Friday, June 22, 2007

Wanda has left the building!

She made it onto an evening flight (NY time) out of JFK and will be here tomorrow (this) afternoon. Yippee!!!!!


My dear friend Wanda is in the midst of one of those nightmare travel scenarios. Too long a story to tell - suffice to say she is, as of this moment, still in NYC (perhaps even still at JFK). Please everyone, send good thoughts her way so that she gets out on a flight tonight. And bless my dear cousins Heidi and David for being in contact with her and offering her a comfortable and comforting place to stay. She/we have planned so long for this adventure together I must assume I will see her tomorrow afternoon.

My plan was to have breakfast, run some errands and then go to the airport to greet Wanda. Instead, I did some marketing - there's a lovely fruit and vegetable and fish market right in San Vio (moments away) every Tuesday and Friday - and then ventured out to new areas. More in a moment...

I've had an opportunity to spend a bit of time with Contessa Anna da Schio who owns this palazzetto. Her family has been in this region since - get ready for this - the year 1000. Is that amazing?? The family purchased this house in the - get ready again - 16th Century. Her brother was born upstairs. Her father was a landowner - her brother now grows grapes and makes wine on the family land and her mother still lives in the country near here. She lives, of course, in the piano nobile which is very beautiful. I hope to hear more of her story in the next two weeks.

And a word about the gentlemen at Le Forcole before I forge on. Thanks to the fact that Chris wanted some postcards, we finally went in and chatted with both Severio Pastor and his young apprentice. Severio has been carving forcole for 32 years and has only one apprentice at a time. This young man - of Venetian heritage and very, very blond - has been with him for two and a half years. When I asked how much longer he had to go, Severio answered for him - "25 years!" Everyone laughed but I have a feeling it may not be far from true. Neither the teacher nor the student has carving in his family but it is clear they love their work with all their hearts. When I told Severio I live in Hawai'i, he immediately asked if we fear rising ocean levels the way the Venetians do. Ah, Island people have a camaraderie like no others. We talked about global warming, "acqua alta" ("high water") which is a daily concern in Venice, and his art. I'm hoping to work up the nerve to ask if I can write a short story about his apprentice whose name, I'm ashamed to say, I don't yet know. I do walk by the studio at least three or four times a day and am always greeted with a very friendly, "ciao ciao." By the way, there are a total of THREE CARVERS in all of Venice that sculpt forcole. I am now acquainted with two of them.

People say that one of the joys of Venice is wandering and getting lost. The city is, after all, a series of islands so eventually you reach the water - yes, that island thing again... What I have found daily - first with Marcia and then with Chris - is that you can follow the map to the best of your ability but at some point you give it up to the universe/whomever and you always find what you're looking for.

First, I was determined to find a wine/cichetti bar (cichetti are the Venetian equivalent of tapas) which was unanimously recommended. Cantinone Gia Schiavi is very near to here and as marvelous as all the reviews. I loved having a glass of wine at 11:00 in the morning (!!) and the cichetti - I chose pistachio mousse and sweet squash puree on top of soft cheese - were so delicious I can't wait to go back.

I was also determined to find Vizio Virtu, Venice's premier chocolatier. I am, of course, extremely biased in favor of my family's own JoMart chocolates, but having said this, Vizio Virtu is a little gem of a shop with very interesting flavors - I shall soon try the Sigmund Freud which is flavored with tobacco. I should tell you I walked and walked and walked and asked and asked and asked trying to find this place. I finally gave up and then, of course, walked right to it on the way to the vaporetto.

Same thing happened with another Biennale installation, the Ukrainian Pavilion ("A Poem about and Inland Sea") at Palazzo Papadopoli. No coincidence, I'm sure, that the most blue-collar, working class exhibit is installed in the most ornate of the palazzi I've seen so far. Yes, I have photos - I need to "work" on them and will post.

I have a confession to make. I've learned how to work the satellite TV and I'm watching CNN, BBC World, and CNBC Europe. So sue me...

Buona notte...

P.S. I'm putting up a photo down below of either the last or one of the last gondola workshops in the city at San Trovaso.

Comings and Goings

Well, it's Friday morning (6/22) so it appears I'm a bit behind here, doesn't it?

Wednesday was Chris' last full day in Venice and he wanted to spend the morning with San Marco leaving me to take in a whole slew of what the official Biennale program calls " Participating Countries in Town." These are installations - mostly at palazzi some at other beautiful and appropriate buildings scattered all over the city. They're small, manageable, and as amazing as the exhibits at the Giardini and Arsenale.

Just across the Accademia Bridge is a fabulous cluster of these installations. The photo at the left is from one of the two artists representing Cyprus. I hope you can tell it's huge and it took my breath away when I approached it from the corridor.

The former Eastern bloc countries continue to astound - Albania and most notably in this group Estonia which can only be described as chilling.

Little Luxembourg is proudly represented by an artist named Jill Mercedes whose series of "rooms" requires not only imagination but participation on the part of the viewer.

And Australian artist Susan Norrie exhibits a series of videos called Havoc about a devastating volcanic eruption and subsequent mudslide in Indonesia - spellbinding.

Later in the afternoon Chris and I happened onto the New Zealand installation, literally, just around the corner. It is a series of video screens suspended from the ceiling of a large waterfront building - you need to lay down on mattresses on the floor to view them. They project 21st Century Maori art in both pictures and sound and the experience is absolutely indescribable. This is one to which I will certainly return.

A word about dinner - strolling around the area of the Rialto Market we seemed to have hit the mother lode of notable restaurants. Makes sense, right?! And we chose well, a delicious dinner at a small place called Bancogiro - sitting out near the water, small plates of "new" Venetian cuisine, perfect for Chris' last supper of this trip.

He departed Thursday morning - a little sad to see him go...
It did leave me a day for mundane tasks, laundry, etc. in anticipation of Wanda's arrival today - I thought. Unfortunately, she ran into some flight problems at JFK so her arrival here is up in the air (sorry about that!). I was so looking forward to meeting her at the airport and gliding back through the lagoon with her on her first overseas trip. And so, I am left to my own devices for one more day (hopefully no more than that) and it's time to plan.

Ciao ciao

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A day on the neighbor islands

A lovely day for a trip to the "neighbor islands" of Torcello and Burano.
Forty-five minutes from the crowds of Venice is Torcello where all that remains are 20 residents, a few restaurants, and Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest building in the Venetian lagoon, the campanile and a museum. The photo to the left is the basilica's campanile. (Chris climbed it, I assuredly did not!) Peaceful, quiet, filled with history and a treasure trove of archeological finds.

And then to Burano, famous for its lace but for me, the attraction was the story of the vividly colored houses, painted in this particular manner so that fishermen could find their own homes when they returned from the sea. Although a little too "touristy," in general, for my taste, the house facades are, indeed, joyful beyond description. Perhaps the few photos I'm posting at the bottom of the page will give you at least some idea.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Domenica e Lunedi comings and goings

Dolce far niente - "the sweet art of doing nothing" is the rough translation and no sooner had Chris used the term than I read it, too, in Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice." So instead of rushing around from early morning 'til night every single day, we're more relaxed. We've been having breakfast and dinner at home - dinner in the palazzetto's lovely garden - now that we're familiar with the neighborhood's markets. I do enjoy cooking very much, especially in a well-equipped, well-stocked kitchen.

We did get back to the Biennale on Sunday - a several-hour journey through the Arsenale with Chris including two nation pavilions right on the grounds I had missed before - Hong Kong and the Republic of Georgia. Both extremely interesting and thought-provoking. And the "performance art" portion of this amazing festival has begun - a "body" floating on an air mattress in the lagoon at the Arsenale surrounded by funereal flowers and funereal music was a tad disconcerting at first and then became just part of the art.

A walk on the Riva in the midst of the madding crowds and then, happily, home to Dorsoduro.

An even later start today and a walk through a new sestiere for us - Castello. "Mask-makers row" displays some astounding creations, and The Helenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies in Venice Icon Museum (Chris loves icons!) such a stark contrast to all the contemporary art we've been experiencing. Yet another stop at Harry's Bar - what can I say, we love those Bellinis! - and home again.

Dolce far niente - at least part of the time.

P.S. No matter how I tried to crop and adjust the photo of the three adorable Miami girls we met at Harry's Bar on Saturday, I just couldn't get it right. So I've moved them to the photo gallery and posted a very interesting look at the
Camapile in Piazza San Marco to the left of this entry.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Le Quattro Stagione redux

When we walked by Chiesa San Vidal yesterday afternoon and saw that Interpreti Veneziana would again play their thrilling Four Seasons concert later that evening, I knew that Chris would just love it. And he did. I enjoyed it as much as when Marcia and I saw it last week. "Thrilling" really is the only word for it.

Le Forcole

In Italian a forcola is an oar lock, most specifically for a gondola or other long, narrow vessel that navigates the tiny canals of Venice. We are lucky enough to have Venice's master forcola sculptor, Saverio Pastor, on our very street. We have been admiring the forcole in his workshop and window displays as well as his young apprentice! We shall stop in and meet him this week. I've put up a link to his website - it's both beautiful and fascinating.

Three girls walk into a bar...

So we get to Harry's Bar and who should be sitting directly ahead of us at the very back table but Steven Tyler and a bunch of hangers-on (oh, I mean friends). He's holding court but the crowd at Harry's knows better than to stare. Moments after we've ordered our Bellinis, three adorable young women (see them in the photo at left) practically squeal with glee when they are seated directly to the left of the rock star and his entourage. How WILL they contain themselves, we wonder??!!
The Tyler train leaves the station shortly thereafter and we learn the three fans are from Miami, on their first visit to Venice, a respite after four tough and back-breaking years of high school. They are still glowing, saying all the things you'd expect teenagers to say after seeing a superstar in an other-than-concert-context, one immediately called her mother on her cell phone and exclaimed, "Mom, you are not going to BELIEVE what just happened..." Word soon spread. Two more young women - this pair looked to be in their 20s - sat down at the bar only to be told by one of the white-jacketed waiters that not only had they just missed seeing Steven Tyler but he (the waiter) taunted them with an autographed Harry's postcard. Then a table of four "mothers" came in and the tale was recounted to them by the two at the bar. Meanwhile, back at the Miami table, the girls - who had ordered that "famous drink from Harry's we've been hearing about from everyone everywhere" - are re-telling/re-living other celebrity sightings of their young lives. Ah, the days of innocence. So...the price of a Bellini at Harry's Bar? 15 Euros. The price of a Bellini glass from Harry's Bar? 25 Euros. Seeing three adorable young American women have a Venetian experience they'll tell their grandchildren about? priceless.

Art of the day

There are nation pavilions all over this city with "official" Biennale exhibits;there are also "collateral" exhibits and events. Yesterday, we took in two of the latter.

Robert de Niro, Sr. was as good an artist as his famous son is an actor. I had seen a bit of his work over the years in NYC, including menu covers he created for Tribeca Grill. There is a wonderful exhibit of right now in the Casa d'Aste in San Marco. A delicious assortment of bright, colorful paintings, pastels and charcoal drawings show his range and considerable talent. I've placed an example with the rest of the photos at the bottom of the posts.

We were so looking forward to Artempo,Where Time Becomes Art, an exhibit of ancient and modern treasures at the grand and gorgeous Palazzo Fortuny, also in San Marco. Most of the work is very interesting and quite thought-provoking and the idea of mixing ancient and modern in each individual installation is at least somewhat original. But the place is so dark you can hardly find your way let alone enjoy viewing works of art, the "art cops" are out in force here, and the air is thick with snobbery. Still, there are a couple of clean, well-lighted spaces along the way where the Marcel Duchamps, for example, can be enjoyed and a spectacular sculpture by Anish Kapoor which made it almost worth the price of admission.

Like a kid in a candy store x 2

Those of you who know me well know I believe "you gotta have a wine guy, a bread guy, etc.," and I quickly found all of these in this lovely neighborhood including my favorite, Sergio, the cheese and meat guy. What has eluded me, if you can believe, is a pasta guy. After dinner Friday night, Chris spotted a market across the street from the restaurant with lots of pasta on display. When we returned Saturday morning, we found we had actually hit the mother lode. Rizzo Pane does indeed sell dozens of varieties of pasta - including Cipriani's signature brand! - and risottos. They also stock everything else you could possibly want/need for your palazzetto fridge, including GREAT FRESH BREAD - yippee!!! It's like a miniature Balducci's and it's my new favorite neighborhood place, except, of course, for Sergio's cheese and meat place. Home-cooked breakfasts and dinners in our little garden are downright delightful...

Chris is the "paper guy." So later in the afternoon, it was his turn when we found Il Papiro - three rooms filled with gorgeous papers, notebooks, notecards, calendars, bookmarks, diaries, and on and on.

Happy campers, both.