Transportation problems are epidemic in Europe. Recovering from the French national rail strike (see Derailed), I arrive in Venice to find the vaporetti, those lumbering water buses, on sciopero, too. Getting lost while strolling around is an essential part of the experience here, but not when you’re in black tie, which I’m supposed to be tomorrow night for the party of the season, the 40th birthday ball of Toto Bergamo Rossi, art restorer and dashing local It boy, which will draw Brandolinis, Ruspolis, Gettys and other Euro glamour folk, most in heavy jewelry, per Toto’s request.
But as I’m sitting in Café Florian reading a galley that fortuitously came into the office in New York just before I left — Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, a fascinating biography Knopf will be publishing in January — an email pings in on my Treo from a friend in New York telling me next time I am in Italy I have to meet an American-expatriate journalist friend of his, Robin Navrozov. After a few messages, it turns out Robin is in Venice, hosting a pre-ball party that night at an apartment she rents in the Palazzo Mocenigo, originally the home of the Lucia I am reading about, and attendees will include Lucia’s great-great-great grandson, Andrea di Robilant, author of the biography. How’s that for coincidence?
Robin proves herself to be in the great tradition of colorful, intrepid Americans in Venice. Piloting her own motor skiff, she pulls up at the dock of my hotel that night in blazing red evening gown. Finding a parking space in Venice is surely even harder than it is in Manhattan, but somehow she finds any number of handy docks at which to tie up in the course of the evening (miraculously, jumping in and out of the small shallow boat in matching red Manolos with towering heels). I didn’t ask if they give parking tickets in Venice. Cruising through the inky night, the Grand Canal is empty and silent, offering a rare view of its ghostly palazzos. This was one strike with a silver lining.