A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance
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Fernando first sees Marlena across the Piazza San Marco and falls in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice café a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef traveling through Italy, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thought she was done with romantic love, incapable of intimacy. Yet within months of their first meeting, she has quit her job, sold her house in St. Louis, kissed her two grown sons good-bye, and moved to Venice to marry “the stranger,” as she calls Fernando.
This deliciously satisfying memoir is filled with the foods and flavors of Italy and peppered with culinary observations and recipes. But the main course here is an enchanting true story about a woman who falls in love with both a man and a city, and finally finds the home she didn’t even know she was missing.
see if the baker has arrived on time and sober and set Paganini at a gentle volume. The real estate agents will soon be here. Rather than racing about to clean the whole house, I opt for the more elemental seduction of crackling fires and the scent of some cinnamon-dusted thing wafting from the oven. Once I have flames leaping in all three hearths, I cut up some three-day-old scone dough left from one of Fernando’s breakfasts, top the little pillows with spice and sugar and great dollops of
icy air, the windows are rolled down, inviting in the already hot, wet air outside. He must have both. Elvis purls out his heart. Fernando knows all the words but only phonetically. “What does it mean?” he wants to know. “I can’t stop loving you. It’s useless to try.” I translate lyrics that I’d never before paid attention to, words he’d been listening to forever. “I’ve missed you since I was fourteen,” he says. “At least that’s when I began to notice that I missed you. Maybe it was even
recommends their kind treatment of me, and tells me to return immediately upstairs to change my shoes—all before I can begin to protest. I pretend not to understand about the shoes and race out into a sheer watered-silk twilight. Once more defying Fiorella, I walk quickly—again, as though to an appointment—up the Merceria to Calle Fiubera, over Calle dei Barcaroli and Calle del Fruttarol and out into Campo San Fantin. Outside the Taverna della Fenice I sit sipping cold Prosecco and feeling a
chestnut honey from the Friuli, teas, coffees, chocolates, fruits, candied or drowned in liqueurs. I longed to pull paper and coins from the small black purse hung across my chest and place the money into the merchants’ rough hard hands. More horrible than it was when I had no money to buy these things, this is another sort of hunger. I want everything, but, for now, I am alone with a baroque appetite. I buy peaches, ripely blushing, small bouquets of maroon-veined white lettuces, a melon whose
afternoon in July, every Venetian with a boat converges in the Bacino San Marco at the mouth of the Guidecca Canal, and the festival begins. The boats are draped in flowers and flags and are so dense in the water, one can pass a glass of wine to one sitting in the boat next door. One throws a sweater to a friend, a box of matches to another. And if the boats are small enough, boards or an old door can be balanced between them, an impromtu table for aperitivi together. The feast of the Redentore