There were two take-aways from my trip to Venice many years ago. 1) Learn to travel light. Though the bridges are pretty, lugging suitcases up and down them gets old fast. 2) I don’t care if Venice is sinking, it can take me with it. The city that brought us tiramisu, Titian and Vivaldi was as magical as promised. Paris may hold the title City of Love, but I’d be strapped to conjure up a city more romantic than Venice. Maybe the fact that I’m a fan of a little-known rom-com called Only You starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. has a little to do with it. (Fair Venice is one of its co-stars.)
When I read about the New York Public Library’s new Library After Hours event, it was quickly penciled into our calendar. The first of its kind, the event would be held at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which has long been one of our favorite buildings in the city. (They offer free building tours too, which we blogged about here.) As an added bonus, the theme of its first event was Love in Venice, in conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s larger La Serenissima festival celebrating the music and arts from the Venetian Republic.
In our excitement, we’d completely missed that you could sign up for priority access. *Insert face palm here* Needless to say, the priority access spots to the Library After Hours event went quickly, so we arrived early to get in the people-who-don’t-have-their-sh*t-together line. It’s fortunate that we did: the response to the free event was so strong that both the priority access and regular lines wrapped around the block. We were allowed in with the second group of priority access holders, but we had been waiting for almost two hours at that point.
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building was festively lit, and had smaller “stations” set up where event goers could partake in dance lessons and mask making, enjoy themed food and drink, or visit the special Love in Venice exhibit featuring works from the NYPL’s collections. With the balmy 60-degree daytime temps setting the tone, this would normally have ranked pretty high on our ideal-night-out meter. But the event felt heavily overbooked, with lines stretching throughout the building for each activity. It was a logistical fail, so we were only able to sample a tiny portion of what was offered.
We overheard lots of heavy sighs when people realized where the end of the line was. We even witnessed some heated conversations with event staff members. It felt like Trader Joe’s on a Saturday afternoon, except over, and over, and over á la Groundhog Day. While we’re big proponents of accessibility, we feel strongly that it shouldn’t impede enjoyment of the experience. Perhaps it would have been wise to cap the number of attendees. But it was the inaugural Library After Hours endeavor, and it’s only fair to acknowledge that. We suspect (and sincerely hope) that the next event will be better executed.
The Love in Venice exhibit will be on display through August 26. Don’t miss the Venus and Amor print designed by Titian and executed as a woodcut by Niccolo Boldrini. And allow the reproductions of Piazzetta’s portraits by Teodoro Viero to charm you.
Library After Hours returns March 31 and April 28. Visit the NYPL website here to sign up for notifications. Remember to register for priority access and show up early for the best experience!
476 5th Ave
Pair it with:
Dinner at Esca
Venice is known for its seafood, so we couldn’t ask for a better pairing for our Library After Hours event than dinner at Esca. The Italian trattoria created by the rock star team of Dave Pasternack, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich specializes in fruits of the sea and has been a theater district staple for well over a decade. (Esca actually means “bait” in Italian.)
There is an extensive crudo menu, but you can’t go wrong with the many fish offerings and classic preparations. Batali has famously said, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are Italian, and those who wish they were Italian.” We agree.
Note: As an alternative, Eataly is also running a Meet Me In Venezia event. Read more about it here.
402 W 43rd St
Monday-Saturday 12:00pm – 2:30pm
Monday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Tuesday 4:30pm – 11:00pm
Wednesday-Saturday 4:30pm – 11:30pm
Sunday 4:30pm – 10:00pm