However, after a taxi ride the length of the Grand Canal and, not an hour later, a shivery stroll from our hotel - a converted Gothic convent, next to the Santa Maria della Salute, that great Baroque thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague epidemic of 1630, standing sentinel at the mouth of the Grand Canal - past the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, towards the Accademia Bridge and over to St Marks Square, where the Basilica in all its Byzantine splendor, the brick and stone campanile, and the Doges' great gothic pink and white palace glowing in the westering sun lightened the mood as feet, nonetheless, got heavier and the wind off the water, sapping what strength remained, finally sent us to Caffè Florian where a pot of hot chocolate, a glass of wine, two tramezzini, and a few bemused glances outside to the frigid square were all it took to comfort both body and spirit - and bring the city of Venice into beautiful focus.
Light, by turns clear, shrouded, enveloping, transporting, mercurial, is one of the aspects of Venice that has made it a subject of paintings for centuries. A cliché, I know, but it's obvious the omniprescence of water that makes the light, even the lack of it, what it is. In twilight we walked back over the Accademia Bridge, to the hotel bar for a Manhattan, this time alas without the antica formula vermouth I'd been introduced to in Rome, and for the Celt, a Negroni. Hotel bars, like hotel lobbies and buses in New York City, are perfect places for sharing sometimes surprisingly personal anecdotes and experiences, practicing second or even third languages, tricking, comparing notes, taking advice, or just sitting by the window watching reflections dance on the water as the world sails by.That evening, after sprucing up in our gold-leafed bathroom (floor, ceiling, walls and shower stall all covered in squares of gold leaf behind sheets of glass) we strolled alongside narrow canals, by empty market places, through cramped, ill-lit alleys and on over small squares, to dinner. Dramatic after dark, Venice is one pool of light after another, mostly given over to an amusingly noir chiaroscuro, yet the city is unthreatening and happily friendly. The crowds being mostly absent, walking is easier at night - wandering under a starry sky over the innumerable small narrow bridges, with the help of an iPhone, Google Maps, and the frequent hand-lettered signs pointing towards San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, and Santa Croce, is one of the best of things.
The Celt took the photographs mostly with his iPhone.