Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Last day in Venice

It is Wednesday, May 8 and our last day in Venice.It does not feel like we have been here a week, and yet when I read what we have done it feels like a month. We had a couple places in mind for today, but also decided to just play it by ear. We ended up doing some last minute souvenir shopping which was fun. We hadn’t done much of that previously.

Our first stop today was the Frari Church, formally known as Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. This Gothic basilica, one of the largest churches in Venice was built in 1340 - 1430 and is run by the Franciscan friars. It is truly St. Mary Glorious as many of the paintings are Madonnas and other versions of the Blessed Mother’s life. We were impressed with the magnificent sculptured tombs of Titian, Pesaro, and Canova (his heart is buried here). I liked the rows of beautiful wood choir stalls hidden behind a highly decorated Baroque wall and was all ready to put on a concert!
Canova's tomb
Wall in front of choir stalls

After wondering all over this San Polo area we found the church of San Polo on the edge of the Campo San Polo, one of the largest squares in Venice. This church, dedicated to St. Paul, is the third Venetian church to have a wooden ceiling shaped like a ship’s hull. It was built in the 9th Century. It also had a separate chapel with the 14 Stations of the Cross painted by Tiepolo. They were quite striking, but I did not like his portrait of Jesus. Tintoretto's “Last Supper” was also on view.

We ended the day by returning to St. Mark’s Square to see it in better weather (although it did start to rain just as we were leaving.) We had our pass to tour the Correr Museum which is located in the wing of buildings (known as Napoleon’s wing because he built it) directly opposite St. Marks. The museum showcases rooms with frescoed ceilings and period furniture, rooms with maps and globes from centuries past, models of buildings and ships from historical periods, and much else. I liked seeing the statues of Canova since we just learned about him last week. There is also an archeological section and a library and more paintings upstairs, which we did not visit.

Now it is time to get organized to head for home early tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

More Venice museums

Tuesday, May 7 - another lovely day in Venice - cool temperature and clear sky. We decided to continue visiting the churches and museums from our Venice card. Our first stop was the church S. Stae, which didn’t open until 2! Since it was only 10 that one was a bust! The next was a museum, Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art. We thought it opened at 10, but did not open until 10:30. They were getting a new exhibit ready to open on Thursday and had invited the press, so they were closing early. The Museum has one floor of art spread out in the various rooms of this Venetian-Baroque house built in 1679. There were a few familiar faces among the artists - Klimt, Lichtenstein, Calder, Rodin, Donghi and lots we did not know - mostly Venetian painters from late 1800’s & 1900’s.
Julia II by Klimt

Rodin, The Thinker

On the third floor (yes, they did have an elevator), they had the most extensive exhibition of Oriental objects d’art I have ever seen. Someone had gone around the world around the turn of the century and brought back thousands of objects he collected along the way. We saw cases of weapons, shields, armor, Netsukes, sagemonos, lacquerware, fabric, a sedan chair, porcelain, jade, paintings, room dividers and 2 walls of boxes for carrying food or other items. And that’s all I remember - there was much more.

After that exhausting visit, we found the other nearby museum, Palazzo Mocenigo Costume Museum. It was in another home owned by the Mocenigo family who were influential in the late 1700’s - producing several doges. We had to climb stairs to get to the exhibits - rather tired looking furniture and clothing of the period. The most interesting was the information on perfume and perfume making in Venice. They had lots of samples to smell and a movie about producing it. However, at 90E a bottle I didn’t buy any!

And finally we found the church, Chiesa di San Giacomo (St. James) dell’Orio. It was called Venetian Gothic style, but we found it a hodgepodge of styles. It was definitely an example of something designed by a committee. The ceiling was wood, shaped like a ship’s hull. There were 3 naves with columns and several side chapels. The old sacristy was in front as were 3 alters. One was totally baroque with its own cupola, the other two were planer.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A love/hate relationship

St. Marks Basilica
Yesterday I hated Venice! We woke up to a violent rain storm - cold and windy. I could feel I was getting a cold and the last thing I wanted to do was go out - but we did! We took the vaporetto to San Marco (St. Mark's Square) to attend 10:30 mass at St. Mark's Basilica. What a fantastic church, covered in gold mosaics with lots of columns, arches, and naves. Mass was interesting and the music sounded just like the choir at St. Monica! Some of it was in Latin and I could almost sing along.

A ceiling in the Ducal Palace
Grand staircase of the Ducal Palace
We also struggled over to the Ducal Palace. Luckily, we had our city pass and did not have to wait in line. (Why do people come out in the rain to stand in line?) It was another beautiful building - the home of many doges from 1150 to 1550. The doge was the elected (by the Senate) head of state during the primacy of Venetian rule. They had to leave their homes to live in the palace where they could hold state and meet with the several governing bodies of Venice. The palace is attached to the church and the prison was attached to the palace. Some symbolism there! We saw it all and were impressed, as I am sure the palace visitors were in those days.

However, today, I am back in love with Venice! We woke up to a lovely, cool, sunny day and have just returned from an almost 3 mile walking excursion. We started out by going to Ca' Rezzonico. This was the palatial home of the Rezzonico family in the 1700's. However, it could not be called a palace because that term was reserved for the house of the doge. All others are called Ca for casa. So, this ca has a grand staircase leading to 3 floors above a ground floor (all ground floors are zero in Italy). We started at the top which consists of many rooms featuring over 300 paintings by many Venetian painters. What a treasure trove for someone interested in art history (not us, unfortunately). The best parts were the two floors featuring paintings and also superlative wood carved furniture - chairs, tables, cabinets, beds, etc. The chandeliers and picture frames were also much to be admired.
Furniture in Ca Rezzonico

We finished the day by exploring 2 churches - San Maria del Giglio and San Stephan. They were not as spectacular as some we have seen, but we had fun trying to find them and admiring a new part of Venice with its small canals, bridges, and brick and stucco homes.
Unusual ceiling of St. Stephan

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The art of glass

A bit of humor from Peggy Guggenheim

This morning we woke up to rain! We had decided to visit the island of Murano, so thought we might look at a couple of churches before committing ourselves to that trip. Luckily the rain petered out as we rode the Vaporetto from the station near our hotel to St Alvise, one of the church’s on our pass. We were too early, so we waited until it opened at 10:30. This is a medieval church with a trompe l'oeil ceiling (how did they do that?) and paintings on every wall.

We took the vaporetto to the next stop where we looked at another church, Madonna del Orto. It was a former monastery with a cloister and quite plain. The church was closed but we walked in the cloister and looked at the art exhibit of sculptures by Nic Fiddian-Green. He sculpts horses, mainly the head of a horse standing on his nose!

We finally got on the vaporetto to Murano and got off at the Colonna stop. We walked by countless shops featuring all kinds of glass items - clocks, vases, jewelry, paper weights, cups, glasses, plates, and figurines, We had our tickets for the glass museum, but it was a long walk to get there - almost to the other side of the island. There are several canals dividing up the island and vaporetto stops which we could have used to avoid the walking. Oh, well, I guess we need the exercise!

The museum is in an old palazzo, so had interesting paintings and ceilings. We watched several movies on different techniques of glass making and learned a lot. The displays of glass from the first efforts of the Romans to modern art glass from the 1970s were just lovely. It is unbelievable what beautiful objects can be made from glass. Even a useful cup or glass can be quite decorative.
Can you see the dragons?

We were so lucky that the rain stopped for us and didn’t start until we were on our way back to the hotel.

Friday, May 3, 2019


Well, we made it to Venice! We left Castelfranco Thursday morning, May 2. Our tour bus
took us to the airport and we caught a #5 bus to the bus station in Venice. From there we had to cross a bridge (what a surprise these bridges are - quite steep and usually made of steps) to drag our suitcases the few blocks to our hotel. We got there at 11 a.m. and our room was ready for us. What a pleasure to settle in for the next few days.

After recovering we decided to get to know Venice by taking a cruise on a vaporetto down the Grand Canal. Don figured out the subtleties of the system (with a little help from Rick Steves and our friend Regan)! The trip was fascinating. The canal is full of all manor of boats and lined on both sides with buildings of all shapes and sizes. There was such a variety of balconies, stucco decoration, statues, cupulas, gardens, roof lines, frescoes, etc. I have seen pictures of it all, but the real thing is so much more impressive.

We stayed on the canal until it opened up at the Lagoon and the boat stopped at the island called Lido. We decided to spend some time exploring this newer city with its shops and lovely tree lined boulevard. That was enough for one day!

The next day was Friday and we went to visit La Salute Church. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health after Venice was spared from total wipe out by the plague of 1630. What an incredible edifice! It has two domes and is built in the round. Every square inch has decorations-statues, paintings, marble columns, decorated wood confessionals, angels of all denominations. domes, glass windows, on and on.
La Salute Church

Then we toured the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. They had a special exhibition of paintings and statues by Arp, which I liked, but Don was not impressed! We went into her house which is filled with her collection of Twentieth Century Modern art. This is not a favorite, but we enjoyed being there!
Don enjoys the view from Peggy Guggenheim's balcony

However, we were especially happy to beat the rain shower and get back to our hotel!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Adventures in the hills of Italy

Today is May 1, Labor Day in Italy, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and May Day in Russia. So the streets were packed with families out having fun today!

Castello di Thiene
We began the day with a bus trip to Castello di Thiene. This is a palazzo (small palace) in the center of the town of Thiene. It was a 15th Century fortress built in the middle of the country side. A village grew up around it and was named after the original owners of the fortress, Thiene. When Venice came to power they made all forts become castles because they said now Venice could protect them and they did not want fortifications that could be used against them. So this castle became a residence and has remained in use for all this time. Our tour guide knew the owners, so we got a special tour. It had many of the same aspects as Villa Emo. The best was the secret garden behind the palace and the gorgeous stables in a separate building. They had formerly raised horses to sell.
The horse stables

We proceeded to Marostica, another medieval town with an upper and lower castle. The main square has a gigantic chess board where they have chess tournaments with live people.

Our next stop was Bassano del Grappa. The town is famous for its production of Grappa (since 1898 under the label of Pali). But it was named after the battle of Mount Grappa in WWI. We saw more castles, frescoed buildings, three squares, the silver plated rhinoceros, and the Palladian Bridge over the river. We visited the Grappa Museum and saw a movie about how it is made using the dregs from wine making. We tasted a couple vintages and weren't too impressed! But, now we know! We had pizza for lunch.
The Palladian Bridge

It's been a long day and we need to pack and get up early for the next leg of our journey.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Castelfranco Veneto

Monday and Tuesday, April 29 & 30, have been spent taking side trips from Castelfranco Veneto. We have a delightful local tour guide, Wilma, who is an architect and knows everything about early architecture and art. Monday she led us on a visit to Villa Emo, which is just 8 km north of here.
Don and the walls of Castelfranco Veneto

Suzanne in front of Villa Emo
Villa Emo was built for the Emo family (and stayed in their hands until just recently) by the famous architect, Palladio. He was an innovative architect who liked symmetry in his buildings. The Villa was a farm house, but built in a grand style. Every room is decorated by frescoes which tell a story about the family who lived there through relating them to Roman mythology and history. Monticello was built using the same principles as this Villa.

On Tuesday we visited Possagno, about 25 km north-west of here. This is the home of the architect/artist, Antonio Canova, born in 1757. We saw the church, Tempio Canoviano, which looks just like the Pantheon, but was designed by him. Then we went to the Gypsotheca which is a museum of his work built next to his home. He did very interesting sculptures out of plaster. He felt that was the best medium for his work. He was a neoclassicist.

We also visited Asolo, the town where Catarina Cornaro, a member of one of the ruling families of Venice, ruled. It is a small town in the hills, not too far from Possagno. It is basically one street with a small square and fountain and a traffic light! It is a popular spot for a week end visit and has hosted many famous people such as Robert Browning and Ernest Hemingway. We saw more palazzos (little palaces), a Rocko (castle-fortress), the Cathedral with a painting by Lorenzo Lotto, and the Town Hall.