This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

More Shops in Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 12, 2017

As a follow-up to my earlier posting, unusual shops in Venice, I’m posting some more shop windows and displays.

In a glass shop in the sestiere of San Marco, I found this chess set showing Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi Jews. I’m not sure this set would be very functional because the pawns are different designs and you would need to agree, in advance, on whether a Jew holding a palm branch or a Torah scroll is a bishop or a knight. Some stores have lights in their display windows that interfere with cellphone photography (the lighting turns bright pink or purple), but DSLRs are not affected.

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I bought this vase in a small glass shop in the San Polo sestiere. It’s probably a knock-off because it’s so cheap (25 euros = 100 NIS); the clerk said it was the last one in that design. Although I looked in lots of glass stores, I saw very few asymmetric teardrop vases, and the ones I did see were half the size, twice as expensive, and not as beautiful. The design is similar to the work of Vetreria Artistica Oball in the sommerso (“submerged”) technique. It’s 10 inches high and weighs about a kilo. The seller packed it in bubble-wrap and newspaper and sealed it in a sturdy, sealed carton. I shlepped it around Italy in my suitcase and hand-carried it on the flight back. The photo was taken when I got home. I love the clean, elegant lines and jewel colors of this piece.

Vase from Venice

All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in Italy, but who knew that they celebrated Hallowe’en with Jack o’lantern and bat cookies? Bakery in San Polo, Venice.

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These dishes with three-dimensional sculpted mice and pigs are adorable. I’m sure they’re decorations. If you were to eat off them, you’d have a tough time getting the food out of the crevices and you’d probably chip an ear or a snout.

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Everyone needs a gondola kit. Gondolier and velvet upholstery not included. They got the shape right–a gondola is asymmetrical. Because the oar is plied from one side of the gondola, that side is less curved, so that it will glide in a straight line.

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I would have loved a cheerful ceramic spoon rest for my kitchen counter, but there was a limit to how many breakable objects I was willing to carry.

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Torrone morbido (soft nougat) is a traditional Italian Christmas confection made from honey/glucose, beaten egg whites and lots of nuts. Here’s a recipe for a large quantity, with a video, Jamie Oliver’s version (requires you to wave a blowtorch around the metal mixing bowl during whisking), a beautifully photographed recipe that makes smaller quantities, and an extremely simple Sardinian torrone that requires only three ingredients: nuts, honey, and a couple egg whites. The commercial torrone have food coloring added. The homemade versions are extremely pale or white.

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Unusual Shops in Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 27, 2016

Unbelievable as this may sound, Venice does have shops that sell beautiful things not mass-produced in China. “Gualti” was very close to the flat that we rented in Dorsoduro. I must have walked by it a dozen times but never had the courage to go in because I was certain I couldn’t afford it. Gualtiero Salbego is a self-taught artist who creates sinuous scarves and flamboyant jewelry. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll buy a Gualti scarf someday.

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A local designer sells funky bags near Campo Barnaba. I’m fairly certain the store was in Calle Lunga S. Barnaba. It was closed when I took this photo and I never got a chance to go back when it was open. If you want to buy interesting things that aren’t produced solely for the tourist market, student areas are good places to shop. Dorsoduro has a lot of students, which means affordable bars, cafes, and supermarkets.

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This large, two-room shop, located in San Polo (maybe Salida S. Polo) sells gorgeous Japanese fabrics, pottery, hand-bound books, and interesting scarves. The design of the perforated scarf on the right is the result of slits cut into the fabric. When it lies flat, it looks like a piece of wrinkled gauze. I spoke for a few minutes with the clerk. Beautiful things but beyond my price range.

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Alleys of San Polo

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 27, 2016

The neighbourhood around the Rialto Market in San Polo, Venice, is a warren of tiny alleys. The arches overhead, with weeds growing out of the cracks, seem to serve no structural purpose. I was told that they signified ownership; if someone owned two adjacent buildings, an arch would be built between them to show that they had the same owner. You often see these arches at the entrance to a small square which, in Renaissance times, often belonged to an extended family. (That also explains the impressive churches found in tiny, out-of-the-way, courtyards.)

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The bridge at the end of the Fondamenta Riva Olio (by the Grand Canal) ends at a wall that forms one end of the Pescheria (fish market). In this photo, you can see the arches of the fish market on the left.

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If you walk in the colonnade behind the tourist shops of the Rialto Market (yes, the stores with the scarves, souvenir magnets, leather bags, and San Marco banners) and look up, you’ll see these old, unprotected frescos over walls covered with graffiti. The sheer volume of artwork in Venice is staggering. I took these photos in the morning, before the shops had opened, so it wasn’t too crowded.

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Detail of fresco and groin-vaulting.

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Scala Contarini del Bovolo

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 27, 2016

The scala (stairs) of the 15th century Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo have been open to the public since Feb. 2016. Unfortunately, we arrived just after they’d closed and I had to take these photos through a high fence. The view from the top is said to be extraordinary. Oh, well, we’ll have to put it on our to-do list for our next trip to Venice.

The palace is in the San Marco Sestiere, not far from Piazza San Marco, but it’s not easy to find, because it’s located at the end of a tiny alley, surrounded by private houses and a tiny hotel. “Bovolo” means snail, referring to the shape of the staircase; it also became the nickname of this branch of the Contarini family. Imagine being named after your staircase!

Photographing this staircase was a challenge because the fence was so close to the building and I didn’t have my 10-22mm lens with me.

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500th Anniversary of the Venetian Ghetto

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 27, 2016

2016, which will be over in a few days, is the 500th anniversary of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. It was pouring when we arrived at Piazzale Roma by bus from the airport. While waiting for the apartment owner, I photographed the tram before it left the station. The People Mover was decorated with photos from the Ghetto.

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Tourists on the Scalzi Bridge look down, while Renaissance Jews look up.

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Ca’ Rezzonico

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 26, 2016

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Most of the old palaces of Venice have been converted into art galleries or hotels and, consequently, have modern interiors. If you want to see how these magnificent buildings may have looked when they were private residences, you should visit Ca’ Rezzonico, in the Dorsoduro sestiere by the Grand Canal. It’s not close to other major sites, but it has its own vaporetto stop. This museum is dedicated to 18th century Venice. We ran through it in a couple hours before Shabbat, but would have liked to spend more time there. It’s not extremely well-known and we fit it in as an afterthought. The photo above is the main entrance of the palace.

I didn’t photograph the outside of the museum, so here is a Wiki Commons photo by Didier Descouens. Cole Porter rented this palace for a party in the 1920s, for $4000/month. This did not include the 50 gondoliers who were hired to act as footmen or the troupe of high-rope walkers. Some people really know how to entertain….

The interior is stunning. Photography without flash is permitted. The museum has three floors and a garden and easily justifies a two-hour visit.

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Salon ceiling painting:

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I love these old Murano chandeliers with amazingly detailed glass flowers!

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Ca’ d’Oro

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 1, 2016

The Ca’ d’Oro (“House of Gold”), one of the oldest palazzi on the Grand Canal, was built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family. Its name comes from the fact that its decorations were once gilded and polychromed. Even in its pallid state, it is still one of the most beautiful palaces in Venice.

Like many palaces, it has been converted into an art gallery. I can’t say I was terribly impressed, although my opinion may be colored by the fact that the second story was closed, but they still charged full price for the tickets. Photography is not allowed in the gallery, but is permitted in the outside balconies and loggia, which are the most photogenic areas in any case. (If you want to see how a palazzo may have looked when it was being used as a private home, visit the Ca’ Rezzonico.)

The sunflare photo below was taken from the first-floor balcony of what would have been the principal salon. It leads to the gift shop.

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Another view of the first-floor balcony:

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The external facade of the Ca’ d’Oro is not easy to photograph because of a vaporetto stop beside the palace (I think I stood on one of its docks); the only clear shot was at a sharp angle.

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If you want a good view of the Ca’ d’Oro, it’s better to go to the Rialto Mercato vaporetto stop on the other side of the Grand Canal. I took the next photo several days later and had a pleasant chat with a Scottish woman who was trying to sketch the palazzo.

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Ground floor loggia leading to the water entrance:

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Another view of the loggia, taken by wriggling my camera through the bars.

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External view of inner courtyard leading to main entrance. This courtyard is brick, but the rest of the area has splendid colored marble mosaics. Looking at this photo, I suddenly realised why these old staircases are built on arches, rather than a solid wall. It allows another row of windows, admitting light to a lower storey.

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Partial view of the mosaic floor and walls:

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In the courtyard, looking up.

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Libreria Alta Acqua (High Tide Bookstore)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 28, 2016

If you are a bibliophile and you want to see a different side of Venice, be sure to visit the Libreria Alta Acqua. It’s filled with books, new and used, in every conceivable floating device (gondola, rowboat, canoe, etc.).

The “fire exit” leads directly to a canal. How thoughtful of the management to provide flippers. While I was taking this photo, a boat passed by.

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The entrance has stacks of water-damaged books wired to the wall, under a blue kayak.

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There’s no discernible order to the collection. Be prepared to rummage through the piles.

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In the patio at the back, water-damaged books are fused into two staircases with signs to “Go up” and “Enjoy the view.”

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Here’s the view from the top of the steps. The patio is actually below the level of the canal wall, so it must get quite wet during high tide.

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Venice Lagoon–Old and New

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 27, 2016

If you take the vaporetto to Burano, you will pass the abandoned island of Madonna del Monte (mountain? really?). It has been the site of a monasteries since the middle ages; Napoleon destroyed the last one. The building in the photo below was built in the 19th century, as a powder magazine. The island is eroding rapidly because the retaining wall has crumbled.

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I’m not sure where I photographed these houses, but they were on the #12 vaporetto route from Torcello. Maybe Isola dei Laghi, but I haven’t been able to track them down on Google earth view.

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San Michele in Isola, on the cemetery island (Cimitero di San Michele). I’ve never stopped there, but I hope to some day.

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Southern wall of San Michele:

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This strange-looking beast is the bridge for the Venice People Mover. The monorail train connects the historical center of Venice with the Marittima cruise terminal and Piazzale Roma, the point of entry for buses, trains, cars, and the Tronchetto parking island. Personally, I’ll stick with the vaporetti and my own two feet….

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More Torcello

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 24, 2016

Sorry to keep you hanging–when I reread my Torcello post, I realised that I’d posted a photo of the beginning of the climb up the tower without posting a photo of the view! These aren’t the greatest photos, but I hope they give you an idea of what Torcello looks like.

It’s hard to believe that Torcello ever supported thousands of inhabitants and 16 (yes!) parish churches. The stones were taken to the Rialto (literally, ‘high bank’) area for building and the lagoon started encroaching on Torcello. On this side, there are no signs of habitation except for the occasional boat or dock. The sky was overcast when we arrived, contributing to the desolate atmosphere. You can almost believe that the island is haunted.

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Torcello is very close to Burano, the lace-makers’ island with colorful houses and leaning tower.

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The next photo is a view of the main, and maybe only, street from the dock to what remains of Torcello. The houses have been converted into restaurants and tourist shops. The beautiful garden in the foreground is Locanda Cipriani, one of the oddities of Torcello –a 4-star restaurant in the middle of nowhere. During its 80-year history, the restaurant has hosted celebrities, royals, and Ernest Hemingway, who spent the fall of 1948 at the Locanda. If the name “Cipriani” rings a bell, you’ve probably heard about Harry’s Bar in Venice, which was featured in Fellini’s iconic film, La Dolce Vita; the Locanda and Harry’s Bar were opened in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani. Harry’s Bar was another celebrity magnet, a place to see and be seen — without the long boat ride!

I had a look at the menu. It’s pricey but not outrageous.

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External view of Torcello’s cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta:

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We ate our picnic lunch on the dock beside this peaceful area of the lagoon, close to the cathedral. It was so tranquil because the area was deserted. (I hear that it’s much busier during the summer months, but not as crowded as Venice or Murano.) You’ll notice that the weather has changed dramatically. This photo was taken about an hour after the photos from the tower.

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