Discovering the delights of Venice

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by Tom Taylor


I have been doing some background reading on the place. Did you know Venice is made up of a collection of about 115 tiny islands? And we thought Britain was divided.

My studies have also uncovered Marie Taglioni, which I think I last had at a charming Italian restaurant and is best served with a dry white. Despite sounding like a decent main course, Ms Taglioni was a renowned nineteenth century ballet dancer and a true celebrity before three well meaning chaps invented YouTube and the world lost perspective.

If, like me, you were ‘unknowing’ and reading her name made you suddenly hanker for pasta, you can shrug off those who ridiculed you with the following gastronomic nugget: Marie’s superstardom and renown as a ballet dancer was so great that a pair of her toe shoes were sold for 200 roubles then cooked and served in a sauce which was eaten at a dinner for fanatical balletomanes with cast-iron stomachs. I know right? All of a sudden that tin of Fray Bentos doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, whack it on a chopping board and drizzle it in a tamarind jus (brown sauce) and you’ve got yourself a trendy pie of the moment (pie of the day (leftovers in pastry)).

Venetian guide books will inform you that “Marie Taglioni collected palaces along the Grand Canal” with the same understated casualness one would use when telling the vicar you collected National Trust fridge magnets.

In her middle years, Marie had a liaison with a Russian prince, Alexander Troubetzkoy, who was more than a decade her junior, and who, after saving up all his pocket money, presented her with the Casa d’Oro, a 15th Century Venetian palazzo.

A little hard up at the time and in need of a few bob, Marie then undertook a programme of light marble removal which included eight balconies and a stairway. These she sold to the American art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner which is certainly one step up from seeing the Christmas present you bought your work colleague in the charity shop window. Sadly her DIY SOS (Piri Bridge) programme of renovations were to no avail as, in true toy boy fashion, Prince Al went and married Marie’s daughter.

Of course, the true amorous hero of Venice has to be Lord Byron who claimed to have out-Casanova’ed Casanova by sleeping with 200 Venetian women in one year.

Apparently, after a burger at his dad’s restaurant and an evening’s Netflix and chill with such a Venetian, Lord B liked to jump in the canal and swim home. To avoid being seriously injured by a passing gondola he would paddle with one hand and hold a candle in the other.

Tom Taylor’s Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, March 8 with the one of the country’s finest, and silliest, headline acts Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue. Award winning support comes is provided from Jim Smallman (as heard on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk), Adam Hess (Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee) and MC Danny McLoughlin (UK Comedy Awards 2016 Best MC winner).

Tickets and more information are available from the venue or Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.