Venetian Art - Both Visible and Edible!
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
We've enjoyed one gorgeous sunny day after another, but today the threatened rain has REALLY arrived. Fortunately, we're scheduled to be inside this morning, at the renowned Accademia Museum. The art, of course, is amazing.
But what first catches my eye is the gorgeous ceiling - completely covered with gilded angel faces haloed with golden wings, gazing down on us as we peruse the paintings.
After miles of masterpieces, during which we keep checking out the windows - yep, still raining - we decide to dash to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
More art - straight from the lagoon and onto the plate at Taverna San Trovaso
Candice holds up one of the tiny octopus from her antipasti platter - - "this reminds me of the Salute dome with the
Yes - I can see the resemblance.
It's a terrific meal, one of the best of the trip, in a cozy place, perfect for this rainy day. They treat us to a Venetian specialty, sgroppino
( a concoction of lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco whipped together til frothy) as we finish - finger-lickin'good!
We had planned a gondola ride to Palazzetto Bru Zane for a tour and concert today, arriving at the private water entrance, but the weather has not co-operated. We would have arrived soaked, I'm afraid. So we enter on foot through the lovely garden,
and Katia gives us a wonderful tour of this beautifully restored treasure.
Frescoes surround and top the staircase,
tells us that the putti
bodies are filled with old straw, and their wings protruding from the ceiling are made of wood... all so carefully restored to ancient perfection.
Generations ago some of the frescoes were covered with plaster, and the workers had to chip the ancient artwork to get the plaster to stick. She points out that the appreciative workmen avoided chipping the faces of the figures, seeing the value in their beaut
Returning to Hotel Flora after the concert, virtuoso works of Dukas and Ravel performed by an outstanding Parisian artist, we stop in the cozy lobby for Spritzes.
And when we walk along the edge of Saint Mark's Basin later, we're happy to see that the storm is obviously moving away - a clearcut line of clouds moves up and away. Tomorrow we'll be back to sunshine!
Labels: Accademia Museum, Hotel Flora Venice, Palazzetto Bru Zane, sgroppino, Taverna San Trovaso
Saturday, May 14, 2011Palladian Villas & Venice, ItalyInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
An early morning ride on the vaporetto
reminds us that, unusual and pleasant as it is for us, it's just a schoolbus for the local kids. A couple of girls are quizzing each other on their homework in one seat, a bunch of boys chat about what they're listening to on their iPods... school's in session on Saturday morning here.
We're heading inland today, to view some of Renaissance "starchitect" Pallad
io's marvelous villas. We began our Venice explorations with vistas from the tower
of one of his Venetian churches, San Giorgio Maggiore, and now we'll see his designs for living - still liveable today.
It feels a little strange, after being in Venice since Monday, to be driving a car. Getting places by boat or on foot has become the norm.
We end up on the wrong side of the Brenta canal, and have to drive quite a ways to find a bridge to the o
ther side, from where we arrive at Villa Foscari
, also known as La Malcontenta. That hardly needs translating, does it? The name has many possible origins, one of which is that one of the frescoes in the villa portrays an unhappy woman. None of us thought the maiden in pink looked that unhappy...
Set high, as many of Palladio's villas were, on a pedestal, this symmetrical masterpiece, built in the 1500's, was a summer escape for the noble Venetian Foscari family, and has been beautifully restored by the same family, who regained ownership in the 1970's.
The villas that can be viewed have very limited hours, and our remaining two for today don't open until after 3 in the afternoon, so we fit in a jaunt to hilltop As
olo for lunch.
Seated on the terrace of due Mori da Lino in the old town, we look upon a landscape that reminds us all of Tuscany.
This is prosecco country, and it arrives by the pitcherful.
A quick stroll for some lovely vistas, and we're back in the car on our way to another Palladian masterwork.Villa Barbaro
has the adjoining agricultural arms that Palladio incorporated into several of his working villa designs.
We didn't see any of the family, but their horses were prancing around the front lawn.
The sweet little Tempietto, about a block down the street, is one of my favorite Palladian works. Toward the end of his life, Palladio was asked to build a church to serve the Villa Barbaro and the nearby village of Maser. It is said that this was his last work.
It is such a pleasing and lovely building, perfect for a special celebration with its beautifully garlanded columns gracing the portico.
Next stop, a villa that's in the middle of a town rather than in the countryside, the elegant Villa Cornaro/Gable
in Piombino Dese. Although Kirk and I viewed the exter
ior many years ago, we've never seen the inside and are eager to do so, after enjoying Sally Gable's interesting memoir, Palladian Days
, recounting her and her husband's loving restoration of this World Heritage treasure.
The impressive double portico/loggia, used in both the front and rear of this magnificent home, inspired Thomas Jefferson's initial plans for Monticello and has influenced Western architecture for hundreds of years.
The Gables are in residence in spring and fall, and the lived-in feel of the villa, with family photos, books, and mementos adorning the fine old antiques, adds to its enchantment. A basket of felt slippers placed by t
he front door provides protection for the centuries- old polished parquet floors, and we feel like ice-skaters as we slide through the elegant frescoed rooms.
Riccardo, who grew up right here and with his family was very involved in helping the Gables with the myriad details of restoring and caring for an ancient
heritage property, is our enthusiastic guide. His stories bring the past alive as he leads us through the villa. Our tour doesn't include the kitchen, from which smells of chocolate chip cookies give a distinctively American slant to our visit. Smells delicious and reminds us of realtors' advice to sellers to offer an inviting homey fragrance when showing a home. This one's NOT for sale, though! Sally comes out of the kitchen and graciously shares a few minutes with us.
Across the street is Caffé Palladio, owned by Riccardo's family,
where Jill treats us all to a creamy coffee treat before we head back to Venice.
We have just enough time to change for this evening's concert, presented by the Centre de Musique Romantique Française
in the exquisite Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evanglista, and what a treat it is - one of the most FUN classical concerts we've ever enjoyed. Jennifer Larmore, mezzosoprano, is accompanied by a string quintet. The addition of a bass viol to the traditional quartet adds such depth and resonance to the French repertoire. When we were house-hunting in Aix en Provence
we looked at a p
lace or two on rue Félicien David. Little did we know that he is a composer! Interspersed with the vocal selections are David's Four Seasons, which we've never heard before - a delightful quartet of tunes which we'll definitely want to find to listen to at home.
The program finishes with an electrifying rendition of Bizet's Carment, and the audience's thunderous applause brings the quintet and soloist back for several encores, finishing with a playful "I Want to be a Prima Donna, Donna, Donna". Everyone's s
miling and laughing as they exit - what fun!
And we complete our loooong day with platters of cicchetti
, yummy Venetian bar snacks, before strolling back to Hotel Flora
for a well-deserved rest.
Islands of the Lagoon
Friday, May 13, 2011Lagoon Islands & Venice, ItalyInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
One of the pleasures of staying right in Venice, rather than visiting for a day, is the
opportunity to enjoy it without crowds early and late .... such as this morning as we walk through the quiet Piazza San Marco, just a few pigeons and us. A refreshing contrast to our afternoon walks when it's difficult to even cross the space, as full as it is with people.
We chug past the Giardini stop, where the city is gearing up for the Biennale (a few art installations are already scattered around the city), around the residential Santa Elena end of the city, and pull up to Fondamenta Nuove, where we change to the Burano-bound line.
Arriving at Mazzorbo, we decide we've been on boats long enough, and walk across the quiet little island. Not much here but an old church surrounded by vineyards
The vine-covered chapel houses public bathrooms - grazie!
A gently arched bridge brings us to the island of Burano. We'll come back for lunch and a long lazy afternoon stroll, but now it's time to hop on yet another boat for the five-minute ride to Torcello, the now almost deserted island where this lagoon republic began centuries ago after the sack of Rome. The barbarian hordes were spreading across the mainla
nd, and refugees escaped to the lagoon, first settling in Torcello.
Walking down the canal to what is left of the settlement, crossing one of only two remaining un-parapetted bridges in the lagoon, it's hard to imagine this desolate and quiet place as a busy trading center, alive with towers, docks, grand houses.
Beside a pretty little vineyard splashed with poppies is a grassy area sprinkled with old carvings, wellheads, and the so-called Attila's throne, a stone chair.
Today all that is left of the glory days is a truly amazing
church, begun in 639 - amazing on the inside, that is. One of those places that you walk inside and are just astounded at what has endured for over a thousand years. One one end of the church is a vast glittering mosaic of the Last Judgment, and at the other, above intricate mosaic floors is the high altar, with steep steps leading to the throne of the Patriarch of the church. A design we've never seen elsewhere - a meeting of eastern and western orthodoxy.
From the quiet of Torcello, we return to the bustle of Burano, snapping photos of the impossibly picturesque homes all the way to the main piazza. Even in winter, when we were a couple of months ago, the townsfolk gathered and chatted in the town center, and on this beautiful sunny day, they ALL seem to be here, joined by boatloads of tourists.
Our cameras are kept busy,
and lunch on the shady terrace of Da Romano
right on the piazza keeps us in the middle of the action.
Time to try some Venetian favorites - we've long heard of Sarde in Saor
, sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce, often with pine nuts and raisins. We order a plate to share (it comes with grilled polenta, another Venetian standard) and all have a taste. Interesting, but none of us become instant fans.
Jill and Candice both order Moeche
- Venetian soft shell crabs which are in season right now - and those are a big hit!
We stroll around the little island after lunch, watching the laundry dry, then catch the boat back to Venice.
Walking back from the Fondamenta Nuove stop, we pass a lovely Annunciation bas relief on a wall that would look right at home in Burano.
The seafood extra -vaganza continues at dinner- time, where the Fritto Misto
at Osteria da Alberto deserves a quick photo before it is devoured.
Venice from on High
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Venice, ItalyInterested in a Music and Markets Tour? We'd love to hear from you!
ould it be any more beautiful in Venice? We start the day with breakfast in the garden of Hotel Flora
(where the staff, each one, are delightfully friendly and helpful)
As we get to know "our" neighborhood a little better, connecting the dots between the hotel, nearby bridges, vaporetto
(water bus) stops, and major sights, we pass the trumpeting angel atop Santa Maria del Giglio
then stop atop the Accademia bridge to take in a Canaletto veduta
All aboard the vaporetto - next stop, San Giorgio Maggiore, a Palladio-designed church on its own little island across from Piazz
a San Marco.
Up, up, up the belltower for a fantastic panorama of Venice. The best way to see the "big picture" of a place is from on high, and we gaze over the water from each side of the tower, savoring the views.
Oh my - we happen to be here at noon, and those dozen gongs are LOUD.... and unexpectedly followed by - Kirk counts them - NINETY-SIX more from the biggest bell! Listen, if you dare
, and en
joy the view.
A few more Visions of Venice,
and we hop the bus over to Zattere, the broad path running along the Giudeca Canal on the edge of the Dorsoduro sestiere
La Piscina serves us a fabulous lunch on their terrace hovering over the canal
and we all choose seaside flavors - a plateful of lagoon creatur
and silky smooth scallops topped with fresh tomatoes were a couple of photo-worthy standouts.
The view atop the Accademia bridge calls out for a photo again
as does a picturesque canal.
Our first concert of the tour is in the awe- inspiring Frari church
with a glorious Titian Assumption that grabs the eye right from the entry.
The voices of the Flemish Radio Chorus, accompanied by instrumentalists from the Brussels Philharmonic, soar to the vaulted arches above, the echoes lingering even after the voices stop - heavenly!
As we walk home, a softly lit courtyard catches our attention... Candice sees that this was Goldoni's home. A much-loved Venetian playwright, his "insider" Venetian wit is still enjoyed today.