By Dale Chihuly

Catch a vaporetto up the curving Grand Canal. It is the most stunning introduction to any city. The richness, the color, the light, the texture, and the history make Venice overwhelmingly beautiful and beyond comparison. It was 30 years ago that I arrived in Venice as a student to study glassblowing on the outer island of Murano, where glass has been made since the 13th century. During my aimless wandering I’d come upon a group of women gossiping in a small square, where shopkeepers prepared for the day and children played. I would linger at an outdoor trattoria table over a light meal of cicchetti and a glass of prosecco as the sounds of the church bells ringing throughout the city declared the noon hour. In September 1996 I returned to Venice to mount my glass chandeliers over the city’s narrow canals, in the Campo della Salute, the colonnaded Palazzo Duccale, and the Campo San Maurizio. With backdrops of water, light, and ancient buildings, it was irresistible to me to surround art with the city’s beauty—and pay Venice back for the nurturing she gave me in my youth.

When I visit Venice nothing makes me happier than a walk into Piazza San Marco, where for centuries artists, lovers, and such writers as Byron and Dickens have met at outdoor tables to sip caffè. Especially in winter, when mornings are steeped in fog and the city assumes a dreamlike quality. From the square the facades of the palazzi appear and disappear, and great ships pass like a huge wall in front of you as if from nowhere.

Venice is where one can be romantic, alone, happy, or depressed—yet feel embraced. Venice, the Wizard of the Sea, has cast her spell on me.

DALE CHIHULY, a U.S. “National Living Treasure,” has exhibited his sculptures in more than 160 museums worldwide.

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