In our September issue, The Tender Bar author J.R. Moehringer wrote a funny, sharp essay about spending a few days in Venice alone. I should probably be cast as Moehringer's female stunt double, since I just got back from Venice where I did the exact same thing. Going to Venice alone? That's a stunt? It felt like a big fat one. In Venice, City of Love, it's couples as far as the eye can see. None of this came as a shock to Moehringer—nor will it be to anyone who's been to or knows anything about Venice—but there's really no keener way to notice it than to travel there solo.
Other tourists will give you baffled looks—and in return you'll give them new material to chatter about—but the stares are well worth it for the incredible peace that comes from bobbing along a canal, headphones piping in only the noises you choose (in my case, some incongruous but cathartic Johnny Cash), and tilting your head just enough to block out the camera-and-Rockport-shoe masses in your peripheral vision.
Highlights from my trip:
A lunch of spectacularly fresh, minimally dressed or messed-with local seafood (anchovies, squid, sweet shrimp) at an outdoor table at Al Covo, one of the few places where I felt perfectly normal and unexotic at a table for one. As I ate I looked over the schedule of the Venice Biennale (it runs through November 21) and figured out which shows to hit (Campiello della Pescaria, Castello).
A perfect espresso and a hot, spicy, pressed panini of mozzarella, speck and pepperoncini at Aurore Pasticceria Aritigiane, a small cafe where I heard zero English spoken—statistically almost impossible in Venice (Callei dei Fuzeri 4276, San Polo).
Earthy, delicious cuttlefish stew over polenta at the miniscule cicchetti (Venetian tapas) bar Bomba, on a back street in the Cannareggio district (Calle de L'oca 4297B, Cannaregio).
The late Cuban-born artist Felix Gonzales-Torres's moody, spell-casting show at the Biennale's American pavilion—especially his "Untitled" (Public Opinion), a somber, beautiful piece made from a mound of black-licorice candies.