World Power Turned Museum

June 18, 2012

As we were flying in to Venice, Scott mentioned that I should read a section in the economist Daron Acemoglu‘s new book Why Nations FailI’m looking forward to reading the whole book at some point, but the particular pages that he pointed out described how Venice hit its peak in the 10th and 11th centuries, it was an economic superpower then, and has been on a steady trajectory toward becoming a museum ever since then. While Scott dove into the economic history, I read a charming three-essay collection called Venice for Lovers by Louis Begley and his wife Anke Muhlstein. These two works together provided a great framework for approaching a city that I hadn’t been to since I was five, when I was mainly interested in gelato and Venetian masks.

While Venice is beautiful everywhere, it took reaching the quiet corners to feel the full effect of the city. Pausing often to look at specific vignettes–archways surrounded by flowers framed by bridges, someone leaving their house and stepping onto a boat–we kept marveling, how was this place built? Navigating the small alleyways back and forth across the canals, it seems a feat of engineering, and persistence.

One of my favorite places was the market, where we bought tiny, candy sweet frais du bois and a perfect peach. I also marveled at how many different kinds of artichokes were available–big, small, already trimmed, green, purple. I just wished I had a kitchen, as I usually do while on vacation. Although it’s hard to complain about eating in restaurants that look like this Corte Sconta.

Or taste like Osteria Alle Testiere. We also loved the Modern Art Museum at the very eastern tip of Dorsoduro. And then there were the drinks that we had at Harry’s Dolce, just as the sky was turning pink.

From there, we went to Rome…

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