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First Spritz: Confessions of Venice Addicts

First kiss. First love. First car. First job. First child. We mark our lives with such milestones, but some of us add another unforgettable moment: first time in Venice. A new book chronicles these magical moments in the first-person accounts of self-confessed Venetophiles—myself and a wonderful mix of writers, artisans, musicians, teachers, tour guides, photographers, poets, historians, and more.

Its editor, Kathleen Gonzalez, who teaches literature to high school students in California, describes Venice as her “drug of choice. All it took was a nose full of the salt air, an eyeball full of sunlight bouncing off the water, an espresso followed by tiramisu on my tongue, stumbling down alleys into dead end canals, and I was hooked … It felt like an addiction I couldn't resist, a visceral need that pulled me back again.”

Gonzalez compares her first “dose” of Venice to her first Spritz, the signature Venetian drink of wine or Prosecco, Aperol or Campari and soda water, often offered without charge by baristas who know that one is never enough. Since her first visit in 1996, she has written four books about the adopted city of her soul, including A Beautiful Woman in Venice, a fascinating compendium of Venetian women’s lives, and Seductive Venice: In Casanova's Footsteps, which follows the infamous seducer’s trail through his hometown.

Like the city’s famous salons, First Spritz brings together a chatty group of 35 “Venetophiles” from seven countries to share their love stories. In its pages, you glide (and slide) with “Gondolier Greg,” venture into hidden gardens and a boat filled with books, shadow glassblowers and beadmakers at work, and enjoy the often-touching memories of folks who lost their hearts to Venice.

Here’s how I describe my first visit to Venice in the anthology:

“La Serenissima literally brought me to my senses. I was alone but never felt that way. Sensations swept over me with every blink, sound, taste, scent, and touch. Each bend in a canal or turn of a calle (from the Latin for “path”) revealed a new three-D pop-up stage set: Churches of brilliant white. Villas of pink and coral. Hump-backed bridges. Carnevale masks glittering in shop windows. Sleek black gondolas gliding by. Everything in constant movement, with reflections and shadows everywhere.

“As a dutiful tourist, I trekked through cathedral-sized halls of paintings. My neck ached from constantly looking up. Artists with names as lyrical as their works—Tiepolo, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Tiziano—tugged my gaze into ever-ascending clouds. Massive battles raged across palatial walls. Milky-breasted goddesses and lusty gods pranced and preened. The Basilica of St. Mark gleamed with so many gold leaf mosaics that it seemed to glow from within.”

In its digital form, First Spritz, like the drink that inspired its title, is free. Click here to start reading. Paperback copies at a nominal cost are available here. All profits are being donated to three organizations dedicated to preserving Venice and its treasures: Savevenice.org, Veniceinperil.org, nograndinavi.org.

I hope you enjoy an armchair visit to a city unlike any other, through the eyes of those who’ve fallen under its spell–and never want to break free of it.

Words and Expressions

Vaporetti – water buses

Acqua alta – high water

Passarelle – elevated walkways used during high tides

Risi e bisi – rice and peas, a Venetian classic

Siamo a Venezia! – We are in Venice, the city’s live-and-let-live motto

Dianne Hales is the author of Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered  and  La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.   

If you can't be there in person, enjoy this virtual trip to ever-seductive Venice: