LODGING WE LOVE: Ibis hotels—we stayed in these often! good prices, clean rooms, and a front desk person (we really like hotels over apartment rentals/BnBs because of the front desk person. We’ve had a few mis-steps with Air BnB rentals … Continue reading
We took off from Cinque Terre for the other coast–and the magic of Venice. It was about a 6 hour train ride from the La Spezia station with a brief stop at a local station to change trains. Arrival in … Continue reading
After all the talk of celebrating retirement from the Army, we’re finally getting around to it. Originally, Tim and I had planned to go to Peru, to walk part of the Inca Trail and be inspired by the soaring peaks … Continue reading
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.
I’m beginning to understand the European way of life. They work hard in the summer tilling the fields and bringing in the harvest. Then, the long winter sets in and the human spirit craves a little diversion. Many of the small towns and villages follow the Church Year in their festivities. First comes the Christmas season which is filled with lively Christmas markets throughout Germany. This is followed quickly by New Years Celebrations featuring fireworks and festive spirits.
For the month of February, just before the season of Lent, many villages host “fasching” parades or Carnivale. These festivals can be simple such as the one in our town of Lupburg which included a quick parade down main street with people in costumes, similar to Halloween without the “scary”, and balloons adorning the street lights. For others, the celebration still involves costumes but they’re taken to the next level of creativity. Perhaps no other city in Europe celebrates Carnivale quite like Venice, Italy where grown men and women spend a lot of money and time in preparing for the festivities. Tim and I took the kids down south to visit our friends Eddie and Jenn Cook and their son Edward. Then, off to Venice we went to experience the spectacle. It was a bit strange to see the extent some people go to in designing the “perfect” costume, to include walking and talking and posing for passersby. We focused our visit on St Mark’s Square where the bulk of people playing dress up hang out in the bright sunshine admiring each other’s costumes. As we took the water taxi down the Grand Canal to St Marks, we spotted costumed revelers on the balconies of hotels as we sailed by. They waved to the boats and thoroughly enjoyed entertaining us. The atmosphere during the day was festive; people were happy and carefree but no one was doing anything questionable (except for the fact that grown men were dressed as women). It was all relatively tame and not at all like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We weren’t quite sure what happens in Venice after dark but we didn’t want to take a chance with the kids. We made it back to the ferry before nightfall and had a smooth and uneventful ride back to the Cook’s home in Vicenza.