About Cat Bauer

Cat Bauer on Balcony overlooking Grand Canal
Cat Bauer on balcony overlooking Grand Canal, Venice - Photo: Roberto Silva - ©Cat Bauer

I left Los Angeles for Venice on April 8, 1998, planning to stay for three months to write, the amount of time an American could stay on a tourist visa. I arrived on April 9th after missing my connection in Paris.

When the three months were up, I stood in the middle of Piazza San Marco, weeping.

I didn't want to go back to Los Angeles. My then-husband didn't want to come to Venice, so I went back to LA and started divorce proceedings. I was back in Venice by September with an extended visa, and have lived in Italy ever since.

"In Hollywood, behind the facade there is only illusion.
In Venice, behind the facade is where reality begins."
---Cat Bauer

I fell in love with Venice on our first vacation here, back in 1991. I wandered off alone, strolling through the calli and campi, astonished that such a city could exist. I took the vaporetto across the lagoon to the Lido and back, sitting outside in the front seat, not knowing exactly where I was going... swept up in the journey... just enjoying the ride.

Venice felt so familiar, so comfortable, like coming home. I visited again in 1995 and 1997, and the feeling of familiarity only grew stronger.

Venice bewitches many people. But it is an utterly different experience to have the privilege of being a resident rather than visiting on vacation. I was talking about this during quarantine with a friend on Facetime. He said, "You can't genuinely be in love with a place where you've never lived. Otherwise, it's just a fantasy."

On vacation in 1995 - Venice as a fantasy

When I first arrived in 1998, I briefly lived in an apartment on Calle Santa Maria Formosa Lunga, right across from where the Acqua Alta bookshop is now. I bought my cheese from a little shop owned by Marco Contessa and his father -- I have a weakness for Gorgonzola, and they always cut me a gooey piece. (These days, the shop no longer exists and Marco has transformed into a popular photographer whose images of Venice have captured her haunting beauty.)

The apartment next door to the one I was renting was being restored, and the noise was disturbing. So I moved down to Castello to a tiny ground floor apartment in Corte Sarasena, off Via Garibaldi. Elderly women sat outside their doors, sewing lace and chatting. Laundry stretched across the courtyard like color-coordinated works of art from house to house, and people spoke Venetian. I wrote about the experience in an 2001 article for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily:

Miracle Madonna in Corte de Cà Sarasina - Venice

I only knew two Venetians when I decided to come to Venice -- one was the concierge at Hotel Flora, and the other was Sergio Boldrin, a mask-maker whose shop, La Bottega dei Mascareri, is at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. My husband and I had bought one of Sergio's masks a few years before, a happy sun, and it had a starring role in our living room in Los Angeles.

Sergio's prophetic Sun Mask on the wall in LA at Christmas time

So I went over to visit Sergio, whom I hadn't seen for several years. He was in the process of wrapping up a box to ship to the United States. To my astonishment, it was addressed to a friend of mine in Los Angeles. "I know him!" I said. Sergio replied, "Your friend is leaving today for Rome. Maybe he's still here. I have the number of the man he was staying with."

My friend had gone, but that is how I met Jack Cope -- Jackson Irving Cope -- a Leo S. Bing professor emeritus of English at the University of Southern California. Jack was living in an apartment at Rialto overlooking the Grand Canal, and working on a monograph about Ernest Hemingway and his circle and their attachment to Harry's Bar.

Jack was thoroughly engaged in his research, and invited me to Harry's for a drink. He was quite a character, a small, wiry 72-year-old man and former Golden Gloves boxer from Chicago, who had morphed into an eminent scholar with a rich knowledge of Italian theater. Jack still practiced the art of seduction and was in the process of drinking himself to death -- a goal he achieved a year later on August 6, 1999.

In another strange coincidence (actually not very strange when it comes to Venice -- coincidences are woven into the fabric of the city), in October 1999, at the last minute, the apartment I was about to rent on Riva degli Schiavoni down in Castello overlooking the lagoon fell through. I had already paid a deposit, and had to scramble to find a new one.

I answered an ad in the paper, and was shown Jack's former apartment on the Grand Canal. He had promised me a wooden cat as an inheritance, and the cat was still inside, as if it had been patiently awaiting my arrival. So I rented the apartment, which would later become the perfect theatrical setting for much festivity, drama and trauma.

Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge during quarantine 2020 - Photo: Cat Bauer
A serene Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge during quarantine 2020 - Photo: Cat Bauer

Venice is an impossible dream that became reality thanks to enlightened individuals throughout the ages. Living inside Venice is like living in a complex university where ancient wisdom meets contemporary thought. It is a grand stage where individual lives play out against a backdrop of majesty and beauty. But most importantly, it is where Venetians and their singular culture have lived for 1,600 years.

#LoveWins - On the blackboard outside the "Green in BKLYN" store in New York.

"Love is so powerful that it always wins. 
Truth is so powerful that it always wins. 
All it takes is time."
--Cat Bauer

Contact Cat Bauer: venetiancat@gmail.com

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