by Marlena De Blasi
Random House Ballantine Publishing Group, 2002
Summary from Library Journal:
Venice is almost synonymous with romance, and in this charming account de Blasi spares no detail in telling us how she fell under its spell. A journalist, restaurant critic, and food consultant, de Blasi left her home, her grown children, and her job as a chef in St. Louis to marry Fernando, a Venetian she barely knew. In defiance of the cynics who think true love in middle age is crazy, her marriage flourished, as these two strangers made a life together. Food comforted the newlyweds when their conflicting cultures almost divided them, and in the end marital harmony reigns. Is this book a romance, a food guide, or an exhortation for us to come to Venice and experience the magic? Ultimately, it is all three, and there is even an appendix that includes recipes for dishes described in the text.
The Italian adventure continues. After loving every moment of The Enchanted April, leaving was impossible. My trip was lengthened with this nonfiction excursion to Venice. Again I was treated to the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes (recipes are included!) of Italy.
De Blasi writes of seeing Venice for the first time:
"Shimmering water glints from the canal below. I don't know where to put my eyes. The Venice of myth is real, rolled out before me. In straw hats and striped shirts, the gondolieri are sculptures of themselves fixed on the sterns of glossy black boats under a round yellow sun. The Bridge of the Barefoot is off to the left and the sweet facade of the church San Simeone Piccolo hails from across the water. All of Venice is tattered, resewn, achingly lovely, and like an enchantress, she disarms me, makes off with the very breath of me." (page 2)
In middle age, Marlena De Blasi left her grown children, beautiful home, and job as chef, to move to Venice and take a chance on love with a "stranger". This book chronicles her Venetian journey. We observe how Venice, after one thousand days, becomes her city, too. Along the way De Blasi must deal with church bureaucracy (to get married), Italian tradesman (to remodel their apartment), cultural differences, and a slight language barrier as she forges a new life with her husband.
Her relationship with 'the stranger' grows, with her knowledge of Venice:
"Perhaps no one ever gets to know Venice as much as they remember her, recall her from an episode in some other dream. Venice is all our fantasies. Water, light, color, perfume, escape, disguise, license are gold spun and stitched into the skirts she trails across her stones by day and spreads out over her lagoon in the never-quite-blackness of her nights. I follow where Venice leads me. I learn which benches stay shady, where waits the most potent espresso ice, when the afternoon bake is ready at at which panificio, which churches are always open, and which bells can be pulled to summon a shuffling sacristan from his pisolino, nap." (page 128)
No book has ever given me such a sense of place. I feel like I've been to Venice. It was a joy to follow De Blasi's voyage, both of her heart and through the Italian countryside. She has gone on to write three more Italian memoirs, A Thousand Days in Tuscany, The Lady in the Palazzo: An Umbrian Love Story, and That Summer in Sicily. I will surely seek these out when the need for further Italian adventure calls.