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Trip Report Venice, April 2014. Some thoughts ...

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"You don't have to do anything in Venice. It is enough just to be there." Philip Gwynne Jones, "The Venice Project", 2013.

That's all well and good, and first one has to actually get there. So the tickets are bought, an apartment rented, bags half packed, and then in a week, we can be in the happy place of just being there.

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    Peter, I arrive in Venice next Saturday, the 12th. Going to be there for five nights. Would love to meet up with you for an aperitif or lunch!

    Just shoot me an email if you're game. :)
    [email protected]


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    Hi Peter, we will overlap your Venice time too, I believe - we'll be in an apartment owned by a friend of a friend in Castello 29th May to 6th June.

    Let's meet up! Caroline has my email info.

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    Yes, you have to get there. But that's not really quite true, because "there" is now "here". About 34 hours door to door, Emirates from Melbourne to Dubai, with a couple of hours on the ground in Singapore, five in Dubai (an airport which I find it in myself to really dislike), and then Venice. The usual angst standing by the carousel, wondering how come our first bag has come out, and the second bag is taking ages. One wonders if it is broken zippers, theft, or just bad luck that that bags not made it. That feeling of relief when that bag drops out.

    Shared water taxi to Ca' Rezzonico, walk down Calle Lunga San Barnaba, and here we are.


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    Peter, possibly a dumb question but I'll ask anyway. We'll be in Venice in June with another couple and plan on taking a water taxi from the airport. How many passengers do the taxi's take? Just wondering if it will just be the four of us and the driver/pilot on board.

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    Cathies, if you use the shared water taxi, there might be eight or nine on board plus driver. The shared taxi costs 25 euro a head. A taxi costs 100 euro, so there is no cost advantage in using the shared taxi, and better fun if there are just the four of you on board.

    You can book a taxi at the airport, or just walk down to the dock, ten minutes easy walk. We use an airport baggage trolley for our bags, and you need a 2 euro coin to get one, same as a supermarket trolley in Aus.

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    Thin, no jumble sale - but Campo San Barnaba is full of chairs and tables.

    Funny, we have never patronised Pantagruelica, for no good reason. But given that you have, we should at least be giving that establishment a chance.

    Does one need to dress?

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    Aaahh Peter!
    How wonderful to be back in the pink city!
    I hope you'll let us savour your trip vicariously through your usual interesting, off-beat and insightful trip reports.

    Can't help but agree about Dubai airport. Not even the dashing Arab men in their whites can make up for the rest of it!

    Cathie - you'll have a ball, and couldn't wish you both more. It's been a wild year!

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    How could you think of yourself as a lover of Venice if you're a slow traveler who has never tried Pantagruelica's fresh basil pesto? What exactly does he do in San Barnaba neighborhood? Maybe Peter should spend more time exploring Venice and less time blogging about it. And, no, you don't need to wear any special clothing to visit. The store is the size of a closet.

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    Alilaguna is the best deal from airport to various destinations in Venice. Check the website - lines from airport to where you need to be - reasonable, better than water taxi. We are in Venice for the past two weeks - wonderful weather!

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    Now, Snobby, you know that Australians are very rugged, very outdoorsy and Peter and Lou kayak around Venice.

    I have seen kayakers around San Pietro Church near Arsenale and it looks like fun.

    Not everyone can sit at Quadri all afternoon reading articles in Hello Magazine about Princess Michael.


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    "you know that Australians are very rugged"

    Sure didn't seem that way in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

    "very outdoorsy…kayak around Venice."

    I think I'll pass. If I step into a boat, there better be a drop-dead gorgeous Italian man on board holding his oar.

    "Not everyone can sit at Quadri all afternoon"

    I'm so sorry to hear that.

    PS Happy to see you in good humor, Thin.

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    Jet lag can work in your favour. Eight hours time difference can be good. It means that you an see a little of Venice in the very early morning, when the city is coming alive. Mixing it with the street sweepers, getting in the first coffee before the crowds come. So we've done a bit of that, generally getting organised, stocking the larder, getting the phones working. Running into a couple of friends, purely by chance.

    Also, purely by chance, seeing a boy in school uniform in Campo San Barnaba. A school about two kilometres from our home in Melbourne, actually the school that Lou's daughter attended. He was a member of the school choir and chamber orchestra, on their European tour. They gave a concert in San Salvatore last night and it was excellent, especially taking into account that the age range of the performers, about 13 to 16 years old. A lot of talent there.

    Next few stops for them are Salzburg, Vienna and Linz, quite a busy agenda. But first they had to get to Mestre, all sixty of them, where they were staying. Getting the choir and orchestra plus instruments onto a vaporetto bound for Tronchetto and their bus, quite a challenge. I felt sorry for the double bass player, a big instrument, even bigger in its carry case. Even harder because the carry case had lost one of its wheels. Near impossible, given the crowds on the No 2 vap, but I guess they made it. Note to self - never complain about large luggage on a vaporetto.

    Fun to hear "Waltzing Matilda" in Venice.

    We shared our flight from Dubai to Venice with a fourty-strong girls choir, also from Aus. Interesting to see teenaged girls reading music scores instead of trashy mags, singing short passages when they got a bit bored, and airports can be really boring. They stayed in their seats when we arrived at Marco Polo, and serenaded we other passengers off the aircraft.

    The vegetable boat at San Barnaba trades well, particularly as the grumpy pair of gentlemen who ran it previously have moved on, replaced with a pair of pleasant blokes. We bought a bunch of agretti, a vegetable that looks a little like chives, like a round stemmed grass. It a sort of marsh grass, a bit salty and tasting, more than anything, like the sea. Great with scallops. Agretti is said to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, and we never see it in Aus.

    We are following Phil's advice. You don't have to do anything in Venice, you just have to be there. But even things that don't count as "doing" are fun, like taking a traghetto across the Grand Canal, or buying a leg of lamb at the Rialto.

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    We bought a bunch of agretti, a vegetable that looks a little like chives, like a round stemmed grass. It a sort of marsh grass, a bit salty and tasting, more than anything, like the sea. >>

    I saw that in the Rialto market, Peter, when we were last there shopping for Easter lamb and wondered what it was. I'd like to think that my italian is now good enough to ask the question and even to understand the answer! [well, I can dream!].

    we have a rough equivalent here in Cornwall called marsh samphire - it grows in brackish water, and is salty. Very good with fish, scallops, etc. you steam it and then serve it as a veg or with drawn butter.

    enjoy your lamb. the butcher threw in a large sprig of rosemary with ours, which you don't get here. we also got some peas and potatoes, and were surprised and pleased to be asked if we wanted ones for boiling [no] or roasting [yes]. Again not something that happens at home.

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    Thanks for the info Peter, the water taxi into Venice has been on my wish list for ages and I am looking forward to it,

    Yes, Bokhara, it has been a very wild year! We really are looking forward to this trip. We have 10 nights in Scotland, three in Venice, two in Trieste staying with an Australian friend who owns a villa there, then 6 nights in Rome. I'm looking forward to returning to Venice which we loved last time.

    I will remember to pack my missoni scarf Thin. Thanks for mentioning them, although by early June I may not need it.

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    Sorry I missed you, Peter. Ironically, I spent the better part of Monday afternoon (15th) in and near San Barnaba!

    I was on the hunt for my "Summertime" locations and was very successful. :) I considered stopping in to the DaVinci exhibit at the church, but it was so nice and sunny out, I decided against it.

    (Wasn't it you who turned me on to the website [A Lover of Venice]?)

    Imagine my delight when I guessed at the location of the Piscina Sant'Agnese and came around the corner from the exact camera angle when we first see Kate there at the cistern!

    Also very happy to find the San Cristoforo bridge, etc.

    We may have passed on the street! :)

    I hope you have warmer weather and a great stay!

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    Many boys aspire to being firemen when they are little, but this was never a goal for me. But after seeing a Venetian fire boat yesterday, blasting down the Rio di San Trovaso, lights and siren, full noise, the crew ducking their heads as they shot under the bridges, I've changed my mind. Being a fireman in Venice would be fun, messing about in boats, and they were probably heading off to pump out someone's boat. Probably not rescuing a cat from a tree, as they don't carry ladders on board.

    I've not been a regular church attendee since I left boarding school in 1966, where church was compulsory, on threat of corporal punishment. The Anglophone community in Venice have their church, St Georges, on the Campo San Vio. It's rather Anglican High Church, which might not mean all that much to our American brethren.

    Good Friday is observed in Venice rather by the lack of anything in particular. Shops trade, the tradesmen over the way were on the job, but for the Protestant faiths, Good Friday is the most sacred day in the Christian calendar. So I found myself at St. Georges on Friday afternoon, as part of a compact congregation of some thirteen or fourteen, being invited to read a passage from John, the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Besides being profound in religious terms, that passage also says something about the political and legal jurisprudence in Galilee two thousand years ago.

    This morning, Sunday, the church was packed, standing room only, many visitors, euro, Stirling and USD notes in the collection plate. Easter Day, the big one, something of a celebration, and a sung Eucharist.

    Historically interesting. The Anglican Church community was facilitated in Venice by Henry Wotton, Ambassador to Venice, around 1604, a year or two after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and five or six years after Shakespeare wrote the Merchant of Venice. We used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the service, and the language, all those "thees" and "thous", is rather archaic, and yet at the same time quite grand. A stained glass window in the church, honouring the Bishop of Gibraltar under whose Dioceses the Venetian outpost falls. Windows honouring Robert Browning (safely ignoring the misbehavour of said Browning while he was resident here), and Ruskin, author of the Stones of Venice.

    All in all, rather pleasing.

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    We visited the Ca' Rezzonico today. Pretty much the usual works on display, but there was an exhibition of works by Pietro Bellotti, a nephew of Canaletto. Bellotti painted "views" of Venice, plus other places such as London, and the exhibition is titled "The other Canaletto", or something like that. Bellotti produced works to meet the tourist (or should one say traveller) trade, gentlemen making the Grand Tour in the 1700's and 1800's, and needing something to take back to demonstrate that they were now somewhat cultured. AC Milan tee-shirts and plastic gondolas were not available back then, but a Bellotti or Canaletto work would do the job and impress people.

    Bellotti's work is somewhat formulaic to my eye, almost as though he was producing say four views of the Salute at one time, and they seem very static, somewhat photographic, f32 at 1/60th on a bright day. In terms of draftsmanship, very accurate, but lacking the atmosphere, action and light of a JMW Turner.

    Interesting, none the less.

    I don't think I ever knew just how many Tiepolo works there are in the Ca' Rezzonico, and I really like them. The Tiepolo family were prodigious producers of paintings, and Giandomenico created one ceiling fresco in ten days, an Allegory of Matrimony. I'd love to know how those works were created, the teamwork and organisation required, scaffolders, plasterers, paint mixers, a whole production crew, a bit like making a movie.

    It's been suggested on another thread "Venice Canal Boats - Best Deals", that I might be in my dotage. I think not. However, it was economical when asked somewhat apologetically whether I might qualify for a seniors discount for the Museum Pass. Yes indeed, but only just. What a thrill for the first time in my life to be offered such benefit! My wife does not think that I look 65, but then she is not seeking any handsome Italian gondolier.

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    I love the series of paintings by Pietro Longhi that show scenes of domestic Venetian life in the 18th century.

    I also love that corner bedroom with the dressing table in Ca Rezzonico.

    You should visit Palazzo Querini Stampalia.


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    Thin, the Longhi series is great, quite ironical,. The silver dressing set in the bedroom certainly says something about how a Venetian lady conducted herself.

    Palazzo Querini Stampalia is on the list of places to visit - I am a fan of Scarpa's architecture, particularly the garden there. There is a fine intellectual story in the long pond and the little bronze overflow at the end. A bit Japanese, also a bit Frank LLoyd Wright, a micro homage to Falling Water, I'm inclined to thin.

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    We have done a couple of tourist things now in Venice.

    On Monday, we went to the church of Can Salvador / Salvatore, where they were displaying a superb silver altar screen, the Pala d'Argento. Generally it is not on display, but it is displayed between Easter Sunday and the following Sunday, so we were lucky. It is a huge work, silver on wood, dating from about 1590, about 2.5 metres by 3.0 metres, very detailed with a Last Supper image, other saints and scenes. When you insert a one euro coin into the box to turn on the lights, it is though the sun has risen over the altar.

    In the church, there is also the tomb of Caterina Cornaro, a sad figure in Venetian history. She became Queen of Cyprus by marriage, the marriage contract stipulating that if she did not have a son, she would abdicate and Cyprus would be a Venetian colony. Her husband died, and she had no sons (some historians believe that her son was poisoned, which would not be surprising, given Venetian venality) and she returned to Venice. In 1510, she was given a heroine's funeral, and her body buried in San Salvador around 1600. Just an early chapter in the unhappy history of Cyprus, as eventually the Venetians were defeated by the Turks and expelled, and now Cyprus is in the sad state of being divided between Greek and Turkish influence.

    A picnic yesterday on La Certosa. Certosa had a monastery once, as did just about every island in the lagoon. The island became a military garrison facility, complete with munitions factory, casting lead and making gunpowder, so there is quite a legacy of pollution. It is being cleaned up, along with the trees that were blown over in the tornado a couple of years ago, and the place is being turned into a park of sorts, while maintaining an area of natural vegetation. A good place for a picnic, very quiet, rabbits, but we did not sight the herd of goats that we saw there a year ago - maybe they finished up at the Rialto market.

    Certosa is being developed also as a shipyard for smaller boats, yachts and a sailing school. There is a boat building course happening there in November if they can get enough participants. They need six people to run the course, and so far have two, and I'm hoping that four more people sign up.

    On the way back from Certosa, we alighted at Osperdale. The easiest route from the vaporetto stop seems to lead through various hospital corridors, and you exit onto Campo Ss Giovani & Paolo. We got lucky - the Hospital Library is now open to visitors (Open from 10:00 to 13:00, and 14:00 to 17:00, closed Sunday and Monday, but you might want to confirm the times, free entry). The library is in the former Scuole of San Marco, and is magnificent. You enter by climbing two flights of stairs with red carpet and brass stair rods, so there is a feeling of really arriving once you enter the library. The ceiling, royal blue and gilt, is like a huge patterned carpet.

    There are displays of surgical implements along with engravings showing how they were to be used, including trepanning drills and cutters, amputation kits, very fine implements for eye surgery, catheter sets. Not for the faint hearted, and one can only be thankful for modern surgery. Doctors would find it fascinating, maybe not the best place to visit just prior to luncheon. There are also more modern documents on display, such as the 1908 plans, sections and elevations for the new laundry.

    Even the display cases are delightful. They are suspended over older furniture, and appear to be floating, supported by a bowstring bridge. There is a feeling of contrast or conflict between the tension and compression members, and something I notice in Venice is not just what is being displayed, but the manner in which it is shown.

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    Your friend Caterina Cornaro sounds a
    lot like my old friend Ines de Castro.

    I like to sit at Rosa Salvo in the campo outside Giovanni e Paolo and have a spritz.

    I like to have an olive in my spritz, not an orange slice.

    Thin, knows his stuff

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    When you insert a one euro coin into the box to turn on the lights, it is though the sun has risen over the altar. >>

    a very good reason for keeping some small [and not so small] change about your person when in Venice, and indeed Italy. it all sounds lovely, and required reading for those who say that you can "do" Venice in a day and a half. There is a chance that our italian class will be descending upon Venice next year and i am saving up all your ideas for interesting places to see that are off the beaten track.

    The hospital library is definitely on the list!

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    We went to Torcello on Thursday for a picnic. Torcello, once home to 20,000 people, and now about 20 people live there. There is little remaining of the 20,000, and I believe that when they left, they demolished their houses and took the bricks to Venice, where they settled near the Rialto.

    There would have been every trade needed to support a township - coopers, stonemasons, priests, shoemakers, boatbuilders. Strange to think that all those trades have disappeared.

    The Torcello campanile is still covered in scaffold, as it has been for the last five years. The restoration work goes fairly slowly, maybe because the site establishment for the tradesmen looks so comfortable. The campanile is massive, probably a bigger footprint than the San Marco campanile, and I'd never noticed that before.

    We went into the Cattedrale di Santa Maria dell'Assunta, the oldest building in the lagoon. Last time we were there, it was in the middle of Winter, ice forming in the canals, and the church seemed quite small. Maybe it was the sunshine, or maybe better illumination this time, and the church seemed much larger, almost Gothic in its proportions and scale.

    The mosaics are brilliant, the Madonna over the alter appearing to have the cares and knowledge of all the world on her shoulders, and the mosaic on the far wall of the apse gives a detailed commentary on the Last Judgement. The fires of Lucifer clearly await those who ignore the "No Photograph" signs in the church, and other lesser sinners.

    Friday, 25th April, St Mark's day, ANZAC Day for Aussies, and also the day when Italy commemorates her war dead. Wreaths on memorials, also roses being given to women, as the rose is the symbol of St Mark. For once, the rose vendors were not seeing push-back from potential clients. A public holiday in Italy, relatively quiet on the canals, a good day for a kayak tour.

    We embarked on Certosa, a small group, an English couple, Lou and I, and our guide Marco, who is Venetian by birth with good English. We were able to paddle into the Arsenal, the Darsena Grande, which is normally closed to casual visitors, as it is a military area. There was an Arsenale festival on 25th, 26th and 27th, all sorts of boating happening, rowing lessons, dragon boats, so it was fun to have a look in there. The mast tower is interesting, allowing the mast to be stepped in a large vessel, part of the production line system at the Arsenale, the world's first military/industrial complex, able to produce 300 vessels a year. When you think that a galley sailed with ten tons of oars, 100 oars at 100 kilos each, to say nothing of ordinance, powder, shot, food, sails, cordage, anchors, everything needed to equip a fighting ship, one must admire Venetian endeavour.

    Napoleon trashed the Arsenale - engravings in the Maritime Museum show the extent of destruction and looting.

    We paddled on, threading our way around three sides of the Arsenal, through Castello, past San Francisco della Vigna with the huge red columns, pulling the kayaks from the water for lunch at Campo SS Giovani & Paulo, and a chance to admire the statue of Corleone. On through a bit of Cannaregio, and I noticed how strongly the tide flows in some of the quite small canals. Cross the Grand Canal, dodging vaps and gondolas, through Dorsoduro, past the Squero di San Trovaso, down the Grand Canal under the Accademia bridge, and then up the Rio del Santissimo, which runs clear under the sacristy of the Church of San Stefano. The original church burned down in the 1300's, and was re-built to a larger footprint in the early part of the fifteenth century. The larger footprint took the church over the Rio del Santissimo, hence the bridge, an easy Venetian solution.

    Round the back of San Stefano, and down the Rio Malatin, to experience one of Venice's more disturbing sights. The San Stefano campanile is beside the Rio Malatin, and we paused at the base. Look up - the top of the campanile leans half way across the Rio, ready to collapse on the head of an itinerant kayaker.

    Down to the Punta della Dogana, happily devoid of the boy with frog statue, or unhappily, depending on one's artistic sensibilities, and across to San Giorgio. The Giudecca canal carries a lot of traffic, and we were dodging vaps, ferries, cruise boats, the lot. Wait a bit, and then go for it. Back over to San Biagio near the Arsenale and back to La Certosa. A great day on the water.

    Marco our guide was great. A lot of local knowledge, pointing out things like survey marks on canal stonework, the way that stone has been coursed in where a canal have been filled to create a Rio Terra. In all, we were on the water for about five hours, sometimes drifting along behind a school of gondolas, other times on major canals where the water can be quite choppy. A good variety. finds them, and they have emailed us about 250 photos taken on the voyage.

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    The fires of Lucifer clearly await those who ignore the "No Photograph" signs in the church, and other lesser sinners.>>

    Peter - we abided by the prohibition and instead I bought a book of postcards showing the mosaics. I use these as bookmarks so i get to see the Torcello mosaics every day, and hopefully I will avoid the fires of hell as well!

    the kayaking trip sounds terrific!

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    Anne, you would never be at risk of Lucifer. Apropos of nothing, the area just north-east of the Ferrovia used to be a match factory. Nicely placed in conjunction to the factory on the Fondamenta Fabbrica Tabacchi.

    We got a bit lucky yesterday. For years, I've been wanting to get inside the Arsenal. Mostly it is closed as it is a military area, although a year ago, we walked in from the Bacini vap stop, as a gate was open. But this last weekend, a lot of the Arsenale was open.

    The buildings are being restored, albeit slowly, and there is great architecture to be seen. The original Arsenale buildings are enormous, so new building are being erected inside them, leaving the old building fabric intact. In many places, concrete floors have ben laid, but leaving a perimeter gap of a metre or so between the new concrete and the walls, which is filled with pebbles, maybe to allow drainage in the event of acqua alta.

    There is one building at the north side, with a massively deep basement, I think a former engine house as there are a pair of engine silencers still mounted on the external wall. Maybe there were generators there, or perhaps pumps to drain the dry docks - I don't know. The service crane for the engine hall has been left in place, speaking about the industrial legacy for the building, and then free-standing offices built inside.

    Thetis, an Italian infrastructure company, have created a great sculpture garden in the area, also the Mose control room, and also have refurbished spaces that are used for some of the Biennale exhibitions. After a couple of centuries, it is as though the Arsenale is coming alive again, although I think it will be a while before we see again blacksmiths hammering at the remaining furnaces there.

    It is easy to see Venice as being in some sort of time warp, with very few new buildings, the bank in Campo Manin being about the only new building in Venice visible to most. The Palazzetto dello Sport near the Naval Museum gives a fine example of Functional Brutalist architecture, as ugly a concrete box that one could wish for, fortunately well hidden. The hospital on Fond. Nuove is being extended, but in a sympathetic architectural style, heliport notwithstanding.

    But there are lots of modern architectural treasures, Scarpa's interiors, the new work inside the Arsenale, little architectural treasures.

    Fun to discover them ...

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    The place over the road (the road being all of two metres wide) is being done up. I think the last renovations were decades, maybe centuries, ago. The tiles have been stripped, copper gutters - a little work of art in themselves - installed. The roof has been covered in bituminous felt, awaiting new tiles, and now the guys are scaffolding in preparation for rendering the facade. It's fun watching it happen, and hopefully before we leave here we will see the new facade, and maybe a newly tiled roof.

    Scaffolding is interesting, well, for an engineer at least. Our street sees its fair share of acqua alta, and salt water is not good for steel scaffold, which is based in the street. Solution - sink a sacrificial zinc anode in the garden, connected to the scaffold, in the same way that an anode is used to protect marine structures. A Venetian solution to a very Venetian problem.

    Access to the scaffold is difficult, but the guys seem to have cut a deal with the resident of an apartment on this side of the street, and I can see bits of scaffold tube and clips being handed out the window.

    One might be unamused, should the rental apartment have the windows obscured by scaffold. But maybe that is just part of the Venice experience.

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    "...where the builders go at lunchtime."

    That's easy. You'll find many Calle Lunga hardhats joining the college kids at Suziecafé in Campo San Basegio, taking advantage of their 7€ pasta, bar, and its outdoor tables. Mostly, the construction workers drink their lunch away. A lot of tourists don't get to this neck of the woods. If we're rating the food, I wouldn't go out of my way, either, for this place. It's simple, fun, cheap, and convenient; a neighborhood joint. The average San Marco tourist might not feel too welcome.

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    Lots of workmen at Trattoria Storica near I Gesuiti Church off of Fondamente Nove.

    I have always wanted to see the marble curtains inside this church but it is always closed when walking by.


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    I have always wanted to see the marble curtains inside this church but it is always closed when walking by.>>

    i think that it only opens week-day mornings, Thin.It's well worth the effort of getting up before noon to see them.

    if the trattoria you mention is the same one we ate at one day, at lunchtime it is full of workmen and does an excellent "risi e bisi" [a simple risotto of rice and peas].

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    We visited the Ducal Palace yesterday. Not too crowded at 8:45, but looking pretty busy come 11:30, by which time we had symptoms of sensory overload , mixing it with some big tour groups. There is so much to see, and after a while, all the monumental paintings rather blend into a single canvas. We had visited the Palace a couple of times previously, but I did see a couple of works that I'd neglected before.

    There is a painting of Hell, Damnation, etc. that looks as if it a re-work of an Hieronymus Bosch work. It details explicitly the same sort of fires of Purgatory, dismembered bodies, folk generally having a tough time of it, one soul being involved in apparent tug of war between angel and demon, the outcome uncertain. You don't want to go there, I'm here to tell you. The work is much larger than a Bosch painting, and does not show the same microscopic brush work that characterises the Bosch paintings that I have seen. Date and artist uncertain, so I can't do the sort of comparison that I'd like to do.

    Another work that I'd not noticed - maybe because I was unaware of the history at the time - shows the outcome of the 12th May 1797 meeting of the Council, Doge Ludovico Manin handing the Ducal hat to a servant, another person waving a white flag from a window, and the Councillors looking somewhat shocked that they had just voted the Most Serene Republic out of existence after one thousand years. There was not a quorum for that vote, 512 for, ten against and five abstained, but powder and shot can have the lsat word anyway, and the Napoleonic troops strolled into Venice, carried on Venetian ships. Morris recounts that when Manin was advised that he had been elected Doge, he burst into tears.

    Maybe he knew what was in store for him and the Republic.

    I was trying to understand the historical context of the end of the Republic. Australia saw her first European settlers (convicts, too) in 1788. The first steam powered ship was built in France in 1783, so the doge-ship of Manin ended in the steam age. It's easy to see the government and fall of the Republic as being ancient history, maybe because the system of administration seems so archaic. But it is really quite recent history.

    The Palace is full of massive paintings, many of them allegorical. Works such as Venice in discussion with Neptune, signifying that Venice was master of the seas, or Venice and Venus, Venus having born on Cyprus, a comment on Venice's conquest / possession of Cyprus. Maybe Professor Robert Langdon, the well known symbologist from The Da Vinci Code, would understand immediately. It is an allegorical language that would have been immediately comprehended 300 years ago, in the same way that if one sees a gentleman with a halo and a key, then his name is St Peter.

    I've never been educated in that language, so the works are not accessible to me, in the same way that I don't "get" non-representational art. I can figure it out once there is an explanation, but that allegorical symbolism is a blank to me, until I read what the work is about. Maybe the language of allegory is a dead language, spoken only by art historians.

    There is an economic aspect to the Palace. Venice was clearly massively wealthy when the Palace was being decorated, and many other edifices, churches, palaces, were being built and being sumptuously decorated at the same time. A society has to be on the economic ascendancy to be able to afford such construction, in the same way that the pyramids could not have been built if Egypt were in perpetual famine. Such construction needs a leisured, or at least wealthy, class of patrons, and artisans, workshops, silversmiths, gold leaf experts, the lot, to make it happen. And farmers to feed them.

    I've not been able to find much about how these sort of works were undertaken, how the contracts were managed, whether a fresco was completed as a single commercial undertaking, with the painter sub-contracting the supporting work, like plastering, mixing paint or supplying ladders. Was there a team of painters, apprentices doing the easy bits and Veronese just doing finishing touches and applying a bit of his magic? Who knows - the guide books don't enlighten me much on this.

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    One of Venice's minor sights, unlikely to make to the DK Top Ten. In Campo San Toma, in San Polo, opposite the church of San Toma is the building of the Shoemakers Guild, their patron saint being Saint Mark. There is a bas relief of Saint Mark, and a cobbler, Anianus. Saint Mark, when he was Bishop of Alexandria, miraculously cured the cobbler, who had been injured while mending Saint Mark's shoes. This cure happened in AD 42.

    The building dates from 1446, and is now used as a public library. You can go in, quietly, no photographs please, and see frescoes on the first floor. They are badly damaged, but on the wall facing San Toma, there is an annunciation. There is a mosaic floor with the date inset just at the top of the stairs - 1771. The ceiling beams still show the original painted decoration.

    No big deal, but perhaps interesting.

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    I think we got lucky today. 1st May, May Day, Workers of the World Unite! All that rhetoric, so we thought Burano might be an idea. Arrive at Fondamenta Nuove, about 10:00, crowds for the No. 12 vap stretching into infinity, having me in mind of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch - and that was just the vap driver and ropeman.

    Too hard.

    So, spritz at the little bar by the canal at Santa Maria Formosa, and followed by just the most perfect time at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia. We've visited there a couple of times before, and each time I seem to get further insight into Carlo Scarpa's architecture. There was a 20 minute DVD playing when we entered, and we watched the whole thing. It spoke a lot about how Scarpa was so connected to Venice, and how Venice is interpreted and understood in his design and architecture.

    Scarpa was given the rare privilege of re-designing the ground floor of the Fondazione, and I find it the most pleasing and satisfying space in all of Venice. There's nothing that comes close to it, on an aesthetic and intellectual level. For me, I can compare Scarpa to the Corb, Mies van der Rohe, Wright and others, and find them lacking. Maybe there is a bit of Phillip Johnson in his eye. Strong horizontal expressions, proper for Venice, as water is always horizontal.

    There is a sort of fractal aspect to Scarpa's work, details replicated at smaller and smaller scale. So a channel at the doorway, allowing acqua alta, is repeated in a channel around a floor, and then a tiny channel in a fountain. Some contradictions, a well head that is meant to sit solidly, and yet floats on small bronze pillars. Contradictions that are expressed also at the entry to the School of Architecture that Scarpa did, where a marble door surround and lintel is laid flat, rather than standing like a doorway. Yes, a delight to the senses.

    Tiling, that at first looks a bit random, but when you study it a bit, looks like a pattern that Mondrian might have played with. Stepping stones in the lawn that are spaced a bit too close for a normal pace, so they force you to slow down as you walk along them, making you linger a little.

    A Cyprian artist, Haris Epaminonda, has works displayed in the Scarpa spaces. It finishes on 18th May, and really worth getting there. Her works can be seen as a homage to Scarpa, a set of works designed to complement the space, very delicate, a quite feminine grouping. Hard to describe but so worth seeing. Works that are not titled, just quietly being there, somehow complementing the architecture, and in a way, having a dialogue with the space.

    The entry to the Fondazione has been re-worked in the last year, new stonework to the bridge, creating a feel of procession, and it works really well in an aesthetic sense, particularly when taken along with the red marble stairs inside, also a new installation. Scarpa's bridge is intact, and just a delight, the sort of structure that you might find painted on a Shoji screen.

    So that's just the ground floor. The library was closed, but it's worth a look if it is open. Murano chandeliers, parquetry floor, stuccoed ceiling, ancient book cases, and computer monitors. A nice conjunction.

    The next floor is called a museum. But it's not. It's just the rooms that the Querini family occupied, and it is really special. Paintings by Longhi showing aspects of Venetian life, bull baiting, fist fights on bridges (now outlawed, unless AC Milan defeats Torino, in which case watch out), and the well known painting, showing a gentleman in a boat with four oarsmen, the gent drawing a bow. This was, apparently, a most esoteric form of hunting for water fowl. Arrows were not used, and rather the bow was used to shoot a slug of terracotta at the fowl. Many other works, large, also intimate, and one can gain an insight into how the Querini family lived. To say nothing of a 260 piece dinner service, not one piece of which has been lost.

    The Bellini "Presentation of Jesus" alone makes it worth visiting.

    Practicalities. It costs about 9 euro to enter. I think that when we were there, there might have been 40 or 50 people in the place, so it is quiet. If you want to take photos, they charge one euro, and give you a sticker to prove you have paid. No flash, otherwise just go for it.The bookshop is worth a look, with some great gifts if that is what you have in mind. The attendants are friendly, maybe because they are not dealing with the hordes. A good cafe, good service, reasonable prices (2.50 per spritz, which is our Venetian benchmark). The cafe has outside seating, giving a view of the garden. You can access the cafe, bookshop and"facilities", but not the garden, without paying admission, but once you glimpse the garden, you'll be seduced.

    Give yourself at least two or three hours there. We spent about four plus. Yes, we got lucky. Thank you No.12 vap for being over-crowded.

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    Give yourself at least two or three hours there. We spent about four plus. Yes, we got lucky. Thank you No.12 vap for being over-crowded.>>

    lucky indeed, Peter.

    another one of your entries for Venice less travelled.

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    It's been bucketing rain all day today. Almost acqua alta - even without assistance from the tide. We were caught out coming home from the Billa supermarket, and took refuge in the Church of San Sebastiano. It's about 100 metres or so from the San Basilio vap stop, at the west end of the Zattere.

    We had last visited the church five years ago, when big restoration works were being done to the Veronese ceiling paintings and frescoes, so there was not all that much to be seen, with most of the interior shrouded in scaffold and cloth.

    One should give thanks to 'Save Venice", who largely funded the ceiling works. It now looks brilliant, gilt shining, and Veronese's paintings just glowing. The painting behind the altar, Madonna in Glory with various Saint was the last work that Veronese painted for the church. He designed a marble frame for the painting, which was commissioned by one Lise Querini in 1559, so there is a connection there for me. Veronese died in 1588, and is buried in the church. There is a bust of him, mounted to the left of the altar.

    There are, of course, multiple images of St Sebastian, taking unfriendly fire from a bunch of archers - one sees that image often. However, not so often seen is an image of the archers, but Veronese did a fresco of them as well.

    Now that the ceiling has been sorted, work has started on restoration of the wall frescoes, and so it is not easy to much of the wall details. But I was able to see a little of a restoration artist, delicately working on a plaster statue, applying plaster with a trowel the size of a small palette knife.

    We still got drowned walking from San Sebastian to our apartment!

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    A cute little conjunction. The Palazzo over the way is being restored. There is a placard detailing the architect and engineer, building permit and such like. Also the name of the property - Palazzo Querini! Maybe Lise Querini, who donated the marble surround to the painting behind the altar at San Sebastian lived there in 1559.

    Paolo Sarpi, Venetian philosopher, once said, "I never ever tell a lie, but the truth not to everyone". Maybe the Querini thing is a "truth not to everyone" tale - I don't know.

    We visited the Ca' Pesaro today, and somehow the collection looked a bit scant, a bit thin. The Burghers of Calais by Rodin is impressive, as is his Thinker. A handful of other works that we like such as "The Young Ladies" by Casorati from 1922. Four young ladies, three fashionably dressed, one nude, standing in a garden surrounded by items that a lady would have. Dressing table equipment, purses and what-not. Maybe a comment on consumerism, and one now expects to see an i-Phone as part of the assembled kit. The Klimt work is not on display, and I suspect that the gallery has been re-hung, as there are some building works being undertaken there. There's a nice little Henry Moore bronze, a helmet.

    There is an exhibition there, "Giuseppe Panza Di Biumo, American Dialogues", American (mosty) works from the Post-war years. I struggled with it.

    Phil Jones, a friend in Venice has a test. Is it Art or Junk? Maybe junk from the shed, or as Phil puts it, "Art or Shed? The Occam's Razor Test". I'm a Philistine when it comes to non-representational art, and so a lot of that exhibition fell into the "Shed" group for me. I don't understand how one can hang the corroded cast iron door from an electrical junction box, with the word "Danger" cast onto the face of the door, and call it art, title it "Danger". It's shed for me.

    Ditto for the work comprising many hundreds of sharpened twigs, laid out on the floor in a square pattern. Garden shed.

    Or the installation on one wall, red letters about half a metre high, saying "BESIDE ITSELF". Order 1xB, 1xD, 3xE, 1xF, 2xI, 1xL, 2xS and a T from and you too can be collectable.

    An empty orange juice carton, things like that.

    I think it is a language that I just don't speak. But I suspect that it may be a synthetic language, like Esperanto, known to a select and better informed group than me. I can understand Jackson Pollock, so perhaps all is not lost.

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    Ditto for the work comprising many hundreds of sharpened twigs, laid out on the floor in a square pattern. Garden shed.>>

    or possibly bonfire, Peter?

    faced with such "art" I am inevitably reminded of the story of the Emperor's new clothes.

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    Burano, Padua and Cinque Terre.

    Saturday we made it to Burano. An early start to Fond Nove allowing us to miss the morning crowds, and Burano was pretty empty when we arrived. We left the vap at Mazzorbo, and walked through the vineyard and vegetable gardens over to Burano. It's fun to see what artichokes look like on the plant, when they are tiny and purple.

    Burano has both Beijing and Burano lace, the former being more prevalent than the latter. But the lace museum is pure Burano, Pellestrina and European lace. It is really worth visiting. There is a great video explaining what the lace trade and market was all about, details of how a pattern starts as a sketch on paper, is refined and is then created as fabric.

    There was a lace school on Burano which closed around 1970. The last pupils of the school are still making lace, and three elderly ladies were at work in the museum. None of them were too agile on their feet, but their fingers have lost none of their dexterity. Interesting to talk to them in broken Italian, and one explained that the piece that she was working on would take five hours a day, for a month, to complete. It was tiny, and would fit in an A5 sized frame, with much room to spare.

    There is lace in the museum with stitches so small that you can barely see them. I have no idea how this could have been made, unless under a microscope. Maybe it says something that the three lace makers that we saw all were wearing quite heavy duty spectacles.

    Coming back from Burano - the queue for the vaporetto can be horrible. You can stand in line for half an hour, and then not get on. But if you walk over to Mazzorbo, then they have to let you on, and you might get a spot near the rail.

    Monday was Padua. We've visited Padua before, so the Scrovegni chapel was not on the agenda. But it is really worth visiting, and you do have to book in advance, preferably several days prior.

    We mainly walked around, visited the markets in the Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe. Found remnants of the city wall that surrounded Padua - a wall extending for some eleven kilometres. Once you get an idea of how the River Brenta almost encircles Padua, you can understand why it was a strategic city even three thousand years ago. Water, arable land and defensible geography, and you have the possibility of a city.

    We had planned on visiting the University, viewing the anatomy theatre and so on, and did not make it. We went to a different part of the Medical faculty, the Botanical Garden. The garden is a bit old, having been established in 1545, after a decision of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, for cultivation of plants specifically for medicinal plants. UNESCO added it to the World Heritage List in 1997. It is a place of great history. In 1545, the garden mostly comprised "simples", plants providing remedies directly from nature, but now has sections for poisonous plants, carnivorous plants that trap and devour insects, and some really old trees. The garden is laid out in a geometric fashion, inside a circular wall, fountains, shady walks and a little Belvedere

    The oldest palm the garden was planted in 1585, and Goethe greatly admired it, and was inspired by it. There is an Oriental Plane tree, planted in 1680, a Magnolia from 1786, one of the oldest specimens in Europe.

    There are hot-houses dating from the 1700's, but these have been more or less abandoned, as a new hot-house has been constructed, due to open in July this year - the systems were being commissioned when we visited in May.

    "A new hothouse" is really selling the new work very short. The building is starkly modern, all white painted steel, glass roof and power operated louvres and screens for temperature control. In elevation, the building would be perhaps six metres high at the low end, maybe twenty high at the high end, high enough to accommodate a fully grown palm tree, which we could see inside. The whole building about 100 metres long. An enormous sloping glass roof. There is one part of the building with a solid roof, which has been planted, what is known in the trade as a "green roof". I've got a bit of a thing for Italian design and architecture ...

    I was thinking of that most generous Fodors contributor, Anhig, as I was walking around, thinking how much she would enjoy seeing the garden and new hot-house. Only a half hour train ride from Venice.

    We visited the Basilica di Sant' Antonio, St Anthony to others. It's pretty spectacular, which is something of an understatement. Hard to describe, as the decoration is almost overwhelming. St Anthony's tongue is displayed in the Reliquary, and he was apparently a most powerful preacher. But one cannot tell just by looking at his tongue.

    Cinque Terre, left venice Tuesday 6th May, returned Thursday 8th. Pretty simple, train to Florence, train to La Spezia, and then a ten minute train ride to Riomaggiore, where we stayed for two nights.

    We took a ferry ride from Riomaggiore to Monteresso Al Mare, and really enjoyed it. The ferry calls at four of the five towns (Corniglia does not have a harbour), and you can get a really good idea of the terrain when viewing it from the sea. The mountains seem to rise straight out of the Mediterranean, cut by very steep gullies and ridges. You can clearly see how the land has been terraced for horticulture and it is this terracing, some dating back a thousand years, which has made the cinque Terre as World Heritage site.

    The towns themselves are quaint and fun to see, with their tiny harbours. The church in Vernazza is really worth visiting, very simple, massive stone columns and cut rough stone ribbing to the vaulting, a construction that I have not seen before.

    But it is the horticulture that grabs me. The pure physical work that has gone into creating and maintaining the terraced plots - think a stone wall maybe one and a half metres hight, and a plot maybe two or three metres wide - and you can get an idea of how steep the hillsides are. Olives, grapes and many different vegetables - harvest must be back-breaking. The plots demonstrate a great deal of social cohesion, an undertaking that must have been shared by all the people working together, and many of the walls are several hundred metres long.

    Each of the villages has a train station (Corniglia station being at least a couple of hundred metres below the town, great if you are going down the switchback set of steps), and the train trundles between all the villages, about every hour or so.

    We trained back to Riomaggiore from Monteresso, and next day trained to Vernazza and walked to Corniglia along the coastal path. "Coastal path" might give one the impression of a beach stroll, but it is not exactly like that. The path is only 3.5 kilometres, but took us a full hour and a half, maybe a bit more. Much of the path is stepped, and climbs steeply out of Vernazza. Approaching Corniglia, the path runs through olive groves, and the views are spectacular.

    Some will say that the Cinque Terre have been ruined by tourism. I did not see a lot of non-tourism activities, no shops selling ordinary stuff like electric drills or bags of cement. Maybe people go to La Spezia for those things. Many hikers, hiking poles, tanned, leathered complexions and leder-hosen (actually, no leder-hosen, I just made that up). A lot of American accents, and in the more popular times, the footpaths must be very crowded.

    We ate twice at the same place - Vecin Muin on Via Colombo in Riomaggiore. Good food, local wine, and friendly service.

    Train back to Venice, with a brief stop in Florence to visit the Central Market for truffle oil and fig mostarda. And at the flower shop opposite the station, we bought agretti seeds. It'll be fun to try those at home.

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    The last time I was in Burano, 1998, I had a terrific fish lunch at Gatto Nero.

    I remember there was a jumble sale somewhere in a large campo.

    Did you see that Peggy Guggenheim's heirs are sueing the museum over the Schulhof's "intrusion."


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    I was thinking of that most generous Fodors contributor, Anhig, as I was walking around, thinking how much she would enjoy seeing the garden and new hot-house. Only a half hour train ride from Venice.>>

    Peter, you are far too kind, but thank you for those lovely thoughts. You are right that I will seek out botanical [and other!] gardens wherever they are to be found, and I have read about, but not seen, the one in Padua. i would say that it's another place to add to my list, but actually, it's already there.

    Nice tip about getting back on the ferry from Burano, BTW. When we were there, 5? 7? years ago, the lace museum was closed as it was under renovation. We too had a very nice fish lunch, not at il Gatto Nero, but at another of the restaurants along the main street where we sat out in the sun and drank prosecco. Also moeche as I recall. have you had any this year, Peter? DH did not approve but it didn't stop him trying them!

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    "The mast tower is interesting, allowing the mast to be stepped in a large vessel, part of the production line system at the Arsenale, the world's first military/industrial complex, able to produce 300 vessels a year. When you think that a galley sailed with ten tons of oars, 100 oars at 100 kilos each, to say nothing of ordinance, powder, shot, food, sails, cordage, anchors, everything needed to equip a fighting ship, one must admire Venetian endeavour."

    Carthage also claimed to have been able to build a fighting ship in 24 hours. A little earlier and smaller but just as significant.

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    Anne, you will love the garden in Padua. It really is very special, botanical history conserved for centuries. An academic place, also a place of beauty. And the new hot house would amaze you.

    Thin, el Gatto Nero has such a reputation, but we have not visited yet. And I noted the Guggenheim vs Others thing in the NYT. What IS it about these artistic types ...

    Bilbo, I have always doubted that "create a ship in 24 hours" thing in Venice, particularly as it was said to include a cannon or mortar weighing some tons.

    365 ships a year does not mean that a ship only took 24 hours. Typical Venetian marketing strategies, I think.

    I never knew about the Carthage ship yards, so that will be a fun thing to explore.

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    We went to Tunisia and visited the site in Tunis, apart from the bits that were added by Romans after the "sowing with salt" thing we visited the harbours (2 of them) or at least the ruins of the harbours. One harbour was commercial and the other was military. A central island in a round harbour with a lock into the commercial harbour meant they could store their military ships in a nice safe harbour and get them out to sea very fast.

    During the WW2 the Brits filmed themselves building a lancaster bomber in 24 hours (including all the stitching) machining of the engine block etc but not including the castingss. JIT for the modern age!

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    Friday 16th May, we went on a cruise. Not on a monster cruise liner, but on a boat built in 1923. gives some details about the boat. Trionfo's were small cargo boats that plied the Adriatic, carrying general cargo, Istrian stone, produce and so on. Il Nuovo Trionfo is the last remaining of some thousands of boats, and you might see her moored beside the Punta della Dogana.

    We sailed, or motored, as there was little wind, south along the Lido as far as Malamocco, past the island of Poveglia. Good to see Poveglia, presently subject of a citizens initiative to have the island stay in public ownership. gives some photos, and what the group is trying to achieve.

    Cruised part way out through the Malamocco entrance, which is being modified courtesy of The Mose barrier system, an enormous undertaking, about 7 billion euros. Once completed, the barriers will be deployed when a tide greater than 110 cm is anticipated. Apropos of nothing, 110 cm would see about 30 cm of water in front of Quadri in the Piazza.

    There is a great web site, detailing the level of every street in Venice, so when you select your hotel for a December visit, you can decide whether wellies - or fishing waders - should be in your kit. . Also interesting is how Venice is mapped and managed as islands - we are officially on the island of the Carmini, which also takes in Campo Margerita. Salute is an island in itself. Mostly when we get around here, we navigate from campo to campo, but the engineers, hydrologists and the layers of gas mains work on an island basis.

    So, the Malamocco entrance, being Mosed, and I can imagine the sort of negotiations that might happen when a cruise liner is wanting to enter at a time of acqua alta, when the tide is forecast at say, 111 cm. "Come on, Giacomo, it's only one cm over the barrier raising trigger. We have two thousand on board wanting to see Venice. Hold off on raising the barrier for half an hour, so we don't waste six hours bobbing around in the Adriatic."

    Response per Giacomo: "With respect, sir, no way. Well, maybe we can hang off for twenty minutes. Get the pilot on board pronto, and confirm the tugs. And don't do a Costa Concordia on me. Ciao."

    Anyway, we saw the pilot boat blast out through the Malamocco entrance to meet an in-bound container ship, bound for Marghera up the Petroleum Channel.

    Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
    Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
    With a cargo of ivory,
    And apes and peacocks,
    Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

    Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
    Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
    With a cargo of diamonds,
    Emeralds, amythysts,
    Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

    Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
    Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
    With a cargo of Tyne coal,
    Road-rails, pig-lead,
    Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

    Modest sized container ship loaded to the gunwales
    Sailing from the Orient bearing forty foot cans
    With a cargo of tellies
    Spark plugs and bicycles
    IKEA flat packs and "Murano" glass.

    Sorry, John Masefield, "Cargoes", and more of the IKEA reference to come.

    Sunday, and we were offered a uniquely Venetian experience. Our friends emigrated to Venice a couple of years ago, their possessions wrapped in a bandanna, borne on a stick over the shoulder, Dick Whittington style. Their goods have now caught up with them, almost like Sears delivering, per mail order, a kit house plus furniture and cast iron stove to a railway station on the Prairies.

    Part of the delivery included a few books. Maybe not enough books to fill the State Archive here, reputed to have some 75,000 linear metres of shelving, but more than the odd paperback. Bookshelves were needed.

    Trip to IKEA in Padua, described as Hell by our friend, returning with Billy bookcases, eschewing Helga the doormat and Sven the toilet brush. The Venetian experience started at Piazzale Roma, hellish appurtenances comprising five Billies and a trolley. Haul bookcases one by one over the Calatrava bridge, a further 600 metres to apartment over another bridge, up a couple of flights of stairs, and job done.

    The main part of Hell, though, was manoeuvring the trolley through the hordes at the foot of the Scalzi bridge, a scene straight out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting, no Garden of Earthly delights unless one is looking at the right hand panel of the triptych, with appropriate references to Dante's Inferno, Bosch-is torments courtesy of minor devils, aka tourists. Shouts of "permesso", "avanti" and "attenzione" falling on deaf ears, "scusi" when the orange trolley found the odd shin.

    Maybe it was the Australian accent used to deliver such warnings - I don't know. But anyway, that is how furniture is moved in Venice, a very Venetian experience, fun to be part of it.

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    Tuesday 20th May, we took a day trip to Vicenza. Fast train, taking about 40 minutes, blasting across the Veneto plain at about 100 mph. Last time I went to Vicenza was in mid-December, and the fields were covered in snow, and it was bitterly cold, this time Spring planting in full force, a very different landscape.

    Vicenza is, of course, Palladio Centrale. We visited the Teatro Olimpico, walked around the Basilica Palladiana (an older building, the tower dating from the 12th Century, Palladio designed the loggia around the Basilica), the Palladio Museum and the Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, which is near the theatre.

    If you visit,and are on a Palladio kick, then I'd suggest visiting the Palladio Museum first. The museum is housed inside an urban dwelling, the only such dwelling completed by Palladio in his lifetime. It gives great insight into where Palladio was coming from as an architect, shows drawings that Palladio did when he visited Rome, sketching and measuring architectural details from ancient buildings. There are models of many of his buildings, including the Rotunda. Palladio was an apprentice stone cutter in his youth, and knew a thing or two about stone - also about faking the appearance of stone and marble. He was seen as an economical builder, knowing when to use marble, and when to use plaster with marble dust in it to simulate stone. There is a model of a brick column, showing how wedge shaped bricks, like pizza pieces, were laid to create a circular column, and then rendered with cement, given a couple of coats of plaster, and a fine edifice results.

    Palladio wrote "The Four Books of Architecture", first published in 1570, and the books define what is finest in Renaissance architecture. He was able to describe what details should be used in a facade, maybe a square cornice vs. a rounded cornice, depending on how the light and shade was to fall on the wall. From a distance, Palladio's architecture may seem repetitive, but once you get closer to the details, it can be understood on an intellectual level as well. It's no coincidence that the Melbourne Public Library, or antebellum architecture in the USA, show the same influence - somehow Palladio was able to get it just right.

    Having wealthy clients would have helped. The loggia around the Basilica is interesting, as Palladio had to design the loggia to accommodate an existing, much older building, and the architectural tricks that he employed to make the design work are evident. All the arches are identical in form and size, but if you look, you can see how the column spacing varies - it's a bit hard to explain. But the fact that building details are more closely spaced at the corners makes the loggia look more solid, more substantial. The corner columns on the Parthenon are more closely spaced than the centre columns, for the same reason.

    At the time of building the loggia, Palladio was on a stipend of 7 ducats a month, which was reasonable pay for a celebrity. The loggia cost some 60,000 ducats - or about 700 years salary for a celebrity. A formidable cost - which maybe explains why the loggia took 50 years to complete. A bit like Gaudi's cathedral in Barcelona.

    I've never been able to figure how Palladio worked. There are a mass of drawings and documents, proposal drawings, working drawings, set-out plans. Some fairly simple, others beautifully rendered, maybe to convince clients that it was time to go to contract. Palladio's design office must have had a host of draftsmen, but you don't hear about them, in the same way as you don't hear about the drafties in the offices of the Corb, van der Rohe, Phillip Johnston et al. There must have been site clerks, quantity surveyors, quality assurance people, cost control, just like any modern building project, along with specialists knowing about erecting domes, laying drains, sorting foundations. The information is mute on these people, but I would love to know the back story about them.

    One trick that was used, to obtain a good finish to brickwork, which can otherwise be a bit rough. Bricks were polished with silica sand and water on a rotating table, to bring them to an exact, uniform size. They could then be laid with fine, about one millimetre, layers of mortar. Polish the wall to remove any laying imperfections and voila, job done. Apply plaster, dress it to look like stone, and you've saved the client a bundle.

    Palladio had a thing about the architecture of antiquity, and the Olympic Theatre gave him his chance to build an amphitheatre. Semi-elliptic seating looking down on the stage, a homage to the theatre at Olympia in Greece. The Olympic Academy commissioned the theatre, Palladio designed it, but died a year later, before it could be finished. There are references to the Labours of Hercules in bas-relief above the proscenium arch, maybe a reference to the worth of labour, the work ethic and so on. A good way of getting the message across to a populace that was illiterate. There are niches with statues of the Academy members who funded he job, and they are in good condition, being plaster but always under cover. The faces are of the Members, the more senior members garbed in togas, the more junior as warriors. But look at the statue at the very top left as you face the stage - the body is of a woman, showing breasts, but wearing armour, a Member of the Academy. Someone decided to re-cycle a statue in 1584, hoping it might pass un-noticed.

    Behind the seating there are nine niches with statues. The centre statue, the statue in pride of place, is Palladio. Maybe as a way of avoiding controversy as to who should get the best spot.

    The Civic Art Gallery is housed in the Palazzo Chiericati, built by Palladio in 1550. It is a great collection, starting in the basement. Recent restorations have uncovered Roman walls, including retaining walls made of amphora filled with broken brick and pottery, and Roman drainage tunnels. When the Palazzo was built, the foundations were punched down through the Roman remnants, leaving much of them un-disturbed. Really worth a look.

    On the upper floors, you can see the development of painting, particularly Renaissance portraits, which are well explained in English, with reference to the iconography. For instance, one little girl holds a golden finch, a symbol of piety. It is recorded that she was later to become a nun, and maybe her life's path had been established at the time of the portrait. Many of the portraits have a diagram detailing who the people are, and what they later did in life.

    There is a collection of "ancient" coins - except that many of them are not ancient. In 16th century Vicenza, anyone with the slightest claim to education, good manners and social acceptance was interested in antiquity. So there was a market for antiques, statues, coins and medallions. Most markets get corrupted if there is enough demand for product, and 1550 Vicenza was no exception. Enter the counterfeiters, making Roman coins and medallions, generally not detected as fakes. Anyone interested in my almost genuine Picasso? - I'll get in the mail once the paint has dried. PayPal is fine.

    There is a great fresco of a naked charioteer, representing the Sun, being pursued by, I think, Diana, wearing a moon. The genitalia, both equine and male, are rendered in some detail, I think maybe as a bit of a joke.

    Upstairs, on the top floor, is one man's collection of art - sadly I can't remember his name, but he was wealthy and of good taste. There are several ink sketches by Tiepolo, maybe prelims for the fresco now in Ca' Rezzonico, the vision of the new world, showing mainly the backs of people. A Picasso, and a host of other works. It's interesting to see such a collection, many periods and styles, a way of getting inside the head of the collector himself, who may have been a bit of a snob. There is displayed, safely under glass, an engraved invitation - the invitation being from Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, asking could she have the pleasure of his company for luncheon on the Royal Yacht Britannia, in about 1953.

    A couple of spritzes in passing, a couple of proseccos, a couple of paninis, and a most satisfying day all round.

    Andre Palladio, born 30th November, 1508, died 19th August, 1580. Leaving a most remarkable legacy.

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    THanks for sharing Palladio with us, Peter, and your hilarious account of furniture delivery in Venice, BTW.

    On the off-chance that our group trip to Venice comes off next February, would it be worth doing Vicenza or Padua as 1/2 day trips? the language school is likely to finish at about 1pm, so we'd be able get to wherever we had picked by 2.30 I would have thought.

    Assuming that we'd want to be back in Venice by about 8pm at the latest, would that be long enough to achieve something worthwhile?

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    I think that we will be attending the Istituto Venezia in Campo Santa Margherita which I believe is in Dorsodoro, but it won't be fixed until mid September when we start back with our italian lessons.

    not very convenient for the station!

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    It took us 3 trips before we got into the Gesuti--amazing.

    The lace-making is fascinating. With directions from a Reader's Digest book of crafts, I learned to do a bobbin or pillow lace sampler. And the stitches didn't approach being as fine as lace those ladies produce.

    Ironically, I might have been looking at "Earthly Delights" when you were moving those shelves. Thanks for the mind picture. Know your friend was glad to have your help.

    Palladio's Rotunda had been on our "to see" list after a visit to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. After visiting Rotunda, we only had time for a stroll through Vicenza proper and missed the museum. Good to read your description.

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    Keith and I visited Vicenza last July to view La Rotunda.

    Keith dropped our picnic lunch--Billa poppyseed rolls and Montasio cheese-- in a puddle at the side of the road!

    Oh, was I angry at him.

    It was a nice day, however, and I made him buy me a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for the train ride back to Santa Lucia Station.

    And, yes, I made Keith buy me a Murano goblet to drink my Champagne out of.

    I do not drink from a paper or plastic cup!


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    Anne, a half day trip from Venice to Vicenza is doable. Your class finishes at 1:00, and it is 15 or 20 minutes walk from Campo Margerita to the railway station. (Took us 15 minutes a couple of days ago). There is a 13:20 PM train that gets into Vicenza a little after 14:00, and the walk from Vicenza station to the old town is about ten minute. (You walk up Via Roma - is there a single town in Italy that does not have a Via Roma?) Once you leave the station forecourt, as you walk up Via Roma, there is a park on each side of the road. It's really pleasant. Turn right onto Via Palladio, through the old city gate, and you are transported into Renaissance Italy.

    The old town is great, mostly pedestrian and bicycle, very pleasant.

    Olympic Theatre is closed on Mondays, last admission at 16:30
    Civic Art Gallery - closed Monday, last admission at 16:30
    Palladio Museum - Closed Monday, last admission at 17:30, closes at 18:00.

    So it would be quite doable.

    Padua is also doable, about ten minutes less on the train. We find Padua less intimate than Vicenza, for instance in central Padua here are many high-end stores (think Prada et al) and it is more busy, motor scooters and such. The Scrovegni chapel in Padua is special, and you do need to book, and we enjoyed the Botanical Gardens. Padua is bigger than Vicenza, so you spend more time walking.

    We arrived in Vicenza around 10:00 AM, left around 17:30, saw as much as we wanted, plus about one and a half hours devoted to wine etc.

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    I forgot one thing we saw in Vicenza. In the Civic Museum, there is a small display of arms, just a single cabinet. Several stilettos, needle sharp, similar diameter to a pencil, a mace, a halberd and a dagger. The dagger is calibrated, so that it could be used as a measuring stick, in theory to check cannon ball diameter against cannon barrel bore. A fairly useless way of checking.

    The real reason - Vicenza outlawed concealed weapons. But the calibrated dagger could be claimed as just being for measurement, not intended to be in any way harmful. Yeah, right!

    I could foresee Smith and Wesson getting onto this, a way around the "concealed carry" restrictions in the USA.

    "Smith and Wesson - WE HAVE YOUR MEASURE.
    Get the latest S&W firearm, graduated in inches for traditionalists, in centimetres for the up and coming bros in the 'hood. Ignore safely those pesky concealed carry restrictions, and useful in IKEA for measuring whether your wide screen TV will fit in the wall unit."

    Or to quote Dirty Harry aka Clint Eastwood, "Go ahead, punk. Measure my day".

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    Peter, that's really helpful and makes me think that although it may be 10 mins longer on the train, Vicenza would be a better goal for a 1/2 day trip.

    It took us 3 trips before we got into the Gesuti--amazing>>

    TD - it really is, isn't it?

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    A couple of rather different experiences, visiting Sant' Erasmo and the Palazzo Fortuny.

    Sant' Erasmo is an island east of Venice, and in land area is about the same size as Venice. It is almost totally given to vegetable growing, particularly artichokes and asparagus, but we saw plantings of tomatoes as well.

    We took the No 13 vaporetto from Fond. Nuove, which calls at Murano (and thus loses most of the passengers), then on to Vignole and Sant' Erasmo. It runs about every hour. You change vaporetto at the Capannone stop on Sant' Ersamo, as a smaller boat continues the voyage towards Tre Porti, down a pretty tight channel. We went as far as the Chiesa stop on San't Erasmo - one stop, and about ten minutes along from Capannone, and then walked.

    There is not much at Chiesa - a modern church and a small supermarket - and you walk down narrow roads, passing vegetable gardens and being passed by people on bicycles, and little three wheeled Vespa trucks. It is very peaceful and quiet.

    There is a vaporetto stop at the very south tip of the island, at Forte Massimiliano, but it is on a seasonal vap route, not running much. There is a bar at the fort - Bar Tedeschi, and I've no idea why there would be a German bar, as we did not sight any lederhosen, nor hear any oom-pah-pah music. There is also a hotel and bar about half way between the Capannone vap stop and the fort, and it is a 15 minute walk from Capannone to the fort. We had a drink at the hotel, and as we were leaving, a wedding party arrived, groom wearing top hat and morning suit, bride in peach, for one of those lunches that continue until it gets dark.

    The fort is a huge brick structure, recently restored with some pretty clever architecture. There are apertures for cannon, plus loopholes for small arms, and remnant concrete mounts for more recent armaments. Worth a look if it is open when you visit - it was closed when we went there - and it must be amazing inside, powder magazines, hoists for shells, all the gear needed to prevent ships from sailing up the Porta di Lido and on to Venice.

    Many people would like to see fewer cruise liners arrive in Venice. Re-arm the fort, and lay some shells across the bows of the cruise liners, I say.

    We bought some small artichokes from a gentleman in a three wheeled Vespa truck, and they were very good. The soil looks very fertile, worked extensively by hand - horticulture conducted in a way that we don't see in Australia, where it is much more mechanised. If you are visiting, I'd suggest going only as far as Capannone on the vap, and then walk towards the fort - going as far as Chiesa does not add much..

    I think that to understand Venice, you need to see something of the lagoon. You need to get out past Murano and Burano, to appreciate how big the lagoon is, how still it is, see the mud flats and observe how un-populated the islands are. I imagine that there are people living on Vignole and Sant' Erasmo that go to "downtown" Venice maybe once every year or two - the population is about 700.

    The Palazzo Fortuny is a different story altogether. Possibly not on the "A" list of places to see in Venice, but really worthwhile. We went at 10:00 AM on a Monday, and the Palazzo was very un-crowded, excellent.

    Most museums that we've visited have a linear focus, if that makes any sense. Maybe they are all about Venice, or all about the development of modern art, like the Guggenheim. Maybe a civic collection, like the Civic Gallery in Vicenza, or all about Palladio.

    The Fortuny is really one families' collection. There were four temporary exhibitions on display, as well as the Fortuny pieces.

    A collection of photographs, collected by Mario Trevisan, about 60 works in all, including photographs by Dora Maar, Diane Arbus and Leni Riefenstahl. All the works are by female photographers. I'd never seen a Riefenstahl work "in person" before, and it was immediately recognisable, three German lasses performing calisthenics with skipping ropes, as fine an advert for Aryan youth as one could wish for. Leni lived to the ripe old age of 101.

    The oldest works on display date from the 1870's, and the collection has works from as recent as 2013. There are a couple of photographs of Ophelia, by different photographers. One Ophelia is nude, lying in a swamp, strategically covered by patches of greenery. The other is also Ophelia in water, but a most pre-Raphaelite kind of work.

    An "installation", photographed in the Guggenheim. The installation comprising about 15 nude women, faces obscured by masks, and all of the women being exactly the same size and shape. That must have been a tricky casting call indeed.

    There is a collection of work by Dora Maar, at one time Picasso's woman, or perhaps one of Picasso's serial women. One series of photos was taken over two or three months, while Picasso painted "Guernica", and the series shows the development of the painting, from a quite detailed initial sketch through to the completed work. There would be about 20 photos, so she was maybe taking a photo every several days. One almost never sees how a painting develops, so the series is really instructive.

    There are a lot of candid street shots by Maar, including several taken in London in 1934, depression, tough times, one of a gentleman, very well dressed, wing collar, tie pin, bowler hat in hand, selling matches. The whole story of someone reduced to poverty, a story told at ASA120, f16 and 1/60th. A life captured in the blink of an eye, a snap of the shutter. Reminded me of Orwell's book, "Down and Out in Paris and London".

    The thing that is great about the Maar display is that they are scattered amongst other works and objects in the Fortuny collection, so it something of a process of discovery.

    There is an exhibition of work by Anne-Karin Furunes, They are interesting - big works, about two or three metres square, portraits of women taken from photos in the Fortuny collection. gives a good description. She creates her images by painting a monochrome canvas, generally black, and then punching holes through the canvas to create an image. It means that the creation process is actually one of subtraction rather than addition. When you stand some distance from the work, then the image is clear, but as you move closer, the image disappears. There is both an emotional and intellectual feeling as you see this - the photos that she based her works on are all of long-dead women. Somehow the feeling of time, the fact that you can't ever know those women, is made evident as you approach the work.

    OK, enough of the temporary exhibitions, which finish on 14th July 2014. There is the permanent collection, and what a collection it is. Paintings, models of buildings, a pair of model stage sets, one complete with curtains, lighting that can be dimmed, overhead covering, the lot. Bits of statues, a Picasso painting (portrait of Dora Maar, while she was still in Picasso's good books), photos, fabrics, furniture, objects. One work, from 1966, an internal doorway that has been closed with dry-laid stone slabs, really making the statement that the doorway is closed, shut, sealed, never to be opened again. Remnant frescos, in places removed to show the frescos underneath, in places three layers of frescos evident.

    The thing that makes it great is that it is one person's or one families' collection, so you can get inside their heads a bit.

    All housed in the Palazzo that once belonged to the Pesaro family, and the Pesaro mob knew a thing or two about Palazzos and how grand they ought be.

    Another artist of note, although perhaps not to be hung in the Accademia any time soon - Walter Berton. You'd find him on the street, at the Accademia end of Campo San Stefano, opposite San Vidal. Walter has painted heaps of Venetian scenes palazzzo/gondola/bridge etc, but he's done a series of paintings of gondoliers, and they are clever and fun. Gondoliers having hassles with seagulls - two of the symbols of Venice coming into conflict - or a gondolier pulling the tail of a very lifelike Venetian lion, with book. Have a look if you walk past, riffle through the reproductions (5 euro per, about A5 size), and he will not give you any sort of hard sell.

    Don't count on gondoliers being particularly polite. We saw one disembarking, with some difficulty, a woman of size a couple of days ago, and heard him say "she's not Claudia Schiffer".

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    The soil looks very fertile, worked extensively by hand - horticulture conducted in a way that we don't see in Australia, where it is much more mechanised.>>

    sounds like the area around Valencia, [the "huerta"] a little of which we saw from our train to Sagunto yesterday. Horticulture going on in a small scale, within a larger one, with many small individual plots growing tomatoes [which we saw in a market for only €1 for 4kgs, compared to £/lb here - why don't they export them to us, we get their oranges] lettuce, beans, and the remnants of lots of artichokes, which were more or less over. A way of life that is restricted t a very few places, i think. Even around here veg growing is done on a much more commercial basis - our farming neighbour before he retired would drill enough fields to plant 100,000+ cabbages in a day; a world away from the pretty rows of lettuces we spotted from the train.

    sounds as if it's lucky that I've never been in a gondola and/or they've never heard of Hatty Jaques, Peter!

    Thanks for the information about the Fortuny; I am gradually amassing a number of ideas for our possible trip in February, which will also include your artist friend Walter. I have a lovely print of a bridge and some gondola oars on my living room wall, but i see that it's not by him. I bought it from a shop near the Frari about 5-6 years ago and still remember the sigh of relief as I just managed to fit it into my suitcase!

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    We visited the Fortuny in July, 2012 for the Diana Vreeland exhibit.

    Enjoyed sitting in the little courtyard patio.

    We were disappointed that there was very little that related to Fortuny's career as a couturier.


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    The mayor of Venice is presently under house arrest, standing accused of taking a 700,000 euro bribe from the consortium building the Mose tidal barrier system. I would have thought that this was a most modest amount, given that the Mose system is costing about 7 billion. He sold himself very cheaply, depressing the market for corruption to a considerable extent.

    Meanwhile, protests against cruise liners continue, the most recent last weekend. "No Grandi Navi" flags are seen all over Venice, and the most recent marine target was the MSC Divina, 1000 feet long (the Piazza is less than 600 feet long), 18 decks, 4000 passengers and 1500 crew. A most fitting target, a ship amongst the ten biggest cruise liners in the world.

    A nicely coordinated protest, both land based and water based. A big crowd at Piazzale Roma, some thousands, moving towards the berths at Statione Marittima, where the monster was berthed, intent on delaying embarkation. A line of riot police, plastic shields, helmets, batons, confronting the protesters who had armed themselves with inflatable beach toys. A sensible choice - no policeman will feel comfortable beating the tripes out of a girl protecting herself with a rubber ducky. So, tugs called up, pilot on board, can't exactly let go fore and aft when there are some hundreds of souls still to get aboard. A delay.

    Second part of the protest - a fleet of boats in the Giudecca canal, lying in wait for the Divina, gross tonnage of said Divina being some 139,400, smallest protest boat being a single kayak, gross tonnage about 0.120, plus a fleet of police boats. No way to stop the protest boats moving up the canal, without risk of drowning a protester, which would close the canal for hours. Throw into the mix a bunch of water taxis, vaporetti, rubbish barges and tour vessels, and it's a lively scene. And serious delays to the Divina, not living up to her name, in an unholy mess.

    Eventually the scene cleared, vessel sailed. But it will have cost the cruise line tens of thousands in delays, demurrage, tugs, plus the additional fuel oil burned to get to the next port on time.

    One has to wonder if Venice has reached tourist saturation, with about 21 million visitors a year. It is high season now, a lot of people, and yet traders are commenting that business is slow. The hairdresser down the street is very quiet, shops selling high-end stuff are saying that there is not much custom. Shops that are on the tour-group route, where a bunch of visitors are led into the shop do OK, but the average traders are not doing so well.

    I visited the Accademia, now devoid of construction work, a change after about six years. The inner courtyard is now visible, and a cafe might open there soon, with a bit of luck. I do enjoy the Carpacchio St Ursula cycle of paintings, in a gallery that is ripe for restoration. There is cracking in the walls, and so the gallery has been plastered with measuring equipment, courtesy of Save Venice, to track the way the building moves about. St Ursula went from England with a group of virgins to Cologne, where she was martyred along with the virgins. Rumour/legend has it that there were three thousand virgins, other legends claim ten thousand virgins, and the last painting in the cycle shows, in graphic detail, the fate of the virgins. Carved up with axes, swords, halberds, clubs, cross-bows, the whole gory armoury, almost as gory as the display of surgical instruments in the hospital library. St Ursula is totally unaware of the carnage, awaiting in a state of bliss the arrow that is to be shot into her breast.

    You can get lucky - I chanced on the church of San Zaccaria when it happened to be open, and there is a fine Bellini, the best work in the church. Worth shoving a euro into the illumination box, and it will take your breath away. Bellini never was much into legless winged putti, rather decorating his works with children playing stringed instruments, lutes and such. You can see exactly the same instruments in the church of San Giacomo di Rialto, on the San Polo side of the bridge, a nice conjunction.

    Tiepolo (or Tiepolos plural) drags me all over Venice, a bit of a quest, from the Accademia to San Alvise in Cannarigo, via San Polo, all courtesy of the Chorus Pass, the best value at about 10 euro. San Alvise still has an enclosed choir gallery for the nuns, connected to the monastery. The pass, plus map, encourages one to get off the beaten path, seeing, for instance, the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a marble church that rivals the Gesuati. Not as elaborate, rather austere, but with exceptionally fine marble both inside and out.

    The Architecture Biennale started last week, multiple yachts lined up along the Riva Schiavoni, yachts that in former times were described as "gin palaces". They've mostly gone now, and the Biennale is pretty quiet. I was wondering if I would enjoy the Biennale, or whether it might be a bit too esoteric for a non-archi, and I've really enjoyed a day at the Arsenale, another at the Giardini, and a day at various other locations around town, with several more to come.

    The Korean pavilion. A combined pavilion, operated by both Koreas, north and south. When the pavilion was first proposed, the Biennale folk dictated that, "there's only one pavilion. Get along and get over it". So part of the pavilion hosts pictures of dedicated, well fed, happy tradesmen, constructing with enthusiasm a socialist workers paradise north of the 39th parallel. All the workers wear belts, supported by braces, and broad smiles. By contract, the south side has something to say about the social problems that can be created by architecture.

    A similar theme was apparent at the Great Britain (Great Britain is not so much heard, replaced by the ubiquitous U.K.) pavilion, "A Clockwork Jerusalem" being the theme. Taking Blake's poem, applying it to contemporary architecture, with particular reference to the Thamesmead development. Thamesmead, developed in the 1970's. Abandoned as a suitable place for families, providing a place for squatters and heavy metal musos, a backdrop for Stanley Kubric, and demolished a decade or two ago.

    Israel, a trio of A0 sized plotters, drawing diagrams in sand.

    Germany. Impossible, the chancellors bungalow from Bonn recreated in Venice, along with a three thousand word commentary in 6-point font. A political statement, and I didn't get it. German nihilism maybe.

    Italy. A 300 metre long installation in the Corderie in the Arsenal, Venice's longest building, with film, dance, installations, showcasing Italy, and also showcasing some pretty disastrous developments in Italy.

    Albania. Paintings of ruins. Except that the ruins are just unfinished, never ever to be finished, buildings.

    A full scale construction of one of Le' Corbusier's never-built structures. I've never really "got" Corb's architecture, but seeing a work at full scale makes it approachable.

    The Stati Uniti d'America, aka the USA. A great resource - the curators have collected a compendium of work by American architects that have worked outside the USA, displaying it simply as a resource. So, for me, possible to see details of work by Walter Burley Griffin, who laid out our national capital, Canberra, and also designed Newman College at Melbourne University, a building that I know well.

    And onto the Elements of Architecture in the central pavilion in the Giardini. Fascinating, looking at a set of architectural features. Floor, wall, window, balcony, stairway, escalator, door, corridor, facade, roof, toilet and so on. Interesting, in that architecture is about assembling elements into a building, but this display de-constructs the set. Rem Koolhaas curated this display, and said about the balcony "Without my parents' balcony, I would not be here. They lived on the 5th floor of a new social democratic walk-up. Born in the last months of the war, a cold but very sunny winter, when everything that could be burned had been burned, I was exposed to the sun, naked, to capture its heat, like a mini solar panel."

    Which gave me cause to think.

    And an architectural note, not connected to the Biennale. Carlo Scarpa is well known in Venice, Venice's favourite contemporary architect. The Olivetti showroom in the Piazza and the Querini Stampalia foundation are two of my favourite buildings in Venice, both done by Scarpa. A Cuban student of Scarpa designed, and managed the renovations, for the apartment that we are staying in, and submitted the building, plus its documentation, for his final year thesis. Scarpa's architectural handwriting is all over the apartment, not as a copy, more a homage to Scarpa's thought processes.

    So, to conclude, in someone else's words, words heard on the street, a member of a little tour group to the tour leader, the accent somewhat south of the Mason-Dixon.

    "Monica, we've passed a lot of shops selling masks. What's with the masks?"

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    Not as bad as Alabama lady yelling out at Anne Frank House, "How could anyone live in this tiny apartment? I could never live in a place like this. If I were these people I would have looked for a bigger place!"

    There are some good paintings by Longhi at the Accademia.

    And the showpiece, of course, is The Tempest by Giorgione.

    Thanks for the report that Prada is empty.

    We are here in Texas and Michael Kors is also empty.

    Not everyone has a Petra Ecclestone budget!

    Take care,

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    Eventually the scene cleared, vessel sailed. But it will have cost the cruise line tens of thousands in delays, demurrage, tugs, plus the additional fuel oil burned to get to the next port on time.>>


    ironic isn't it that Venice is fuller than ever with tourists, and yet the tradesmen and shopkeepers of Venice are not making money? i have photos that i took on our first visit to Venice in about 1983 showing the Grand canal almost empty of water traffic apart from the odd gondola. What time of year was this?


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