We woke to the most beautiful Italian fall sky and knew it was going to be a great day to visit Venice. We’ve toured Venice on several trips before but this time we were looking to do something a bit different, off the beaten “tourist” path. It’s a bit of a slog to drive from Aviano to Venice, primarily because the most direct route takes you through little towns and hundreds of round-abouts. I’m a fan of the round-about but when you have 3 in a row all within 1/2 mile, it just gets to be annoying. We made it to the parking garage around noon; we selected the Tronchetto lot after trying to get into San Marco and discovering that it had a long waiting line to get in. Not a problem because the walk from Tronchetto includes a chance to admire the cruise ships docked for the day. This afternoon there were four massive ships including one from Princess Lines complete with a jumbotron screen on the top deck showing a movie. I guess some passengers just don’t care for Venice all that much. Once we got closer to the city we decided to veer right–to the art museum–instead of going left, which would put us on a beeline for St Mark’s Square. This was a wise choice because our walk to the Guggenheim Gallery was practically people-free. Every square we came to had about 10 tourists standing in the middle, looking at maps, wondering where to go. It was great fun exploring this side of the city where the alleyways were dark and mysterious and I had plenty of time to casually stroll and peek into the storefront windows. A lot of art was for sale as well as leather gloves in an assortment of rich colors and decorative fur trim. Missing from this walk: the tidal wave of tacky souvenirs and street performers that seem to concentrate near Rialto Bridge and Mt Mark’s Square.
The Guggenheim Museum is a small collection of modern art collected by Peggy Guggenheim and displayed in her home on the island. I chose this museum over the Accademia (which features Italian Renaissance art) because I really wanted to see the inside of a Venetian palazzo. The museum begins with entry to the sculpture garden which is well manicured with ample space to appreciate each piece. The special treat is seeing the corner where Peggy is laid to rest near her dearly beloved dogs. To enter the home, you open huge ironwork doors which give an immediate view of the Grand Canal beyond. A Calder mobile hangs delicately in the foyer. The house is narrow and long and completely white. I imagine this is the best way to display modern art. Many of the pieces are hanging where Peggy had them while she lived here and there are black and white photos of her and various guests in the home in each of the rooms. I was familiar with some of the artists including Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst (who was Peggy’s boyfriend for some years), and Alexander Calder. But Peggy was the consumate collector and most of the pieces were strange and hard for me to appreciate, which I assume is just how modern art is supposed to leave you feeling. Since photography is not allowed in the home, I am sharing some of my favorite pieces through images found on the internet…
Tim and Lilly elected not to go into the museum so when I exited they were eager to continue on our Venice tour. We made our way over the bridges to St Mark’s Square and from there took a vaporetto to San Giorgio island, one of the tiny islands that make up Venice proper. We toured the church there and I took the elevator up the bell tower to get a great view of Venice below. This is the only way I know of–except the new helicopter tours–to gain a better understanding of how all the canals work to move goods and people through the city. We took a stroll along the docks and watched an MSC cruise ship slowly and patiently pull out for their next port of call. Near the church, we enjoyed a cappuccino and glass of wine and just soaked up the sun and Venetian atmosphere.
To close out the day, we had dinner at a Trattoria recommended in the Rick Steves’ book. Our prior experience with these restaurant recommendations hasn’t been stellar, but because it was such a tourist-light day in Venice, we thought it might be easy to score a table. We showed up right when the restaurant opened for dinner and after 20 college kids were seated at a long banquet table, we were ushered to a quiet table in the garden. It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve enjoyed and I have to say it was primarily because of the setting. Little white lights twinkled above us and the scent of lilies blanketed the moist air…the table wine was good and my lasagne bolognese was divine. Of course,we wanted the experience to last a bit longer so we ordered dessert (profiteroles and tiramisu) and cappuccinos. What a way to close out a perfect Venice day.