Some wonderful friends sent me the book when they heard we were going to Venice, but by the time it arrived we'd already been there and were back. That was, oh, three years ago I think, and it was pure coincidence that I noticed it on the shelf last month. Reading it wasn't as good as being there, but as memory lanes go, it was surprisingly effective. So I'd say, if you're planning to go to Venice, read the book first. If you've already been, read it now. If you don't know why you might wish to go there, read it and you'll know. And if you're determined never to go to Venice (why would anybody do that?), read Brodsky's strange but compelling book and regret your decision.
At sunset all cities look wonderful, but some more so than others. Reliefs become suppler, columns more rotund, capitals curlier, cornices more resolute, spires starker, niches deeper, disciples more draped, angels airborne. In the streets it gets dark, but it is still daytime for the Fondamenta and that gigantic liquid mirror where motorboats, vaporetti, gondolas, dinghies, and barges "like scattered old shoes" zealously trample Baroque and Gothic facades, not sparing your own or a passing cloud's reflection either. "Depict it", whispers the winter light, stopped flat by the brick wall of a hospital, or arriving home at the paradise of San Zaccaria's frontone after its long passage through the cosmos. And you sense this light's fatigue as it rests in Zaccaria's marble shells for another hour or so, while the earth is turning its other cheek to the luminary. This is the winter light at its purest. It carries no warmth or energy, having shed them and left them behind somewhere in the universe, or in the nearby cumulus. Its particles' only ambition is to reach an object and make it, big or small, visible. It's a private light, the light of Giorgione or Bellini, not the light of Tiepolo or Tintoretto. And the city lingers in it, savoring its touch, the caress of the infinity whence it came. An object, after all, is what makes infinity private. (p.80)