Actually, the proper expression is “See Naples and die!” but Venice works just as well considering that Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” was filmed at the Excelsior Hotel on the Lido by the legendary film director, Luchino Visconti. The accompanying music of Mahler adds a melancholy touch to this acclaimed film which was awarded top honors at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
At the suggestion of our good friends Anna and Claudio, we decided to visit this “turn of the century” hotel (read 19th century) on the Lido. After a 10 minute ride on the Vaporetto (water bus), we asked for directions to the Hotel. With clear directions, but vague distances – anywhere from a 5 to 20 minute walk (actually 30 minutes) – we arrived at the lobby of the magnificent Excelsior for a well-deserved drink.
To make a long story short, we were so exhausted that we opted for lunch and a most refreshing Excelsior spritz (recipe below) overlooking the lovely beaches and Adriatic Sea. I had a delicious salad of mozzarella and tomatoes, while Sheila opted for a Ceasar salad with chicken and finished with fresh strawberries and lemon juice.
Strolling around the bar rekindled memories of young film stars like Clark Gable, Orson Welles, Brigette Bardot and Kirk Douglas who stayed at this fabled hotel. I am quite sure that not much has changed in the intervening years: true magic! The concierge – taking pity on an old man with a trophy wife – provided a complimentary trip back to St. Mark’s square on the hotel’s luxury vaporetto.
Hotel Excelsior Spritz
- 1 part Aperol or Bitter Campari
- 2 parts Prosecco
- A dash of St. Germaine
- Slices of lemon and an orange
- Green olive on a wooden skewer to stir
Food and Dining in Venice
Venice is acclaimed for its great seafood and fine dining, but I suspect that food standards in general have declined to accommodate the non-discerning palates of thousands of tourists that invade this jewel of a city. Sure, for a price there are still great restaurants (Cipriani springs to mind), but overall we found the food rather monotonous and over-priced.
For those willing to experiment and with modest cooking facilities, we strongly recommend the Rialto market. What a joy to find such a well-stocked market of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and fish that would make any chef’s mouth water. The fruits and vegetables are certainly better than the lethargic pizzas served at most restaurants.
For non-smokers, make sure you ask for a table inside the restaurant since the chain-smokers have got all of the more romantic outdoor tables on the piazza. I suppose it would be nice to dine al fresco overlooking a canal with a hint of jasmine in the air, but presumably the smell of burning tars and nicotine is far more appealing to anything nature can provide!
Should art be only used to promote social causes? According to the organizer of the Bienalle, it should be! Ummmm … I think I will take a pass. Join me for Venice – Part 3 when and if the Gods of cyberspace are willing.