I've just got two things to say about Venice to start off. First, as high priced as it is, as much of a tourist trap as it is, and with most of its residents moving out to Mestre, everyone who wants to see the world has to visit Venice. There is simply no place like it on Earth.
Secondly, the city claims that it provides wireless interent. By no means should anyone believe this claim. Sarah and I looked up the closest hot spot to our hotel on thier website, and at only a block away we figured we were OK. It simply didn't work. We actually took her computer to the exact point on their map, and still no signal. This, my dear reader, is why I am so many days behind. As a small revenge I will do my entire Venetian trip in one blog post. This will get me, at least for a short time, to my current location of Barcelona.
I last visited Venice two years ago to attend the Venice Biennale. It was Sarah's first trip to Italy, so we really took in the surrounding area. This time we had three things we wanted to see that didn't work out last time. After taking a morning train from Rome, we checked in quickly, and hopped on a vaporetto (water bus) for Torcello. Torcello was the first settled island in the lagoon, but now only has a population of twenty or so. It also has a magnificent church with late Byzantine mosaics. We also wanted to get to the Scuola San Rocco, in which Tintoretto spent more than the last decade of his life painting the ceilings and walls. Both were fantastic, but since neither allow any pictures, you'll have to settle for one distance shot on my flickr page.
The third goal was the biggest, and required a trip to nearby Padova. Two years ago the Scrovegni Chapel had been closed for restoration. This had come as a huge disappointment, and we weren't going to miss out a second time. If you're not familiar with it, this is pretty much the site where Giotto managed to inspire the artists of the Renaissance. The whole thing is painted by him, and has a fantastic mixture of the first real space since Roman times and gorgeous flat decoration. Reservations are required weeks in advance, cost twelve Euros, and give you fifteen minutes in the chapel with just twenty-four other people. To get in you have to first find the place, and then enter a climate conditioning room for fifteen minutes before entering. Again here no photos were allowed, but I do have one of the waiting room on Flickr. We were extremely lucky! There must have been a group who missed their reservation because there were a total of eleven people in the chapel including us. The restoration looks fantastic, but our fifteen minutes was up too soon.
Normally I would have run all over town seeing the entire history of Padova, but I neglected to mention it was raining like crazy. Fortunaely for us it opened up just long enough to get to our other big site.
Padova had one other long-term resident art star leave his mark, Donatello. The Basilica of St. Anthony has this magnificent equestrian bronze outside, the first since Ancient Rome. It also has eight more Donatello figures inside. I was even lucky enough to locate the Scuola del Santo this time, which has some very rare Titian frescoes. Turns out to be in the same square. However, you have to enter Saint George's Oratory with only a few hours available during the week, and request that the attendant bring you into the next building and up a flight of stairs. I had settled on heading back to Venice early, and everyone was really excited to finally get some rest. When the sun came out on the walk back to the train I just didn't have the heart to drag everyone back into town.
My main purpose in Venice was to see the Venice Biennale. Every two years Venice hosts the biggest modern art show in the world. It's a rare chance to get to see art from places that aren't well covered by the Gallery and Museum world. There are too many things to talk about and show, so I'll really confine this part to a few comments. The show was really heavy on installation, video pieces, and was surprisingly heavy on drawing. This year the USA picked Bruce Nauman as our representative. HE's not exactly a cutting edge artist anymore, but with so much performance/video art he was a very fitting choice. The selected works highlighted his sculptures in particular. I took this one in a room full of his bronze cast hands.
My chosen winner of this year's Biennale was Russian artist Pavel Pepperstein. He had a huge and humorous body of work entitled the Manifesto del Retro Futurismo, a series of drawings of future monuments and architectural trends. In this piece he is depicting the new design in 2280 where houses will be built around mushroom clouds. I'll be researching him in depth when I return.
I thought I'd throw this in just for flavor. I was going to include the Venetian regional specialty Fegato alla Venezia (calf's liver and mushrooms with white polenta), but after reviewing a couple of posts I fear I might be over-glamorizing the experience. Sarah and I are here for a month, and since we wanted to travel light we knew there would be wash to do. It turns out that right now at a laundromat the going rate is over seven Euros per load ($10)! That means doing it yourself, and it also means sitting in a laundromat for two hours. We spent a considerable amount of time avoiding the expense and exposure by hand washing in our bathroom sink. With rain in Venice expect two full days to dry. Longer for jeans.
Early on the 24th my folks caught a plane back to the States, so it was now just Sarah and me. We had a little over half a day to kill before our flight to Barcelona, so we spent the morning walking and drawing. If you take a close look at this picture you can see that there is indeed still life on the quieter residential canals of Venice.
Don't they look delicious? That night we flew into Barcelona without incident, but that's a story for another post.