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Venice - another trip report (deja vu all over again)

Venice - another trip report (deja vu all over again)

Old Apr 7th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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I didn't know of the Olivetti showroom either! It's on the list for next year.
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Old Apr 7th, 2013, 07:44 AM
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P_eter I have enjoyed reading your trip report.Thanks..

BTW, yesterday I have sent an email to your landlord but I am still waiting for his answer.
I will be traveling with my grown daughter and plan to stay four days in Venice.

We both love the Queen of the Adriatic..
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Old Apr 7th, 2013, 07:28 PM
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Peter, I am loving your report! We are going to be in Venice at the end of this month, coinciding with the feast day of San Marco. Any tips or advice on plans we should make for that day? Thank you in advance.
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Old Apr 8th, 2013, 08:08 AM
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We spent the better part of today in Castello, mainly because we like San Pietro. The main focus in Venice seems to be the Rialto - San Marco axis, and San Pietro slumbers rather way east of the action.

It's not always been so, provide that one believes the myths. There was a shrine to a brace of Saints, Sergius and Bacchus, on the island of Olivolo (so named because there were, you guessed it, olives growing there). Later a castle was built there, hence Castello for the island, and later for the sestiere. All of which goes to show that San Pietro is somewhat old.

San Pietro was also the seat of religious power - in a time when religion exercised real power - until 1807, when the seat of power moved west to the Basilica, until then the private chapel of the Doge. Compared to many churches, San Pietro is quite sparse. There's a remnant fragment of Roman mosaic in front of one altar, the bodies of the sainted Sergius and Bacchus contained in another. But the feel is of almost Shaker simplicity, compared to, say, the Basilica.

There's a nice legacy of the inevitable conflict between temporal and religious power near San Pietro. If you look at the path from the steps of the Cathedral to the end of the nearest bridge, there's a single white stone set in the footpath. It marks the point, exactly half way from the church steps to the Doges's barge landing point where the two gentlemen would meet. Both men saving face. It's visible on Google maps!

Castello is worth walking around a bit. In a way, the eastern parts seemed to have turned their backs on the tourist market, perhaps an industrial legacy from the Arsenal. It's as though the residents and the tourists don't intersect, maybe we're on a different trajectory.

We passed by the gallery of Giorgio Ghidoli, near the Campo San Antonin (an elephant was shot in the church of San Antonin, after the unhappy animal escaped from a circus in 1808 or thereabouts. Jumbo was buried on the Lido). I digress.

Ghidoli is fun. How would Picasso, Klimt, Leonardo, Van Gogh, Caravaggio have painted a gondola. Ghidoli has considered the problem, and created paintings of gondolas in the styles of a dozen artists. My favourite is his Mondrian gondola - a painting in three frames, which explains, in a way, how Mondrians thought processes worked. Take a look at http://collezioneimpossibile.com/introen.html which shows his works.

Although Ghidoli has not much English, we have a little connection. Two years ago, we commissioned a work by him, a watercolour of No 1, Santa Croce, a building that Lou rather likes and insists that I buy for her. We had Ghidolo paint a watercolour of No 1 from a photo that we emailed him, so I was able to "buy" No 1 for Lou.

She's still not satisfied.

Women ...
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Old Apr 8th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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Peter - I love the Hieronymus Bosch one with the head coming up through the sides of the boat!

i've bee reading Donna Leon today - i close my eyes and I can see the good Commissario striding across the Rialto bridge to buy some flowers for his wife only to discover that the shop is shut.
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Old Apr 8th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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Peter, I have rented the apartment for four days.

My daughter really liked the terrace. Later on I will ask you, if you don't mind, more informations about the area, where is the grocery shop and the best way to go around the neighborhood.

We usually stay around Ponte Rialto and aren't too much familiar of Venice in general.

Thanks again for showing us the apartment website.
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Old Apr 13th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Peter, I love your detailed reports from Venice - my favorite place! I always have the Hotel Concordia webcam open on my laptop and watch the acqua alta in the Piazza, the locals walking their dogs and going to work in the morning, the four separate souvenir sellers, and of course the tourists.

Early this morning (about 5:00 pm Venice time) there was a large fenced-off area completely packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, too close together to move much, and I haven't been able to figure out what in the heck was going on. Three hours later they're all gone, the fences are gone, and what looks like some kind of white flooring is being taken up.

Do you have any idea what was happening?
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Old Apr 13th, 2013, 08:20 AM
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Linda, there was a religious ceremony happening - the first step towards Sainting somebody. Big crowd in the Piazza.
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Old Apr 13th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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I guess the reason for travelling is to see things that you don't see at home. We went to Florence for a couple of days, and the differences caught my eye.

I read recently that, on a per capita basis, Australia has more high performance cars than any other country. This surprised me, as I've always envisioned Germans blasting down the autobahns in fast cars. Australians are in a loving relationship with their cars - Australian men, anyway.

The love affair extends to bicycles in Aus - ten thousand dollar bicycles are not uncommon. So, in Aus, you'll see guys commute to work on a bike worth thousands, and then change into a one hundred dollar suit. In Florence, you'll see guys commuting in a one thousand dollar suit, on a bicycle that's maybe worth twenty bucks.

The same goes for motor scooters. Both Lou and I have Vespas, hers a 125cc four stroke, mine a PX 200 two stroke, that blows a fine plume of smoke. We get concerned if there's the odd scratch on the scooters, and are careful where we park them. We'd be hopeless in Italy - you see the occasional scooter lying on its side, having fallen over. No-one cares that much. Scooters are for transport, not prestige. Ditto bicycles.
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Old Apr 13th, 2013, 08:24 AM
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Wow! Thanks so much for the quick reply! I knew you'd have an answer for me.
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Old Apr 18th, 2013, 07:03 AM
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We went to the Lido yesterday, and the Lido seems to be coming alive, getting ready for Summer. We last went there on a cold January day, temperature about 6 degrees Celsius, and the feeling then was quite surreal. The beach was deserted, the guy running the kiosk at the beach was playing opera - la Traviata, if memory serves - and little else was happening.

Yesterday was sunny, the beach huts getting cleaned up and readied, people sun bathing, a vey different scene. I think the Lido is worth visiting, if only to see the strange structure at the beach, as you walk down the main drag to the Terrazza a Mare. Maybe it's the Lido's answer to your regulation amusement pier, and it's really odd, serving no useful purpose, probably built in the 1960's, as some sort of folly. An elevated walkway, spiral staircase so steep that you'd need a safety harness to ascend without risk, stairs to nowhere. The whole thing with barely a straight line, all circles, maybe inspired by the cafeteria at the Venezia S.M. station. Or maybe the architect forgot his ruler that day, and thought a compass was enough.

So parts of the Terrazza are just rusting away, areas closed off, abandoned. The abandonment thing is an aspect of Italy that I notice and don't really understand. From the train, you will see farm buildings that are falling down, unused, ripe for demolition, yet they still stand. Maybe the land they stand on is not that precious - hard to understand when holdings are so small. In Venice, I notice doors that have not been opened in maybe centuries, abandoned gardens.

Further along the Lido, east, past the little beach huts, numbering in their thousands, to the ex-hospital, also abandoned. It's being cleaned up somewhat, mainly to sanitise it, as it's likely full of asbestos lagging on steam pipes. There's a budget of around a million euro for the works, and then I think there's a scheme to turn the site over for private development. Maybe rich people can fly their personal aircraft to the adjacent air strip on the Lido. Hospitals are hard to recycle into other uses, unless they are really (like many centuries) old, because of the architecture and layout, and maybe a spooky, sad legacy is also an inhibition. So good luck to the consortium that is going to recycle the Osperdale al Mare.

Further along, past Jewish cemetery, to the Christian cemetery. We had a Jewish friend stay with us here for a couple of days. I sort of know the Ghetto, maybe as well as a Gentile can know it, so it was great to have someone with us with a spiritual connection, someone who could explain the significance of the Torah, the way women and men are segregated inside synagogues and so on. The synagogue tour in the Ghetto is really worth doing, and the guide had a very dry, as dry as dust, a very Jewish, sense of humour.

So we noticed the Jewish cemetery on the Lido, and were reminded of how, when a Jewish cemetery is created, no-body wants to be buried there. Nobody wants to be first. On to the Christian cemetery, and we did admire the mausoleums - or some, at least. Many of them have fine architecture, architecture that almost makes a mausoleum look like a small house - which maybe they are. I noticed one that, if not designed by Carlo Scarpa, must have been designed by a student of Scarpa - it has his architectural handwriting all over it, tiny details that make for a really pleasing edifice. Another mausoleum, rather intellectual, with the Greek letters alpha and omega on the doors, those two letters being the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the start and finish of life. The adjacent mausoleum, with double doors that make the letter omega, dispensing with the apha. Those doors also suggest a lunette, a moon window, maybe saying something about the moon equating to the end of life.

Life - in the form of beach goers - will soon return to the Lido, inhabiting all those little beach cabins. I'd really like to know how the beach cabin thing works at a social level, but we will be back in Australia (where there are no beach cabins to rent) before Summer really starts on the Lido
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 03:03 AM
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Bassano del Grappa
We took a day trip to Bassano del Grappa, although I'm not much into grappa. Regional train from Venice, which took about an hour and a half. Much of the track is single working, so we spent a while waiting for "up" trains to pass. A good trip, the train going slowly enough to allow a good look at the landscape. It interests me to look at how agriculture is practiced - no fences between properties, as there is no livestock in the fields, the boundaries marked maybe with a line of trees, or a ditch. A lot of drainage channels, the land very flat.

Crops, but it's hard to tell what they are. Horticulture, vegetable plots, spring planting in full swing. The farms are about the size of what we'd call a hobby farm in Australia, maybe 15 or 25 acres, but farmed intensively. And maybe there's an off-farm income from somewhere.

The main sight in Bassano del Grappa is the bridge, designed by Palladio, but there were bridges pre-Palladio, washed away not infrequently. When the Brenta floods, either through massive rain or from snow melt, the bridge certainly takes a pounding. The bridge pylons are constructed to avoid the build up of water-borne rubbish - it's the rubbish building up against a bridge that leads to the bridge being washed away. There are stone tablets around the town, marking the level of the Brenta during various floods, 1896, November 1966 (which also saw the Arno inundate Florence, and Venice being flooded).

One span of the bridge was blown by the retreating Germans in 1945, and it was re-built by volunteers from the Alpini regiment in 1948; the Alpini have always had a place in their hearts for the bridge. The bridge was re-built, "com'era e dov'era", "how it was, and where it was", like the campanile in San Marco. There's a small Alpini Regiment museum at the side of the bridge away from Bassano, and it is worth a look. Those guys were pretty tough.

During the Great War, there were three battles fought on Monte Grappa, and the Italian defence on Monte Grappa was key to preventing an Austro-Hungarian invasion of Italy in 1917, and the Alpini were involved in all three. Memorials in the town are worth a look, and the town is proud of their regiment.

We walked along the Viale dei Martini, being somewhat lost, and found some forty trees, commemorating partisans hanged by the Germans in 1945. Each tree has a name on it, on a ceramic plate.

People have long memories - there are fresh flowers at many of the trees.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 05:20 AM
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Museums and Concerts

We had planned to visit the Accademia on Saturday, but the line stretched almost to the vaporetto stop, so we went to the Correr museum instead. "Correr Museum" is really a misnomer - it's really three museums rolled into one. We spent two or three hours there, and did not do it justice. You could easily spend a couple of days there, and I'd last visited about six years ago.

They have opened five or six rooms that have been restored to how they were during the Austrian period, and they are quite lovely. Fabric wall hangings - like wall paper - that is the same pattern as the curtains. Furniture from the period gives an idea of how the rather wealthy lived at the time.

There are a bunch of Canova plasters, as well as one that has had metal plugs inserted, allowing measurements to be taken when "transcribing" the plaster to marble. This was new to me. I'd always thought that a sculptor had taken a block of marble, and just hacked into it, so seeing a plaster with a couple of hundred carefully placed measurement points was interesting. Canova had a quiet sense of humour - there's an image of Venus (or Aphrodite), Goddess of the Sea, holding a sceptre. OK, that's pretty common. But on closer inspection, the sceptre is actually an anchor.

The historical section, that demonstrates so well the growth of Venice, could keep one engaged for hours, days. There's an added delight for me - Carlo Scarpa was engaged to re-design the rooms, in 1953. There's almost a dialogue with three participants, the historian, Scarpa, and the viewer. So many of the pieces have had special displays created for them, and also there are easels that are common to the collection. I think that, over time, I'm coming to notice not just what is displayed, but also how it is displayed, picking up on the story that the series of pieces is telling.

A friend was singing in a performance of Benjamin Britten's Cantata for Saint Nicholas so we went along. It was pretty impressive. I've never known much about Britten (born 1913, so this is his centenary year) other than attending a performance of Peter Grimes in 1975. It was a full-on performance, four hands to the piano, percussion, an organist, string orchestra of eight or nine, three choirs (an adult choir of some sixty male and female voices, a female choir and a children's choir). The performance was in the Frari, and we were seated beside the beautifully carved choir stalls, an audience of two hundred. We were overlooked by Titians wonderful alter piece, The Assumption of the Virgin.

The Frari is an enormous space, making for a great experience for the audience, and difficulties for the performers. A ten second period for the echo gives something of a sad, lingering sound, as though there's a reluctance for the sound to go. Meanwhile the singers are trying to pitch their voices for the next passage. Brittens work contains lots of sharps and flats, but when the choirs rolled into the Old One Hundredth, we - or at least I - almost felt like singing along.

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

A great performance, a contradiction in a way. Some of the passages in Britten's work are almost pastoral, calling up a "Norman village church on the green" theme. And there we were, in a stunning Gothic church in Venice, hearing the Cantata.

The children's voices were lovely.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2013, 10:08 AM
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A ten second period for the echo gives something of a sad, lingering sound, as though there's a reluctance for the sound to go. Meanwhile the singers are trying to pitch their voices for the next passage>>

lol, Peter, the choir i sing in regularly performs in our local cathedral where the echo is about 2 seconds and we think that we're hard-done by! Britten is not my thing but i did enjoy singing his St. nicolas a few years ago when i went to a music festival in Salzburg.

When i was in Rome in Feb I went to the Canova exhibition in the national Museum of Rome but sadly I was a bit underwhelmed - the only really impressive statue was the one of napoleon's sister, Pauline, which WAS very fine.

BTW we had success in getting into the Accademia by turning up about an hour before it closed - there was no-one there!
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 02:01 AM
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We spent a couple of hours with Gian Luca on a motor boat tour of Venice. There was my wife and I, and Gian Luca, so it was like a private tour. We spent almost two hours, cruising the back canals, circumnavigated the Ghetto, saw so many things that are just not visible from the land. There are two Venices, a Land Venice and a Water Venice - take the tour if you'd like to see the Water Venice.

Gian Luca is Venetian, so knows so much about the buildings that we went past. We squeezed down the canal beside the Arsenal, six inches to spare on each side, went under the church of San Stefano - possible as the tide was low. Gian's English is excellent, and he met us exactly on time - which is reassuring when you are not quite sure what your guide looks like. The boat is a typical Venetian work boat, a topa, the sort that a tradesman might use.

http://www.vivivenezia.org/vivivenezia.org/Home.html

or maybe send an SMS to the number on the home page, if you don't get a response within a couple of days.
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 04:12 AM
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quanta costa?
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 07:45 AM
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Hi Anne,
60 euro per person, so 120 all up.

Good value, we thought.
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 10:29 AM
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Peter, my husband and I arrive next week for (sadly) only three nights in Venice. Reading your postings has given me several ideas for outings while in Venice. A tour with Gian Luca sounds much more interesting to me than a gondola ride. Thanks for the helpful trip report. Deborah
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Old Apr 28th, 2013, 11:49 AM
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Peter - that sounds like a bargain for a 2 hours trip around the waterways of Venice - a gondola ride is only slightly less than that I think, and lasts at most an hour.

I'm bookmarking it for future reference.
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Old Apr 30th, 2013, 01:39 AM
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So, various things to report on.

A kayak adventure - I've posted that at http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...g-kayaking.cfm . It was really a great day, seeing a new side of Venice. You'll see houses from the street, but the really grand entrances are often from the water. Being in a boat is an excellent way to tour Venice.

Also we took a motor boat tour - the day after we took the kayak tour, so we were really doing marine things. We spent a couple of hours with Gianluca on a motor boat tour of Venice. There was my wife and I, and Gian Luca, so it was like a private tour. We spent almost two hours, cruising the back canals, circumnavigated the Ghetto, saw so many things that are just not visible from the land. There are two Venices, a Land Venice and a Water Venice - take the tour if you'd like to see the Water Venice.

Gianluca is Venetian, so knows so much about the buildings that we went past. We squeezed down the canal beside the Arsenal, six inches to spare on each side, went under the church of San Stefano - possible as the tide was low. Gian's English is excellent, and he met us exactly on time - which is reassuring when you are not quite sure what your guide looks like. The boat is a typical Venetian work boat, a topa, the sort that a tradesman might use.

http://www.vivivenezia.org/vivivenezia.org/Home.html

or maybe send an SMS to the number on the home page, if you don't get a response within a couple of days.

A day trip to Padua. Padua is barely half an hour on the train from Venice, on the Brenta which flows into the lagoon. There's been a town at Padua since Roman times, and they are digging up bits of Roman masonry frequently. The Scrovegni chapel is really worth visiting, not easy as visitor numbers are limited to 25 at a time. The reason for this is that the microclimate in the chapel is controlled, to maintain temperature and humidity levels, so the group of 25 is assembled and held in an air conditioned room to acclimatise them, then they are let into the chapel.

Once in the chapel, a world of frescoes unfolds, amazing detail. The chapel was built in 1303, a mere 610 years ago, and decorated between 1303 and 1305 by Giotto. Enrico Scrovegni had the chapel built and decorated, in the fervent hope that it would spare his father, a usurer, from eternal damnation. I don't know if his investment paid off for his father, but 610 years later, it certainly pays off for we visitors. There's a set of the virtues and vices (usury included), the life of Mary, the life of Christ, and the last judgment, which shows in graphic detail what Enrico was hoping his father would be spared. Wall street usurers should take note of what awaits them if they create another GFC. Theoretically, Giotto painted the work, and he must have had a team of helpers, apprentices painting the background, scaffolders, plasterers, water carriers, some sort of caterers. It would have been like a film set, frenetic activity.

And Enrico nagging them all the time, "Come on, guys. I'm trying to keep my old man out of the fires of Hell, so surely you can put in some extra hours on Saturday. I'll pay. Generously."

The process of creating the works of art and architecture interests me. Would Giotto (Frescoes R Us Inc) have been on a fixed price, fixed duration contract. Would the contract have had a liquidated damages clause, provision for extension of time and variations? I don't know, but I find it hard to believe that Giotto would have been given an open ended brief. It must have been the same for so many public works, Salutes, Rialto bridges.

The town of Padua is great. It's a relatively large town, but somehow seems peaceful, lacking the mad traffic and Vespas of Florence. The vegetable market is fun, overlooked by the Palazzo della Regione, an enormous building, once the city court of justice.

We've seen the Brenta in two different moods now, boiling through Bassano del Grappa, able to rattle Palladio's bridge, whereas in Padua, a most docile stream. Hard to believe it's the same river.
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