Europe Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • Recent Spam Attacks
    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Honeymoon on a Budget
  2. 2 Which airport for Bellagio?
  3. 3 Mont St. Michel in winter
  4. 4 Euro Travel & Trivia Quiz #139
  5. 5 Trip Report Dijon in December!
  6. 6 5 Day trip with wife & teens - Nice to Paris
  7. 7 After Beaune, need suggestions for the next 10 days
  8. 8 Swiss Trip Itineraryand Charges
  9. 9 Travel insurance for Dutch residents question
  10. 10 UK: "Ghost Trains!"
  11. 11 Scotland-Looking for itinerary advice for 9 day trip
  12. 12 Urgent- Pleaseee HELP - Spain, Italy or France for Xmass and New years
  13. 13 Destination from London by train, advice please
  14. 14 Bernese Oberland + Luzern 4 days
  15. 15 Summer Travel order
  16. 16 Overnight trip from Barcelona
  17. 17 Copenhagen to Stockholm
  18. 18 Swiss Travel Pass
  19. 19 Northern Italy with 2 kids itinerary help
  20. 20 Paris- 1 B.R. APT.
  21. 21 Another tipping question: concierges
  22. 22 Trip Report 24 hours in Zurich
  23. 23 One day on the Amalfi coast
  24. 24 Trip Report Beautiful Ireland: a 3-week solo journey.
  25. 25 Trip suggestion
View next 25 » Back to the top

Trip Report Trip Report Paris, Avignon, Lyon, Turin, Genoa, Reggio Emilia, Venice 2015

Jump to last reply

Paris, six nights, Avignon four nights, Lyon two nights, Turin three nights, Genoa three nights, Reggio Emilia three nights, and then Venice for five weeks. An apartment in Paris and in Venice, otherwise hotels.

So, Paris. We arrived after a while, 14 hours Melbourne to Dubai, three hours on the ground in the Dubai airport shopping mall, and then seven hours to Paris, CDG. All pretty smooth, taxi to the Marais, five floors to climb to our apartment, and we are home. I was thinking of the Led Zeppelin song, “Stairway to Heaven” as we climbed with our 35 odd kilos of luggage. We are staying here: http://www.parisautrement.com/en/appartement/179/5eme-ciel (Ciel means Heaven, I'm told, so it's not quite seventh heaven. Thank God.)

I can never pass through Dubai without coming to like it less and less. Maybe it’s the “Arab Street” architecture that I dislike, the way that integrity in design, some sort of intellectual relationship, is purely subsumed into just a massive cliché. It’s as though the Alhambra or Hagia Sofia in Constantinople are just scaled up by a factor of ten. Or maybe as though an author would think that their words had more substance if printed in bold, 30-point font.

Paris. City of Light. And I did wish that the lights would go out last night, being a trifle jet lagged. But the mornings are quiet, broken by the mooing of doves. Our apartment is pretty traditional, a garret under the slate roof, so at last I’m a writer in a garret. Is that some sort of status? There is an entry off the street, that once would have a concierge, a lady knowing everyone and everything, hating everybody and everything, a character that might have cropped up in a Guy de Maupassant novel. A lady wondering whether to guard the door, or take her knitting down to the Place de la Concorde, and watch an amputation or two.

She’s been replaced by a numbered key pad, most efficient, and the apartment managers have been really good to deal with too. Efficient, good communications, systems that work.

  • Report Abuse

    Hope you brought a sweater for Italy! The heat has broken with some very breezy breezes. If it doesn't return, your stay in Reggio nell'Emilia should be delightful.

    I imagine even French doves talk through their noses, but I still find it hard to imagine them mooing and not cooing. (Perhaps it was a snoring tourist in another room?)

    I don't miss Mme. Lefarge.

    Have a swell trip!

  • Report Abuse

    yes, the mooing doves; to be followed by lowing pigeons perhaps? reminds me of the children's poem that starts “Quack!” said the billy-goat. “Oink!” said the hen. “Miaow!” said the little chick running in the pen" and so on an so forth.

    Peter-I've yet to go to Dubai and from what you've said, I'll try to keep it that way.

    looking forward to the rest of your trip almost as much as you are!

  • Report Abuse

    Surviving our long haul flights is a challenge, isn't it? We are also flying Emirates next year so a 13.5 hr first leg for us. Not staying in Dubai either.
    Really looking forward to your journey, you wrote a wonderful piece on the castle in Verona that I have kept.
    Happy travels.

  • Report Abuse

    There are a few myths or cliches about Paris.
    Accordion music is used in films to indicate that, hey, we’re shooting in Paris. Haven’t heard a single bar of accordion music. For which one is thankful.

    Bread sticks, aka baguettes. Are always pictured in a basket on a bicycle. Have not seen that yet, nor had the smell of freshly baked baguettes drifting across my nostrils.

    Gauloise cigarette smoke. Nope, haven’t caught a whiff. Smelled a bit of dope, though.

    The Eiffel tower is always portrayed as looming over Paris. It’s interesting how rarely one sees the tower. And it’s huge. Interesting structure, actually a very light weight structure, most of the steel members are thin, but there are a lot of them. Makes the design stunningly complicated, but saves money on material. Makes maintenance a nightmare, but who cares – the tower was always meant to be temporary.

    OK, now for some realities. We’ve spent some time, spread over a couple of days, on a hop-on, hop-off bus. A good way to get a handle on a city that we don’t know at all. I don’t think we really had any idea of just how big Paris is – you can’t really get that from looking at maps, and certainly we’ve done a lot of walking.

    Interesting things, in no particular order. The Printemps department store, celebrating 150 years. Really worthwhile going to the café on the top floor, as it gives a great view of Paris. Such elegance, and the whole Boul. Haussmann is quite something.

    The Pompidou centre. We have not been in, but already I love it. Controversial when built, the structure looking like an organic form turned inside out, an interesting topographical exercise. The structure is made of circular members, jointed by hinges, just like, say, the knuckles in your hand, or your anterior crucial lig, holding your knee together. So the structure looks likes bones. Attach organs to the bones, services ducts, ventilation shafts, lifts like muscles, cable trays like nerves, storm drains, sewer drains, potable water, gas, you name it. Pompidou looks like an inside out person.

    Buildings. There is an amazing continuity of form, particularly if you can see buildings from a higher elevation, like the Printemps roof. The line of the eaves is almost uniform, roofs with identical pitch and form. Interesting, and I suppose not unexpected given the explosion of building works in Paris during the Second Empire, the 1800’s. Kilometres of streets with buildings of similar style and dimensions. In older areas – the Marais being an older area, where we are staying – the same uniformity is not evident. I think our building dates from the early 1700’s, sandstone foundations, heavy timbers, fun to see.

    Boulevards that follow the line of the original wall surrounding Paris. That wall was a pretty minor affair, about 3.5 metres tall, no defence at all. But it surely defended the state revenues, as the gates were customs collection posts. “Nothing to declare” won’t cut it when the state needs revenue. The wall was hated by Parisiens.

    You could have a very happy time here without visiting any of the big ticket sights. We intend visiting the Musee d’Orsay to see Manet’s work. But that might be the only gallery that sees us.

  • Report Abuse

    The Pompidou centre's architect is from Genoa. The inside-out form was deliberate. Apparently the building has lost its power to shock, but it was truly and deeply shocking in its earliest years. Literally stopped people in its tracks. More visceral than controversial. The Eiffel Tower was controversial. The Pompidou left people speechless.

    Renzo Piano recently completed another building in Paris which has been termed "a hidden masterpiece". If you are still in Paris, you might want to go have a look

    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/jan/29/renzo-piano-pathe-hidden-masterpiece/

  • Report Abuse

    When we were first married in the late 70s, DH worked in Paris for a while so we got to see the Pompidou Centre when it was first built and yes, it was a bit shocking then.

    but then Paris itself was a shock [in a nice way] so its impact was perhaps a little diluted by the assault on our senses from the rest of the city.

    our favourite place in Paris then was the Jeu de Paume [which for those whose memories don't stretch back that far, is where the Impressionists were exhibited before they opened the Musee D'Orsay]. The Pompidou Centre didn't do much for me then, and frankly, it doesn't do much for me now.

  • Report Abuse

    We climbed up to Sacre-Coeur, via the Pompidou centre exterior and Rue Montorgueil. Good to have a better look at the exo-skeleton of the Pompidou Centre, and I rather like it. Given that so much of Paris looks to have been designed by the same architect, at least in the 19th Century, a bit of confrontation is welcome. I do like buildings that make me stop and think, wondering what the archi was trying to say. I think that many Parisians, over the last 40 years, have also stopped, and thought “that building is absolute crud”. Can’t please everyone, and Eiffel’s tower was not universally liked either.

    Rue Montorgueil is fun, “Food Street”. About half a kilometre of shops selling every sort of food that one can imagine. Hams, cheese, fish, bread, vegetables, you name it. Figs are in season, and I’m looking forward to doing figs stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped in prosciutto once we have an oven.

    Interesting as one climbs through Montmarte, the atmosphere becomes more gritty, seemingly more working class, more graffiti, more people standing around, looking a bit aimless. Wind the clock back 120 years, and it would have been a pretty tough beat for the gendarmes.

    Climbed further up, to the Place du Tetre, where something of a Potemkin Village is under construction, a film set for a movie that looks as though it will be set some time in 1945. A bit of fun to walk through a movie set, looking at posters and ancient proclamations, French and American flags fluttering (after all, Freedom Fries are a recent invention). I was hoping to see CDG stroll onto the set, preceded by his nose, taking all credit for the May 4th 1945 surrender. They will have to take care that the green neon cross, signalling a pharmacy, remains out of shot.

    I think I’ve got problems with the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur. Commissioned in 1873, foundation stone laid in 1875, construction completed in 1914, consecrated in 1919. One of the very few cathedrals to be completed in the 20th Century, leaving aside the mega-churches in the USA, which can more properly be described as stadiums for competitive religion.

    The State commissioned Sacre-Couer allegedly as a memorial to some 58,000 French soldiers who fell in the Franco-Prussian war, a profound defeat for the French. Throw into the mix, the Commune of 1870/71, an uprising centred in Montmarte, and the scene is set for some anxious times. So perhaps a big building, sitting right on top of Montmarte might demonstrate to those pesky communards that they have lost the plot, and that a “Return to Jesus” moment was in order. Particularly as the communards had killed the Archbishop of Paris.

    So, for me, there is little feeling of holiness in the Basilica, whatever feeling of faith being overtaken by messages that are essentially political. It feels like a cookie cutter attempt at a Basilica, a standard set of side altars, stone vaulting that has been cut with steam powered diamond saws, fourteen stations of the Cross, stained glass that it looks like it comes from the Walmart stained glass section. It just does not move me, unlike many other churches. Or maybe it is the architecture – my Eyewitness guide bills it as Romano-Byzantine – which makes it look synthetic. Byzantium is a fair few degrees of longitude west of Paris, and the Moorish influence for me does not work. The ovoidal domes look more like under-decorated Faberge eggs, the building neither fish nor fowl, church or mosque. A micro Hagia Sofia plonked on top of Paris. Hard to believe that the Corb was born some ten years or so after construction started on Sacre-Coeur. I’m sure that many people will disagree profoundly with what I think of Sacre-Coeur, and will post on here; I welcome the comments and discussion.

    But the genesis of the Sacre-Coeur brought me to thinking – What IS it with the Parisians that they are so into uprisings, storming the Bastille, 1968 student riots (that saw then President CDG taking refuge at a military base in Deutschland), and a host of other uprisings. An uneasy relationship between people in power and the proletariat, or is it just a hangover from the “let them eat cake” comment. Or is it a hangover from the fact that the Republic was created by civil insurrection, and the habit dies hard. I don’t know. But the residents of Montmarte are still somewhat bolshie of temperament, I believe.

  • Report Abuse

    I’m sure that many people will disagree profoundly with what I think of Sacre-Coeur, and will post on here; I welcome the comments and discussion.>>

    Despite the number of visits that I've made to Paris over the years it was only a relatively short time ago that I first stepped inside Sacre Coeur and undoubtedly my view was coloured by the fact that there was a sung service going on which was very beautiful. So though the architecture may not be up to the standards expected by some, I was still impressed by the atmosphere. It was also memorable for the fact that DH had previously been there for the one and only time about 50 years before on a school trip so he had the fun of trying to remember what had changed, and telling me what he'd got up to all those years ago.

    So despite the fact that some may view it as an excrescence, I like it.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Peter! As you know I don't normally come here these days, but I'm making an exception for you :-)

    Very interesting insights, as always, and you are staying in a part of Paris I don't know at all.

    I've always liked the Pompidou Centre - it's funny that other posters just mention the architect Renzo Piano, whereas in Britain people associate it more with the British member of the team, Richard Rogers! (Like discovering that our Italian students think some bloke called Meucci invented the telephone :-) ) As with Rogers' Lloyd's building in London, I knew it was famous for being 'inside out'; but I'd never thought of it before as like an inside out person - what an intriguing thought, I don't think I'll ever look at it the same way again.

    Given your interest in engineering, are you going on the tour of the sewers (if they still do it)?

  • Report Abuse

    >>funny that other posters just mention the architect Renzo Piano, whereas in Britain people associate it more with the British member of the team, Richard Rogers<<

    I don't see anybody but me talking about the the building architects -- which include another Italian unmentioned by you -- Gianfranco Franchin --, but I thought it worth mentioning Piano to Peter since Peter is going GENOVA, where Piano was born and runs the school of architecture at the university.

    Now that you mention Rodters, I will say that I don't think much of Rodgers work in subsequent years, and it has nothing to do with his nationality. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that everything imaginative and memorable about "the Beauborg" is owed to the Italians! (Someday Rodgers will live down the Millennium Dome, I guess.)

  • Report Abuse

    We made it to only one museum in Paris, the Musee d’Orsay, and it was really special. Consider the possibility of taking a railway station, built around 1900, having it more or less abandoned for some sixty years, avoiding it being demolished in the ‘60s for replacement by a hotel, and finally having it emerge, chrysalis-like as a superb gallery. The feeling of light and space down the main hall is spectacular, the side galleries intimate, and the way the whole story of art from the 1850’s through to the 1930’s is told is great. Explanations in English helped me, as my schoolboy French comprises some thirty or forty words in German.

    It was like meeting old friends, Manet’s fifer boy looking uncertain, almost pleading for some adult to take him in hand, Olympia, by the same artist, confronting, “I’m naked. So what! Get over it.”, with black cat to prove a point.

    Burn Jones, ‘The Wheel of Fortune”, pre-Raphaelite, interesting as we have the same painting in our gallery in Melbourne. Jones must have painted at least two versions, maybe more, as the iconography is a bit boringly obvious, but very marketable.

    I liked the story of Art Nouveau, spread over three small floors, and as you descend, you can see how that form spread through Europe. I’d never realised that there was a Finnish form of that style.

    There are, after all, the odd shockers. “Cain”, by Cormon is one such. An enormous work, seven metres long, four high, depicting Cain and his retinue wandering the world, an object lesson in the wisdom of not slaying your brother. It looks like a scene from the Apocalyptic book, “The Road”. I’d love to know who commissioned the work, and where it was hung.

    Millet’s work is a delight, quiet pastoral scenes, far from the madding crowd. Some Gauguin’s which don’t really grab me, lovely sculptures by Degas that really do grab me.

    Something that interested me – there are a few works depicting political events, dead soldiers from the 1871 Commune, piled up in the Rue Montorgueil, works like that. That is a vernacular that is pretty well unknown (well, unknown to me, anyway) in Australian art. Maybe picturesque political events have been lacking in Australian history.

    Last time I saw most of these works was in Paris, 1975, in the Jeu de Paume. So, yes, coming across old friends.

    A stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, which are truly enormous. Once the private gardens of the Palais de Louvre, and one can understand how the hoi polloi might have been a bit envious, thinking that a guillotine in the Place de la Concord might square the ledger a bit, a bit more cake, a bit less bread.

    Paris in August is still pretty busy, although a lot of the smaller shops, places with a single proprietor, are closed. Many fewer mopeds than in 1975 – I only saw one – and fewer dogs than I had expected. The rudeness of Parisians clearly is the stuff of legend; we encountered none of it. All in all, a very happy time.

  • Report Abuse

    That's where we first saw them too, Peter - in about 1980 - when DH was working in Paris for a few months. We spent one weekend in Paris, the next at home - it was a great time, though I'm not sure that I appreciated it enough at the time.

    nice to hear that Paris hasn't lost its charm, even in August. [I've only ever been in winter or Spring, apart from one night on a wedding anniversary on a very hot June weekend]. My abiding memory is of being really really cold!

  • Report Abuse

    So, Paris to Avignon. Stroll to Gare Lyon, and watch the speedo on the train just make it to 300 km/hr. It really rips along – a contrast to Australian locos that achieve about 120 km/hr, on a good day, following wind, slight downgrade and minimum load. I’m trying to remember the line from the song, something like “The telephone poles looked like a picket fence”.

    I sort of knew that I liked Avignon, from a previous visit, and now I know why. The whole concept of a walled city, the Papal palace, the Pont, etc, makes it a really easy, comfortable place to visit. We stayed in a hotel right in the Place de l’Horloge, the very centre of town, the Hotel Kyriad. Fun to be just above the street activity, cafes, the odd noisy scooter, and the town coming to life in the morning.

    So, first day, Sur le Pont d’ Avignon. There’s not a whole lot of Pont left – just three spans, but in the good old days, the bridge comprised some 22 spans, clear across the Rhone. This was a massive undertaking, and it’s likely that said Pont was never ever completed in stone all the way. The Rhone is subject to huge floods, draining as it does about half of Europe, and in a flood, loads of rubbish, trees, houses, hay-ricks, farm animals, the lot, are going to be washed down stream and fetch up on the piers supporting the Pont. Which will inevitably fail. I’d advise not dancing on the bridge in times of flood.

    So, how to persuade the citizens to contribute to construction – it’s going to need a miracle to raise the money and fund the thing. So, let’s have a miracle. Enter in 1177, stage left, one Benezet,a shepherd, later to be elevated to Saint Benezet. Benezet claims to have been visited by God or the Virgin Mary, said visitation including an exhortation to build a bridge, spanning the Rhone. Ben throws a rock (some say a boulder of incredible mass) into the Rhone, and construction is deemed under way. (The toll revenue would have been massive, but, hey, let’s not get all venal about this.) So Benezet took on the role of Project Financier, raising funds from the faithful and the venal, and never lifted another stone to help construction. He is now Patron Saint of barge men, and I don’t get it. The notorious Pont would have put heaps of barge men out of business, I would have thought, so why make him a Saint?

    But maybe the Pont is just an early example of crowd funding. I’m going to try that for my next project, and I can just see the prospectus document; “The Angel Gabriel came to me and told me to build a sewage treatment plant”. The funds will roll in. Maybe.

    OK, serious now. If you do visit Avignon and the Pont, take the time to view the animated movie, at the visitor centre. For the last several years, a team of historians, archeologists, surveyors, laser technicians and computer freaks have been building a 3-D electronic model of the bridge, as it would have existed way back when. You can fly over the bridge, which in plan is a big “S” shape, see how it has been constructed, see how the river has moved around, erosion here, spoil deposited there. Yes, the bridge has mostly fallen down, but this computer model will last forever. I so admire the techos, and the people who fund this research. They are creating a legacy of enormous worth.

    The Papal Palace – accommodating the Papacy for about one hundred years, before the travelling road show moved to permanent quarters in Rome. I’d always thought that the Papal establishment in Avignon was just an excursion from Rome, but in fact, the Papacy had established itself all over the place, depending on ability to raise taxes and revenue, military alliances, religious affiliations of a sort, all kinds of rather base reasons. Bit like awarding the Olympics or World Cup, I suppose.

    But surely, when the papacy picked Avignon, they were of a mind to stay there. About one quarter of all Church resources went into construction of the Papal Palaces in Avignon, and that’s a serious commitment. The palace (or actually the palaces plural) are pretty special. Gothic architecture, and mostly I’ve only seen Gothic in relation to churches, and the first Palace constructed in only four years. It bucketed rain when we visited, and all the gargoyles were spouting, water everywhere.

    There are heaps of engravings, sketches and the like, to show how a Gothic building, or Norman castle, for that matter, is built. Engineers and builders have been recording how they did things, documenting the lessons learned, passing on the know-how. But what is really hard to find is how the Works were managed. A four year job, some hundreds of masons, chippies, painters, drainers, tilers, plumbers on the job. Textiles to be provided, furniture, kitchen equipment, spits, saucepans, you name it.

    You don’t just conjure all that out of thin air (or call on a miracle, “God told me to build a Palace”). Nope, there was an army of support staff, bullock drivers hauling stone, wheel wrights making bullock cart wheels, farmers providing hay for bullocks, saddlers making harness. Stone masons, needing chisels. So there are a bunch of blacksmiths forging chisels, charcoal burners supplying to the forges, someone making leather bellows. A huge industrial endeavour, and this engineer would love to know more about it.

    We were hearing some pretty bad brass band music in the streets. Poor renditions of American Patrol, Colonel Bogey, a little Glen Miller thrown in for good affect, and this brought us to wonder a little.

    August 25th 1944, Avignon was liberated, so we were there for the 71st anniversary. Some Jeeps, Stars and Stripes, some marching up and down the main drag. It seemed a bit corny, but caused me to think a bit too. We Aussies have never been invaded, so never liberated, and I can understand how the citizens of any country that has been fought over will never forget the day their town was liberated. I remember seeing, in 1975, buildings in Austria that had taken small arms fire, bullet holes stitched across the façade. We Aussies were not in Avignon in ’44, but they still sing “Waltzing Matilda” in Villers-Bretonneux, a legacy of 25th April, 1918. So I can happily allow Glen Miller, and the fireworks that night were great, explosions across the Rhone.

    On to Lyon for a couple of nights, barely enough time to get a handle on the place. Lyon is pretty special, a really old town, and we saw the foundations of a church that was built around 200 AD, one of the oldest churches in Europe outside of Rome. We visited a couple of silk workshops, one with three Jacquard looms in working order. Those looms area amazing. We mostly think that IBM invented the punched card as a way of processing digital info, but Jacquard beat IBM to the punch by about 150 years. A jacquard loom is controlled by a string of punched cards, a truly digital system. We saw sets of cards stored, along with a sample of the fabric that that set would produce, just thread the cards and press “Play”. After threading the loom, that is. Witnessing 200 year old technology, that still functions, is a lot of fun.

    We did not do Lyon anything like justice, seeing only the old part of town. There is some stunning architecture happening there, buildings that really work, social housing being provided in proper places, and I think a real attempt to somehow avoid social issues by building decent infrastructure.

    Next, Italy.

  • Report Abuse

    A small thing I noticed in the Papal Palace. Many of the stones have the initials or mark of the carver on them. The mark is always composed of straight cuts, no curves. I believe that each mason would mark his work, maybe because they were on piece rates. At the end of the day, the Quantity Surveyor could record that XXWW sent up seven pieces, and that one had to be sent down for him to re-cut it.

    Marks from a tradesman, chiselled with pride some seven hundred years ago. Pretty special

  • Report Abuse

    Lyon to Turin by train, and this one is not going at 300 km/hr. It winds its way through the Alps, and it delightfully scenic. You can feel how the train is climbing, passing through a few small towns, and the largest at Chambery, half a dozen stops between Lyon and Turin. The countryside looks for all the world like a model railroad scene, at least on the French side, and it’s hard to tell if French farmers are into farming or landscape gardening, as everything looks so neat and well tended. The Alps are pure limestone, and it’s been quarried for centuries, millennia. I don’t see it running out any time soon, and the rivers are cloudy with lime.

    It all looks a bit more gritty on the Italian side.

    We came to Turin to see the museum of Egyptian antiquities, and it did not disappoint. We bought two-day museum passes, which cost about 30 euro per pass, and are really good value, as they give admission to some twenty museums and sights in Turin, which would otherwise cost about ten euro a hit.

    The Egyptian Antiquities museum has been reorganised and completely renovated, re-opening just a few months ago. It is excellent, and has a lot to say about not only antiquities, but also how a collection is curated, organised, displayed and also how “gaps” in the collection have been filled. The stories of the leaders of the excavation “campaigns” are told, along with photographs of the digs in progress, perhaps in 1903. I was very taken by a particular stone sarcophagus, and there was a photo of a team of workers dragging it out of the excavation, a photo of the leader of the excavation, and a copy of his diary notes. The complete story, provenance clearly displayed.

    Mostly the display is about the content of graves. Given that people were buried with all the tools, furniture, food and amulets that they would need in the Afterlife, grave contents can be seen as a fair representation of Egyptian life way back when.

    The museum has some great systems in place. You automatically get an audio guide, or rather an audio plus visual guide, so the audio might say “The pattern on the screen right now means etc.”, so it makes it easy to interpret the displays. We spent about four hours there, leaving mainly on account of tiredness.

    One recuperates. The Palazzo Madama is the Civic museum of Turin, right in the middle of town. Built (or at least part of it was built) as a city gate, but as the city extended, the gate function was no longer needed. It incorporates Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, and again, is great. The Medieval garden has been recreated, and it is a gardener’s delight. Plantings of medicinal herbs (apparently the shape of the leaf corresponds to the organ it will treat. Flat leaves for hepatitis, more circular stems and leaves for varicose veins), plus espaliered pear trees, culinary herbs, compost heaps and a pig sty (sans pigs).

    Stroll along the Po, draining to the Venetian lagoon, where we will be in a week. There was some sort of ferry service once from Turin to Venice, 30 hours outbound, but 60 hours return, against the flow.

    We got a bit side tracked, walking past the Mole Antonelliana, the building with the big spire, the symbol of Turin. Originally commissioned as a synagogue, but as the costs escalated, and the architect had continually changing ideas, the clients, the Jewish residents of Turin, terminated the contract. I think they got grumpy about having a synagogue with a temporary roof, and architects can be a bit difficult like that. Negotiate with the Civic authorities, find a new plot for the synagogue, and Turin gets to decide what to do with the half completed Works. A museum maybe, maybe a Risorgimento museum, and now a cinema museum.

    The cinema museum is enlightening and fun. (Also it has a good café in the basement, and you don’t need a museum ticket to access the café.) There is a display that demonstrates the archeology of the moving picture, from the first Indonesian shadow puppets, through the whole business of optics, shadow lantern displays, stereo postcards (including some very risqué samples from Paris, 1855, right through to the first movies, invented by Lumiere. There’s a fun quote from Lumiere senior;”You’re wasting your time with this, son. Cinema will never amount to anything.” Hey said the same about email, I suppose.

    The story of Italian Realism cinema is shown, walking up a long circular ramp, like walking up a strip of film. Realism, with its genesis in the late 30’s, some films shot in Berlin in 1946 or 47 (you’d be hiring your extras with nylons and Luckies then), moving on to “The Bicycle Thieves”. That’s a whole genre of cinema that I know precious little about, and it’s never featured in the Australian film vernacular. The closest English language films that I can think of approaching it would be “The loneliness of the long distance runner” or “Kes”, both films based on Alan Sillitoe books.

    Again, a well curated exhibition.No audio guide here, but take a fully charged iPhone with you. There is free wi-fi in the museum, and each display has a QR code. Shoot the code and listen or read about what you are seeing.

    For five euro, you can ride the elevator to the top of the dome. The panorama is great, surrounded by Alps (on a clear day), and Turin laid out like a carpet. The cinema museum was never on our “to do” list here, and we really got very lucky.

    We skipped through the Royal Palace and Armoury fairly quickly. I have to confess that Baroque and Rococo just don’t do it for me, and the residence of a bunch of Royals is, for me, hard to approach. I think it is my ignorance of Italian history in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that makes it opaque for me. Italians, steeped in the history of the Risorgimento, would see it very differently.

    Turin is great, even though we have only three nights here. Off to Genoa / Genova in the morning.



    And it’s nice to be in Italy. Feels sort of like home.

  • Report Abuse

    >>"Stroll along the Po, draining to the Venetian lagoon...<"

    Unless I am mistaken, the Po would today drain to the Venetian lagoon had it not been actively stopped from doing so more than a century or two ago by the Venetians, who worried that sediment from the Po -- which historically flows further south to drain into the Adriatic -- was beginning to fill up the lagoon as the Po's traditional river course gradually began shifting and expanding northwards. Channels, embankments and other diversions were constructed to keep the Po out of the Venetian lagoon, resulting in the build-up of an increasingly substantial delta -- now a national park -- which had never existed before south of Chioggia until this manmade intervention. At least that has been my understanding, but I am not an expert on that by any means.

    Glad you went to the movie museum. Probably the greatest movie museum in the entire world. It's really Italian Neo-realism that is the glory of Italian cinema and which the museum glorifies and celebrates for movie devotees in a temple-like setting

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_neorealism

    But probably the most popular "iconic" movie of Turin itself is The Italian Job (the original with Michael Caine), which is full of inside jokes about the city and its hilarious cliff-hanger ending (literally) in the Alpine pass you crossed, which you might now appreciate checking out if you never have before.

  • Report Abuse

    Genoa, Genova for the purists, and it’s a lovely town, driven by topography. Small streets, running up and down hill, larger streets across the traverses. Our hotel is just off Via Roma (every town in Italy has a Via Roma, “all roads lead to Rome”, etc) and is near Via Garibaldi (almost every town in Italy has a Via Garibaldi, the exceptions being villages with only one road, in which case it has to be Via Roma). Our Hotel is the Best Western City Hotel, and it feels a bit American. So the aircon works well, there is a gym, the minibar is really cold, and the breakfast spread is most extensive. All for 95 euro a night, which we rather like.

    We are not far from the Via Nova, part of which has been renamed the Via Garibaldi. I think the street was “nova” some time around 1600, when a bunch of dwellings were demolished to make way for a bunch of palaces, and they are pretty grand, housing several museums. It says something about the wealth flowing through Genoa at that time, Genoese ships, or at least ships financed by Genoese merchants, sailing to the Americas, cargoes of exotic spices, foods (potato, tomato, capsicum, all the Nightshade family of plants), plus gold and silver plundered by semi-official privateering. Add to that the protection money earned by the masters of mercenary galley fleets, and the Genoa bourse would have been thumping.

    Hence a row of palaces on the Via Nova and Via Garibaldi. I can see the competition that would have been taking place between owners, each wanting to outdo the next in décor and luxury. Via Nova was once fairly working class, but is now very up-market. The working class roots have not been entirely lost, though. We passed a few working girls as we walked town to the harbour.

    We took one of those narrated bus tours, which is a quick way to get an understanding of the topography and geography of a town. Genoa is very steep, many tunnels, bridges and so on, and then you run out into quite flat areas, like the Piazza della Vittoria, complete with a small triumphal arch, a micro-Arc de Triomph The Piazza is surrounded by a set of buildings that typify Fascist architecture, which I must say I find hard to love. You look at these buildings, and expect Leni Riefenstahl to be setting up for a shoot.

    The Museo del Mare, the maritime museum, is good. It focuses on maritime rather than naval issues, and there is a separate naval (as in fighting ship) museum which we won’t get to. The museum shows really well how the harbour of Genoa expanded, and how it was left behind in the 1860’s with the advent of steam, and just about stagnating by 1900. There is a good display about Christopher Columbus, who came from half a dozen places, including Genoa. The jury is still out on Kit’s home town, although Genoa has a better claim than most. A full scale Genoese galley has been built in the museum (shortened a bit, but lifelike enough), complete with oars and leg chains for slaves. Different to Venetian galleys, as the Genoese pulled on the oars, while the Venetians pushed the oars – as they still do to this day. Being a rower on a galley would have been tough work.

    I was very taken by a section of the museum that dealt with emigration. About five million Italians emigrated between the end of the Risorgimento around 1860 and 1905. That’s a huge number of people to just pack up and go, whole villages de-populated, families separated, younger folk emigrating, old folk staying behind. Not unlike the potato famine, depopulating huge swathes of Ireland in the 1850’s. Families taking horribly tough decisions.

    “If we sell two of the donkeys and half the farm, that will buy Giacomo’s passage to Buenos Aires. It’ll be tough for us, but he’ll get a good job, and then we can all go and join him.” Maybe, with luck, with a huge serve of heartbreak.

    We have an Immigration Museum in Melbourne, where we celebrate the arrival and contribution of people who have taken the decision to come to Australia and call Australia home. But behind that celebration is the fact that every person who has migrated to Australia has left their home behind them. Those ships carrying migrants have seen a lot of tears.

    So the emigration section of the Museo del Mare quite got to me. The display there includes a recreation of a steerage compartment on a steamer (double bunks, no space between them, no heating or forced draught). The women’s section similar, because women and men were segregated on the voyage. Shipboard rules – no alcohol, no knives, no gambling. What are a group of bored men going to do, other than drink their smuggled alcohol, gamble and fight, hopefully without drawing a knife.

    There is a mock-up of Ellis Island, a synthesised immigration officer asking questions in English. Hard to even comprehend how an illiterate peasant from Calabria would even know how to answer.

    There is another side to the migration story. Every emigrant – outbound – is an immigrant – inbound, and the display speaks to that as well. We see the stories in Genoa of immigrants, people who have come and made a place for themselves in Italy. Italy is struggling with the arrivals in Lampedusa right now, and yet somehow a spirit of generosity is still found.

  • Report Abuse

    interesting thoughts about emigration and immigration, Peter. it's easy to forget that behind those statistics that governments love to bandy around, there are desperate people just wanting a better life, or in many cases, any life at all.

    on a slightly different tack, one of my favourite places in Rome, the Galleria Doria Pamphilij has a Palace in Genoa which I have wanted to visit for some time:

    http://www.doriapamphilj.it/genova/en/

    Might be worth a look if you have time.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Peter:
    I just wanted to say Thank You for this TR and for your dialog about some of the sights in Paris, Avignon and Lyon. I have been there but DH has not and he is very interested in history and everything that goes with it. You discussed some of my most favorite places in Paris (even if they are "trite" or not loved by everyone. :)

    Also thanks for contributing to my own question about shuttle to Rouen from CDG. You mentioned that it cost you 46 (?) euros by taxi to get from CDG to Marais. That's what we will do but going to Gare St. Lazar to catch the train the Rouen.

    We leave this Sunday Sept 6 from LAX to CDG for our month in France and Germany. I have been taking note of all the tips and information that I have gathered on this forum site.

    Hope your trip continues to be wonderful Peter.

  • Report Abuse

    The street in Genova is the "Strada NUOVA" -- like the one in Venice. It means "New Street". It's original name was the Strada Maggiore. Yes, it was rechristened to honor Garibaldi.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Garibaldi_(Genoa)

    Emigration still remains the great trauma of the Ligurian people and region, which lost huge numbers of young men -- mostly to the west coast of the US (where they continued fishing for anchovies, building cable cars and wearing their "genes blu" worker-trousers, which were refashioned into the "blue jeans" and sold back to Italians! Many more Ligurians went to south America, including the family of the present pope, whose mother was born up the hill from the sea.

    The port of Genoa was also one of the most important escape routes for European Jews fleeing Nazism in the 1930s, boarding ships in the harbor bound for Latin America and Shanghai.

  • Report Abuse

    Also, calling the town Genova is not for the "purists" any more than saying Venezia is something purists do. It is what Italians do. Genova is Italian.

    The name actually comes from the Greek "xeno" -- as in "xenophobia."

    Xeno
    Zeno
    Geno-(va)

  • Report Abuse

    (The Greek-born name of "xeno" is because the Greeks colonized Genoa and found the locals quite strange -- the meaning of "xeno") since those people had migrated from the UK originally. It is the Greeks who brought the olive trees to Liguria, and also planted basil, having grown fond of it during their conquest of Persia.)

  • Report Abuse

    annhig - I loved Galleria Doria pamphilij in Rome . I enjoy the family story told by the son as you do the tour. - roller skating through the palace .
    Peter - Dubai- I have had no desire to visit and the airport transits and your comments confirm this . It's also the artificial nature of the place and its contribution to global warming that concerns me too.
    Great trip report

  • Report Abuse

    We took a walk along the harbour at Genoa, also a harbour trip. The Costa Concordia is berthed in Genoa (although “berthed” implies a live ship, not a dead vessel being broken up). It all looks pretty sad, serious damage to the starboard side, the balconies and superstructure smashed, as the Costa came to rest on that side. The superstructure is being demolished progressively, so there are mobile cranes and workers huts on board. Once the superstructure is demolished, then the hull will be dry docked for final breaking up. The cranes at her present berth are not heavy lift cranes, and the final lifts, engines and the like are 100 tonne plus. Heavy stuff.

    The salvage operation, once completed, will have cost some 150 million euro. There was 2500 tonnes of fuel oil on the ship that had to be removed, along with lube oil from a dozen engines. That alone was an enormous task, with the risk of the wreck moving.

    Breaking the ship up in Italy is complex, if for no other reason than the variety of materials used. Plastics, rubber, steel, paint, cables, carpet. A fairly toxic mix, and you can’t just hack into it with an oxy-acetylene torch, at least not in Italy. In the ship breaking yards in India, they don’t observe such niceties.

    Off to Reggio Emilia, and we have chosen the long route, via La Spezia (put on the map by the Costa Concordia), Parma and then a short hop to Reggio. The trip from Genoa to La Spezia is fun, with the train line running close to the beach. We noticed several hotels that looked like they have been closed for decades, had me thinking of the Hotel California. “We haven’t seen that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine.” Eagles.

    La Spezia to Parma is hilly, great views, interspersed with tunnels, the sides of hills carved out, the limestone used for cement or fill. Remnant foundations of bridges, the superstructure washed away in floods, the Ponte Nuove right beside the old foundations, the ponte being nuove in 1750 or thereabouts.

  • Report Abuse

    Why do you say La Spezia was "put on the map by the Costa Concordia" - ?

    I would have thought that for most English speakers it was put on the map by Mary and Percy B. Shelley, because it was in the Gulf of La Spezia where Shelley drowned. But La Spezia has been an active Italian port since the Crusades. Its name means "spice". Here is a 1987 tourist article in the New York Times offering tips about visiting La Spezia as a destination for a multi-day stay

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/20/travel/la-spezia-the-poets-gulf-of-liguria.html

  • Report Abuse

    I would have thought that for most English speakers it was put on the map by Mary and Percy B. Shelley, because it was in the Gulf of La Spezia where Shelley drowned.>>

    they speak of little else on the upper deck of the Clapham omnibus, Sandralist.

  • Report Abuse

    Oh, Ann, very droll!

    We don't have a Clapham omnibus in Aus, but we have just had an interesting matter of whether the retired judge heading a Royal Commission should recuse himself on grounds of apprehended bias.

  • Report Abuse

    ones tries, Peter.

    I found that case, Peter, in fact you've had two judges getting themselves in a pickle about the same issue. Strangely enough we've had a similar problem, losing 2 judges who were supposed to chair the Royal commission on child abuse, both on the basis that they had links to the people they were going to have to investigate. The first one was the daughter of a previous Attorney General who was possibly implicated in a cover-up, and the second one used to go to dinners where a previous Home Secretary might have been present.

    we've ended up with a chair from NZ who hopefully knows no-one at all!

  • Report Abuse

    On 18th August, 1859, Giuseppe Garibaldi spent the night at the Hotel Posta, Reggio Emilia. Peter S and his good wife, Louise, stayed at the Hotel Posta, 3rd to 6th September, 2015. Which is just a roundabout way of saying that the Hotel Posta has been in business for some little time.

    The hotel is the oldest building standing in Reggio, dating from about 1400 or so. It used to be the meeting hall of the Town Captains of Reggio, in the days before there was a civic Mayor. Doubtless it was the job of the Captain to ensure the city gates were locked at night, sentries posted and paid on occasion, that sort of thing. The upstairs large room, formerly the Captain’s salon, is now a function room, but the crests of some of the captains, frescoed onto the walls, are still visible.

    In October 1515, it was decreed that the Captain could find an alternate venue for meetings, and that the building should be converted to a hotel. So the hotel has been in business for just short of 500 years. Around 1910, the foyer and bar were re-decorated, so there is a rather Rococo impression as one enters, and more recently the façade has been brought back to its 1515 condition. That must have needed a deal of architectural archaeology. Really worth staying there, at about 85 euro a night, stepping back in history. In the dining room, there is a framed bill for someones meal, 150 years ago.

    Reggio Emilia claims, with good enough reason, to be the birthplace of the Italian flag, green, white and red, and so there’s a flag museum in Reggio, that we didn’t get to visit. Reggio was also home to Loris Malaguzzi, who devised a new pedagogic approach to teaching pre-school and primary aged children, known now as the Reggio Emilia way of teaching. There is a centre at Reggio devoted to this approach, and we visited there. It showed a very different way of teaching, the teachers being more a co-learner with the children rather than an instructor. The approach to teaching has spread world wide – a conference of Reggio inspired educators in Melbourne recently drew some 1200 attendees. The Malaguzzi centre is well worth a visit if you are a teacher, or have little kids, for that matter. Something of a eye opener.

    Saturday, day trip to Modena, where the Balsamic vinegar quarries are located. A great city for walking around, the Duomo about a thousand years old, with visible remnants of Roman tiled floors and foundations. The brick campanile of similar age (or at least part of it is that old), brick with a stone cladding. The lower cladding is composed of recycled Roman era grave stones. Italy is pretty serious about re-cycling to this day, sorting out glass from cardboard and so on, lessons learned in Modena, maybe.

    There was a wedding in the Duomo when we were there, a seriously social kind of affair, and one would need to be well connected to secure the Duomo as a venue for a Saturday afternoon. Groom in black tie and tails, bride a lovely confection in white, choir, music, couple of hundred well wishers. In Melbourne, the bridal car will often be a Hummer limo; in Italy, expect a Fiat 500 or a 1950’s Lancia. A happy occasion for everyone, including we foreigners.

    Sunday, Reggio to Venice, and after after three weeks on the road, we are finding it nice not to be moving.

  • Report Abuse

    Venice.

    Ah, Venice.

    City of “The Aspern Papers” (a novel that I easily found it in myself to detest), Harry’s Bar and “Across the River and Into the Trees”, by Ernie, whose journalism pieces were better than his novels (man hooks fish, man loses fish, up grams, roll end credits).

    Venice. City of the film festival, under way right now, finishing on Sunday next. Fortunately, the fast international movie set are mostly on the Lido, making occasional forays to the Bauer, and for the less fortunate, the Danieli. We are excused from having to mix with them.

    Yachts, substantial yachts, trans-Atlantic steamer sized yachts parked along the Riva degli Schiavoni, comfortable gin palaces, helicopters, submersibles, polished brass, caviar, you get the picture. Luxury yachting. My experience of yachting is at the other end of the spectrum, getting hammered under sail, seasickness and haphazard navigation, so I don’t have much in common with the “come and visit us beside the Riva Schiavoni” group.

    Unless it were to be say, the second cabin steward or Third Engineer issuing the invitation.

    The Arts Biennale is also under way, under way since early May, so the initial rush of champagne openings and crowds has abated. I’m looking forward to visiting the Australian pavilion, designed by Denton Corker Marshall, architects who have done some great buildings in Melbourne. Our State Architects, but more sympathetic and less political than Albert Speer. People who have visited Melbourne would have passed under the big Yellow Finger on the freeway. That’s a bit of Denton Corker Marshall architectural hand writing. The pavilion in the Biennale gardens has the same handwriting, on a small scale.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing the Venezuelan pavilion. Designed by Carlo Scarpa, my favourite architect in all the world, and recently restored. It was closed for the archi biennale last year, and now reopened.

    And in between those things, just becoming reacquainted. We are in an apartment in Rio Terra dei Pensieri, not our fave part of town, a bit too close to P. Roma and said Pensieri. But we move in a week to near the Carmini, a more familiar part of town for us. That will be good.

  • Report Abuse

    Fortunately, the fast international movie set are mostly on the Lido, making occasional forays to the Bauer, and for the less fortunate, the Danieli. We are excused from having to mix with them.>>

    ah i sfortunati! poor things to have to slum it at the Danieli.

    good to hear that you're almost home.

  • Report Abuse

    The Venice Arts Biennale – the 56th Biennale – is under way. One hundred and twelve years is quite some time to keep an event going. So we visited the exhibits of Guatemala, Grenada, an Arabic exhibition and “The Bridges of Graffiti”, “We must risk delight” – forty artists from LA.

    Guatemala was interesting, exploring Death in some detail, some of it not for the kiddies, and making one think a bit. Others, not so interesting. Phil Jones, author of “the Venice Project”, (there you go, Phil, a free plug for your book, and fun to see you last Sunday night) has a concept that he calls “Art or Shed”. Is it art, or is it just a bunch of stuff from the shed.

    Some of what we saw looked like a bunch of stuff from the shed.

    I know that I have problems with non-representational art. When there is five hundred words explaining what the work is about, then it is a bit too opaque to me. When three glass panels are “exploring the place of women, the softness of the glass contrasting with the steel of the supporting frame, expressing the essential dichotomy of human existence”, then I am rather at a loss.

    However, “The Eye of the Thunderstorm”, practices from the Arab World worked for me. Create a legend, pretend that we’ve found a container full of election material, lost since 1983. Pretend that it is the real deal, all the paraphernalia that might go into a campaign, and afterwards glorify the eventual winner, ruler, dictator. So we see tee shirts, baseball caps, crockery, postage stamps, bank notes, aircraft, motorcades, a fancy uniform with half a kilo of gold braid on it, Haile Selassi or the Shah of Iran incarnate in ephemera. There is a reference there to the Arab Spring, and to every tin-pot ruler that ever existed. Donald Trump, this includes you.

    Lunch at the bar Al Squero on Fondamenta Nani was good, just opposite the Squero San Trovaso.

  • Report Abuse

    Phil Jones, author of “the Venice Project”, (there you go, Phil, a free plug for your book, and fun to see you last Sunday night) has a concept that he calls “Art or Shed”. Is it art, or is it just a bunch of stuff from the shed?>>

    I know which way I tend to think when it comes to modern art but sometimes it works, as that last work did for you, Peter.

    I had to look up the Squero San Troves, and found that it's just opposite the gondola workshop just off the Zattere. that led me here:

    https://osteriaalsquero.wordpress.com

    nice website, nice position, and good reviews. if I do make it to Venice in February, I must remember to give it a go.

  • Report Abuse

    Thursday 10th September, a day trip to Padua. Half an hour on the train, and there you are. The purpose of going to Padua was to visit the Hortus cinctus, the Botanical Garden.

    This is no ordinary rose bed and lawn type of garden, much more significant than that. Established under the auspices of the University of Padua in 1545, to cultivate medical plants, “simples” in the doctoring trade. The oldest such garden in the world, UNESCO World Heritage status granted in 1997, as a significant cultural site.

    The medical garden is formal, circular, nice paths, plants divided into remedies, poisons too, and an area of carnivorous plants. There is a palm tree, planted in 1585, which inspired Goethe. It is in its own octagonal greenhouse, and last time we visited, the palm looked a bit stressed, wanting some space. Tradesmen are now building a new roof for the greenhouse, which will raise the apex by a couple of metres, ensuring the survival of the tree.

    OK, that’s all great. But what we really came for was a new installation, another greenhouse. About one hundred metres long, and it is divided into five micro-climatic zones. There is a tropical greenhouse, essentially replicating conditions found in a rain forest – think the Amazon. Then a tropical sub-humid greenhouse, say parts of Asia. A temperate greenhouse, savannah typically, a Mediterranean greenhouse, and then an arid greenhouse. So as you walk through, you move from the most bio-diverse areas, the rain forest, to the areas with least bio-diversity, desert environments, American cacti, African succulents. The building is so well controlled that you can feel the change in humidity as you walk through. There are about 1,300 species represented, giant water lily pads, mangroves, palms, grasses, the lot.

    The building management system is impressive. Panels of solar cells on the roof, with panels being remotely raised to allow ventilation. Louvres at low level, shade sails, fans, water sprays, and you can hear and see the building in action as the day progresses.

    There are good explanations, in Italian and English, of how plants actually work. How humans have influenced the growth of plants (bananas don’t have seeds any more, maize cobs once were about an inch long, seedless watermelon), and in turn, how plants have influenced human development. There is an interesting video of a group of people in the Amazon jungle. They collect and pulverise a poisonous grass, put the grass in a woven basket. Immerse the poisonous grass in a stream, and the fish rise to the surface through lack of oxygen, to be shot with bow and arrow. The poison loses its potency in a few minutes.

    There is a nice cafeteria, built about a year ago, bookshop, visitor centre. Admission ten euro, eight for seniors such as I. You’d want to allow three plus hours to do it justice.

  • Report Abuse

    is it likely to be open in February, Peter? Last Feb I had an idea to go to Padua to see the Hortus but never got there and it was quite cold so i felt that I probably didn't miss anything. The greenhouses make it seem much more attractive though, if they are open in Winter.

    [answering my own question, yes there are ; 9am to 5pm in the winter months]

    http://www.ortobotanicopd.it/en/il-giardino-della-biodiversità

  • Report Abuse

    Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, San Polo 2744, Venezia, a most satisfying Biennale event; The Dialogue of Fire. Ceramic and glass masters from Barcelona to Venice.

    Glass and ceramics in a common space.

    Both glass and ceramics are made of silica as a base material. Sand, which is mainly silica, melted down with potash and other ingredients to make glass, ground finely with other types of minerals such as kaolin, to make clay for ceramics. A nice conjunction, a dialogue. The other part of the dialogue, of course, is that clay is worked cold, and fired to obtain strength. Glass is worked hot, and cools to obtain strength. A counter dialogue, in a way.

    There are about forty ceramic plates, all of a size, some made by ceramic artists, others designed by artists, painters, novelists, musicians, all telling something of the story of their creators.

    Two glass artists are represented, Judi Harvest and Silvano Rubino, who both work with craftsmen on Murano. Judi’s work is “The Room of Dreams”, about a dozen pillows, full size, made of glass, on a circular bed. Some pillows plumped up, others showing where a head might have rested, a variety of colours from clear, through to chrome plated. You are able to touch the pillows, feel their weight, but are kindly requested not to sit on them. A nice contradiction, as pillows are meant to be soft. Maybe there is a bedtime story in the making there – the story of how the pillows were made is shown on an excellent video display.

    Silvano is into the de-construct / re-construct thing, looking at negative space, imagining how old things would appear if re-made now. So he has taken a room in the Palazzo, which has nice burgundy fabrics on the walls, and would have had a dining table of classic form. Replace the table with a glass topped, chromed legged table, about about four metres long, a place setting at each end. The place settings have been created by laser cutting the shapes of cutlery and a plate out of the glass top. Fun and intriguing.

    Other de/re-constructions are a set of silver mounted decanters on a silver tray, shown in an adjacent photo. The decanters are replaced by a set of sand-blasted bottles with black caps, on a black glass tray.

    Another piece has a photo of a secretaire, antique, with a number of small statuettes on shelves behind the glass doors. Replaced by a head, made in glass, with beautiful features. The head was cast using lost wax, a method mostly used for casting non-ferrous metals. Again, an interesting conjunction.

    I know that my descriptions don’t do the works justice, and they are pretty special.

    We were lucky to meet Silvano Rubino, purely by chance. A gentleman with a lively sense of humour, happy to talk about what his work means to him, how he has come up with his concepts. That gave us a deeper understanding of his work.

  • Report Abuse

    Looking forward to that exhibition, Peter! Also must visit the botanical gardens in Padua - Ann, if you make it in Feb, maybe we could go together?

    Can you both stop publicising Al Squero, though?!? :-) We went for lunch on Friday & there weren't many cicheti left, went again today and there were *none*!

  • Report Abuse

    ok, I'll forget about Al Squero - let's hope that the initial enthusiasm for it has fallen off by February.

    I'd love to go to Padua with you Caroline - if the Venice trip comes off in Feb, it's a deal.

  • Report Abuse

    Venice
    2015
    Arts Biennale.

    The Arts Biennale can be confusing. Arrangements of things that are termed “an installation”. A Chinese artist making a sound commentary on Chinese consumerism, by way of pharmaceutical capsules, about half a metre high, carefully arranged.

    Performance arts, like our friend Phil participating in the reading of Das Kapital, session by session. Phil says it’s about to get boring, as economic theory and tables can make for pretty pedestrian reading.

    There was a little performance piece on Sunday night, at the north end of Fond. di Madonna, at the bridge across the Rio di Santa Maria Maggiore. A most spirited performance, ghetto blaster cranked up to full noise, half a dozen folk on percussion, mainly aluminium saucepan lids and a couple of steel woks for bass notes, bashing them on the cast iron railings of the bridge. Not exactly your Quadri Stagioni, but a pleasing change.

    So the melody was being carried on the bridge, and the continuo provided by the guys in the Pensieri, bashing on the bars and louvres with whatever implements came to hand. A prison micro riot, or a performance piece. Who knows? I can’t find reference to this performance in my Biennale guide, but maybe it is more an impromptu kind of thing.

    We moved house yesterday, from the apartment near to Piazzle Roma to the place we have for the next month. Moving was no big deal, three bridges and a ten minute walk. But at the same time, the move has put us in a different part of Venice, even though it was only a short walk. There is a different feel, a little supermarket that is really good, a small metal working shop at our front door, grinders, power hack saw, press, and I like the smell of hot metal as we walk past. We are completely off the tourist trail, just west of the Palazzo Ariani on Fondamenta Briati.

    Interesting. In Melbourne, if I moved house to a place ten minutes away, there would be almost no difference. But in Venice there is a big difference, and that says something of the parochial nature of Venice that still obtains.

    Querini Stampalia Foundation today, a Biennale exhibition looking at the interface between Venice, tourists and workers. There was one touching exhibit. A brick, with the footprint of a youth in it, another brick with the footprint of a dog in it.

    Boy starts work in a brickyard in 1740. His dog comes along. Boy chases dog away, treads on brick, leaves footprint in wet brick. Works at brickyard all his life, dies aged about forty, is survived by his mother, who also works in the brickyard.

    That brick is the only thing that survives from that worker, the only tangible evidence that he ever existed.

    Reminds me of the last line from the Hemingway story, “The Old Man at the Bridge”. “That, and the fact that cats could look after themselves, was all the luck that old man was ever going to have.”

    The Quereni Stampalia is still my favourite building in all of Venice.

    Meanwhile, Australia has dispensed with a Prime Minister of right wing persuasion. Speaking of bricks, I believe that the space between his ears was mainly filled with masonry.

  • Report Abuse

    Performance arts, like our friend Phil participating in the reading of Das Kapital, session by session. Phil says it’s about to get boring, as economic theory and tables can make for pretty pedestrian reading.>>

    mmmm - not sure that it would ever reach great levels of excitement, but what ever floats your boat, I suppose. Was the reading in English, Italian or German? Congrats to Phil for getting involved in the Biennale, anyway.

    I've not made it to the Querini Stampalia yet - thanks for reminding me to put it on my list for February, if the trip comes off.

    I see that your new abode is only 5 mins walk to the Campo Santa Margarita which I know well as the language school is there, but I never explored the area to the west of it much, as my digs were in the opposite direction. If I make it back next Feb, I'll be sure to try to find it. BTW, you probably already know it, but il caffe rosso in the Campo SM is very nice with good spritz and cicchetti -

    http://www.cafferosso.it/pages/menu.html

  • Report Abuse

    I thought all the Biennale exhibitions at the QS this year were good. The brickworks bit was very moving, wasn't it?

    Peter, did I mention the Oxford School of English (the Venice one) has moved to the QS - posh, eh? I imagine they must have a separate entrance round the back but I don't know yet.

    Ann, that area to the west of CSM has lots of interesting things to see, including the church of Sant'Angelo Raffaele (featured in 'Miss Garnet's Angel') and our very favourite church, San Nicolo dei Mendicoli. Much of the QS is only open for Biennale exhibitions but the permanently-open parts (the museum and the Carlo Scarpa area including the garden) are well worth visiting in their own right.

  • Report Abuse

    caroline - due to a little local difficulty I've been away for a short while, but I'm back now, albeit with a new alias.

    I must make sure that I take some time to look round that area, now both of you have brought it to my attention. The group that I was with last Feb [and am likely to be with next Feb if the trip takes place] concentrates on the main sights as none of the kids have been to venice before but as it's up to me what I do, so I will put it towards the top of my list.

  • Report Abuse

    I had always felt sorry for Ludovico Manin the last Doge; but now, not so much. Yes, the unpleasantness of 1797, Manin (who burst into tears on his election as Doge) voted out of office by the Grand Council – with less than a quorum, French soldiers strolling into the Piazza, taking all the tables at Florians and Quadri, firing up Gauloise smokes and requesting the café orchestras play something more appropriate, like say, the Marseillaise. Unhappy times and all that for Manin.

    So, my lack of sympathy stems from a trip to Codroipo, one and a half hours by train east of Venice. At Codroipo is to be found Manin’s country villa. It is a nice little place, Classical façade, formal garden of some hectares with a pair of ornamental lakes, belvederes, statuary, an orangerie, pretty much everything a country gent would need. The villa would have maybe two hundred rooms, so when Manin sadly handed the Ducal hat to his servant, he was not about to become homeless, his wife not about to become a bag lady. If you google Villa Manin Codroipo, you’ll see what I mean. The garden is lovely, a sort of faded elegance to it, a sort of melancholy.

    On to Palmanova, a fortified town, built be the Venetians following the Battle of Lepanto. Palmanova was built out of nothing, on a plain, as both a fortified town and some sort of Utopian dream city, like Canberra or Brasilia. Built as a nine pointed star, a fine example of military engineering at the time, and all the streets in the city radiate out from a large central plaza. The ramparts and walls are intact, and one can trace the development of the fortifications, and the way they were modified to take account of improvements in military ordnance. At the time of inception, in 1593, siege machines hurling rocks and maybe bombs would present the main risks, and by 1806, when the fortifications were upgraded under Napoleon, cannon fire could probably be laid right into the main plaza. Construction took about thirty years, the first modifications were undertaken from 1658 to 1690, and the Napoleonic upgrade a relatively rapid seven years, as they are mainly earthen ramparts. I can’t help but think that there is a certain passive/aggressive theme to these fortifications. Obviously there must have ben a period of peace during construction, the Venetians and Ottomans maintaining at least some sot of civility. Yet at the same time, a fortified town invites aggression.

    “Build it and they will come.” Or not.

    From Wiki:” The humanist theorists of the ideal city designed numerous planned cities that look intriguing on paper but were not especially successful as liveable spaces. Along the northeastern frontier of their mainland empire, the Venetians began to build in 1593 the best example of a Renaissance planned town: Palmanova, a fortress city designed to defend against attacks from the Ottomans in Bosnia. Built ex nihilo according to humanist and military specifications, Palmanova was supposed to be inhabited by self-sustaining merchants, craftsmen, and farmers. However, despite the pristine conditions and elegant layout of the new city, no one chose to move there, and by 1622 Venice was forced to pardon criminals and offer them free building lots and materials if they would agree to settle the town.”

    Yep, Canberra, Brasilia, English Garden Cities, all those perfectly planned Fields of Dreams have struggled to become humanised. But Palmanova is worth a visit, even if only to experience an Italian city that is easy to navigate.

  • Report Abuse

    Things in no particular order.

    The best gelati in Venice – try Castello 4977, Fondamenta Osmarin. OK, I have not tried ALL the gelati in Venice, but Lou and I thought this was the best.

    Small glass animals. These are a dime a dozen in Venice, some made locally, others from Beijing and all the Soviet Socialist Republics. However we came across a guy doing really good stuff. What impressed me was his reference book collection. Say you want a glass version of an Amazonian Canoe Eating Beetle, then Vittorio Costantini, Cannaregio 5311, Calle del Fumo, can consult his beetle books, and make you one. His work is amazingly realistic – on display in his shop is a wasp nest plus glass wasps, that a museum in Japan wanted to buy. His work is not cheap – think starting prices of 50 euro – and he makes pieces on commission from all over the world. Take ten minutes to watch him at work as you go to the Fond Nuove for the Burano vap – time well spent.

    Thinking of the Burano / Torcello vap, there is much advice on here about a traghetto vap that runs from Burano to Torcello. ACTV have changed the routes, so you’d be well advised to check prior. The timetables are really confusing.

    Just over the way from our apartment is the Palazzo Zenobio, which is hosting the Lithuanian pavilion for the Biennale. One good thing about the Biennale is that, even if the works on display are placed somewhere between the opaque and incomprehensible, you still get an opportunity to enter some buildings that would otherwise be closed.

    The Lithuanian works are pretty much about recent Lithuanian history, the lead up to the end days of the USSR, Socialist Realist art, vodka labels and so on. An interesting story there if one was better informed than me about the history of those republics, Lithuania, Estonia, the Baltic states generally. However, at least the Lithuanian pavilion gives a good reason, and a point of entrée, to the Zenobio Palazzo garden, which is tucked in behind the Carmini. It is a bit unkempt, but you can still see the traces of what once has been.

    And there was an interesting contrast, a counterpoint, to Lithuania. A photography master class in action. These photographers were no wedding snappers or paparazzi looking to improve their work, they were involved in a serious class. Several models, superbly coiffed and dressed, with a BMI of about 12.3. Looking a million dollars, and that was just the shoes.

    So we were able to watch for a while, watching the real business of how a look is captured at 1/60th at f16, the dialogue between model and photographer, the coaching “Talk to her, she’s a person not an object” and so on. Photographers from all over the place, UK, Rumania, USA, wherever.

    So, no Socialist Realist photos being taken, and the contrast was fun.

    Torcello. There seems to be a bit happening on Torcello. Fields that we’ve seen as fallow for half a dozen years are now cleaned up and planted with artichokes. While we were there, a boat arrived with a couple of thousand artichoke seedlings, so it will be busy tomorrow. Lots of undergrowth has been cleared, trees trimmed back, brambles chopped.

    But the big thing for us on Torcello is that the work on the campanile is completed, save for stripping some scaffold, and you can climb to the top. It is easier than it looks, as the climb is mostly up a winding set of ramps, with the occasional step. Once at the top, a completely new vista unfolds. Burano looks like a collection of brightly coloured match boxes, the canals that intersect Torcello can be interpreted, a fishing shack out the back, with nets suspended, is laid out in front of you. A place with manicured gardens and a helipad (that’s my idea of a villa) is right there, but invisible from the ground.

    The bells are in place with their electric drives, but you can see where the bell ropes would once have passed through the floor of the bell chamber and down to the ground. There are slots for four ropes, but there are only three bells – something of a story there, as the bells date from around 1750.


    Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1
    Enter Salanio

    Salanio - “Now, what news on the Rialto”

    The Rialto is undergoing heavy maintenance, and don’t be concerned that the bridge bears large advertising signs advising one to wear Diesel apparel. Don’t confuse Diesel apparel with the sort of workwear that a diesel mechanic might wear, Hi Vis and all, Diesel is expensive. Which is a good thing.

    OTB Spa is sponsoring the Rialto restoration to the tune of 5,005,000 euro, the bang for their five million bucks being that they can hang their advertising on the Rialto. OTB Spa own the Diesel fashion label, plus a few others, and they will have their adverts in place for a couple of years, and good luck to them.

    The Works are significant and complex, a lot of the tasks being done at night. On the San Polo side of the bridge, turn left onto the fondamenta, and there is a good display showing the structural and architectural problems that the contractors are dealing with, and there is a scrolling display of photographs too. On the San Marco side, you can peer in through holes in the hoarding, and see the work in place. The traffic problems in that area are a nightmare, just upstream from the Rialto vap stops, so if concrete has to be placed, a mixer and pump have to come in on a barge. Impossible during day time, with taxis, vaps, gondolas and all the other traffic there.

    So right now, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (aka the ex-Post Office), the Camerlinghi court building, and the bridge connecting the two are all undergoing restoration. Cranes and barricades everywhere.

  • Report Abuse

    We took the plunge, made the committment, and renewed our Venice iMob/Venezia Unica passes for a further five years, so we have no choice to return here in future.

    More significant, we have friends here. Caroline, who posts on Fodors as Caroline_Edinburgh (even though she has been Caroline Venezia for three years) and Phil (go buy a copy of his book, The Venice Project, before he is famous).

    Phil's written a novel, set in Venice, and he learned yesterday that it, along with a sequel, has been accepted for publication. Due out in Spring, 1917, and Phil might be the next Donna Leon.

    So we had a happy celebration last night at Gastrosteria, San Marco 4346, Calle dei Fuseri, the best meal we have ever eaten in Venice. Made a hole in Phil's advance from the publishers.

    They chucked us out around 1:00 AM, a delightful night.

  • Report Abuse

    i composed a long reply to this yesterday, which wouldn't post an now I've lost it. RATS. anyway, thanks for all of that, Peter.

    Many congrats to Phil - in years to come when he is rich and famous I will be able to dine out on the story of taking him a Dr Who magazine in my luggage.

  • Report Abuse

    Sunday, 27th September, and a trip to the islands. There is a bit of a lagoon thing that happens this weekend, excursions and functions all over the lagoon. We have been to Mazzorbo / Burano / Torcello several times, and always wondered about the small island opposite Burano, now used as a scout camp. The island is Mazzorbetto, and given that Mazzorbo = Major Urbis (in Latin) = Major City, I guess that Mazzorbetto was just a small town in its day.

    But Mazzorbetto did have a monastery, dedicated to Saint Eufemia, started in A.D. 900, by a gentlewoman from Padua, surviving until 12th September, 1768, when the Senate decreed that the monastery should be closed, and the island and buildings passed to military management.

    The monastery building was demolished in 1838, to allow construction in 1839 of a fortress, intended to be an ammunition depot, rather than an artillery post. The opinions of the nuns, at being thrown out of the nunnery, is not recorded. Nor are opinions of military strategists, who might have wondered how on earth a munitions depot was meant to operate, given that the guns needing the munitions might be a bit far away, like Mestre, and any boats carrying munitions could be sunk by small arms fire. The Austrians were running Venice at that time, Daniel Manin not making much noise until 1848.

    So one can visualise a small fleet of boats carrying powder and shot from the munitions factory on Certosa to little magazines dotted all over the lagoon.

    In 1909, when hostilities were anticipated, the military planners decided, after rejecting five different designs, that the magazine should be demolished, and emplacements created for half a dozen 149G guns. 149G’s have a bore of about five inches, no effective recoil mechanism, cannot be laid accurately and, except for maybe opening hostilities against Torcello, would be pretty useless. There is no evidence that the 149G’s were ever mounted, maybe someone saw sense, or it was realised that the lagoon was the least of concerns in 1915.

    Move on to the 1930’s, the military have abandoned the fortress, and the place is now a summer camp for kids. Well, maybe not exactly a summer camp, as photos show large numbers of children, playing regimented ball games in perfect geometrical formations. Visible, painted on the gun emplacements, is “Salve Il Duce”, and the information board at the site recounts “After having been abandoned, it was allegedly used as a summer holiday centre by the fascist regime”. I’m not sure what’s being alleged, Leni Reifenstahl might enlighten a bit, as it looks like her photos.

    And now the site is a Boy Scout camp, and has been such since the mid-80’s. The scouts did rather well today, providing lunch for a mere 24 euro for the two of us, starting with a bottle of passable red, mineral water, potato crisps, bread, antipasto, ravioli, a plate of chicken, beef, polenta and two sorts of sausage, salad, sweet biscuits and coffee. All served on plastic picnic ware, with some formality, by a very cheerful bunch of young people.

    Rather fun being traghetto’d from Mazzorbo to Mazzorbetto as well. We followed this by a stroll around Burano, via the vineyard on Mazzorbo. I get the general impression that “stuff is happening” in the lagoon, the Torcello campanile restored, canal and bridge works on Torcello completed, a lot of cleaning up work undertaken, pavements properly repaired on Burano, the ferry service from Fond Nove seems to work better, the Fortress Maximilian on Sant’ Erasmo restored and re-purposed, Certosa looking more and more like a park. The house of Il Professore on Burano has been fixed up, so there’s work going on all over the place. Commentators so often seem to say that Venice is on her last legs, and the work going on all over the place gives the lie to that.

    Makes me rather happy.

  • Report Abuse

    sounds like a lovely day, Peter. Burano was very busy when we spend a couple of hours there last February, so perhaps the influx of visitors is producing the € required for the works you mention.

    Good lunch as well by the looks of it.

  • Report Abuse

    There’s a lot of Arts Biennale action in town. At the Fortuny, there is an exhibit called “Proportio”, looking at the knowledge of proportions and sacred geometry. Somehow these proportions are pleasing to the eye, particularly the golden ratio, 1:Sqrt2, or 1:1.4149, the proportions of A4 etc sized paper. That ratio is seen in the smaller façade of the Parthenon. A number of other ratios are also displayed, 1:1, 1:phi, 1:sqrt5, 1:sqrt3, modelled in large scale by way of small buildings. The building are made of hemp fibre, bound with hydrated lime. It all sounds a bit esoteric, but when you walk around inside the structures, it seems to make sense.

    Architectural models are on display also, one by The Corb, of a beach side villa that featured in a satirical movie at the Archi Biennale last year, some Mies van der Rohe projects, and many others, plus a very detailed model, about two metres long, for a neo-Classic villa on the Brenta. That model would have been created for the client, the architect and builder using it to persuade all parties that, would they kindly sign the damn contract so we can get to work.

    A great coherent display, covering three floors in a great exhibition space.

    It’s all happening at the Giardini, and the global theme of the Biennale is “All the World’s Futures”. Some artists seem to anticipate a pretty bleak future, works that remind one of that book “The Road”, a bleak post-Apocalyptic future. Others are much more promising.

    Australia has a brand new pavilion, a big black box that replaced the temporary pavilion that was built some time in the 70’s. We Aussies have a long established habit of building temporary structures, then holding them together with bits of fencing wire, corrugated iron patches, Super Glue and string for decades or centuries. But it was time for the old pavilion to go, and the new one is a great building. Designed by Denton Corker Marshall, and it has their architectural handwriting all over it, particularly the projecting portico over the Rio dei Giardini. That’s a very DCM touch, and the whole building looks like a package, with the contents being the important thing. They’ve avoided totally any reference to the Australian traditional vernacular, shearing sheds, kangaroos, verandahs, and it really works in a European context.

    The Serbian pavilion caused me to think a bit. The display is essentially a number of small piles of flags on the floor, that have been defaced with paint. If you knew more of European politics than I do, you might recognise them. There are plaques on the wall, recording the failure or disappearance of political entities, and the relevant dates. For instance, GDR 1946-19 whenever, United Soviet Socialist Republic 1920-19something, South Vietnam, Austro-Hungary, Ottoman Empire 1200-1922, South Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and many others. Maybe the artist is saying something about the future, and that the world might be a better place with fewer artificial political constructs.

    There is a bit of a parallel there, too. Last year, for the Arch Biennale, the Serbian pavilion had a display of about 140 models of parliament building, the British Houses of Parliament, Congress, the Australian Parliament House, Papua New Guinea, all to the same scale, all produced in white, 3D laser printing. That display had a lot to say about the voice of people, and so this year’s display seemed a continuation.
    The pavilion of the Nordic countries is a delightful structure, concrete, apertures in the roof for three trees that grow through it. There is a lot glazing, very light, and the concrete structure is finely detailed. The display was composed of many identical window frames, about 2 metres by 3.8 metres (there you go, the Golden Mean), piled on one another, all the glass smashed. It looks as though the glass was smashed in situ, so installation must have been a fun time. Maybe saying something about the future, saying that even barriers that are transparent need to be broken down.

    [Note to self: Consider re-training as a glazier if that’s what the future contains.]

    Would you like the key to the future? The Japanese pavilion has it. Recently restored, it looks good. On the ground floor, four video screens tell the stories of children, talking about “where they came from”. Children aged about three or fours years, and given Japanese demographics, they surely need those children. On the upper level, an installation. Two wooden boats, some keys and some red knitting wool. Maybe ten thousand keys, kilometres of wool, the keys suspended in shapes that you walk through and around, the boats still containing a few thousand keys. Keys to the future, maybe? Saves putting a lock on the Ponte del Academia and chucking the key into the Canal Grande.

    Not much to say about the Venezuela pavilion, except that it is a Carlo Scarpa building, and it has been restored. He building pleases me more than the contents, that I don’t really remember.

    Deutchland. Oh, those Germans. Last year, the chancellors bungalow from Bonn was displayed, with a ten thousand word explanation of the significance of said bungalow. The works on display included people who one cannot see (if they even exist), creating something invisible, and allegedly throwing boomerangs. A brief brochure (a couple of thousand words) explains it. But explained to me.

    Belgium. Self referential, particularly looking back at Belgian activities in Africa, the Congo. Colonial history is pretty horrible for many colonial powers, the Belgians are confronting theirs.

    France. Trees are static, rooted, immobile, fixed, permanent, carve your initials and come back later to see if the bark has grown over. The French are making some sort of statement about trees, the fact that they are not permanent, immobile, whatever. So there are three trees, uprooted, with the root ball nicely contained. Contained and mounted on an invisible trolley, so the trees just stroll around under their own steam. Two trees outside, one inside, and the movement is mesmerising. Maybe a “Day of the Triffids” reference, great to watch for fifteen minutes.

    Padiglione Venezia. A really optimistic display, and if you have concerns as to what “All the World’s Futures” might look like, then head to the Veneto. Half a dozen displays, displaying technology, but technology scaled to human dimensions. An example – a wearable airbag system, for people engaged in high risk occupations. Textiles, incorporating traditional and modern technologies, computer controlled Jacquard looms. Furniture incorporating different materials, pressed steel + beech timber. A small plastic injection machine, scaled to suit bottle production adjacent to a mineral spring. Good stuff.

    Canada, totally wild. You enter through a small shop, selling lottery tickets, fish hooks, cans of soup, a prairie general store. As you move through the store, the labels start to become a bit blurred, out of focus, consumerism ain’t all its cracked up to be, and by the time you leave, you are wondering if said store might be able to recommend a decent optometrist. Move upstairs, and it’s a bit noisy. An installation where you put a coin through a slot, and it rolls down a chute, is lifted by conveyor, rolls further, and appears between two clear acrylic sheets. Falls to the bottom, like a pinball. It’s impossible to trace your own coin, as the installation is very big. It is very seductive, the temptation to insert coins huge, and maybe consumerism is like that.

    Next, the Arsenale in a couple of days time.

  • Report Abuse

    I’ve always wanted to get inside the Church of San Antonin, and on this, our sixth visit to Venice, I finally made it. It’s recorded that in about 1808, an elephant escaped from a circus on the Rive Schiavoni, taking refuge in the church, and was shot “with a piece of ordnance from the Arsenale”. No remnant bloodstains, I’m pleased to report.

    The Biennale has caused work to displayed all over Venice, including at San Antonin in Castello. And what a work it is. One can be forgiven for thinking that the internet is the new religion, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates et al the new High Priests, the Cloud replacing Heaven, the dreaded Windows blue screen a new version of Purgatory, Charon the boatman on the Styx replaced by Mark Zuckerberg.

    So we have an installation in San Antonin talking about this phenomenon. A huge Facebook logo, the lower case “f” erected in front of the alter, and yet still looking a little like a cross.

    Life sized figures, made from white mesh, so they are semi transparent, ghostlike, wearing robes, engaged in various tasks. Their postures mimic the figures in Tiepolo’s Stations of the Cross in the San Polo sacristy, but they are performing very temporal tasks, like erecting a mobile phone tower. Another group seem in despair, caused by an apparent inability to connect, to get on line, or maybe stuck with a lousy 3G connection. (Apropos of nothing, the San Antonin campanile houses a group of mobile phone antennae.)

    So we see figures of Neo-Apostles, bearing a sacred new knowledge, manifested in a stream of virtual information. There is a certain amount of rubbish, and in the electronic age, rubbish and truth have the same veracity. Conspiracy theories have the same currency as truth.

    All in all, a comment on twenty first century iconography, the selfie having the same integrity as self discovery and self reflection.

  • Report Abuse

    Peter, great report. We're just working on a TR of our recent trip to Central Europe, and reading yours has us looking to our next trip. France? Italy? Spain? We appreciate all the details you've included. Thanks so much!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Ann,
    We left Venice on Tuesday 13th, just escaping the acqua alta, but our land lady did tell us to hurry a bit, and that the fondamenta in front of the Palazzo Zenobio was about to flood. Just made it with dry feet.

    It's rubber boot time and fishing waders in Venice now!

  • Report Abuse

    I thinks it's good to sort the next trip before the last fades from memory. So I've planned a trip to Venice, travelling solo, arriving 25th Sep, departing 12th Oct. Air BnB'd an apartment just over the way from the Frari, an area I know pretty well, a good bar about ten metres from my door. It overlooks Campiello Zen, maybe some Zen-like tranquility, maybe not.


    This trip will be planned more than the previous visits, and it is all about the Architecture Biennale. A couple of days in each of the Arsenale and Giardini, plus probably some thirty or forty other venues in Venice and Marghera. I think it will be a busy time.

    It's good to have some sort of an agenda when visiting. Once it was to see every Tiepolo painting in Venice, another to see every example of Carlo Scarpa's architectur, another to tick off most of the churches on the Chorus pass. Seeing the churches somehow connects one to the parochial nature of Venice, which still obtains to this day.

    Last visit was the Arts Biennale, and I struggled with that. The Architecture Biennale is more approachable for me.

    Next trip after September wil be Spring 2017. There's a book launching which should be a hoot. I want to cut a deal with the author. "We'll attend the launch of your first book, if you write us into your second." Impossible to resist!

78 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.

Advertisement