The Other Venice

Venice Travel Blog

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Off the Academy Bridge
Venice

The tough part really is finding out what to do next, finding accommodations in a foreign language, dealing with the vagaries of ever-changing phone systems, and dragging our bags around. Given that, Stephen had a strong yen to change our original plans and spend a whole week in Venice, instead of 2.5 days, and dump Budapest completely. Our Italian friends were surprised that we would spend more than a weekend in Venice, apparently thinking that a few days was enough to walk around and see the pretty buildings, eat, and drink. I too was a little skeptical at first, thinking of the greatness of Florence and Rome and that Venice was so touristy.
Venice, early morning
Yet I’m really glad we did it. We saw an astonishing range of artwork, from the 14th to the 20th century and heard an excellent chamber music group in a 12th century church. They played Mozart and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons...I couldn’t help but envision my beautiful teen dancers running around with boxes during the last movement! I only wished that those kids could have the chance to sit in an historic church in the composer’s home country and hear that piece of music played live by real people on real stringed instruments. I can just imagine Lakeisha taking Venice by storm! Which reminds me that we have seen very few people of color in northern Italy, Vienna or Prague . Italy is trying to figure out what to do with all the Albanian refugees arriving in their country.

 The Venice that I love is the one we saw on our first long walk, getting up at 6:30.
The Beekeeper
It’s a city of spatial contrast. You inevitably get lost in the maze of tiny winding streets and canals only to arrive at some lovely open space, a campo you haven’t been in before, where the light and angles are brighter and steeper, and the human movement is bigger - kids playing soccer against the church wall,  groups of friends and families with strollers and bikes and rollerblades. Then you enter yet another church filled with gloriously excessive Italian religious art, and maybe you wish that Tintoretto had painted a little less feverishly, or maybe just a little less.

Stephen:

Yes , the Venice stay was my idea  I needed to be someplace. I didn’t want to move to another country and I certainly did not want to not understand another language.  I liked the week quite a bit. Venice is simple.  When you want to go somewhere, you step out of the hotel and walk there.  And when you have had enough, you turn around and walk home.  No place in central Venice was more than twenty minutes from our hotel.

The hotel was also simple.  It started two floors above the street and was 9 rooms with a couple of baths in the corridor and a nicely decorated lobby.  Two young guys in their thirties ran the place.  One star.  We had a big room with a sink with two tall windows that faced south and looked out over a small campinella.  When we returned mid afternoon for a break, it would invite us in with a flood of sun warmth. We soon created our daily schedule which was an morning stand up coffee with a croissant at a caffe on the Campo San Stephano, followed by a short walk, perhaps to check the view off of the Academia bridge.  We would return to the hotel and then off to a museum or church.  We followed that with lunch al fresco at one of the many outdoor cafes in the numerous squares of the city.  Lunch might be followed by a snooze before going out again to see a church or walk through a neighborhood or do an errand like buy supplies for the evening’s picnic.  We decided to save money by not eating every meal out, but decided to picnic at dinner because it was warm and sunny in the middle of the day and the lazy lunches were wonderful.

There are two Venice’s.  One is the well traveled streets that the tourists use to get from the train and bus stations to the Rialto Bridge, San Marco Piazza and the Academia Gallery.  Along these routes move the groups of fifty Japanese tourists, the gaggles of French schoolchildren following their teachers, the well heeled buyers window-shopping in the store of New York, Paris and Rome.  Dozens of languages are heard.  The other Venice begins one or at most two streets over from the “highways” The are no fancy shops, locals outnumber the outsiders and it is quiet. You discover campos with mothers and children; there are people going to and from work.  You share a small church with a handful of other people.  The streets are narrow,  sometimes just wide enough to let another person pass you in the other direction.  The scale is perfect and there is always a surprise waiting around the next corner. I found it a very comfortable place to be in and that was what I was looking for.

I am seeing a lot of art and not liking very much of it.  The piece that I have liked best is a modern piece called the beekeeper by a Flemish artist named Fabre.  It is made by gluing green jewel beetles to a wire mesh in the shape of a hooded figure carrying a large basket. The whole thing is about eight feet tall and suspended out from the wall about six feet off the ground.  Underneath it is a square of black linoleum and on it is the detritus of the piece, small things that have fallen off.  They must be egg cases because every once in a while you see a small flutter of movement on the floor.  The shape, the color, the mystery all come together to make a piece of art that is totally satisfying.  In a nineteenth century Pallazzo in Venice of all places. 
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Off the Academy Bridge
Off the Academy Bridge
Venice, early morning
Venice, early morning
The Beekeeper
The Beekeeper
Venice
photo by: asturjimmy