IT RARELY SNOWS in Venice, but today there is a blizzard of mist. Around San Marco you can see the outlines of domes, and church towers disappearing into whiteness: You lose the detail but get a fresh idea of the essential shapes and their mystery (see image in my Flickr Photostream). The closer you get to the water, though, the less there is to be seen: From the Accademia Bridge, the grand domes of the Salute church are invisible; looking across the Giudecca Canal, the Renaissance Palladian church, Redentore, has vanished, as have the many-windowed houses and the spire of the local Hilton with its Venice-as-Disneyland design. Several of the vaporetto lines have suspended service because of the dense fog, but you see a few sepulchral boats moving about. It is easy to imagine Casanova keeping assignations, wrapped not only in a concealing black cloak but in the conspiratorial mist itself.
Just a few days ago, on New Year’s Eve, these same skies and waters exploded with red and green rockets and showers of gold. The traditional fireworks display dwarfed the iconic Venetian silhouette of San Giorgio Maggiore and bathed it in an unearthly reddish light.
Now it is as though Venice has retreated into itself for a few weeks, until the new explosions of carnevale arrive next month. I prefer this kind of masquerade to the garish ones to come. White, silent, timeless, the city waits.