Follow Along on a Guided Tour of Venice with the Antiques Diva & Co. Team
I held a centuries-old textile with beaded embroidery and I was amazed. Here I was in 2016 holding something so old and so rare! Not something I would likely encounter in Connecticut but something that reminded me of Venice’s rich and varied history. In fact, as I looked around the home of renowned antiques dealer Monica Zecchi, it became clear that my day with the Antiques Diva team was off to a great start. Access to dealers, collectors and one-of-a-kind shops in Venice like this is the hallmark of the itineraries I was invited to sample with Antiques Diva & Co. My guides were the Antiques Diva herself, Toma Clark Haines; and Orseola Barozzi and Chiara Zanella—both of whom were not only born in Venice but grew up in the antiques world. Antiques Diva & Co. provides personalized antiques-buying tours in Europe and Asia.
After my first stop at Monica Zecchi’s home, I went to her showroom where each piece was more magical than the last. A 17th-century armoire; a Renaissance painting of a nobleman; heavily carved candelabras; and rich tapestries filled the place from floor to ceiling. While the antiques caught my eye, it was her stories that held me spellbound. I was learning about history firsthand from an insider. Before I could get lost in the endless rooms, my guides switched gears and periods with our next stop at Novello Art Gallery, which offers midcentury modern furniture and lighting. My eyes immediately fixated on a 1950s console that was leather and wood with doors that revolved to reveal wood shelves. Many of the pieces I could envision in any of the homes on these pages.
Our next stop, on the Grand Canal, was Palazzo Rocco where Princess Diana stayed when visiting Venice. The contessa graciously gave me a tour of her beautiful home. Beyond the incredible views of the canal were the beautiful interiors filled with antiques, including a small table in one of the bedrooms. It looked like a lacquered piece but the contessa pointed out that it was not lacquer but what is called Lacca Povera. My guides translated it as poor man’s lacquer that was created using printed-paper images pasted on a painted furniture surface then coated with varnish. Not many examples of this technique are still around, but occasionally you will see a piece in a very stylish home.
We crossed many canals to reach our final stop, the trendy new restaurant, Local, which was a pleasure. The bright, contemporary space was a sharp contrast to the interiors I had just visited. I had earned this multicourse feast of cuttlefish, a Venetian risotto, polenta with baccala. As I sat there and thought about my adventures, I began to feel not like a visitor but more like an insider. Venice, after all, seems like the city where goods from around the world seem at home. And I was a local.
The Antiques Diva Selects…
Where to eat: For a truly local experience ask the owner, Luca, for his locally grown in-season recommendations. Ristorante Local, ristorantelocal.com.
Where to stay: Why stay at a hotel when you can stay in a palazzo? Truly Venice Short Term Vacation Apartment Rentals, trulyveniceapartments.com.
Must visit: Palazzo Fortuny is a good example of Gothic architecture in Venice, fortuny.visitmuve.it/en/home.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: The Insider.