Categories
Italy (Venice) Travel Videos Uncategorized

Making waves in Venice: A gondola and a cruise ship

kit-suman-07jrr9MVIj8-unsplash
Photo by Kit Suman on Unsplash

For Venice lovers: a video clip of each

I’ve been to Venice twice, but neither time have I ridden a gondola or disembarked from a cruise (or embarked on one, for that matter). On my first trip to Venice, I flew to Marco Polo Airport and then hopped onto an Ali Laguna vaporetto to hop off at San Samuele.

On my second trip, I took a bus from Marco Polo to the bustling Piazzale Roma where I met my daughter who was there serving an internship at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

So although I still have not ridden a gondola, they continue to fascinate me…

…as they snake through the labyrinthine canals, glossy and black.

It’s possible, as one walks alongside a canal, to glance up from your thoughts and be surprised by one gliding by, silent and serene, mere footsteps away.

It is also possible to be flabbergasted by the gargantuan size of a cruise ship as it lumbers through the lagoon.

These behemoths seem strangely alien in such a delicate cityscape.

Similar to New York  City’s new Super Tall skyscrapers, they appear gawky, out of place, and — with last summer’s near cruise ship collision, — dangerous and unnecessary.  This two-minute video shows the mammoth size of one of these cruise ships as it creeps along the Zattere waterfront promenade in the Dorsoduro sestiere. 


Thanks for reading! Check out my Italy (Venice) category for several more posts (Jewish Ghetto, the hospital, Calatrava Bridge, etc.) about Venice… a city I hope to visit a third time when travel opportunities return. I have a list of sights I still want to experience. Feel free to leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts.


My next post: How to get from Delphi to Itea, Greece by bus

Categories
Food & Recipes Italy (Venice) Reviews of Books/Music/Films

During COVID-19, Take Your Tastebuds to Venice

My daughter ordered this from Amazon to try some new recipes from Venice, also known as La Serenissima. The region may be under lockdown, but our fascination with all things Venice isn’t.

“A Table in Venice” by Skye McAlpine Takes You There

Last week, my daughter ordered this beautiful cookbook, A Table in Venice: Recipes from My Home, by Skye McAlpine from Amazon. Its 287 pages showcase 100 recipes from Venice and the greater lagoon.

Yes, the region may be under lockdown, but our fascination with all things Venice isn’t.

The book’s preface titled “My Venetian Pantry” (her first must-have staple is amaretto biscuits) precedes six chapters such as “Sweet Breakfast Recipes,” “Recipes for a Venetian Aperitivo,” and “Fish and Game from the Venetian Lagoon.” Each recipe is accompanied by down-to-earth commentary to guide you through replicating some of Venice’s most renowned local specialties.

In “Vegetable Recipes from the Rialto Market,” British author Skye McAlpine, @skyemcalpine, describes the frank personal service you’ll experience if you visit the iconic market.

For example, she writes on page 69…

“No vendor at the market will let you take a bag of artichoke hearts home without pressing into your hands a bunch of fresh parsley to fry in the pan with them.” Expect this gesture to be accompanied with detailed instructions for how to best prepare the produce as well.

McAlpine also keeps it real.

A resident of Venice since the age of six, she suggests substitutions when needed. If a recipe calls for a certain type of radicchio that’s unique to the Veneto but hard to find elsewhere, she lets you know.

She writes on page 103, “If you can’t get hold of Tardivo radicchio, which can sometimes be tricky to source outside of Italy, then red chicory works well instead. It has a slightly different texture but a lovely, bitter flavor.”

Photo: Pixabay

Of course, the book sizzles with fabulous photography; however, it’s clear that the dishes are the star of the show. A photograph of “Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and crab” on page 138, for example, shows the dish plopped on a plate without much overt styling.

The result? It’s not the cutlery, the plants in the background, or the vintage china you’ll want to stare at. Instead, like the towering campanile in Piazza San Marco, the Venetian foods dominate the table setting.


Thanks for reading! Tried any new recipes while you practice social distancing? I’ll follow up this post soon with a report on our experiences with some of McAlpine’s recipes. Become a follower to catch that post. Take care!

Categories
Italy (Venice)

Dear Venice, Get Well Soon

Photo: Marilyn Yung

Best wishes for a speedy recovery

I took this picture of my daughter last June as she and I returned to Venice from a day trip to Bologna. In the distance, you can see Venice in the lagoon poised for the few remaining months of problematic mass tourism that remained in 2019.

It’s quite a reversal of affairs compared to Venice today when the city is coping not only with the COVID-19 quarantine, but also with the residual after-effects of the historic floods last November.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, La Serenissima.


I’ve been to Venice only twice, but am smitten by this elegant city so culturally important that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, many of my posts recently have focused on Venice. Leave a comment with your Venice memories below. Here’s a recent post titled, Venice Doesn’t Need More Tourists Like Me.

Categories
Art & Architecture Italy (Venice)

Photo Friday: A Venetian mosaic

IMG_2556
Photo: Katherine Yung

The travel is in the details

This unexpected mosaic tucked into a corridor in the San Marco sestiere of Venice, Italy will take your breath away. Even the wrought iron barrier is beautiful and provides a contrasting frame for this photo taken by my daughter in June 2019.

The design reminds me of a beautiful painting by the Venetian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini  that you’ll find hanging inside the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The basilica is located adjacent to the Venetian hospital Ospedale Civile.

The image on both the painting and the mosaic depicts the Christ child being carried by the patron saint of travelers Saint Christopher, a 3rd-century church martyr.


Thanks for reading! I plan to post a photo every Friday. Click “like” and become a follower to catch my next post and pictures! And don’t forget: the travel is in the details.

Categories
Italy (Venice)

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice: A Walking Tour

IMG_9798
It was a warm, sunny day when we visited the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, the square that anchors  the Jewish Ghetto in Venice’s Cannaregio in the northwest part of the city.

Five facts and photos from our brief visit to this less traveled Venetian sight

In June, my daughter and I took an afternoon in Venice to see the Jewish Ghetto located in the Cannaregio sestiere, in the north of the city. Two years earlier, on a previous week-long trip to Venice, I had wanted to see the ghetto, but ran out of time. Therefore, in June, it was still on my return trip bucket list.

58213627208__C41ACE90-D037-4DDC-A02F-CF12DF811372
My daughter and I on our way to Cannaregio to take a walk through the Jewish Ghetto.

Honestly, we didn’t plan this little jaunt well. We just took off for Cannaregio shortly after lunch on the last day of my visit. (She had the day off from her two-month internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the Biennale del Arte and wouldn’t be leaving for another month.)

So while I wish I had taken a guided tour offered by the Jewish Museum of Venice and was able to tell you more about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto—the first of its kind in the world—I’m still grateful that we spent the hour or so there.

Even so, with the recent flooding in Venice, the ghetto has suffered. Fortunately, the synagogues are located on top or upper floors. According to this article in The Jerusalem Post, a storage facility and kosher restaurant were damaged. 

To find the ghetto, we used Google Maps, rode a vaporetto to the train station (the Ferrovia stop), and then wound our way through Cannaregio. We crossed a bridge, made a left alongside a row of shops bordering the canal, and walked right past an easy-to-overlook brick tunnel.

Following Google Maps, we turned around eventually, and wandered through that brick doorway. We followed the maze. Within a minute or two, we walked by a shop full of art prints and originals, a jewelry store, a book seller, a bakery.

It was quiet in the darkened corridors.

We heard the rumbles of the vaporetti (water buses) in the distance, layered behind the sounds of our own footsteps.

 

IMG_9794
This sign was posted within the front windows of an art shop down a corridor just off the the main campo of the ghetto.

After browsing through some lithographs and snapping a picture of the detailed sign above summarizing the history of the ghetto, we entered the Campiello de le Scuole, the “little square of the synagogues.” A seven-story building stood plainly before us. I have read since that this building demonstrates the tight quarters the Jewish people were contained in. Judging by the windows, these units couldn’t have contained standard 8-foot ceilings. In fact, these buildings were “the tallest buildings with the lowest-ceilinged apartments” in Venice, wrote David Laskin in this New York Times article.

IMG_9795
This building in the Campiello de le Scuole shows how concentrated the floors were.

We continued past this small square. Not more than one minute further into the labyrinth, we found ourselves in the main campo of the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo de Ghetto Nuovo.  In the square, a dozen people mingled and conversed quietly. A small tour group gathered at the base of the Jewish Museum of Venice.

A boy wearing a yarmulke, who looked to be about twelve years old, kicked a ball in the cool shade under a covered overhang on one of the many multi-story buildings that lined the campo. 

The afternoon was clear and sunny. And hot. It was the perfect day to tour cool and darkened museums and synagogues. But alas, we hadn’t planned well enough to do that. Perhaps on my next visit to Venice (I can’t imagine there’s not another one in my future!), I’ll plan better. In the meantime…

Here are five facts I have learned since about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto:

  1. It was established by the Doge Leonardo Loredan in 1516, according to this website. The ghetto in Venice was one of the world’s first places where people were forcibly segregated because of their religion. An observance of the 500-year anniversary of the establishment of the ghetto was held in 2016. A major art exhibition at the Doge’s Palace, special performances at the Fenice Opera House, and other events around the city were held to mark the milestone.

2. The English word “ghetto” is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, originating from the Venetian word ghèto and the Italian word ghetto, according to Chabad.org. The word “geto” in the Venetian dialect referred to a foundry, which was located nearby. Eventually, the word was used to refer to the area that contained the Jewish people.

IMG_9809
This is a nursing home that forms one side of the campo.

3. At its height, around 1650, the Ghetto housed 4,000 to 5,000 people in a space roughly equivalent to 2-1/2 city blocks. Later, in the years prior to World War II, about 1,300 Jews lived in the Ghetto.  During the war, 289 were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and Trieste; only seven returned.

Today, about 450-500 Jews live in Venice. A small number still live in the ghetto.

4. During the ghetto’s early years, its residents were limited as to where they could travel and work. They also had to pay for their own watchmen and security. In addition, their clothing was used to mark them: men wore yellow circles sewn to their left shoulders of their clothing; women wore yellow scarves.

Image result for venice jewish museum
Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Venice

5.  There are five active synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto today. To see the synagogues, one must sign up for public guided tours conducted by the Jewish Museum of Venice. Tours are scheduled every half hour starting at 10:30 and ending at 17:30. Tickets are 12 Euro each. Visit this website for more information.

IMG_9799

The plaque below describes the above sculpture, titled The Last Train, created by sculptor and Lithuanian-Jew Arbit Blatas. The sculpture shows Jews being loaded onto cattle cars. I believe the top line on the plaque is a dedication of the sculpture by the Jewish community of Venice to those deported to concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

IMG_9800

A composition of seven bronze sculptures depicts the atrocities inflicted upon the Jewish people during World War II. Close-up photos of three of these sculptures and the inscription plaques at far right are below.

IMG_9802

IMG_9807

IMG_9806

IMG_9805

IMG_9808
The top plaque reads: “Men, women, children, masses for the gas chambers advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the executioner. Your sad Holocaust is engraved in history, And nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories, For our memories are your only grave.”  The bottom plaque reads: “The City of Venice remembers the Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps on December 5, 1943 and August 17, 1944.”

IMG_9811
This is the door to the Scola Levantina, a synagogue just off the main campo of the ghetto.  It was built between 1538-1561. The distinctive cupola above the door makes it stand out from others in the area.

IMG_9801
This is another shot of the campo taken as we left the Jewish Ghetto.


Thanks for reading! This stop during my stay in Venice last summer was followed by a warm walk back through Cannaregio. On our way back to Santa Elena, we stopped along the Zattere at a Conad Supermarket for groceries we would need later that night for dinner. Follow my blog for more stories from my trip last summer to Skopelos, the Peloponnese, Crete, and, of course, Venice.

 

Categories
Italy (Venice)

Stepping Across a Controversy in Venice

Venezia_Ponte_di_Calatrava_-_panoramio
Ponte della Costituzione  | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Santiago Calatrava’s infamous bridge made my bucket list

This past June, I returned to Venice, Italy for five days to visit my daughter who was serving an internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the 2019 Art Biennale. While there, my goal was to experience a few sights I had missed in 2017 when we visited while she served another internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small modern art museum on the Grand Canal. (By the way, I plan to write a future post about her overall experience with the PGC internship. If you, your child, or your grandchild are interested in a career in art museum operations or administration, this paid internship is worth looking into.)

There were three Venice sights I missed seeing in 2017: 1) The Basilica of St. John and St. Paul (known in Italian as the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni y Paolo); 2) The Venetian Ghetto (where Jews were compelled to live starting in 1516 and the origin of the English word ghetto); and 3) The Constitution Bridge (known in Italian as the Ponte della Costituzione).

On the last full day of my visit in June, my daughter and I took a vaporetto to Cannaregio, the part of Venice where the Jewish Ghetto and the Ponte della Costituzione are located.

IMG_9812
The Constitution Bridge is located at the busy bus terminal known as Piazzale Roma. | Photo: M. Yung

I had first learned of the famous bridge, one of four pedestrian bridges that cross from one side of the Grand Canal to the other, when I read The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice. This book, written by Venetian transplant Polly Coles, reveals the daily routines of ordinary Venetians who have made the lagoon city their home. (What’s it like to live in one of the most heavily touristed cities in the world? Read this book. Where are the schools, the hospital, the post office? Read this book.)

Within one chapter of her book, Coles tells of her own experience with the infamous pedestrian bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

FullSizeRender (14)

I first learned of Calatrava when we visited “Sculpture into Architecture,” a 2005 exhibition of the artist’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The architect’s unusual skeletal forms intrigued me and still do today. For example, the Oculus transit hub near NYC’s One World Trade and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is one of Calatrava’s more recent U.S. designs. The Oculus’ soaring bird-like structure is a fitting symbol of recovery and growth for the formerly devastated Ground Zero area.

IMG_8345

However in Venice, Calatrava’s bridge is a controversial piece of architecture that continues to gain attention today even though it was completed in 2008. Indeed, its troubles started long before the current ones. For example, during its construction, the bridge was budgeted to cost 7 million Euro, but wound up costing 11.6 million Euro. In addition, several delays were required during its construction.

Moreover, other problems have come to light since its construction and subsequent use. These have added to the bridge’s notoriety. Some of these problems include:

  • Limited accessibility for the disabled
  • Its modern design that conflicted stylistically with the city’s historic architecture
  • Its relative close proximity to other bridges that cross the canal, of which there are four in total
  • Glass panels that pedestrians walk on, which become very slippery in rain and even fog

IMG_9771
As you can see, the bridge’s upper surface is more like a glass arch. On dry days, it’s no problem, but on rainy days, it would be difficult to cross.  | Photo: M. Yung

In addition to the slippery surface, because so many tourists (and residents, alike) carry wheeled luggage over the bridge, the glass panels have worn down, which has caused damage to the panels and to pedestrians alike, if they should fall.

So how was my walk across Calatrava’s Constitution Bridge?

Let’s just say that I was glad it was dry the day we ventured across… it was slick even then. (But let me tell you… the marble steps on nearly every other Venetian bridge are slick, too. On these bridges –and there are hundreds across the city– I had to take care to avoid the worn-down, curved edge of each step where I had nearly fallen more than once.)

On Calatrava’s bridge, there is a narrow walkway of another material (stone? concrete?) you can step across on. And truth be told, that optional surface was more comfortable to use even though it was only a strip the width of a narrow sidewalk positioned in the middle of the walkway, far from a handrail.

But still, I will say this about the Constitution Bridge: it is elegant.

Its long arch gracefully extends across the canal. If you have the chance to take the lengthy stroll across it, do. Despite its controversy, the bridge is beautiful, simplistic, and a refreshing contemporary note amidst Venice’s historic facades.

It is also officially crossed off my bucket list.  Been there. Done that.


After traversing the infamous bridge, we then ventured on to find the Jewish Ghetto. I’ll write about this district, which provides the actual origin of the Italian word “ghetto,” as well as the museum title. Stay tuned for that upcoming post, as well as the post about the Peggy Guggenheim Collection internship.

Click like and feel free to leave a comment!

Categories
Art & Architecture Italy (Venice)

Venice doesn’t need another tourist like me

There’s a guard at a basilica who wants us to be better.

It just wasn’t as elaborate as I thought it would be, I thought as I surveyed the interior of Venice’s Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Yes, it was beautiful, just not as beautiful as I expected for a “Top 10” ranking in the little book about Venice I had at home.

A sign at the door had notified us of a 3.50€ entrance fee to enter. My daughter and I both agreed that this view from the doorway would suffice. After all, we had been in many other Venetian cathedrals or basilicas.

Just two days before, we had ventured inside the Chiesa di Santo Stefano in the San Marco sestiere.  The previous day, we had taken loads of photos inside Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna. The next day, a second tour inside Saint Mark’s Basilica was on the agenda. And then, two years earlier we had made time not only for Saint Mark’s, but also the Basilica dei Frari, Chiesa di San Zaccaria, and of course, the iconic Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. In short, we had seen many.

However, I liked the idea of at least a souvenir from Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The rotating stand at the edge of the entry steps might have one I could purchase. I spun the stand, picked out a couple of cards and stepped over to an ornate kiosk. From the back, a man entered the darkened kiosk.

He had just finished setting up for the day—repositioning the “No Photos” sign, stacking up the 1€ kimonos available for purchase by bare-shouldered women, arranging a selection of votive candles.

I slid the two postcards under the slot in the kiosk’s Plexiglass shield. The man looked intently at each one and then met my eyes.

“Did you see the originals?” he asked.

“No.” How could I explain in my non-existent Italian that we had already seen so many churches in this great city? He straightened the cards in his palms with a tap on the marble counter.

“Okay, you must see the originals.” He stepped out from the kiosk and stepped around to meet us. Grabbing the velvet partition rope, he said, “Come with me.”

He handed me the postcards, and we followed him into the cool darkness of the basilica. He strode purposefully to a mammoth collection of oil paintings on the large wall to the right.

As he walked, he spoke over his shoulder, “It’s a crime to come to Venice and buy a postcard and not see the original because you don’t want to pay three-fifty Euro.”

Ouch, I thought.

Here was a Venice enthusiast if I had ever met one. Flashing his dark eyes from beneath even darker curls, he continued: “I will show you the two paintings on your cards.”  He stepped over to the wall behind the oil paintings and tapped a small plastic rectangle. Click. Light saturated the paintings.

My daughter reached for my postcards for a closer look. “This is a Bellini—those are why this church is on the list. These are special,” she whispered.

“Here is the Bellini,” he called from the light switch.”You look at this one, then go over to that one”—he pointed further into the nave directing our eyes to the darker painting of Christ with the apostle Thomas by Leandro da Bassano— “and then come back and see this one again. You turn on the light if you need to.”

“We will. Thank you,” I told him.

We looked at San Cristoforo and the assemblage of Giovanni Bellini paintings. Each one was large on its own. Framed in gold, the entire altarpiece composition (called the Saint Vincent Ferrer altarpiece, I later learned) spanned nearly nine feet in height.

IMG_9918
San Cristoforo by Giovanni Bellini (1464-1470)

I’m not an art historian, but a little online research revealed these paintings were not made with oils, but tempera paint on wooden panels. This particular one shows the Christ child being carried by Saint Christopher, a 3rd-century church martyr executed by the Roman emperor at the time.  The painting glowed under the light, and reminded me of another glowing Bellini at the Basilica dei Frari. It seems Bellini knew the tempera medium well.

We walked to the other painting we had been permitted to see at no charge.

IMG_9919
L’incredulita di S. Tommasso by Leandro da Bassano | Notice the books falling to the ground along the lower edge… to show the surprise of the onlookers when they realized that they were in the presence of the resurrected Jesus Christ.

This second painting,  L’incredulita di S. Tommasso by Leandro da Bassano was near the front of the church. It was dark and partially obscured by a screen of sorts. It shows Christ showing the doubtful Thomas his crucifixion wounds, proving the resurrection. I later learned that Leandro da Bassano was a famous painter who followed in his artist father’s footsteps and was later knighted by the Doge of Venice. Many of his works are confused with Tintoretto’s and are difficult to date.

We returned to the Bellini and switched on the lights one more time.

“Oh, thank you,” said a tourist staring at the painting who had entered after us.

We decided our visit was over. As we left, my daughter selected another postcard and paid. She offered the guard 5€ to thank him for allowing us in.

“No, no, you keep,” he said. “I just want to show you what you want to see. A postcard isn’t good enough. It’s how I make you… what to say… better tourists,” he said, smiling and shrugging his shoulders. I could tell he meant no offense by his remark.

He continued. “You know… when you’re inside a church here, tell the guard that you want to light a candle and say a prayer and they will let you in.”

Did I hear him correctly? I asked myself.

Still, I’m not Catholic, and using prayer as my ticket inside a church seems disingenuous. However, I did appreciate his candid tip and his enthusiasm for La Serenissima, the traditional name for the Venetian Republic.

We left the church and entered the campo, the large square outside. I knew I wouldn’t forget this brief encounter in a city coming to grips with the effects of mass tourism. Two weeks before, according to the blog La Venessiana, tugboats had allowed an out-of-control cruise ship to strike an occupied river cruise boat instead of Santa Maria della Salute. To compensate for the wear and tear that throngs of summer tourists wreak upon the city, officials are devising new tourism taxes.

In reflection, the guard at Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo was merely doing his part… politely doing what he could to help visitors he met to “be better tourists” in his city on the sea.

IMG_9718
The entrance to Venice’s Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed meeting this guard and hearing his frank ideas and suggestions. It’s easy to tour Venice and not exchange words with a local. Please feel free to click like, leave a comment, and follow my blog for more stories from Venice and Greece.

Categories
Italy (Venice)

Going to the hospital in Venice

H is for Ospedale

IMG_9720
Ospedale SS Giovanni e Paolo Venice

I’m betting that the question, “Wonder where the hospital is around here?” passes through the minds of most visitors to Venice… at least those visitors who stay on the island and think about where they would go if they twisted an ankle or suffered whiplash doing a double-take at an especially handsome gondolier.

Last Sunday, my daughter and I wound up at the hospital without really meaning to. We intended to go see the church, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (the Basilica of St. John and Paul). In 2017, I had purchased a little folding picture book of the top ten Venice sights and this church was on that list.

During the week that we visited back then, we simply didn’t get everything accomplished. Back home after our trip, I realized that if I was ever to return to Venice, this church would be on my list of sights to see.

And when one sees this church, one also has the opportunity to see the Venice hospital, the Ospedale SS Giovanni E Paolo Venice. That’s because the church is literally connected to the hospital building. You can enter the hospital from either the black front doors (as seen in the photo above) or you can enter from the backside, which borders the waters of the lagoon.

My daughter and I decided to take the water route around the back of the island. My daughter had never actually ventured on the vaporetto route past her Santa Elena stop, so this was a first-time experience for her, too.

Here’s the sign in the vaporetto bus stop that shows the stop for the Ospedale (Italian for hospital). Note the international symbol for hospital, “H,” below the line.

IMG_9700
Signs like these are posted inside the vaporetto bus stops.

IMG_9702
My daughter has become especially adept at navigating around Venice on water buses, known as vaporetti.

We traveled around the backside of the island to eventually arrive at the church; we didn’t realize it at the time, but the church is joined to the hospital.

castello-map
This map is courtesy of The Venice Insider. The “3” in the picture above marks the hospital’s location. Santa Elena is included in the area inside the green oval.

Here are some more pictures from the vaporetto ride around to the hospital and the basilica.

IMG_9703
The park-like Santa Elena neighborhood of Castello in Venice features lots of bright red wooden park benches.

IMG_9704
This is a view of part of The Arsenale, the area within Castello that was once included shipyards and armories.  The unique “Building Bridges” hands sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn has been installed to commemorate the Venice Biennale.

IMG_9708
Almost there! More of the Arsenale area.

According to The Venice Insider, the hospital grounds are not open for tourists. That being the case, I hesitated to take lots of pictures. However, I did snap a few. Here’s a picture of a modern-looking inner garden area you’ll walk through after leaving the vaporetto and walking through the first doors you come to.

IMG_9711
I took this picture after walking through this inner courtyard.

Katherine’s roommate had told us to look for the gardens with all the cats. We thought that this was the garden she meant. We were wrong, as you will soon see.

Before we would find the garden full of cats, we walked by the Emergency Room doors. Here it is, for all you ankle twisters or gondolier gawkers:

IMG_9712
The E.R.

Keep walking past the ER and you will eventually arrive at a beautiful garden, surrounded by loggia walkways and filled with about a dozen stray cats.

Residents and visitors alike care for Venice’s many feral felines. The kitties are quite comfortable during the warmer months. I’ve read that the cat population can become a problem during cooler temperatures and that there are volunteer groups that help with the problem.

 

IMG_9714
Notice the black and white cat sleeping under the flower pot in the center of the photo. Photo: Katherine Yung

IMG_9917
Photo: Katherine Yung

IMG_9916
This cat is so relaxed we thought he was sick, or worse. No, just very content. Photo: Katherine Yung

After you exit the cat garden, you’ll pass through an exit where you can continue on to the wards of the hospital or turn left to the Scuole Grande, which leads eventually leads outside to the campo with Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

IMG_9713
This is a photo looking back outside from the hallway leading to the Scuole Grande, religious and social groups that provided charitable services, including hospitals. If you turn to the right outside these doors, you will return to the cat garden.

If you continue down these steps, you will enter this grand entrance hall. There are doors and hallways that lead from this hall. This is the Scuole Grande (see caption above). At the end of this hall, is the front door of the hospital shown in the elaborate facade in the first picture of this article.

IMG_9715
Entrance hall just inside the front facade entrance to the hospital. The cat garden and ER are at the far end of this hallway. Most people needing ER services would, I imagine, enter from the backside along the main waterway.

And this brings us to the front entrance of the hospital on the campo, the large square that is the “city center” of this area of Castello.

IMG_9716

In effect, this post has brought you to the hospital from the backside along the water, to the very front door, which is shown in this photo at the far left (see the oval-topped dark door that blends in with the light post).

And this also brings us to the close of this post. I will continue this post tomorrow with our visit to the basilica where you will meet a die-hard Venetian who gave us some very good and timely advice on how to be “better tourists.”


Thanks for reading! Tune in tomorrow for the continuation of our Sunday morning in Venice. Click like, leave a comment, and be sure to follow my blog for the next installment. 

Categories
Art & Architecture Italy (Venice)

A Visit to the Venice Biennale 2019

IMG_9515
A photo of my daughter from the Venezuelan pavilion.  I liked that she was out of focus.

“May You Live in Interesting Times”

In interesting times, artists create. In uninteresting times, artists still create. Regardless of the global political climate, the Venice Biennale—the Olympics of art where countries each exhibit in their own pavilion or exhibit space—continues. Sure, some countries may decline to participate from year to year or may be late in readying their exhibits (such as tumultuous Venezuela this year); however, for the Biennale… the show must go on.

IMG_9506
A ticket good for entry at the Giardini and Arsenale portions of the Biennale cost 25€. You purchase them at a row of red ticket counters shown at left in this photo.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Venice Biennale, here’s a quick summary from the Biennale website:

The Venice Biennale has been for over 120 years one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale has an attendance today of over 500,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition. The history of the La Biennale di Venezia dates back from 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organized. In the 1930s new festivals were born: Music, Cinema, and Theatre (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival in history). In 1980 the first International Architecture Exhibition took place, and in 1999 Dance made its debut at La Biennale.

An over-arching theme characterizes each Biennale. This year’s theme, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” encourages people to avoid the quick judgment, the stereotype, the single-lens viewing of current world events.

IMG_9587
A collection of brochures I collected during our visit. The Biennale brochure reads, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”

According to Biennale President Paolo Baratta, “the expression ‘interesting times’ evokes the idea of challenging or even ‘menacing’ times, but it could also simply be an invitation to always see and consider the course of human events in their complexity, an invitation, thus, that appears to be particularly important in times when, too often, oversimplification seems to prevail, generated by conformism or fear.”

Another way to put it: allow art to show you the many ways of looking at the world.

IMG_9510
Inside the Swiss Pavilion, we watched the video entitled, “Moving Backwards.”

Last Friday (June 14), I visited the Biennale with my daughter, who is an intern in the United States Pavilion. The United States’ participation is primarily a function of the Department of State, which “supports official U.S. participation at select international art exhibitions called biennales. The Department’s support ensures that the excellence, vitality, and diversity of American arts are effectively showcased abroad and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.” In other words, exhibiting at the Biennale is another way to build and maintain positive relationships around the world.

IMG_9525
The Canadian Pavilion is shown on the left in photo above. Their media company showcasing inside is called Isuma. The German Pavilion stands on the far right.

As for the U.S. Pavilion’s intern program, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a well-known modern art museum in Venice, handles the hiring of the interns who provide guarding of the exhibits, inform visitors about the various works, and generally are the main points-of-contact for visitors touring through the pavilions. (Two years ago, my daughter served an internship at the museum; when they issued a call for former interns interested in returning to work the Biennale, she quickly applied.)

IMG_9526
The German Pavilion exhibit: industrial, cold, and futuristic.

We arrived at the portion of the show held on the ground of Venice’s Giardini (Italian for garden). Visitors can see another section of the show at the adjacent Arsenale. In addition, more pavilions are scattered throughout the city. For example, we walked by the door to the Mongolian exhibit in a dark, narrow street somewhere in the San Marco area of the city.

From the Russian Pavilion. These figures were only one component to the entire Russian offering, which was inspired by Flemish painters.

During our three-hour visit, we saw fourteen exhibits out of the 79 participating in the Biennale this year. That doesn’t sound like that many, does it? Especially when you know there are art lovers who allot several days to see all the exhibits. To them, I say, “Go you!”

However, since I only had four full days in Venice, and one of those was spent in Bologna (see my next post!), we prioritized.

IMG_9527
Waiting in line to the British Pavilion.

Plus, we knew that a visit to the best gelato in town, Suso, was in order for the afternoon. This would require a thirty-minute vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal from the Giardini. Sheesh… the price we pay for good gelato!

IMG_9529
Works by Cathy Wilkes inside the British Pavilion.

Enjoy these photos! I’ve attempted to add some details in the captions and, looking back now, I should have written this post immediately after our visit to better capture the ambiance of our visit. But when one is in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, you want to get out and see it—not stay in and write about it.

IMG_9535
The front of the U.S. Pavilion, which features the work of Martin Puryear.
IMG_9536
And now, the back of the opening piece.
IMG_9551
A red Phrygian cap, also known as a French liberty cap. This is made of wood. My daughter says everyone wants to touch it.

A

IMG_9541
A Confederate Civil War cap. Look in the crosshairs to see yourself.
IMG_9540
IMG_9539
Bronze, but doesn’t look like bronze.
IMG_9537
Detail of the bronze.
IMG_9554
The gallery label for the Martin Puryear exhibition inside the U.S. Pavilion. I do not have photos of every piece in the show. There were several more.
IMG_9564
I figured that if we are visiting Greece this summer, we should probably go see the Greek pavilion.
IMG_9561
Walking on glass cups inside the Greek pavilion.
IMG_9532
Countries from around the world participate. Here’s the Uruguay Pavilion. Not sure why I don’t have a photo from inside. No offense, Uruguay.
IMG_9531
Work inside the Czechoslovakia Pavilion.
IMG_9534
The Nordic countries participate in one exhibition hall. Every Biennale, one of those nations also has its own additional pavilion. This year, it was Finland’s turn, but I did not take pictures of that show. 
IMG_9533
Inside the Nordic Pavilion.
IMG_9557 (1)
This assemblage inside the Belgium Pavilion was eerily irresistible.
This installation within the Belgium Pavilion was eerily fascinating. Every figure is moving and making something… pottery, bread, cloth, music, a painting. The taskmaster controls it all with the ringing of the bell.
IMG_9555
The Egypt Pavilion
IMG_9521
Japan Pavilion
IMG_9522
A video piece inside the Japan Pavilion.
IMG_9560
We walked over this canal to see the back portion of the Giardini area of the Biennale.

Thanks for reading! As you can see, there is too much to see at the Venice Biennale without spending days there. In addition, to really study the art and understand its motivation and full message deserves much more time than we were able to devote. Still, if you have the desire to see art on a global scale, the Venice Biennale is where you need to go. Click like if you enjoyed this post, and feel free to leave a comment or follow my blog for my next post from Bologna!

Categories
Italy Italy (Venice)

Dear Venice… We have to talk.

1_pQeWsLl3C3BjaqkHiwdhtg
Photo: Pixabay

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with — Ravenna, Italy.

I didn’t mean to fall in love. I wasn’t looking for someone new. I had never even heard of Ravenna until I went to Italy.

But, Venice, I’m torn. In so many ways, Ravenna attracts me.

It’s untouristy. Affordable. Strangely familiar.

And yes, I’ll admit that although our relationship was brief and passionate, it has withstood the test of time, Venice. After all, I still long for your watery passageways and roaring, rushing boulevards. I fantasize over your shimmering lagoon and all those glossy gondolas slicing through the wakes of vaporettos, taxis, delivery boats.

But Ravenna, well… Ravenna is different. It grounds me. Located just three short hour away from you by train, its rugged stability thrills me in a comfortable, predictable way.

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with.

Ravenna is real. For one thing, there are cars. There are people looking right and left. There are horns blaring instead of gondoliers chanting gondullah gondullah gondullah.

IMG_3731

And Ravenna’s mosaics! That austere 6th-century Byzantine architecture! I can’t deny that jewels such as these drew me in: Sant Apollinare Nuovo, the Basilica of San Vitale, Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, the Archiepiscopal Museum, and the Neonian Baptistery.

FullSizeRender (3)

In Ravenna, the sights are spectacular, seductive, strong, and silent. And a quick glance in any guidebook shows that my new love interest holds thirty more palazzo and churches from antiquity.

IMG_6531
Photo: Katherine Yung

Frankly, Venice, I never thought I would say this, but I see a future in Ravenna, but not necessarily in you. I fear you’re too exotic for a long-term relationship.

IMG_3757

After all, I’ve stood in St. Mark’s, your gold-drenched basilica. I’ve felt the reflections from the ceilings and walls warm first my cheek, my neck and then my shoulders as the afternoon sun dipped below the Adriatic. In fact, you’re so beautiful it terrifies me.

IMG_3754

Yes, Venice, you have the glitz, the passion, the prestige. You have those opulent icons: St. Mark’s, Santa Maria Della Salute, the Grand Canal. Rialto.

What am I leaving out? Oh, your cruise ships. Your crowds. Your selfie-stick vendors on the Accademia Bridge.

And that’s another reason why I’m torn, Venice. You make me dizzy with love and desperate with doubt at the same time. Have those annoying tourist trappings driven me away?

Four words: Possibly and I’m sorry.

Despite your glamour, Ravenna captivates me. This quiet city has stolen my heart with its own brand of starry-eyed elation. Its warm, steady embrace just feels right.

IMG_3759

Thanks for reading! Have you been to Ravenna, Italy? Have you ever traveled somewhere only to find a hidden gem you weren’t expecting to find? Feel free to leave a comment!