I was introduced to Scott by another Venetophile, shortly after he published his novel Losing Venice. Luckily for me, he also agreed to write a chapter for First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts. Though Scott used to live in the Bay Area near me, we’ve never yet met. One day we’ll be in Venice at the same time, I’m sure. Scott Stavrou is from Las Vegas and a graduate of Georgetown University. He has lived and worked as a writer in San Francisco, Prague, and Venice. He presently lives on a small Greek island. He has written fiction and non-fiction for numerous publications in America and Europe and was awarded a PEN International Hemingway prize for short fiction. Losing Venice is his second book.
How has Venice seduced you?
First suddenly and then slowly. Everyone has an idea of Venice in their minds but somehow the reality of it still manages to exceed expectations. Every time I visited, I became more besotted, discovered more things to love about her, until eventually just visiting Venice was not enough: my wife and I picked up and moved there for a magical year. Even then, it was not enough Venice and the love of Venice took hold strongly enough that I eventually wrote a novel, Losing Venice, that I hope evokes some of those feelings of falling in love with Venice, of the challenge of how you can accept the rest of the world when you’ve had a taste of someplace that is so completely and unbelievably so unlike anywhere else.
What do you never fail to do in Venice?
Because I loved living in the Dorsoduro, I always head straight to Campo Santa Margherita, where I feel like I get a taste of more of the real life of Venice, some of the every day, or at least what was, for a fortunate time, my every day. And even further from the tourists and the canals, I find that it always remains sublime, different depending on the day or the weather but somehow always imbued with a magical sublime sameness.
What is your Venice soundtrack?
For me Venice is the music: the gentle lapping of canal waters on the fondamenta, the pealing of the church bells, the splash of a gondolier’s oar. But if I have to pick a song, there was one late night when we lived there that my wife and I were walking home through a dark Dorsoduro calle and heard Sinatra’s “My Way” sounding out someone’s open window and shared a small swaying dance along the canal in the night. I think “My Way,” does quite well for a paean to Venice. A place that has always done things its own way and even somehow always seems like the end is near. There’s a Venetian saying, “Sempre crolla, ma non cade,” it’s always crumbling, but it never falls.
Walk or take a boat?
Walking. Even after living there for a time I’m still always able to get gloriously lost wandering through Venice, and I think it’s one of the most magical walking places in the world, strolling the old sentinel stones. Though it is nice to stand up on a traghetto crossing the Grand Canal and see Venice from the water for an instant, I’m always most happy to savor Venice slowly by foot.
Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.
Like I said, I consider Campo Santa Margherita to be Venice’s finest, and one could do much worse than be epitomized by that marvelous public space. Perhaps a bit more pedestrian than some other spots but the idea of just being regular and everyday and surrounded by magic seems a pretty good way to live.
Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?
Well, even though Carnevale is just too much, Venice sometimes lends itself to excess, and I’ve enjoyed some great times dressing up for Carnevale. Festa della Salute certainly seems more authentic and historic, but I most prefer Venice when it’s not celebrating and you feel like you get to celebrate the city for itself and only itself.
Spritz or Bellini?
If we’re traveling with someone on their first trip to Venice, one over-priced Bellini at Harry’s is obligatory. But for all other times, Aperol Spritz is the taste of Venice.
What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?
Too much, evidently. You hope they fall in love with the places that you love, but one thing I always tell them is to stay up all night and hopefully get to savor Piazza San Marco in the darkest lonely hours and be lucky enough to have it to yourself. Sadly, this seems to get harder and harder, but if they’re lucky enough to have that and then wander around and witness Venice waking itself up, then that’s a memory that stays with you forever.
If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?
For the stories and the pure zest for life, it would have to be Casanova. I assume it would be an excessive dinner starting with slurping oysters, baccala, and then gorging on too much of every imaginable seafood from the lagoon. Too much of everything accompanied by throwing back copious amounts of wine to fortify us for the casino, where everything would be lost in most magnificent fashion.
Casanova: genius or cad?
In his case I like to think they were not mutually exclusive. Most certainly a rogue, a rascal and a scoundrel of the highest – or lowest order – but with an undeniable Venetian genius for living life purely on his own terms, whatever the consequences.
What would you do with $30,000 U.S. to spend in Venice?
If I didn’t blow it at the casino with Casanova, then spend it renting the biggest place I could find for a month to gather a great group of writers and artists who were also in love with Venice and eager to sing her praises and encourage more of the world to respect and cherish her before she disappears.
If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
Perhaps the Palazzo Contarini Fasan, not the largest nor most stunning but a more manageable majesty and with all that history of the Contarinis and the legend of being the house of Desdemona. Not to mention those balconies staring out across at the Salute.
Which gelato flavor are you?
One time in Campo Santa Margherita, I had the most delicious Frutti di Bosco gelato I’d ever had. But then when I went back to order it again, she told me that they’d never had that flavor, ever. So I wasn’t ever completely sure if I’d imagined the most perfect gelato I’d never had. Maybe it lived only in memory, could never be tasted again. And while I’m not sure if that’s me, it’s something of what Venice is to me: maybe you only imagined how perfect it was.
How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits?
Scott Stavrou is the author of Losing Venice, a novel, available on Amazon, most online booksellers and in select bookstores. More of his writing can be found at ScottStavrou.com on Medium (@ScottStavrou) or Twitter (@WriteAwayEurope).