When your waiter brings one of those spiral mosquito thingies to your table and lights it you think "nice touch" or "good attention to detail" and you sit back in anticipation of the meal to follow. When he returns with a bottle of Deet spray (Tropical strength) rather than the aperitif you ordered, alarm bells begin to ring and you wonder wether it will be you or the local fauna who will be enjoying the evening the most.
On our first night in Torcello, the mozzies came out on top leaving us retreating to our bathroom to inspect the vast assortment of wheals, bumps and lumps that they and their biting pals had left us with. I suppose that if you are dining on an island in a lagoon, at night, in unseasonably high temperatures it's not exactly rocket science to deduct that it's the equivalent of an invite to the ugly bugs ball and to give us our due we did pop into the local pharmacia en route to Torcello to buy some repellent.
So on our second evening we left nothing to chance. No open toed footwear. Sandals out of the question. Thick socks the ultimate fashion statement. Eau de cologne replaced by eau de Deet. Before we went down to eat, Marion sprayed the room with the entire contents of an insecticide spray and as we dressed with a pall of the stuff hanging in the air, my eyes streamed and I sneezed incessantly. At least nothing was going to bite me up my nostrils. Yes, we faced the challenge head on and this time I'm pleased to say that we won.
Don't let that put you off visiting Torcello. Just let it act as a warning to the unaware that no matter who you are even if you are one of the celebrities who love this place, and whose photos hang on every wall, the insects are going to take no prisoners. So take precautions. Once you have done that you can relax in one of the most delightful holiday spots you will ever find. Locanda Cipriani is one of the world's hidden gems. Ok it's packed at lunchtime when the boats and water taxis disgorge their human cargo to sample the delights of the restaurant. But when those tourists and expense account businessmen stagger back to the quayside sated and merry and the souvenir sellers shut up their stalls and head back to Venice and Burano, the island takes on an exclusive tranquility for the lucky few who remain. It has been a privilege to stay here. It surely won't be long before we return.
I mentioned the celeb photos. We offered the waiters one of us to hang alongside Kim Novak, Elton John, Princess Di, Hemingway and Orson Welles but they strangely declined. Mind you that puts us in the same boat as Michael Winner. He's always banging on about this being his favourite place but there's no trace of him or his partner, although the Pope (or someone in a very fancy outfit) qualified for hanging space.