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

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

Old May 12th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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By the time we got to Castelvecchio in Verona, I'd seen a fair few museums and galleries. Art Overload is a real risk.

So the attraction at Castelvecchio for me was not so much on WHAT is displayed, but rather on HOW it is displayed. Castelvecchio dates from Roman times, with the current fortifications built over the Roman base by Cangrande II from 1335 to 1375. The bridge, the Ponte Scaligero, was built so that Cangrande would have a northwards escape route in the event of a civil uprising by the citizens of Verona - Cangrande was absolutely hated by the Veronese, and figured that he would find refuge in Germany if push came to shove. The name, Scaligero, comes from the crest of the Cangrande family, a stair, ladder or scala in Italian. Frescoes from the 1370s in the castle show a ladder.

Napoleon's people built a barracks inside the castle perimeter, and the area was reworked as a gallery in the 1920's in a not very sympathetic fashion. Carlo Scarpa was tasked in 1956 to do a renovation, which took some eight years. As a side project, he did the Olivetti showroom in the Piazza in Venice, maybe for some light relief.

It's worked rather well in Verona.

In 1956, the thrust of world architecture, or at least USA architecture where the money was being spent, was all about simplification. The architectural legacy of Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Johnson et al was all about minimisation, socialist worker housing, even if said housing was stacked 38 stories high, like the Seagram building. So I think it took a bit of courage to pick Scarpa for the job, Scarpa with his penchant for the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, small but important detailing, even down to the detailing of the light fittings. An architect comfortable with decoration, buildings designed to relate to their occupants rather than to overwhelm them. Going against the contemporary flow of architecture.

The impression is that the castle is the greatest, the most significant, work on display. The historical structure has been exposed, allowing a clear perception of the various stages of usage. The Roman moat has been excavated, access to the battlements enabled by stairways that are deliberately tight - as they would always have been. There is one stairway in the battlements constructed from 12mm oxidised steel plate. In side elevation, it looks almost solid, small slits only between the plates, echoing the small loopholes in the perimeter. But in end elevation, the stairway almost disappears, becomes invisible. It's hard to describe, and so worth seeing.

There are all sorts of contradictory statements in the museum. The entrance courtyard is somewhat Japanese in its simplicity - but you enter via a restored drawbridge. The Gothic lancet windows at ground level are glazed in an asymmetric fashion, but Gothic is about symmetry. In the ground floor sculpture gallery, marble statues, which are in themselves heavy, appear to float on stone or highly finished concrete bases. Cast iron heaters are allowed to show - but sometimes are hidden inside stone boxes. Sliding security doors are woven from steel strip, echoing the portcullis that would have been at the drawbridge.

On the ground floor, there are small gutters of stone around the perimeters of the rooms, a Venetian reference, reminding one of the ground floor of the Querini-Stampalia Foundation, which gets aqua alta'd. Some of the floors are broken to indicate paving, and maybe to slow one's progress through the spaces, a visual pause.

Most galleries have works that are mainly hanging on walls. But at Castelvecchio, many works are shown on easels which are beautifully detailed. This means that often you will approach a work from the back, see how the canvas is stretched or the wood panels connected before you see the face of the work, almost a silent introduction. It makes for quite an intimate experience.

I'm hesitant to use the word "journey" to describe how the Castelvecchio functions, as "journey" has become part of management-speak, the "journey" towards submitting a tender or creating a budget. So maybe at Castelvecchio, I won't describe it as a journey, rather as a procession. A procession through history, Roman, 14th Century and Napoleonic politics.

There are some good works of art there too. However it's the architecture that does it for me.

Try googling "Scarpa, Castelvecchio Verona Photos" and you'll see what I'm on about.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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I've read a few trip reports, and they are full of useful information, rather than an engineer banging on about the intricacies of architecture, so I'll remedy that situation.

We ate a couple of nights ago at the Ae Oche place in Calle del Tentor in Santa Croce. Ae Oche also have a pizza place on the Zattere, which we've not visited.

A big pizza, good salad and half litre of the house red came to about 28 euro, and we ate well. Ae Oche does not pretend to offer high end dining, and it would be a good place to send your teenagers off for a meal. There is about a 2 euro cover charge per capita, and 12% is added for service. Sometimes people grump about coperto and service charges, but there's no tip expected.

A spritz at the bar next door to the Ae Oche - 2.50. That bar is pretty lively around 11:00 PM.

Other costs. Fizzy mineral water at the supermarket - 38 cents for 1.5 litres. Wine - drinkable, but not vintage by any means - 2.20 a litre (filled into a used mineral water bottle). Cappuccino and brioche near the Frari - 2.50, 2.40 near Rialto. Ginormous scallops on the half shell at Rialto - 14 euro a kilo, and they are good. But some odd ones - sunscreen lotion - cost us 14 euro for the smallest container that we could buy, so bring your own.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 12:26 PM
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Have read and enjoyed your reports, Peter, thank you. We'll be in Venice mid-June, two kids 9 & 12 in tow, on the road since late Feb, currently in Amalfi, but first trip to Venice (after Athens, Santorini & Cardoso near Lucca) Have picked up some ideas re motorboat boat and Lazzareto Nuovo excursions plus sightseeing usual tourist spots. Our weakness is to go off beaten track, explore and see where it takes us...however are there any must dos with kids? Your thoughts and anybody else's are much appreciated. travellers from Perth
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Old May 12th, 2013, 12:29 PM
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ttt
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Old May 12th, 2013, 02:06 PM
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Please advise Venice apt name. WL be there early oct -4nights. Thoughts on weather?
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Old May 12th, 2013, 10:56 PM
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Here is where we are staying. http://www.vrbo.com/149494

October weather should be OK, and fewer visitors and cruise liners.

Yesterday five liners were docked in Venice
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Old May 13th, 2013, 01:08 PM
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We ran into an English couple today near the Rialto, and got to talking. They had seen Francesco da Mosto's DVD's about Venice, and wondered where the family palazzo was. It was fun showing them both, the historical palazzo on the Grand Canal, also the family home (and his blue boat) in Santa Croce. A little tour guide experience.

I rather liked doing the guide thing, and as I've spent six months in Venice over four separate visits, coming to know the city in winter and spring, I thought that it would be fun to share my knowledge, showing a small group what I know as "secret Venice". I'm not pretending to be a Venetian tour guide.

Everyone will have seen the big sights, the Piazza, Rialto, Ducal Palace, Clock tower, but after that, there are a host of small things, little details that make Venice so seductive. The canal running under the church of San Stefano, a bricked up doorway under a bridge, here and there. Details that make up the warp and weft of this amazing place.

So there's a tour available next Tuesday, 21st May - but Wednesday 22nd or Thursday 23rd might suit you better. We will meet in Piazza San Marco at the base of the middle flagpole, lunch at Cantina Shiavoni in Dorsoduro which will set you back about 8 euro, and finish at a vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal, probably San Toma.

You might be wondering what this Australian "tour guide" is like, where does he think he is coming from. You might get an idea from my trip reports:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...over-again.cfm
or
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm


If you are interested, please contact me at [email protected] I think a group of six or eight would work well.
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Old May 13th, 2013, 01:23 PM
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wow, Peter - a great idea.

good luck and please let us know how you get on.
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Old May 13th, 2013, 01:30 PM
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Guess what. Initially I included the sentence "you could pay me ten euro (or whatever)" because I think that people do not value an absolute freebie. I posted that on Fodors and on Tripadvisor as separate posts, and both posts were pulled!

But it would be fun (and I don't need the money)

Cheers.

England will lose the Ashes.

Sorry about that (he said with a total lack of sincerity).
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Old May 13th, 2013, 03:18 PM
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Gosh this is a good read! Thanks Peter!
Does Lou exhibit/ sell her work? I imagine she'd never be short of inspiration on your travels.
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Old May 14th, 2013, 10:50 AM
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England will lose the Ashes.

Sorry about that (he said with a total lack of sincerity).

WE WILL SEE.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:51 AM
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Peter, you make me want to jump on the next (cheap!) flight to Venice!

I'd pay you 10 euros for a tour, plus a bottle of Prosecco.

As for cricket, I think Australia will lose the Ashes.

Sorry about that (she said with a total lack of sincerity).
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Old May 21st, 2013, 08:36 AM
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The Arsenale, along with the ship yards, occupies a big chunk of Venice. It can be frustrating - you get a glimpse inside when you pass the north side on a vaporetto, or when you cross the bridge at the main entrance at Campo de l' Arsenale. But you don't even get a look at the main Darsena Grande, you can't appreciate at all what's inside. There are parts open during the Biennale, and there's some sort of marine festival on the second weekend of May (which I missed).

We got lucky yesterday. We took a picnic, walked past the ex-gasworks, past San Francesco della Vigna (which has a lovely cloister), past the massive colonnade, and reached the Celestia vap stop. You can then walk along a steel footpath fixed to the north wall of the Arsenale, and you can get the occasional glimpse inside through the windows. The views from the walkway towards Murano are good, there's a plaque erected to whichever Doge thought that an Arsenale would be a good idea, almost no people - we met maybe a dozen.

Once you are back on terra-firma, you'll see a sign "Free art exhibition", pointing to a path on your right - it's just after a group of renovated dwellings, before the boat harbour. Follow the path, which curves a bit, enter and pass through the building, and you can walk out onto the north bank of the Darsena Grand. You can see the sheds where galleys were built, the retired submarine hauled up on the slip at the west end. There were workers there, setting up exhibits for the Biennale, also placing some concrete for renovations. You can just see out through the Canale di Porta Nuove, and the Darsena Grand is enormous, about eight times the area of the Piazza, and very quiet.

Retrace your steps, enjoy a picnic sitting at the little boat harbour near the Bacini vaporetto stop. Bread, a bottle of wine, and your significant other.

Lovely.

But if you want to do this, don't delay. Once the Bienale starts, I think that you'll need a ticket.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 09:12 AM
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Lovely, PSA.
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Old May 24th, 2013, 04:34 AM
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Friday, 24th May, and it's really raining. We've seen snow, lovely sun that absolutely requires one to buy a spritz at Quadris and watch the passing parade for an hour, a bit of aqua alta (and it's forecast for about 115 cm at 10:45 tonight, so I can see us getting wet feet when we return from dinner). We've a booking at La Bitta in Calle Lunga, San Barnaba at 9:00 so will be hitting the streets after dinner about the same time that the water does. If nothing else, there will be several inches of water outside our door when we return.

Venice ...

We're confined to the apartment, packing for tomorrow's departure, not looking forward to it very much. I suppose that a couple of months in a place can do that to you. We've had the best time. Day trips to Chioggia, Bassano del Grappa, Padua, Treviso, plus visits to Florence and Verona, where we stayed for a couple of nights at each.

Picnics all over the place, Burano, Malomocco, the hills of Verona, la Certosa, Giardini, beside the swimming pool on Giudecca, near the Bacini vap stop in Castello. If the crowds in San Marco are becoming a bit to much, then some bread, wine, maybe a couple of artichoke bottoms, cheese, breasola, some strawberries and you have the perfect antidote to the pressure.

Several excursions, the Armenian monastery, the Lazeretto Nuove, a boat trip around the canals, and the Venice Kayak tour that was great, going under the church of San Stefano, hauling the kayaks out of the water at Campo San Barnaba for lunch - it had me feeling like some sort of returning seafarer.

Making tiny connections - even after a couple of months you are still a visitor. The guy in the bar downstairs who asks if it's to be spritzes or Valpolicella. One of the check out operators at the local Coop who greets us warmly, the barman at Bar L'archivio, who now just asks us if we want two cappuccini. A fish vendor at the Rialto who knows us, or at least remembers us. The two blokes down the street ("The Boys") on fiddle and guitar, who always strike up the same tune when they see us coming.

I had no real plan or agenda when coming here, other than Florence and Verona, and seeking out paintings by the Tiepolos (grandfather, father and son), and work by the architect Carlo Scarpa. It helps if you have some sort of thread, a bit of a trail in your head, to follow when you visit, and it does not need to be the big ticket things at all. There's so much more to Venice than just the doge Palace and the Basilica.

I ran into some good luck. Scarpa did a little entrance for the Biennale gardens, my Scarpa book telling me that all that survived were the curved concrete walls. But it has been re-built to the original design. It has Scarpa's hand all over it, the roof plan reflecting the circular intersecting windows of the Brion tomb in Treviso. If you are into maths, it's a Venn diagram, the roof being the intersect of two circles. Staved timber support columns, slightly convex, and a student of Scarpa used the same detail in an apartment that we rented here once. And the circular lights that Scarpa did for the Quereni Stampalia Foundation are reflected in the timber work - also by a student of Scarpa - in our present apartment. I'm taking away an intellectual and visual connection, something of a treasure.

Thinking visually, I've taken very few photos. I brought a camera loaded with 400 ASA B&W, and only taken a dozen shots. There's more in my head, and I'm inclined to think that you can either see things, or take photographs, but not do both at the same time. Good photographers would disagree, and I'm not a good photographer.

We've been to la Certosa twice, once for the kayak tour, and then a couple of days ago for a picnic. There was a monastery there, closed down (thanks, Napoleon!), subsequently fortified a little and a gunpowder factory established there. A 15 minute ride from Fond. Nuovo, and you are in a different world. There's a small hotel there, boat yards, a sailing school, some large grassed areas, and signs telling you not to light fires or enter some areas - the area was used as a firing range, and there is unexploded ordinance. We walked right around the island, past abandoned buildings, and ventured into many of them, two story buildings, the stairs collapsed, the cellars flooded. It's a strange feeling - once the island would have been a hive of activity, bugles, soldiers parading, polished silver in the officer's mess. And now all so quiet, except for a herd of about fifty goats that we came across, and several rabbits.

We bought Chorus passes, visited maybe ten churches, museum passes taking us to the Correr, a quick whip through the Doges palace after the Manet exhibition. The glass museum on Murano, a bit of a disappointment, as the museum was in the process of being re-configured following an exhibition. The lace museum on Burano, worth a visit if you are there, maybe not worth a special rip to Burano. Strolling the cemetery on the Lido, admiring the architecture of the newer mausoleums.

We've made some good friends here, an English couple who have moved to Venice, an Italian couple - Lou has helped her with her English. Those friendships have the hallmarks of being permanent.

So, a rather melancholy Alilaguna trip from the San Stae vap stop at 11:39 is the next thing in line for us.

Oh, and planning for coming back in a couple of years. That's happening for sure.
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Old May 24th, 2013, 05:17 AM
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And others have had the same feelings.

"And you will find on the morrow that you are deeply attached to Venice. It is by living there from day to that you feel the fullness of her charm; that you invite her exquisite influence to sink into your spirit. The creature varies like a nervous woman, whom you know only when you know all the aspects of her beauty. She has high spirits or low, she is pale or red, grey or pink, cold or warm, fresh or wan, according to the weather or the hour. She is always interesting and almost always sad; but she has a thousand occasional graces and is always liable to happy accidents. You become extraordinarily fond of these things; you count upon them; they make part of your life. Tenderly fond you become; there is something indefinable in those depths of personal acquaintance that gradually establish themselves. The place seems to personify itself, to become human and sentient and conscious of your affection. You desire to embrace it, to caress it, to possess it; and finally a soft sense of possession grows up and your visit becomes a perpetual love-affair."

Henry James
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Old May 24th, 2013, 07:30 AM
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Lovely and so true. Thanks again for a nice TR.

"you can either see things, or take photographs"--As a photographer, I find that statement to be very true. And, I have tried to memorize what something or someone looks like unsuccessfully in most cases.

Sighing for Italy, TDu
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Old May 24th, 2013, 01:32 PM
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thanks, Peter, for painting such a vivid picture of Venice for the rest of us who can't be there in person.

for those who are prevented from being there in person, your descriptions are the next best thing.
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Old May 24th, 2013, 03:02 PM
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Thanks for taking us along on your journey, Peter . . . you've made Venice all the more enticing for our first visit in September. Di
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Old May 24th, 2013, 11:12 PM
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Thank you, Pete, for your always interesting observations. May you have a safe trip and a soft landing.
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