Tag Archives: Venice

Proof: Time Travel Exists! And the Wrong People Are Using It.

A few weeks ago, I posted an item about Il Paradiso, the huge painting that hangs in the Chamber of the Great Council in Venice. That’s it in the picture above, which, btw, you should definitely enbiggen, because it’s a stunning work of art. It was painted by Tintoretto and the members of his workshop, and I’ve been entranced by it for more than a decade. It was the one great cultural achievement that I had to see in Venice.

But now it’s all been tainted. I noticed something for the first time, and I’ll never be able to un-see it.

Look at the picture again. Look at the center of the painting. Do you see it now?


There, directly behind Jesus, some time-travelling tourist with a selfie stick is ruining the Ascension of the Just into Heaven because he wants a souvenir photo of himself at the great event.


That’s it.

And I’m left with the sad knowledge that I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life missing the grandeur of great art, because I’ll be too distracted by looking for depictions of IPads in the paintings of Rubens, and images of smartphones in the works of Burne-Jones.

Advertisements

Paradiso, and the Chamber of the Great Council

I didn’t take this photograph. I’m using it because it there was no way for me to come close to capturing the texture and detail of the massive painting behind the Doge’s throne in the Chamber of the Great Council. It’s titled Paradiso, and it was painted by Jacopo Tintoretto and the members of his workshop.

Click the image to enbiggen.

I first saw a picture of Paradiso in Venice: Art and Architecture, a two-volume, slip-cased entry in the superb series of art books that the Konemann publishing house released around the turn of the century. The picture took up two full pages of the oversized book.

I was thoroughly enraptured. Venice had always been near the top of my list of cities I dreamed of visiting, and that picture cinched the deal.

And now I was here.

Paradiso is the world’s longest painting on canvas, and the Chamber of the Great Council itself is one of the largest rooms in Europe. It was here that the Great Council of Venice, made up of all patrician males over 25, regularly met to determine the fate of Venice.

I spent more than an hour in this room, moving from place to place, trying to absorb as much of the emotional atmosphere of the room as I could.

Like Schloss Neuschwanstein, like Sainte-Chapelle, like Château de Chenonceau.

A peak experience.

In the Doges’ Palace

We’re near the end, now. And we’re right back where we started, at Piazza San Marco.

For centuries, Venice was a dominant—sometimes the dominant—force in the commercial and cultural life of Europe, playing a role similar to that of New York City in the 20th century. The Doges’ Palace was Venice’s ultimate power center.

The Palace is adjacent to Saint Mark’s Basilica, and its entrance is just around the corner.


The Courtyard

You approach the palace grounds through this dim passageway…

…which opens to the central courtyard, and a magnificent assemblage of architecture. It’s a much smaller space than Piazza San Marco, but every bit as awe-inspiring..

Emerging from that shadowy entrance into this exquisite space is similar to going from Kansas to Oz.


“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…”

Beautiful as the exterior is, it doesn’t prepare you for the grand rooms of the Palace.

This is why I keep going back to Europe. It takes centuries of civilization for a society to create an environment like this.


In the Armory

Every palace needs an armory.


The Reason I Came to Venice

There’s one more room in the palace still to visit: The Chamber of the Great Council. It gets a separate posting.

Ristoteca Oniga, and the Best Meal I Had in Venice

Restaurants in Venice are likely to be more famous for their high prices than for their great cuisine. It should be a first-rate seafood city, but Barcelona and New Orleans have no need to fear Venetian competition. Of the dozen or so places I tried, all of them highly recommended by Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other independent sources, only one of the full-service restaurants made me crave a second visit.*

That was Ristoteca Oniga, near Ca’ Rezzonico, in the Dorsoduro sestiere.

Like many of the restaurants in Venice, the exterior looks shabby and uninviting—Island weather conditions can be rough on buildings. I never made it inside, though, because it was a perfect spring day, and Oniga, which fronts on a pleasant square called Campo San Barnaba, has lots of outdoor seating.

Campo San Barnaba

Campo San Barnaba

Breads

Breads

A nice selection of fresh bread is always a good sign. I’d never seen those round baked goods that look like big Cheerios before, but I ate every crunchy one of them, and could have eaten more.

Mussels and Clams

Mussels and Clams

These sautéed mussels and clams with a tomato and garlic sauce made up the single best dish I had in Venice. The picture is deceptive in that it doesn’t convey the size of the serving. Those croutons, for instance, were the largest I’ve ever seen. I didn’t count the mussels, but the discarded shells filled two big bowls.

Monkfish

Monkfish

The shellfish starter set a high standard for anything that came later. The monkfish with tomatoes, olives, and capers, came close.


The people at the next table were from Los Angeles, and, like me, were delighted by the quality of the food, and impressed with the American-sized servings. We joked about being overwhelmed, and they let me take these pictures of what was left of their meal after five hungry adults had had a go at it.

Must also mention that the service was also excellent, and the server was exemplary.


*I’m specifying “full-service restaurants” to exclude things like cicetti bars and Venice’s multitudinous gelato shops, which are irresistible and addicting. It was a rare day in Venice that I passed up a double scoop of wonderful.

Odds and Ends at Mocenigo Palazzo

In what seems like a familiar story, Palazzo Mocenigo was the home of a branch of the powerful Mocenigo family—seven family members became doges—for more than 300 years. The line died out in the mid-20th century, and the palace was willed to the city on the death of the last Mocenigo widow, with the stipulation that it become an art gallery to complement Museo Correr.

Today the museum is the home of the Study Centre for the History of Textiles and Costumes.* It also houses a mixture of partially restored period rooms, with their contents largely drawn from other Venice museums, and a small but fascinating section devoted to the history of perfume in Venice’s society and commerce.

A reconstruction of a perfumer’s workshop.

From the costume collection.

Remember the door that I plotted to steal from Ca’ Rezzonico? These waistcoats are worthy of that door.

I’ve decided that once I smuggle the door past customs and install it at home, I’m going to establish a detailed dress code for anyone who uses it. Vests like these will be required; if you think you can enter wearing your ratty black Ramones t-shirt, forget about it.


Murano, of course, like the picture at the top of the posting. They’ve been making chandeliers like this for centuries, but the design looks absolutely contemporary


*You can see some beautiful examples from the collection on the Mocenigo Palazzo’s page at the Google Arts and Culture site.

The Easiest Way to See Venice — Gliding up and down the Grand Canal

I’ve always thought that you can’t really begin to know a city until you feel comfortable using its public transportation. Usually, that means getting acquainted with the city’s subway routes and fare collection methods. In Venice, it means riding a vaporetto.

Vaporetti are water buses, and they serve both residents and tourists, with one not-so-slight difference: The basic fare for residents with a local ID card is €1.50, while for everyone else it’s €7.50. Venice hasn’t stayed rich for a thousand years by not looking out for the main chance.

At those prices, it makes sense for a visitor to buy a multi-day tourist travel card, which allows unlimited vaporetto use for a set fee, starting at €20.00 for one day.

Once you have your card, you’re set to explore Venice by water—the easiest, quickest, and most relaxing way to orient yourself to the city.


Along the Grand Canal

This is the best Travel Tip I can give anyone visiting Venice. Here’s what to do:

Go to the nearest vaporetto stop, and board the first boat from the No. 1 vaporetto line that comes along. The No. 1 line runs the length of the Grand Canal, which is Venice’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York. Unless you board at the beginning of the route, you’ll probably wind up either riding inside, or standing on the deck.

Ride to the end of the line, at which point the boat will go out of service, and you’ll have to disembark.

Now find the nearby boarding dock for the return trip. Stay near the boarding point, so that you’ll be among the first people allowed on board. Then head immediately for the limited number of seats in the outside areas at the front or the back of the vaporetto.

You’ll have a comfortable seat with a terrific view as you ride to the end of the line.

Repeat as often as desired.


You can ride on the inside, which is convenient if the weather’s bad, but for the best trip, try to get an outside seat.

This wonderful mature couple spent the entire trip drinking Prosecco from the bottle and making out like teenagers. Venice does that to people.