This and That

Random bits of my life

Ca’ Rezzonico

Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 26, 2016


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.


Salon ceiling painting:



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.


Another view of the first-floor balcony:


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.


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.


Ground floor loggia leading to the water entrance:


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


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.


Partial view of the mosaic floor and walls:


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.


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


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


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


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.

2016-10-27 10.40.41.jpg

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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.


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.


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


Southern wall of San Michele:


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.


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


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.


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




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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Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 23, 2016

Torcello is sometimes referred to as Venice 1.0. It was founded long before Venice, in the 5th century, and was the main population center of the lagoon until malaria drove the inhabitants to the area around the Rialto bridge in the 12th century. Its current population is said to be 10 (or possibly as high as 75), including the parish priest. Before 2013, to get to Torcello you had to take the vaporetto (waterbus) to Burano and catch another vaporetto to Torcello, but the #12 route has been expanded so that it is now possible to go directly from the Fondamente Nove. The trip takes 45 minutes and you have to check the schedule because the earliest and latest #12 boats do not include Torcello.

The Ponte del Diavolo (“Devil’s Bridge”) has a romantic legend, but the more prosaic explanation is that its name is a corruption of a local family name, “Diavoli”. The bridge was built in the 15th century and restored in 2008. Although it appears to lead to a dead end (private gate) at the end of a lane, you can turn left and walk towards the cathedral on a footpath beside a canal that runs parallel to the canal beside the brick-paved path.


The main site on Torcello is the Cathedral of S. Maria Assunta (founded in 639), photographed below from a muddy footpath, which ends at a small bridge. If you look at the banks of the canal, you’ll notice wooden pilings driven into the ground. These are the same kind of pilings that support the enormous palazzi of Venice. The anaerobic atmosphere of the mud keeps the wood (mostly alder and larch) from rotting and a solid layer of Ice Age-buried soil (“caranto”) may be keeping Venice from sinking.


Carved arch on the outside of the apse of the cathedral.


The cathedral is famous for its spectacular 12th century mosaics, in particular, the Last Judgement depicted on the front wall. The river of red flames flows from the Throne of Judgement to the souls of the damned, who are tortured by angels. (Photography is not permitted in the church, but several people were taking photos with cellphones and tablets; the guards didn’t seem to mind.)


Photo: Byzantine apse mosaic with the Theotokos and saints (probably apostles, but I’d have to check the Greek to make sure).


Photo below: View from the bottom of the campanile. If you climb to the top, you will see how sparsely populated Torcello has become. Many structures have vanished entirely because the stones were reused in Venice. Admission to the tower is separate from admission to the cathedral. The ascent is by well-lit ramps, so it’s not a difficult climb.


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Return to Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 23, 2016

Venice is one of my all-time favorite cities. I never get tired of it. We went for five days last month and did not manage to see or do everything we wanted. We’ll have to go back again!

Ca’ d’Oro on the Grand Canal. It’s been converted into a museum and does not allow photography, but you can take pictures on the balcony and the areas outside the gallery itself.



We rented a flat in Campo S. Marghareta in Dorsoduro. I photographed this bubble-maker in nearby Campo S. Barnaba, just across the canal.



Still-life in the Rialto fish market:



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Kite Festival, 2016

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 20, 2016

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

The Israel Museum held its annual Kite Festival during Sukkot (Oct. 18, 2016). It was packed with families attending the kite workshop and watching the kite show later in the day.

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Homemade kites (the square ones with two tails) fly surprisingly well.

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

This enormous cobra kite was very impressive but wasn’t in the air for very long. Its tail kept getting caught on trees and electric poles.

Kite Festival, Israel Museum 2016

Kite design is amazing.

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Frog vs. Angry Bird.

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

Kite Festival, Israel Museum, 2016

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Opera Paradiso

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 24, 2016


Opera Paradiso, a melange of cinema clips and opera performances, was performed last night (June 23, 2016) in Sultan’s Pool, Jerusalem, as part of the annual Israeli Opera Festival. Soloists from the Israel Opera Company performed with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. I am an opera lover and I was delighted to be offered a free ticket at the last minute. The photo above shows a very young Helen Bonham Carter looking at the Duomo in Florence in A Room with a View.

Some of the film clips were obvious choices, like this scene from Amadeus during the “Queen of the Night” aria.



Others were more unusual, like Bend It Like Beckham, Quantum of Solace, or the Israeli comedy, The Policeman, below.




Funny how Windows errors look funnier on a big screen. This was taken about half an hour before the performance. The venue was almost full, which was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t know how popular opera is in this country.


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Festival of Light 2016: Purple Route

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 15, 2016


This year the Festival of Light included a route into the center of Jerusalem. This is not the first time that there have been installations outside the Old City. The first Festival of Light included the City Hall (Iriya). In the photo above, the central Post Office is lit by colored lights that are activated by hitting the mailboxes across the street. This is shown in the video below.

Eiffel Tower, by Luminarie De Cagna, Italy.


Love Jerusalem is an elaborate ad for the “Friends of Zion” museum, but it’s cleverly done. A video follows the photo.


Balls of Light, by Siddhartha (Israel) didn’t knock my socks off but it was a brilliant piece of marketing–after hiking around the Old City for a couple hours, most people would welcome the opportunity to sit down at one of the restaurants or cafes in Nahalat Shiva.


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