Saturday, March 27, 2010

Getting ready. . .

We have two relatively commitment free days for this last weekend in Venice (and, of course, in Italy). The weather is pretty nice today so we wandered from our apartment, towards SS Giovanni & Paolo, then to S. Maria Formosa, then toward the Rialto and then back. . .I had done some grocery shopping (ho fatto la spesa) in our neighborhood, getting a pre-cooked chicken at the local butcher shop (plus 2 hamburger patties. . for which I was warned not to add any salt. . .and some salami. . .just in case). I also got a liter of prosecco for the equivalent of $2.70 at the wine depot. . and some bread with olives baked on top. We enjoyed a meal at the table on the balcony up the stairs from our apartment. Greg is up there now, with his crossword, and I am heading to the bed for una piccola siesta. . .there is a little rio down the calle on that side of our apartment and I can hear boats there and various conversations as people head to their apartments.

This evening (6:00) we go to one of Roberta's concerts at the Casa Goldoni--It's a salute to spring.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Visit to the Accademia

Absolute bliss---less than 5-10 people in any of the rooms. . . .quiet---solitude to study some works that I'm usually to exhausted to absorb---the Carpaccio series on the Martyrdom of Ursula, several works by the Bellini trio, the sinister "La Vecchia".

The best in the house, however, is this one:

Dinner at the House of Levi

There is so much action and light in the work of Veronese. There's still one in the Louvre that should be back in Venice

Wedding at Cana

The question I would ask.. .

How much did all of this cost? You, of course, are way too polite to ask this.

The big expense, of course, is airfare and accommodations. Airfare was 2K and the apartments 3K (remember, we had Marriott points for Rome so that was 'free' (minus the maintenance fee for our time share). The apartments averaged out to 130 a night--if the dollar rate was more favorable it would have been better--however, it was a HUGE savings on: food, internet, laundry---INCREDIBLY cost effective and we will certainly do this in the future.

Since we have been here, we have only spent about 2K---that includes restaurants, groceries, train tickets, museums,the occasional bottle of vino (!) etc.

So the total trip was about 7K. . . not free, by any means, but far less than the 10 I thought it could end up being. We do hope that part of this ends up being deductible--And, we may even get some of it back if I get either of the two grants that I applied for---Long shots, of course.

Another hidden secret of travel is that, although you still have to pay your mortgage, car insurance, utilities, etc. you're not spending other money at home because YOU'RE NOT THERE!!!! Other folks may do better than we do on things like gas for the car and groceries, but that's at least 600 (by my count) that could be applied to the trip. And, I don't know about you, but I can drop 50-70 bucks at the Target. . .not sure what that's all about.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I would love to encourage the people I know to travel---yes, the exchange rate stinks--but it's always worth it. Like education of any kind, travel can broaden your outlook, make you more sympathetic to others, make you grateful for what you have.

Having the apartments has been a revelation--Ours have been typical--larger families may have an additional room or so, but generally you have one common room, a bathroom, kitchen (very small) and the bedroom. We have a modest home by U.S. standards (less than 1800 square feet) which translates as 167 square meters---very large by European standards. Aside from the space, we have realized all the energy consumers we all have. Clothes dryers would be at the top of the list. When did we all stop hanging up our clothes? I certainly don't expect that we'll go back to wash tubs and hand wringers, but drying clothes outside would be a HUGE savings and reduction in energy costs!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carpe Diem

Yes, Carpe Diem is overused but it fits our day yesterday. We had originally intended to go to the Accademia, after our morning visit to San Marco. We've learned to go to San Marco in short visits, generally after 11:00 a.m. when they turn on the floodlights. Yesterday's visit was to the loggia, where we could see the four bronze horses and also the view of the Piazza (all the other squares in Venice are called campos). When we stepped outside, it was such a glorious day, we switched gears. It has been rainy and cold for a good bit our time here and we wanted to get lunch where we could sit out and enjoy the day. We took the vaporetto to the south side of Venice, the Zattere, where we knew it would be nice and got a simple lunch in a bar near the San Basilio stop. Again, a bar is an all purpose place in Italy--serving food, coffee, pastries, snacks, in addition to other beverages. Greg had risotto al pesce and I had polpiti (octopus) with potatoes and olives. We lingered in the sun for as long as we could and then walked up the way to the church of San Sebastian. This is a church covered in artwork by Veronese. .or, it usually is. Most of it was either covered by scaffolding or gone altogether, for restoration. We have seen it several times and love this painting, which is normally on the ceiling and looks as though the horses are coming right at you!
We continued up the Calle Lunga di San Barnaba and got the vaporetto at the Ca' Rezzonico stop. We, unbelievably, ran into our friend Roberta on the bus and got off at the Accademia stop to have a coffee with her.

After that, we meandered home, stopping by the grocery and then sat on our balcony, listening to birds and watching the sun set behind the buildings.

Someone recently remarked that it will be hard to leave all this timeless beauty. That brings up an interesting point. . .yes, it will. At the beginning of this trip, I talked about the feeling of anxiety before setting off on a long trip. We really like our home and our lifestyle. It's very comfortable with a pleasant house, cats, good friends. . .but with a major trip, there's a feeling of skydiving and with the metaphorical opening of the 'chute, feeling the world expanding.
There's a different feeling at the end of a trip--I feel it even when we spend a week in Hilton Head! There's a feeling of time slipping away and a bit of melancholy that it will inevitably end. Greg and I talked about this yesterday and will try to do what we always attempt, feel an enormous privilege to have had this opportunity. Yes, we're the ones who had to set the goal and save the money but neither of us anticipated when we were very young that we would have traveled to Venice several times and feel comfortable here.

Who knows what adventures are ahead of us?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

It was very cold and rainy today, but we did make our way to St. Marks and after a quick lunch, to the 'Frari'. This is my favorite church in Venice because of two magnificent paintings. First,
Titian's Assumption of the Virgin and second, Bellini's Sacred Conversation. They are magnificent works, as perfect as art gets and I will never tire of looking at them and visiting them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Quiet Day

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning (mal di gola) so we took it easy. . .well, reasonably so. Preparing for our meal with Roberta, we first went to the Coop grocery store--I bought orrecchiete (pasta shaped like little ears :) and sausage. I got veal for us for tomorrow. While Greg took those back to the apartment, I got green beans, lettuce, tomato and onions at the fruttivedura (green grocer). The stalls still look a bit like this only the seller was a gruff sort of guy instead of the young woman pictured here:

Then, we got a chicken at the macellaio--(butcher); then we went to the vino sfuso negozio--we took in an empty water bottle and he filled it up with pinot rosso for less than 3 Euro (a little over 4 bucks).

I'll make the orrecchiete with pasta as the first course, followed by roast chicken. Nothing fancy but I feel confident of making this turn out well.

Yesterday, when we went to Madonna Dell'Orto, we bought a Chorus pass, which for 10 Euro allows us to get into 16 different churches (3 Euro entrance fee for each)--Today's church of the day was Santa Maria Formosa which is a very nice church in a very large campo, not too far away from our apartment.

On the way, we passed by the deconsecrated church of San Lorenzo and the Questura (police station)--both figure very heavily into the novels of Donna Leon. If you don't know these and you like mysteries, get them immediately!

Here is San Lorenzo:

and here is the Questura:

I know my book club friends will enjoy these :)

We finally ended up at the church:

The favorite piece of art here is the Vivarini triptych:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Art and food and day trips--Thursday and Friday--Or, Gail learns how to make a clickable link on Blogger!

When we came in on the train on Monday, we saw a big advertisement for an exhibit of art of Giorgione--Lots of 500 year anniversaries of artists--My perception is that is has something to do with the plague of that time. . .Within the 2nd day of being here, I made reservations for us to go--it also involved a train ride to Castelfranco Veneto which is an hour away from Venice (very slow train). Giorgione is a very different artist than Caravaggio, but Greg pointed out that he came 100 years before (it's the 400 anniversary of his death).

My favorites were this:

and this:

In the Accademia in Venice (not in the town of Castelfranco di Veneto where the exhibit was) is another that's always startling:

On the train ride on the way back, we spoke to a man named John from Ghana who was very nice and asked for our email (ostensibly to correspond). He's been here for 7 years and has been out of work for 1---he seemed very sincere (and somewhat lonely).

When we got back to Venice, we walked from the train station to the Rialto--that's not the most poetic part of Venice but it was a nice day.

Today, we went to the church of Madonna dell'Orto, which is the church of Tinteretto:

I hope this link works as it describes the presentation of Mary at the Temple (by Tinteretto).

We then took the vaporetto back to the Fondamente Nove where we caught the ferry to Burano and lunch at Da Romano---we became inspired for this by the Anthony Bourdain show about Venice

and it was our splurge meal of the trip (always ask how much the fish weighs first :) The risotto (the house speciality) was out of this world. It is made with a broth of small fish and each grain of rice was like a pearl:

After a walk back to the ferry stop (had to wait a half hour, then ride a half hour), we walked along the Fondamente Nove back to our apartment (about 15 minutes).