Things to bear in mind
- Weather can be very wet in October but we never saw a single rain drop and had sun most days. Often days start cooler with fog which burns off later to get quite warm. So just imagine you are in Melbourne – layers work best. Also bring comfy shoes – you will be walking up and down steps more than you thought possible and a lot of the roads are cobble stones.
- Get out of town at the weekend to avoid irritating crowds and selfie sticks – try Murano, Burano, Padua or Bologna – easy by train or boat for a day trip.
- Visit during the Biennale period if you can (each year alternates art and architecture and usually covers May to November period). Much of it is free to see and at the very least you get into many old palazzos you would not be able to access otherwise and of course the architecture/art is cool too. I used WalktoArt for my Biennale focused week. They are excellent and Melbourne based. Thanks Bernie.
- Tick off a few once only things like a gondola ride (best with a lover I think so I skipped that one: and settled for the vaporettos and the occasional water taxi); a Bellini or coffee and this amazing cream cake speciality at Harry’s Bar (remember no photos allowed – this place is probably a precursor to a gondola ride; a outdoor drink at the B bar in hotel Bauer overlooking the Lagoon; a Tazza chocalata at the Florian Cafe on San March Square while the orchestra plays – a cup of liquid dark chocolate.. Take out additional mortgage to fund these things – but they should be done once. Best free thing is to walk around San Marco as the sun is setting or rising.
- Visit Peggy Guggenheim museum. Do the 8pm private tour of the main cathedral. About 20 people only and at one point all lights are turned off and the they come on so you can appreciate the mosaics (a memorable effect); the Secret Itinery tour of the Ducale Palazzo also worth it as they take you parts that no-one else sees including just under the roof and the prison cells thatCasanova was held in.
Some final pics of Venice below.
THE BUILDINGS – Piazza San Marco day and night, Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs. Note this is not particularly crowded!
THE CANALS – plus gondolas.If I never have to hear O solo Mio, Volare or Que Sera Sera for the rest of my life it won’t be a moment too soon!
THE CEILINGS – Part 1 Palazzo Ducale
THE CEILINGS PART 2 – Evening small group tour of the Basilica – those are all made of tiny mosaics
Another great place to visit when in Venice over a weekend is Padua. Only 20 minutes away by train but far less crowded. It is an attractive and walkable town and perfect for a day trip.
On arrival I stumbled on a Jewish museum so I signed up for the tour of that and the adjoining synagogue. Turns out Padua has a centuries long history of Jewish leaders and this was well explained in a very good movie they have just produced.the Italian synagogue was designed by a Christian architect long ago so is quite baroque in style – unusual.
Then out of sheer luck it turned out that Padua had a one day food festival. Below is the central municipal building which houses booths of the most amazing food.
I got four vouchers and once I had bought my glass of red I could wander around glass in hand picking what to exchange my vouchers for. I choose a local dried ham, steak tartare, a duo of dolcelatte cheese – one infused with truffles and the other with walnuts (bliss) and then 3 macaroons (fig, zabaglione and vanilla). A bargain for just 10 Euros and one of the best meals I’ve had.
While I’m having a food moment – below is last night’s dinner. Savoury amuse bouches (the apparent cherry is really a cherry glaze filled with foie gras pate: the tomato was filled with a goat cream cheese; my favorite was the onion filled with pan fried and crispy sweetbreads; finally spelt linguine with black garlic and topped with caviar roe. Good thing I only eat like his once in a while!
I’d never even heard of Burano before I researched Venice. It is an island in the Venetian Lagoon beyond Murano (of glass fame) and about 30 minutes by vaporetto from San Marco. It is well worth a visit, not just for its lace for which it is famous but because it has loads of colorful houses that the locals actually live in. It is a perfect place to visit on a weekend when Venice is too unbearable with weekenders swarming all around. It is much quieter and nice to wander around. If you eat dinner there try their famous Risotto – it is a fish version and white so not much to look at but it was very tasty indeed.
Loved the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Fab palazzo where she lived on the canal, great collection of modern art (she collected modern art extensively before it became trendy) and she was just an eccentric lady . All in all – loved her collection. She is credited with discovering and mentoring Jackson Pollack and seems to have had affairs with many of the famous artists she collected. She had a strange and sad life – father died in the Titanic, she was a relatively “poor” Guggenheim so was funded by her uncle and she had some unhappy marriages and 7 abortions, the man she really loved was killed in a car accident and her daughter committed suicide. Check out the documentary “Art Addict” if you want to know more – it is excellent.
Here a few of her pieces – must not be missed if visiting Venice.
Sometimes you see some things at the Biennale that appeal and that is how I felt about the little Azerbaijan Pavilion which focused on music bringing people together in spite of other differences. The balalaika sculpture was just lovely and the perfect sphere created by a wide variety of musical instruments says a lot without words.
I included the Gold leaf ginormous pole – just because I can!
We got to see a fair bit of glass art on this day – I like the medium of glass so enjoyed this a lot but it is very difficult to photograph. What intrigued me is how many different ways the medium can be and is displayed – as you can see it is not only about glass vessels.
Top right and cover photo artist shows what you can do with glass and a lot of imagination. The glass looks almost soft and furry but actually it is made up of thousands of tiny pieces of broken glass. (No health and safety concerns when it is art – obviously.)
The top left and bottom right is the Australian glass artist Roslynd Piggott who etches into multiple layers of glass which are then displayed like paintings. Impressive for her to get a gig in Venice although sadly as glass is not really taken very seriously as an art form in Australia she has to work out of the US
Palazzo Fortuny used to be owned by the Fortuny designer and is now home to some of the Biennale exhibits. Some of these Palazzos are worth visiting for the architecture as well as the art.
Below is an example of video art which starts and ends with squiggles which I enjoyed watching.
Below is an original Fortuny ceiling light and a scale model of the Palazzo. Underneath is some fun art from the Azerbaijan Pavilion and then some fun art from me:) – hopefully you can tel which is my work?!?
And talking of me pretending to be an artist – there is Damien Hirst’s first exhibition in ten years. The premise is treasure found under the sea from a shipwreck of many years ago. Most of the treasure is colossal in size and is being shown both at Palazzo Grassi and the Punta Della Dogana (both buildings owned by the billionaire Francois Pinault). Of course the whole thing is a hoax but they created the pieces (offshore production I think) then dropped them in the sea and then dug them up again so they would have some video art showing the divers “discovering” the “treasures”.
I’ve never been a fan of Hirst and now I’m less of one. These exhibits would have cost millions of dollars to make and ship and instal in Venice but he must surely think he is having the last laugh if anyone takes this seriously as a worthy comeback. Disappointing but no doubt will sell well after the exhibit:(
And is that green head a Caravaggio rip off or what (see earlier post with the original)?
And below is what I mean by “colossal”.
The Venice Biennale began in 1934 and every second year showcases an artist who represents their country in a variety of old palazzos, deconsecrated churches and other historical buildings around the city. There are two main places to see a variety of pavilions (Giardini Gardens and the Arsinale).
First stop at the Giardini was the Australian Pavilion (of course). Tracy Moffatt was representing Australia and her photos and videos are very evocative. One of the better country exhibits making points about her aboriginal background and also today’s refugees but not (too) overly in your face.
Next a visit to the New Zealand Pavilion at the Arsinale. I loved this. It’s a really wide screen showing continuous scenes related to the British landing on Maori land – whole thing lasts about 40 minutes. Beautifully shot and an extension of other works this artist (Lisa Reihana) has done over the past few years. Mesmerizing. Well done NZ.