off the frailties of old age. Once again, she is the tremulous girl of the Annunciation. Her Son, arms outstretched in greeting, is welcoming her home to be Queen of Heaven. This is a work of profound beauty and awe-inspiring religiosity.

A short stroll brings you to some old girls who do not resemble the Virgin Annunciate. Tiny, with arms like chicken bones, they run a restaurant, Ai Cugnai. Although there is a menu, it is superfluous. Just ask what is especially good today, and it will arrive, in quantity. Despite all evidence to the contrary, any male customer is assumed to be a starveling creature in desperate need of a substantial repast. Wine comes in jugs. From the Veneto, the white and the red are both a decent quaff. All the other diners will be locals. This is a surviving enclave of Venetian Venice.

There is one oddity about international Venice.

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