Things I’ve Learned In Venice

“ If you read a lot, nothing is as good as you’ve imagined it.  Venice is! – Venice is better. “             Fran Liebowitz

Things I’ve Learned in Venice

Venetians hate Napoleon because he stole from them the very treasures that Venice had previously stolen from Constantinople. The French hate that the Venetians have two museums (Palazzo Grassi and the Dogana) devoted to French modern art.

The pigeons in Venice have special protection because of their popularity with the tourists. No self respecting Venetian over the age of two would pay any attention to a pigeon.

There are two Venices – the actual one and the reflection in the water. Which is real and which is the illusion?

Directions in Venice may involve going” through a sestiere, past the scuola, down the fondamenta or the riva to the rama to the rio tera, to the calle, rughetta or salizzada and under the soltoportego”.( good to travel with map people)

Peggy Guggenheim has a room in her museum devoted to her daughter’s art. (don’t we all?)

An important Venetian holiday is held on the third week in July. It is the Feast of the Redentore commemorating the end of the plague that killed fifty thousand people including Titian. The fireworks display is so extensive and significant that the re-election of the mayor is contingent on their quality ( sort of like us picking a governor based on his movies) I have to add that they were the most incredible fireworks of our lives –I  hope that mayor got re-elected.

If you find  yourself in Venice on a vaporetto going out into the open sea, don’t worry, it will come back into the city……. eventually.

Vaporettos (water buses) in Venice are on the honor system. Many stops do not have kiosks to buy tickets which makes it hard to be honorable.

St. Mark, (patron saint of Venice) had his body “rescued” from his grave in Alexandria. Venetian fishermen covered the relic in pork to repulse the Muslim inspectors. There are mosaics that tell this story in the Basilica. If it was today, it would be covered in pork belly-something I see on every menu.

There is always reconstruction and renovation going on in Venice. The city slogan is “com’era dovera “  ( as it was and where it was)

The Biennale  ( Worldwide Art  Exhibition) in Venice is filled with the same pretentious art people one finds anywhere else. The difference is that in the summer,  they bring their kids. You can hear in several different languages, what was that? When are we leaving?

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) connects the Doges palace to the Prigioni  (prisons). The name comes from the fact that the prisoners used to sigh as they saw Venice from the tiny windows on their way to the prison. “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”   Lord Byron

There is always a small choice of musical concerts in Venice. They all play Vivaldi.

Napoleon called St Marks Square ‘the finest drawing room in Europe.’  In the summer it is filled with tourists, pigeons, musicians and waiters. Try to see it late at night or early in the morning .

Volare is a song I never expected to be woken up to in the morning or hear 100 times a day.

The Rialto Bridge was built in just three years between 1588-91. It replaced the wooden bridge built in the twelfth century. The architect was Antonio Da Ponte. He beat out Michelangelo and Palladio for the contract. His name means Anthony of the Bridge . I cant help thinking he went into the competition with an edge.

Venice has no sewer system. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.(in case you were thinking of tasting the water or swimming )

There are many mask shops in Venice but only a few are traditional mask makers. Remember if its cheap, its fake.  La Bottega Dei Mascareri is a traditional mask making studio near the Rialto Bridge.

They say the best way to explore Venice is to get lost among the endless narrow streets and bridges. I don’t think that is the best way to explore Venice with my daughter. But no matter how good at directions you think you are, you will get lost in Venice.

Bauer Il Palazzo Hotel is one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s favorite hotels. (and mine also!)

Don’t touch the produce in Venice. In fact it is considered offensive to touch  fruits and vegetables in the markets  all over Italy.

The Bellini was invented by Guiseppi Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar. It is fresh white peach juice mixed with Prosecco. (sparkling wine). Its pink color reminded him of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by Giovanni Bellini.  It is named for the artist.

Gondolas are operated by highly skilled oarsmen.  Only 3 gondolier licenses are issued annually after extensive training and a written exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolieri operating in Venice today and 350 gondolas. (I wonder if anyone else had to take it three times)

Almost everyone in Venice belonged to a scuola in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. They were  like fraternities formed around occupations or immigrant groups .The scuole were self governing and helped their members integrate into society or with their problems. They became important artistic patrons. The themes were usually the lives and miracles of the Saints. Caravaggio was a favorite painter of the scuole.  It is worth it to go and see the art in some of the scuole around Venice..

Venetian food is simple, fresh and delicious. There are no food jokes here. Seafood, small birds, liver,  fresh fruits and vegetables and local grains are the staples.  Some traditional dishes are risi e bisi (risotto with peas) eaten by  the Doge on St Marks Day, pasta e fagioli ( pasta with beans a hearty peasant dish), dried cod, cuttlefish cooked in squid ink and sardines with onions. They are not known for pizza,  but eating pizza in Italy is always a good thing.

Ciao, Fly Safe,

JAZ

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