Tag Archives: Venice

L’Arte di Venezia

29 Sep
29 September 2017.
Art museums are not high on my list these days. We’ve seen so many. I could live a long time without ever seeing another Egyptian sarcophagus and contemporary art usually leaves me laughing and perplexed, although we have viewed the magnificent Peggy Guggenheim Collection three times. E basta.

Biennale venue, Giardino.

But when you wander into Venezia in the middle of the Biennale, it only seems fitting to take in the event. In this, our tenth trip to La Serenissima, we unintentionally coincided with a Biennale year. So we went. Luckily we got the senior discount.
The venue at Giardino is lovely. I had no idea there were permanent pavilions. In many cases, the building eclipsed the art. Russia’s site and exhibit were very “1984.” That was our favorite of the paid-for venues.
There were some charming pieces around the city that were for public enjoyment. We did not get to hunt down all of them but saw several we liked.

A small portion of Russia’s monochromatic installation.

Korea’s pavilion. The exterior was the best part.

Super-sized and shiny, this rhino contemplates Venezia across the Laguna.

Coinciding with the Biennale was an exhibit at the contemporary museums Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, a first-ever event where one show completely filled both venues: “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” by Damian Hirst. Three of Hirst’s pieces were visible in Venezia outside of the museums and they were crazy, huge, classical-looking works of art reminiscent of much we have seen throughout Italy. That drew us in. How could this be contemporary art?

One of Hirst’s classical pieces on public display.

It is a big joke. Hirst created a fantasy about a treasure trove of items collected by a freed slave, Cif Amotan II (an anagram*) These are wonderfully displayed, many in a before-and-after manner: encrusted with sea life, barnacles, etc., then polished and gleaming after restoration. The Guardian called it “art for a post-truth world.” Click on any photo for a better view and caption.
Hirst went so far as to stage elaborate underwater photography of the salvage operation of some pieces. All of the curation supported the myth in detail. Only when one read the fine print about the materials used was the gag given away: granite, marble, resin, MDF, gold, silver….
We thought it was brilliant, although many critics were appalled. Hirst has the last laugh as people are pouring in to see it and reportedly many pieces have sold. I hope so: he spent £50 million of his own money and ten years putting the show together. When you are wildly successful, I guess you can take risks.

We stopped on Mazzorbo for lunch at Alla Maddalena. A far cry from Venezia proper.

I have to mention a lovely experience we had away from the crazy crowds. This is one of the reasons people should stay longer in Venezia: to get away from San Marco and enjoy the islands where the Venetian Republic was born.

A short vaporetto ride from Venezia is peaceful Mazzorbo, incorporating a wine resort, Venissa. Might have to contemplate staying here some time.

We often visit the laguna islands, but this time we went to Mazzorbo, specifically for a quiet lunch on a perfect day. While most people head to Burano, we got off one stop early on quiet Mazzorbo. The terrace at Alla Maddalena was full, mostly with people arriving by water taxi. And they were having the taxi wait while they dined! We only heard one other table speaking English. Seemed to be lots of Italians in the know about this place. Prices are reasonable and it was far more charming than the places we usually eat on Burano. No reservation? Plan on eating inside which is where the walk-ins were escorted.

My delightful lunch at Alla Maddalena, a mixed seafood grill. Ric had lovely grilled eel.

It was a bit of art-focused trip, more so than usual for us. Punctuated by terrific meals and of course lots of walking in one of the world’s greatest cities for wearing off pasta.

Joseph Klibansky bronze turtles entitled “Baby we Made it.”

Newest shopping opportunity in Venezia, T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in a 16th-century building. Can you say high end?

Sunrise on the Grand Canal.

*I am a fiction

Tourists again

29 Aug
29 August 2017. One of our favorite things about living in Roma was telling people we lived there. When we traveled we felt just a little Continental. We could take a trip with minimal planning: except for needing cat sitters, we could be quite extemporaneous. Trains were easy and we didn’t obsess over packing perhaps because we were so at home in Europe.
We loved being able to go to Tuscany for the weekend or to stay for an entire week somewhere because we weren’t in a rush. We loved vacationing as Italians do, passing a summer month in the cool beauty of the Dolomites.
Now we will be American Tourists again. We’re going back!
One of our dreams for life-after-Roma has been to return and do long trips with long stays throughout Europe. We will go back to favorite places and visit some new-to-us places. Cat-and-house sitters are lined up for September and October. (Read about our sitters, Dan & Tracy, at their blog, The Money Smart Nomad.
This time it feels like mounting an expedition. We’ve never done a two-month trip before. We are committed to packing light: the same amount of stuff for 2 months as for a week, 21-inch-roll-aboard plus a day pack. And we will experience temps (based on averages) as warm as 73F/23C and as cool as 43F/6C. A packing challenge, for certain.
Where will we be?
Amsterdam, Munich, Ortisei, Venezia, Assisi, Roma (naturally), Paris, and London. We plan to fan out on day trips in many places.
Amsterdam: We have five full days and figure we will spend three in the city and take a couple of day trips, perhaps Leiden, Delft, Hoorn, and Enkhuizen. We are staying in Haarlem.
Munich: Only two nights to break up the trip to Ortisei. I was there when I was 19 and most of my memories revolve around beer gardens. We plan on a private tour to see some city highlights.
Venezia: We know the city well after eight (or is it nine?) visits and will have five full days this time. What new experiences should we add?   I am thinking of  Bassano del Grappa and maybe Chioggia.
Assisi: We visited Umbria in 2011 and want to revisit some favorites (Spello), do some hiking, and see some new towns (Norcia perhaps). We will be here for five nights, four full days, and have a full day of travel (naturally by train) between Venice and Assisi.
Roma: Planning to reconnect with the city, friends, and favorite restaurants.
With our three stops in Italy, we will overdose on the Italian food (pizza!) we’ve missed so much.
Paris: We’ve been five times for 2-to-7-night visits in the past 2 1/2 years, but the only forays beyond central Paris have been to Versailles and Giverny. I am thinking about Chartres this time. We’ll have 7 nights, 6 full days. (Never enough.)
London: Wrapping up with two weeks in London, we are staying in Westminster. We love just walking around London and will try to hit sights and sites we missed on our last three trips but we also want to do some day trips. Bletchley Park is on the list, and maybe Bath and Stonehenge with Canterbury and Dover in mind as well.
I will try to be a good little blogger and post regularly. General travel insights and experiences at www.GoodDayRome.com, pizza eating at www.OurWeeklyPizza.com, and hiking (Assisi, Ortisei) at www.ProjectEasyHiker.com. If you are not signed up for all three, consider giving me a follow on them.
“See” you from the continent!



Venice in winter

14 Dec
So many people plan their trips to Italy in spring, summer or fall, but we have found off-season travel to be a real benefit to living in Rome. This was our sixth trip to La Serenissima – our third in a December — and it certainly will not be our last.
Clouds in the canal.

Clouds in the canal.

There are experiences to repeat each time (we always go to Murano) and seemingly endless new ones to add, whether a museum, a neighborhood, or a restaurant.
This time we went to the Correr Museum for the first time largely because they had a special mostre “The Poetry of Light: Venetian drawings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “  The Correr is a terrific, complex and comprehensive museum. Set in a 19th century Napoleonic-era palazzo, with a wing that dates to the 16th century and the Republic of Venezia, the buildings dominate Piazza San Marco and this time of year are seldom-frequented by tourists who are busy in the Piazza and queuing for the Basilica and Doges Palace. Surely those two edifices are worthy of attention and we have visited them multiple times, but what fun to see the Piazza from this new perspective as well. The Correr has  an amazing view over the Piazza from the south and we enjoyed watching people splashing about in the acqua alta that occurred this day.
Completing what we came to call our Museum Day, we made a repeat visit to the Guggenheim, which we had last visited in 2012. This was one of the busier places on a Sunday, mostly Italians, many educating their young children, providing a view into modern art with careful observations.  Picasso, Max Ernst, Calder and Pollock keep company with Miró, Dali and Magritte among others.  The location right on the Grand Canal could not be better. Imagine Peggy hosting a dinner party here!
Not yet Carnivale, but this little cutey has her mask.

Not yet Carnivale, but this little cutey has her mask.

Day two was our Urban Hike Day in which we wove together three walks out of my favorite Venice guide, “24 Great Walks of Venice.” This sunny and mild day we wandered in temperatures approaching 60 F (16 C), snapping photos and enjoying the almost deserted calli, bridges and canals.  You’d think in 4 hours of walking we would have covered the entire island, but we found ourselves saying “Gee, we haven’t been to Sant’Elena or out to San Giorgio Maggiore, or the Guideca.” In fact, we have not even entered the Basilica of San Marco in two years, despite 3 return visits in that time.


Day three dawned brilliantly sunny if chilly to start, but it made for a terrific day to visit Murano and do some shopping. I have a favorite glass artist there, Giorgio Bruno. He is a maestro and creates lovely jewelry, glassware, and decorative items. By now I have a nice collection of items as we have been there 5 times.  Giorgio and Michela invited us in for coffee and a visit before I got down to shopping. As always Cindy the dog was a love. She really took to Ric in a special way. Too bad I didn’t take a picture.
We also went in search of new restaurant experiences.  I have heard over and over that Venice is expensive and has bad food. That is not our experience at all! From a random bar near the Frari Church we had fat and tasty sandwiches. At a rustic little taverna in a sottoportego we once again had our favorite pizza in Venice.  Traipsing halfway across the city one night (which is not as far as it sounds)  we feasted on delectable baked turbot, expertly boned and served in a place bursting at the seams with locals but few tourists. As we have some go-to places after all of these visits, this trip we challenged each other to find new experiences and scored new two repeatable spots, Ai Artisti in Dorsoduro and Alla Palanca on the Guideca. Ric found a list of Venetian restaurants from the London Telegraph and our only disappointment was that some of them were closed on nights we had available. BTW, Alla Palanca is best for lunch. The chef goes home at 14:00 and there is no hot food at night. 
We have spent 24 nights in Venice since our first visit in 2010. Will we go back? You bet! We still have not climbed the Campinile in San Marco, there are several promising restaurants still on our list, and no doubt Giorgio will have some new bauble for me. Plus he promised to take us out to lunch the next time we visit!

Venice again

15 Apr
Venice Again
We love Venice. We’ve now taken five trips there since October 2010 and we are already discussing the next one…. This time we had the opportunity to see La Serenissima through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old and it was great fun!
Aubrey made us go on a gondola. we are indebted to her!

Aubrey made us go on a gondola. we are indebted to her!

Our friends came from Washington, D.C., and rather than letting them crash in Rome, we whisked them off to Venice on the high-speed train. I think this can be a good way to arrive in Italy from the U.S. We’ve done it twice ourselves: Land in early morning in Milan or Rome and take a Freccia train to Venice, allowing for a catnap and time to lunch on the train, then settling into B&B or apartment and freshening up with a shower. By this time you are sufficiently revived to hit the calli of Venice and take a walk to get your bearings in the daylight before an early (for Italy) dinner about 19:00. After a good night’s sleep you are practically adjusted to local time by the next morning.
You cannot see everything in Venice in a couple of days, but you can get a good taste of this unique locale. We did a pretty good job of covering territory, walking about 6 miles (9.6 km) each day, first through San Marco, San Polo, and Dorsoduro on Day One, then through Murano and Burano on Day Two.
Of course we visited favorites: Frari Church, my jeweler on Murano, the tower at San Giorgio Maggiore. But Ric and I try to do something we have never done before each time we visit Venice. This trip, at the urging of our young friend Aubrey, we added gondola ride to our experience list. I have always thought the gondola a dorky, touristy thing to do, and it probably is, BUT it was really fun to see the city from a different angle and in the back canals. I think it may be even more fun as a group than as the iconic romantic ride for a couple. As a result, we very well might do it again the next time we take friends or family to Venice. Rick and Jane, are you ready yet? 
Below, past the insane cruise ship photo sequence, are a few more pictures of our trip. The following three photos illustrate the insanity of letting cruise hips sail throughu Venice in the Giudecca Canal. 
As we approached San Marco in a vaporetto, this cruise ship was making its way into the Bacino to go out to sea.

As we approached San Marco in a vaporetto, this cruise ship was making its way into the Bacino to go out to sea.

The all-too-big ship pulls alongside our "water bus" or vaporetto.

The all-too-big ship pulls alongside our “water bus” or vaporetto.

These things are just too big. Starting in November, the biggest are suppose to be banned. It was frightening to see how close they can come to other water traffic.

These things are just too big. Starting in November, the biggest are suppose to be banned. It was frightening to see how close they can come to other water traffic.

Click any image below to see a slideshow.

Year in Review

1 Jan

The older we get the faster time seems to move. (It’s an actual phenomenon that has been scientifically proven: the older you are the faster time seems to pass.) Only yesterday it seems we were dying of the heat in Rome, taking refuge in the mighty Dolomites enjoying brisk mountain air and alpine meadows. But that was July. Looking back over our time in Rome – now 19 months and counting – we have experienced so much, and yet my list of to-dos in Rome (not to mention all of Italy)  has more things on it that we have not accomplished than ones we have managed to check off. There’s a wonder around every corner and we shall never get to all of them. Roma: Una vita non basta!

New Year's Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

New Year’s Eve Vespers with Papa F! We were right on the aisle. Ric snapped this pic with his phone.

We managed to see a bit more of Italy this year, visiting some old favorites as well as new territory.

  • March saw us in Sicily for our 28th anniversary, where we were constantly cold, but where we ate magnificent food and saw our first-ever Greek ruins. Stunning! Must go back in warmer weather.
  • In May we ventured to the heel of the boot, Puglia, with my brother and sister-in-law. More great food, a fantastically different Italy, and lots of kilometers covered. Can’t count the bottles of wine consumed. Rick & Jane, we had so much fun with you those 10 days in Rome and Puglia! And we “discovered” Abruzzo on our way back to Rome. Wow!
  • In fact we were so enchanted with Abruzzo we went back for a weekend in July. Not many North Americans (or non-Italians) go to Abruzzo as it is not chock-a-block with must-sees, but it is an amazing place to escape the city, practice one’s Italian, and relax.
  • Later in July was our week in the Val Gardena. If only we could figure out a way to live there all summer.
  • Like most Italians, we got away for Ferragosto but only as far as Orvieto for a couple of nights.  It’s always nice to get on a train, and only an hour away is this charming Etruscan hill town.
  • Our youngest son came to visit in September and we made our 4th trip to Venice in less than three years. Three days there flew by and in wonderment Derek observed we still had not seen everything we intended to. Venice has a lot to offer and so many people try to “do” it in 2 nights and one day. We’re going back for the 5th time in April with friends who have never been.
  • The Cinque Terre calls to us each autumn and we made our third trip there in October. Hoping we can squeeze in a weekend there again in 2014.
  • After the Marine Corps 238th Birthday Ball in early November, we made a trek to Ravello just as the town was closing for the season. This is a must-go-back location sometime during the concert season.
Kids, don't try this at home. Our neighbor across the street shot off Roman Candles from his oh-so-tiny balcony on NYE. Note the Santa figure climbing a ladder hanging from the balcony. And this goes on all over the city!

Kids, don’t try this at home. Our neighbor across the street shot off Roman Candles from his oh-so-tiny balcony on NYE. Note the Santa figure climbing a ladder hanging from the balcony. And this goes on all over the city!

Other highlights in 2013:

  • I turned sixty. Can’t believe it, but my mother is there in the mirror every morning, so I guess it’s true.
  • We had a blind date with Nigel and Carol, new friends from England that we met through the Rick Steves’ Helpline and this blog. Hoping to see them again in February!
  • Made Thanksgiving dinner for 11 Italians. We had so much fun doing this! I only hope they will let us do it again next year.
  • Seeing our youngest son (not very young anymore, but still il mio bambino al cuore) after 16 months away.
  • Getting fit(ter) in the gym. I’ve lost about 45 pounds since moving to Rome and had to buy a whole new wardrobe last summer and again this winter.
  • Becoming more comfortable speaking Italian. I am “advanced intermediate” (B2/C1 for those that understand the scale) according to my teacher. I should be fluent by the time I am 85.
  • Seeing Tom and Karen, our in-laws, when they visited Rome after their cruise.
  • Visits by Michael Horne for gastronomic exploration of Rome. (Thanks for the intro to Vino Roma!)
  • New Years’ Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with Papa Francesco. He was right there, not 2 meters from me during the processional and recessional. The energy in St. Peter’s was palpable, the love for this man overwhelming.

As I wrap up this post, we are aboard a train that departed at 07:20 New Year’s Day, leaving

St. Peter's, NYE 2013. I read today that shortly after we left Papa Francesco came out in his Popemobile to see the Nativity in the square. Purtroppo we had left the scene!

St. Peter’s, NYE 2013. I read today that shortly after we left Papa Francesco came out in his Popemobile to see the Nativity in the square. Purtroppo we had left the scene!

Italy for the first time in 19+ months. The sun is just coming up, outlining the Apennine Mountains in gold. We are headed to Switzerland where, magari, we will do Winterwandern (alpine snow hiking) to wear off the cheese fondue we plan to eat. We have many trips planned this year including a return to Venice, the Dolomites, Florence, Lake Como, and Abruzzo. We have guests coming, too: Kim, John and Aubrey in April; John, Susan, William and Elizabeth (aka JSWE) in July; the Omaha Bartons in August; a return by Derek in September; Rick and Jane in November; and hopefully Helen, Eddie and Debbie will make it over too. Anyone else? Would love to see you!

Buon Anno 2014! 

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