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Saturday, December 3, 2016


Ten years before I abdicated my bachelorhood (to a remarkable and loving woman, who to this day is still my bride) I visited Venice solo as a guest of Ciga Hotels, an upscale collection of hotels with various properties throughout Italy.

At the time, I was editor in chief of San Francisco Magazine.  Ciga’s marketing team had assembled a troupe of journalists from around the world to collect in Venice to begin a week long tour of the hotel properties in Venice, Asalo, Florence and Rome.

My assignment was to write a travel story on my experience, which I had published upon my return to the Bay Area. 

Dick and Liz in the 70s enjoying a similar Danieli balcony as mine
This blog is my second article.

I arrived via Pan Am on a 747 from Los Angeles mid afternoon on a beautiful spring day in 1979. 

I was greeted at the airport by one of the chauffeurs assigned to the Danielli, one of the great Ciga Hotels in Venice.  We boarded the green water taxi with the distinctive Danelli logo embossed on its sides.

We crossed the choppy  and docked at the hotel as the sun slipped lower.   In my two room suite, I was greeted with a nice note from management, a large bowl of fresh fruit and a generous jeroboam of French Champagne.

I remember grabbing the Champagne by the neck and rushed out to the balcony the lagoon with St. Mark’s Square to the right.  Sunset was going to be glorious and I didn’t want to miss it.

Distracted by three nicely dressed women standing below my balcony studying a map, I called down to offer assistance.  They were looking for Piazza San Marcos.  I pointed in the direction of the large tower so famously associated with the plaza.

They thanked me for the direction in crisp English.  I figured them for Londoners as their accent was a bit flat or maybe Canadians?  “Would you like to join me on the terrace to enjoy the sunset.  Two smiled back.
I was encouraged.  But the third, the obvious leader, turned me down:
“Sorry, we’re dying to have coffee at the Caffe Florian.”
Relying on my two hours experience in Italy, much less Venice I offered:  “It’s much too late for coffee and the sunset won’t wait forever.”

The trio waved and turned toward San Marcos.  They chose coffee over my first offer.

Operating on sheer instinct, I unwrapped the foil on the extra sized bottle and pointed the cork in their direction.  The loud pop and the cork landing near them grabbed their attention.

They turned laughing.

I shouted my room number.   Soon a bellman escorted the then mid 20-somethings to my room.  After I answered the door and assured him they were indeed my guests I tipped him and asked for a dinner menu.  He pointed out the room service menu was in the desk near the balcony.

The four of us clinked flutes and enjoyed a gorgeous bottle of Champagne and sunset.  By the time the sun had set, we had enjoyed a large selection of appetizers.  Because the evening was still young, they invited me to join them for coffee and dessert at Caffe Florian to thank me for the hospitality.  Of course, I agreed.  Walking through the Danielli lobby with three women on my arms made my trip.  We were off to explore Venice at night.  Yes, I did have coffee at the famed coffee house, the oldest one in Europe, but I only remember the laughter.

I later learned that my ploy to have them join me was not based on my charm but it had more to do with the sound of a bottle of Champagne opening.  They were airline hostesses with Pan Am and were in Venice on a two-day layover.  By Thomas Shess, editor

This excellent photograph of Caffe Florian in Venice, Italy at night was taken by Larry Kincaid, Black & White Magazine

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