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Archive for the ‘Foods of Italy’ Category

Travelers always ask about the best places to enjoy a great meal in cities across Italy. In Florence, my list of those still owned by the same family for more than three generations is very short. There are plenty of other great restaurants in the city, yet these three are special. Many families who have worked for generations are beginning to sell out under pressures of the economy. These will, I believe, continue to contribute their small share of making true Tuscany remain true.

If you do visit Florence, these are three you should be certain not to miss. I continue to take every opportunity to enjoy meals at these wonderful places!

Garden Dining Terrace Trattora da Bibe Galuzzo

Garden Dining Terrace
Trattora da Bibe
Galuzzo

Trattoria da Bibe

Five generations ago, Signore Baudone established the Trattoria da Bibe (in honor of his wife, whose nickname was Bibe) along a small stream in the village of Galuzzo just outside of the ancient Roman gate of Florence. Since then, the family has dedicated themselves to a tradition of fabulous food, well prepared, fairly priced and presented with excellent service.

Tables on the garden terrace – left – are wonderful in season and the homey interior is reminiscent of many family villas across Tuscany.

GO!

Trattoria Anita

Tucked into a small corner on a little walked street directly behind the Palazzo Vecchio, this place is one of the best places for lunch in the city. The staff is energetic, the food is fabulous and very very affordable (lunch of three courses is often less than 11 Euros!) and the location makes it a perfect stopping place between the Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and the wonders of Santa Croce’s neighborhood. GO!

Ristorante Cafaggi

For all the details about my favorite restaurant in Florence, please click on the link below to my March 2012 article about this fabulous, family owned and operated restaurant near Piazza San Marco and the Accademia in Florence.

Ristorante Cafaggi

For an unforgettable meal in a lovely, simply atmosphere with great food and service – and very fair prices – enjoy.

Trattoria da Bibe

Bibe website

Via delle Bagnese, 1/r

Ponte all’Asse, Galluzzo

Firenze

Tel: (+39) 055 20 49 085

Trattoria Anita

Via del Parlascio, 2

50122 Florence, Italy

Tel:+39 055 218698

Ristorante Cafaggi

Web Site, Ristorante Cafaggi

Via Guelfa, 35

50125 Firenze

Tel: 055 295 989

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Fishing Boats – Manarola, Cinque Terre 

As I headed out that first morning, walking the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola, I remember being, simply, stunned at the beauty of the coastline. The path, in sections, is a bit of a challenge, but who cares when you have views like that!

The approach to Manarola from the south is not as spectacular as those who encounter views as they near the village from the north. Once inside the village however, I was again surprised and enchanted by the narrow lanes, the friendliness of the people and the sense that these places are straight from a 1950’s Cinecittà vision of bella Italia.

While I imagined that living along the coast, before it was ‘discovered’ was not just difficult, but downright tough, the positive impact on people’s lives from all we visitors is evident in shops, restaurants, hotels and B&B’s.

Poet and writer Eugenio Montale, who lived in Manarola for over thirty years,  wrote of senses heightened, of that compelling dichotomy between poetic beauty and darker truths.

Every moment brings new leaves to you,
amazement overwhelming every other
fleeting joy: life comes on headlong waves
to this far garden corner.
Now you stare down at the soil;
an undertow of memories
reaches your heart and almost overwhelms it.
A shout in the distance: see, time plummets,
disappears in hurried eddies
among the stones, all memory gone; and I
from my dark lookout reach
for this sunlit occurrence. 

As evening descended on this first full day on the coast, I took a seat in a small cafe and observed. Locals stopped to discuss the day’s developments, tourists peered at menus posted outside trattorias and cafes and a gentle breeze en wrapped the lanes as curtains billowed from windows high above. The lull of the ever present sea slowed us all to the pace of Italian life.

There is a question I ask myself all the time in Italy, and it has to do with love. There is not a region, hardly a place, in this incredible country that I don’t find myself asking “How can anyone not fall in love with the . . .?

Such a question is one asked as I sit on the rocks near the harbor and enjoy sunset by the sea.

Before I get to “If You Go” and the details of staying in, and enjoying meals in, Manarola, I leave you with a photograph from National Geographic.

In its capture of the restless sea and the fishermen’s boats and homes, I see an encapsulated summary of the Cinque Terre’s attractions: rocks, precipitous cliffs, quiet lanes and extraordinary beauty. Enjoy.

Manarola – Photo: National Geographic

IF YOU GO:

Hotels Manarola

As is true with all of the villages along the coast, you are strongly encouraged to book your hotel rooms(s) well in advance of your travel dates. If you visiting during late October – late March, then you will find accommodations available for ‘last minute’ arrivals. Regardless, reserve in advance and you will have one less worry for your trip.

These are all places I have stayed, over the years, in Manarola. You may well have a favorite, yet I can recommend these with confidence that you will enjoy a safe and fairly-priced stay.

La Torretta   

Vico Volto, 20 | Piazza della Chiesa, 19017 Manarola, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.327

Carugiu B&B  

Via Ettore Cozzani, 42  19017 Riomaggiore Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: (Italian Cell Number) +39.349.346.9208

Affittacamere San Giorgio  

Via Discovolo 280 – 19017 Manarola (SP)

Tel. +39.0187.760.542

Restaurants Manarola

During high season, you should reserve for dinner in most places in Manarola. The restaurants are, in general, very small and fill quickly for the evening meal. I recommend these places. I have eaten in them and have enjoyed wonderful meals and refreshments at a fair price.

Trattoria Locanda il Porticciolo 

Via Renato Birolli, 88  Riomaggiore, Province of La Spezia, Italy

0187 920083

Aristide (no web site)

Via Discovolo  19017 Manarola, Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.000

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Pitigliano View

South of Grosetto, the southern most large city in the Tuscan Province, stands the village of Pitigliano. Though it was not until the 11th Century that written records first mention this village, evidence of both Etruscan and 5th Century Christian presence have been discovered. The commanding position of the village, surrounded by valleys, is a spectacular sight regardless of how you approach the ancient walls.

During the 16th Century, city and state governments in Italy moved their Jewish populations into Ghettos. Many of those Jews who had been closed within the Ghettos of Siena, Florence and other cities began to move to the little-known, quiet, retreat of Pitigliano.

This is not meant to imply that Jews lived an easy life in these times; it was never easy. Despite requirements to wear certain types of clothing to mark themselves “Jew”, the closely knit community made a reasonable life for themselves in the tiny village.

The town’s unique geography includes a maze of spaces within the tufa that were created by prehistoric volcanoes or carved by those who sought shelter.

It is a curious twist of both Italian and Jewish history that this small town became a refuge for those seeking a more peaceful and protected way to life.

Some friends who live near Florence related the story that, during World War II, the non-Jewish residents of Pitigliano hid and protected the Jewish community, literally, under the village. Chambers once used by the ancients became a refuge for those persecuted. Throughout the war the townspeople stood resolute in their determination to protect the innocent.

I must admit to a certain ‘ache’ when I visit Pitigliano. The domination of religions and the persecution of centuries all seem very raw even in the narrow lanes and streets of this lovely Tuscan village. When I have explored the tufa spaces beneath the city, I have felt the presence of those who have gone before. At sunset, when the bells of churches toll there is, for many visitors, a clear sense of the terrible cost exacted from those whose religious beliefs were in conflict with the ‘powers that were’.

IF YOU GO:

The easiest access to Pitigliano if you do not have a car is by train. Trains connect Grosetto with both Rome and Florence and run on a regular basis throughout the day. Once you arrive by train you can take one of the numerous buses which travel to/from the village. Buses leave from directly in front of the train station in Grosetto.

If, however, you have a car, I strongly encourage you to add a day’s visit to this fascinating and historic village.

Bus schedules and details can be found here: RAMA Grosetto

Hotels:

There is one hotel within the city walls, the Albergo Guastini. This is an intimate hotel and its location offers immediate access to the village.

Piazza Petruccioli, 4, 58017 Pitigliano Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 61410

Outside of the city walls, there are numerous choices. Most will require a car to visit the city if you choose one of these accommodations.

S.S 74 Maremmana Ovest,

58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 616112

Via Valle Orientina, S.R. 74 , 58017 Pitigliano, Province of Grosseto, Italy

Sites to visit:

  • The Orsini Fortress, which achieved its present state in 1545 but represents a reworking of the earlier medieval fortress
  • the town’s walls and gates, the best preserved of which is the Porta Sovana.
  • The Cathedral of San Pietro e Paolo
  • The Jewish Synagogue and Museum

Quiet Corner of Pitigliano

Restaurants

(Note: You might enjoy trying the Bianca di Pitigliano, a local white wine produced from the vineyards surrounding the village.)

Il Tufo Allegro

Vicolo della Costituzione, 5

58017 Pitigliano Italy

Tel: +39.0564.616.192

My favorite. Slow Food, beautifully prepared with lovingly served. Don’t expect fancy. Expect exceptional food.

La Ceccottino*

(no web site)

Via Vignole

58017 Pitigliano

*I have never eaten at this restaurant, though the reviews are consistently good and friends say it is equal to “Il Tufo Allegro”.

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Okay. I admit it. I’m addicted to Ristorante Cafaggi where, for over twenty years, I have enjoyed flavorful, truly Tuscan meals. I was introduced to this well respected restaurant in the late 1980’s by a friend whose family owns a nearby hotel.

Find “truly Tuscan” in Florence?

A recent experience underscores the challenge of finding family owned and operated restaurants in this historic and beautiful city. After a busy morning doing research at the Biblioteca Riccardiana located in the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi, I entered a small nearby cafe for lunch. The woman behind the counter was from a distant land and did not speak either Italian or English . . . nor did anyone else in the place. As extreme as this  may seem, it is unfortunately repeated in many eateries across the city.

Cafaggi Ristorante Florence

Cafaggi, Florence

Cafaggi, in an increasingly world-confused culture, is a reliable retreat for lovingly prepared traditional Tuscan meals.

The family Cafaggi established their restaurant many years ago. Since then, generations have enthusiastically prepared the very best of Tuscan cuisine for locals and visitors alike. Dining room and kitchen have little changed since opening, save for repairs made after five feet of Arno River waters flooded the space in November 1966.

As street noise abated by the minute. staff lingered at tables to describe the day’s specials or to discuss

Tagliatelle con porcini

topics of the day. Dinner this evening included Bruschetta, Tagliatelle with Porcini mushrooms and a succulent breast of chicken accompanied by fresh asparagus. Price? Less than $30.00 including wine and tip. In Florence, an incredibly fair price. By the time I left, all but a few diners remained. Satiated, as always, by luscious food, I returned to my hotel.

The Ristorante is located on the Via Guelfa, not far from the Accademia di Belle Arti and the Piazza San Marco.

I cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough.

In future posts, I will share information for travelers about where to find other fairly priced, traditional Tuscan kitchens in bella Firenze. Join me!

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Cafaggi

Via Guelfa, 35r

Florence, Italy

TEL: +39 055 294989

Other resources:

Ristorante Cafaggi

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In the course of many years travel across Tuscany, I have created a list of my favorite places to enjoy lunch or dinner. This particular short list focuses on the areas in, or near, San Gimignano, Monteriggione and Barberino Val d’Elsa. Great food, fair prices and consistently good service? Try these if/when you go. Meals enjoyed at these restaurants have always been memorable.

For further details about this area of Italy:

www.private-italy.com

Restaurant Price Points:

*: Euro 15 – Euro 20 per person without alcohol

**: Euro 20 – Euro 30 per person without alcohol

***: Euro 30 – Euro 40 per person without alcohol

****: Euro 40 and above per person without alcohol

– – – – – – –

Hotel La Cisterna, San GimignanoLa Cisterna **

This Ristorante is located in the Hotel La Cisterna, on the Piazza of the same name, in the heart of San Gimignano. Llarge sliding glass windows face the valleys below San Gimignano. For lunch, especially, this is a wonderful place to eat. The food is fairly priced, traditional and the wine list pricing is fair for a city so full of visitors.

I recommend calling to reserve at table prior to your visit. You can also, on the day you arrive in San Gimignano, walk to the hotel and reserve a table for your lunch or dinner. Lunch begins at 12:30PM, dinner at 7:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Albergo Ristorante La Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI) Italy

Tel: 0577 940328

www.hotelcisterna.it

Dorando, Slow Food, San GimignanoDorando ***

When the Slow Food Movement began in Italy, Dorando was one of the first restaurants to deliver on the goal of incredible food, great wine list and time to enjoy the meal. The restaurant is located down a narrow alley, directly off of the Piazza Duomo in San Gimignano. There are no views, as the restaurant is located in the cellars of a 14th Century building.  Lovingly and beautifully restored, you will not miss the view – the food and wine are the focus in this fabulous restaurant.

This is not an inexpensive place – and you should plan at least two hours for a meal, especially dinner. Reservations strongly recommended.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Dorando

Vicolo dell’Oro, 2

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 333 2786611 (Owner Cell Phone)

www.ristorantedorando.it/

Bel Soggiorno **

Just inside the Porta San Giovanni, the main gate of the town of San Gimignano, is the Hotel Bel Soggiorno. UnbeknowDining Room, Hotel Bel Soggiorno San Gimignanonst to many visitors, the hotel offers one of the finest restaurants, with some of the most gorgeous views, in Tuscany. This is also a lovely hotel, providing clean and comfortable, though not particularly large, rooms. There are a few rooms available that have large terraces. The views across central Tuscany are unforgettable.

The restaurant is located off of the lobby at street level. As you enter the space, the entire valley below San Gimignano spreads before you through huge glass windows. Great place for lunch or dinner. I do highly recommend reservations if you plan dinner.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Bel Soggiorno

Via S.Giovanni, 91

53037 SAN GIMIGNANO

Tel: 0577 940375

www.hotelbelsoggiorno.it

View of San Gimignano from above Poggio AlloroPoggio Alloro **

Some Florentine friends introduced me to this restaurant five years ago and I’ve returned many times. The local Florentine beef is outstanding – some of the best in Italy. The wine list is certainly sufficient and the prices are very fair. The view of the towers in San Gimignano from the terrace is one in a million. I can’t recommend this place highly enough for both lunch and dinner. It is the unique combination of perfectly prepared meals, the view and the loving care that the owners give to their farm, that makes this place very special.

Please note: The Poggio (small hill) is located outside the San Gimignano city gate of San Matteo. You will find the Poggio on your right as you drive down away from the Porta (Gate) San Matteo. The sign for the place is not very easy to spot…but just keep looking to your right as you drive away from San Gimignano. If you drive more than ten minutes or so, you have missed the turn into the Poggio. Well worth the effort!

This is an Agriturismo, so you will find vacation apartments and a gift shop along with the restaurant. A wonderful place to enjoy a shaded lunch or dinner with spectacular views of San Gimignano.

IF YOU GO:

Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Via Andrea Mantegna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 0577 950153

www.fattoriapoggioalloro.com/

Restaurant Il Pozzo, Main Square, MOnterggioneIl Pozzo, Monteriggioni **

The village of Monteriggione is located within sight of the Florence-Siena motorway, but you will hardly notice that proximity. This is a true medieval walled town that has little changed since it was built by the Sienese centuries ago.

There is one small piazza and Il Pozzo is located directly on that square. Tables on the terrace offer umbrellas for shade and lunch or dinner at this restaurant is – for good reasons – memorable.

If you wish to eat on the terrace, come early. Lunch begins at 12:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Il Pozzo

Piazza Roma, 20

53035 – Monteriggioni (SI)

Tel: 0577 304 127

www.ilpozzo.net/

Osteria L’Antica Quercia **

A family run, small, restaurant near Barberino Val d”Elsa. Excellent meals, lunch or dinner. Highly recommend especially if you are driving in the area for a day’s exploration. Well worth the stop for a lovely lunch in this area of Tuscany.

The food is incredible and there are few places out in the country that offer the tranquil shade of a terrace with memorable views. Enjoy a flavorful meal at this lovely restaurant.

IF YOU GO:

Osteria L’Antica Quercia

Via di Sant’Appiano, 33

Barberino Val d’Elsa, Italy

Tel: 055 8075281

www.osteriaanticaquercia.it/

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Located in the Veneto region west of Venice, the city of Vicenza is a confection of marble balustrades, exquisite architecture and luxuriant hillsides. Within the confines of the medieval walls, little evidence remains of the intense bombing raids that nearly destroyed the city during World War II. Now, pleasant wide boulevards and huge piazzas fill with locals during the evening walk, the passeggiata. This is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities, thanks to both a silk trade born in the renaissance along with a burgeoning gold jewelry trade. Designer light fixtures illuminate shop windows along the Corso Andrea Palladio. In the Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza’s main square, the elegant Palladian Basilica lines one side of a sparkling white marble square. This is a lovely, peaceful city.

Vicenza is located an easy one hour train ride west of Venice. If you are traveling by car between Milan and Venice, I highly recommend at least a one night visit to this gorgeous city.

We explore Vicenza during our Northern Italy Tours. While one day might seem sufficient, it is barely enough time to grasp the remarkable history of a city once tied to La Serenissima, Venice. Numerous navigable waterways once connected the trade of Venice directly with Vicenza. Wealthy merchants began building their country homes between city and sea. Italy’s most famous architect of the period, Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580), literally built his reputation stone by stone in the hills and along the river near Vicenza.

(A brief mention that Vicenza is now home to a large US Military / NATO base. Without special and appropriate permission, you cannot visit the base, nor should city visitors attempt in any way to photograph the grounds.)

Our guide, Roberta Parlato, (www.robertaparlato.com) is a native with sun streaked blond hair, clear blue eyes and an energy that belies the seeming peace of the city. The enthusiasm she feels for the city and its history is evident. She offers a wide array of tours across the entire Veneto region. We always enjoy our time with her.

Our day in the city begins at the Piazza G. Matteotti, a lovely square that fronts the Palazzo Chiericati, one of Palladio’s masterpieces. The building is now one of the city’s Civic Museums. (www.museicivicivicenza.it/). Roberta leads our small group through the garden of the Teatro Olimpico(www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/), to the theater entrance. The Teatro, built between 1580 and 1585, is the first such building in the world constructed entirely of masonry. The performance season offers a plethora of options for those interested.

The design of the theater is full of “trompe d’oeil”, tricks of the eye. Despite the stage’s restrictive dimensions, it appears that we are looking into a city square off of which six separate streets fade in the distance. Truly remarkable.

After visiting the Teatro, we enjoy a lovely lunch of tramezzini, small flavorful sandwiches. The Bar Opera, located  outside the gates of the theater garden, (it-it.facebook.com/pages/OPERA-food-drinks/43623236530) offer delicious and fairly priced meals served in the shade of a gorgeous 16th century loggia. Accompanied by a spritz (white wine mixed with sparkling water), the light lunch is a perfect break during our day.

We take taxis for the easy ten minute transfer to the Villa Valmarana ai Nani. (www.villavalmarana.com/en). Located above the aptly named Valley of Silence, it is a gorgeous villa in a tranquil setting.

Francesco Muttoni built the villa in 1720.  The Palazzina (small palace/villa) and the Foresteria (building originally used as a greenhouse and limonaia) contain frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo on the interior walls. The paintings reflect an array of diverse activities, some focused on local farming of the time, others presenting visions of distant lands. The villa decorations are gorgeous and Roberta details some of the most notable frescoes during our visit.

From the Villa Valmarana, we negotiate a narrow, rough, path downhill to one of the most famous Palladian villas in the world, La Rotonda ( www.villalarotonda.it/) Sited on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the villa’s exterior displays the colonnaded style for which Palladio is so famous. His designs influenced buildings as diverse as the US Capital, the White House and Jefferson’s Monticello. His approach to architecture strongly influenced Inigo Jones in London, as well. The villa’s main room is cavernous. Frescoes cover the walls. Views across the city and countryside further underscore the perfect building site for this gorgeous villa.

We bid farewell to our guide, Roberta, and head to our preferred hotel, the Relais Santa Corona. (www.relaissantacorona.it/hotel_eng.html). Relais Santa Corona Vicenza

Located on the Contra’ Santa Corona, named for the nearby Church, the hotel is one of the few located within the city walls. We find that the hotel’s location offers easy access to the city, making for less tiring explorations. Rooms at this very new Relais are large, modern, extremely clean and very comfortable. The staff is  accommodating, the breakfast buffet more than sufficient.

For dinner, we recommend clients eat at Malvasia, (www.facebook.com/pages/MALVASIA-IL-RISTORANTE/109028052465997) a fabulous restaurant located a five minute walk from the hotel. Meals of traditional Veneto cuisine, supplemented by more typical Italian dishes, are all prepared with a focus on the freshest ingredients.  On Tuesday evenings, jazz enlivens the venue.

Antico Guelfo (www.anticoguelfo.it) is also one of my favorites. Located along the Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, it offers modern, clean interiors and a creative menu at very fair prices. The Guelfo is also an easy five minute walk from the hotel.

Should your time in Italy include a visit to the Veneto region, make a point to stop and enjoy yet one more unique experience in bella Italia!

IF YOU GO:

www.private-italy.com

TOURIST INFO:

www.vicenzae.org/eng

VICENZA/VENETO GUIDE:

Roberta Parlato

www.robertaparlato.com

THEATERS AND MUSEUMS:

Civic Museums

www.museicivicivicenza.it/

Olympic Theater

www.teatrolimpicovicenza.it/

Tickets: Euro 8.50 per person

The Teatro is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (last admission: 4.30 p.m.) Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).

FOOD:

Caffe/Bar Opera

it-it.facebook.com/pages/OPERA-food-drinks/43623236530

Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 8

36100 Vicenza

Restaurant Malvasia

Contrà delle Morette, 5

Tel: 0444 543704

www.facebook.com/pages/MALVASIA-IL-RISTORANTE/109028052465997

Antico Guelfo

Contra’ Pedemuro San Biagio, 92

tel 0444 547897

www.anticoguelfo.it

VILLAS:

Villa Valmarana

www.villavalmarana.com/en

Open March 10 – November 4 (2012 Calendar Year). Tuesdays through Sundays only. Note: Closed Mondays.

10:00 a.m. to 12:30m p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Tickets: Euro 9.00 per person

Villa La Rotonda

www.villalarotonda.it/

Open 14 March to 5 November (2012 Calendar)

Open every day of the week EXCEPT Mondays.

10.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Note: You can ONLY visit the itinerior of Villa La Rotonda on Wednesday and Saturday.

Tickets: Euro 5.00 per person (Note: Euro 10.00 per person on Wednesday and Saturday).

HOTEL:

Relais Santa Corona

www.relaissantacorona.it/hotel_eng.html

Contrà Santa Corona, 19

36100 Vicenza (Italy)

Phone / Fax 0444 324678

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I’ve just returned from Christmas Eve services at San Giorgio Maggiore, Palladio’s magnificent church on its island across from Piazza San Marco. A faded green and yellow vaporetto awaited our boarding. We departed into mist-veiled midnight.

Between points of solid land, in space marked by few reference points, we glided across the ebony fog-shrouded, mirror smooth, waters of the lagoon. The peace of the boat was interrupted only by an occasional splash of water against hull. Passengers were silent. Perhaps they, as did I, recalled images of candle illuminated frescos, the heady fragrance of smoky incense, transported by those memories, the mystical soul of this extraordinary night.

December Light, Venice

Lights glowed from harbor markers as we passed prism globes afloat in misted air, suspended above the coal dark sea.

As we approached the landing at San Zaccaria, fog-veiled lights on palazzi, hotels and the Ducal Palace came to view. Everyone leaving the vaporetto was offered a kind, quiet, “Buon Natale” (Merry Christmas) by the attendant. Softly muted voices responded as passengers dispersed into the early morning.

As I turned down a darkened lane near my rooms a small dog and cat appeared, walking side by side, seeming oblivious to both their differences and my footfall. As they reached the end of the lane, they sat at the edge of a narrow canal.  Billows of fog breathed passed behind their silhouettes. I stopped to watch, noting the time; thirty minutes past midnight on Christmas morning. An old story of Christmas Eve, a time when animals could talk with each other, came to mind.

I wondered what conversation was passing between them

As I turned yet another corner I pulled the scarf up more tightly around my throat, shrugged the coat against my shoulders and left those two friends behind.

For centuries the world has known Venice as a city of mystery and beauty. For me, none more so than the Christmas Eve I was privileged to see the magic of the arriving day rise in two animals, no more alike than earth and moon, as they welcomed in the gifts of Christmas Day

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