In this guide we’ll explore the majesty of Venice: you’ll find out how to journey in quaint gondolas through august waterways, dine sumptuously in cozy back-alley pizzerias, and weep in bitter humiliation when a social-panic-induced diarrhea attack sends you fleeing for the blessed privacy of a restroom. Ah, Venice!
“Benvenuti!” is the Italian word for welcome, and from the moment you arrive in Venice, you’ll feel warmly welcomed indeed. Incidentally, another important phrase in Italian is “Ho un timore paralizzante delle folle e dei posti del pubblico,” which means “I have a crippling fear of crowds and public places.”
Let’s take a look at some of the remarkably splendid sites and sounds you’ll want to take in during your time in this fabled city known to locals as “most serene.”
Walking the Streets
Enchanting, labyrinthine, and guaranteed to please, the winding streets of old Venice will captivate your every step. Don’t worry about getting lost; it’s guaranteed to happen but it’s part of the fun! This is assuming that getting lost outside doesn’t cause you to hyperventilate and your glands to swell.
Embark on a magical journey on foot to celebrate your first day in Venice. Set out without a map and discover! Fall in love with the myriad canals and bridges. Stuff yourself at one of the many hidden, tiny culinary treasures, which offer up delicious pizza, pasta, and local wine. Marvel at the wholly unique architecture—the points and curves of the windows, the colorful brick and stone, and yes, the Venetian blinds! And when your sweat-sodden body is overcome by the horror of it all, squeal for help and hope that you don’t land on top of one of Venice’s enormous rats when you faint. They are legion here.
Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge
Its praises have been sung in music and poetry for centuries, and in person the Grand Canal of Venice is no less impressive. It is truly a site to behold, or so I am told by people who don’t spend their voyage through the canal covering their eyes and shrieking under the crushing weight of being out in the open. I don’t quite glimpse the Ponte Rialto, with one hand holding my spectacles and the other blanketing my vision, even when the gondolier strikes me with his oar, barks at me to open my eyes, and curses me in Italian for being a disgraceful, womanly coward. But once I put on my glasses again and whimper back to my hotel room, I see some nice postcards. Nice and big. Ponte means “bridge.”
La Gallerie dell’Accademia
The Accademia is home to some of the world’s greatest works of art, and showcases in particular the astonishing éclat of Venice’s great Renaissance painters such as Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini. Art lovers from around the world flock to the museum and spend hours roving its cavernous, masterpiece-lined hallways. Bellissimo!
I spend my visit to the Accedemia curled up in a ball beneath a bench, wailing, twitching with clenched fists, and praying for death to come swiftly. Mercifully, I am removed by two angry security guards, who drive me back to my hotel. They tell me that the gift shop is also very nice. Cheap reprints.
Piazza San Marco
Oh God. Oh dear God. So many people. Pigeons swarming everywhere. I think I’m going to be sick.
The Basilica of San Marco
The Ducal Palace
Because my editor insists that I continue exploring, there doesn’t seem to be any end to this torture. There is vomit on my trademark blue collared shirt, I am battling incontinence, and also seem to have developed a nervous tick in my jaw. And now I’m supposed to visit the doge’s palatial home? With all its florid adornments, fabulous tapestries and centuries of rich history? It’s full of tourists and, I’m sure, stinks of infirmity as badly as the rest of this squalid, God-forsaken hellhole. Screw the ducal palace. I’m going to sleep.
The Glass-Making Island of Murano
Swaddled in the warm, warm blankets of my hotel room, nothing can hurt me. Nmmm. Cocoon. Nmmmmmmmm.
i, honey. We need to talk.
So I’ve decided to start acting more French, and you’re going to be seeing some changes in my behavior. Exactly what this will entail is difficult to determine, particularly because I have never been to France. But it’s my decision, and I’m sticking with it. Anyway, I’ve got some general ideas on how to do so. Hence the beret.
Why have I chosen to do this, you ask? In celebration of my heritage. I’ve recently been made aware that my last name is probably French in origin. This is not certain, but fairly likely—maybe 60 percent. It’s either French or German. Anyway, I don’t really want to act more German, nor would I know how to do so even if I did. So French it is. Want some baguette?
Please don’t object to this. And don’t fight it. If you want to fight about it, I’m going to have to run away. It is widely acknowledged that French people don’t fight. We are lovers, not fighters. Perhaps I could get someone to do the quarreling for me, if you’re insistent on arguing. Anyway, I’d rather not fight about it, as it’s not in my nature. Let’s just have some wine and a long skinny cigarette.
What do you mean it’s too early for wine? Not in France, it isn’t. French people are drunk 24/7. I’m really going for full-on Frenchness here. So when I drunkenly turn my superior nose up at everything you say, please don’t be offended. It might help your situation some if you wore this Canadian flag patch on your backpack. French people dislike Canadians to a lesser degree than they do Americans. Wear this and hopefully I won’t spit on you. Thanks.
So I was thinking we could head over to the Louvre this afternoon, and then maybe go to the café for some cuisine—perhaps crêpes à la carte. Sound good? How was my pronunciation, by the way?
Are you ready to go? We’ll need to allow ourselves plenty of time for the meal. French people take exceedingly long meals—often nine or ten hours in length—because they savor every nuance and flavor of what they are eating. It is also not uncommon for two French diners to go through 27 bottles of Bordeaux at a single meal, so pace yourself, O.K.?
Sacre bleu! I suddenly find myself conflicted, because as a French person, I am also culturally obligated to enjoy and be amazingly skilled at cooking. I stand for hours on end over an old Wedgewood stove in my Parisian flat, pouring spices and wine into large pans and cauldrons, often sniffing deeply and approvingly as I do so. Usually I am making stews or escargot. Do you want me to cook for you? I guarantee you’ll sleep with me after. French people are that good when it comes to food.
At some point here, I have to stop by the dry cleaner to pick up my tight-fitting, horizontally striped shirt, so there’s that to squeeze in to our day as well. Honestly, though, time really doesn’t matter all that much to me. We can go whenever. I’m pretty nonchalant about punctuality, which it is my understanding non-French people often mistake for ennui.
In case you were wondering, I’m not going into work today. You Americans work too much. It’s ridiculous, your capitalist society. All you think about is money. Maybe you should try cutting your work week down to just two days and relaxing a little. That would leave you more time for the finer things in life, like long meals, copious amounts of wine, and long, skinny cigarettes.
That Jerry Lewis! Oh, my God, what a wonderful man! Remind me to do some research on that guy. Can’t exactly seal the old “I’m French” deal without a deep appreciation for Jerry Lewis, can I? Is he still alive? What was he, a tennis player?
Well, O.K. I’m tired now. I’m going to take a nap. Pretty much all of my days now are going to be devoted to two things: eating and sleeping. Of course there will be some drinking and smoking in there too—usually in conjunction with the eating. But you need to understand that naps are a huge part of my culture. Please be quiet while I’m napping, O.K.?
Object all you want, but it’s who I am. This is what life is going to be like from now on, dear. If you don’t like it, you can go back to Canada.
I Think I Need to Dispell Some Misconceptions about My Six-Foot-Tall Swedish Ladyfriend Who Happens to Be a Licensed Massage Therapist
Her name is Kerstin. It’s pronounced “SHES-TIN.” A lot of people get that wrong.
She is from Sweden. She is a licensed massage therapist. In Sweden, they have this thing called “Classical Massage” which doesn’t involve vibrating beds or “happy endings.” Most people in Sweden aren’t happy. But they love Max von Sydow.
She is six feet tall and blonde and super-fucking hot. O.K., whatever. But she speaks three languages and works for a living (though not in a Donna Summer style). And, yes, she is a licensed massage therapist. She’s very esoteric, you know. Transcendental and all that shit. It’s not like she’s flying around the world wearing miniskirts and drinking champagne. That’s only in the movies, bro.
She can put her legs behind her head. Yeah, that’s fucking hot and badass, but she’s very serious about her craft. Enough with the stupid jokes.
She doesn’t drive a Volvo. She doesn’t drink Absolut. She doesn’t like ABBA. And she doesn’t cavort in Roman fountains in strapless evening gowns. (Her boobs aren’t that big, either.)
For some reason she doesn’t like Swedish metal. I love metal and there’s all these cool bands coming out of Sweden, but she’s not down with that. She’s into Kitarō and, like, Yanni. And the Rolling Stones. She had no idea about HammerFall until I burned her a disc. (What are you gonna do?)
She teaches a yoga class, because she’s all into that. Did I mention that she can put her legs behind her head and there is this one position in yoga called “Bird of Paradise.” That shit is so fucking crazy sexy I don’t even know what to say. Still, she won’t take me seriously about dating …
She towers over me even without heels. Fucking Swedes. She’s all giggly and sunshine and likes lingonberries on her toast. I don’t have any idea what lingonberries are, but she’s so fucking hot I could care less. She hasn’t given me a massage yet, though. But whatever. Lingonberries. That’s so gay. But, contrary to popular belief, she would put grape jelly on her toast given a choice.
Like all Swedes, she’s very punctual. Like most Americans, and New Yorkers, I’m always running late. But she’s cool about waiting. She doesn’t get pissed if I’m late. Enough with the judgments about pissed-off Swedes who don’t like having to wait. (Did I mention she’s six feet tall and blonde and totally hot?)
She knows who the Swedish Chef is because they have The Muppet Show in Sweden. She thinks it’s funny; but, yeah, she gets it. (Bork-Bork-Bork!)
Yes, she eats herring. She doesn’t like it as much as Italian food. So, fuck you—deal with it!
She can’t tell a joke to save her life. True of all Swedes, I have found. Good with stories about growing up on a farm with a pig named “Herr Nilsson” and a ram named “Ulrich,” but that thing about Swedes being serious is way off. I mean—she basically had a pig named “Mr. Nelson,” which is kind of funny. If it was called “Major Nelson” it would be even funnier. But she doesn’t know about I Dream of Jeannie, so my idea about getting her into scarves and calling me “Master” is kind of dead in the water.
She has shopped at IKEA. But no discounts. What’s up with that? Fucking Swedes …
She does like Ace of Base. Well, there are some stereotypes you can’t break through …