Venice in May and Umbrian Quirks

Buon Giorno tutti!  Hello everybody!

Very soon I’m going to “launch” this blog, putting the word out to everyone I know hoping they’ll read me!

Now that my inertia and technical difficulties are resolved, I’m moving forward on this “Bella ciao” blog.


This is not a travelogue, It’s not about food and hotel recommendations.  It’s about Italian  culture.


The Venice Architectural Biennial, open now thru November 25 2018.

Quite by accident we happened upon the opening weekend of the Venice Architectural Biennial — a fair/exposition ranging over the entire city, with an intellectual focus on  architecture.  (In two years there will be an Arts Biennial.)

Our goal was to see Venice again, a second time.  I wanted to attend “La Traviata” in the newly rebuilt La Fenice Opera House.  It burned in a fire in 1996 and took years amid great controversy to rebuild.   The singing, the orchestra, the ambiance of the gorgeous theater “Traviata” pleased us immensely.

Also we intended to see an exhibit by the abstract/pop art German painter Albert Oehlen (see picture).  The retrospective called “Cows by the Water” runs in conjunction with the Biennial, taking over the entire strikingly renovated Palazzo Grassi, owned by Henri Pinault, one of France’s wealthiest men.  The paintings and the palace together make up a visual feast.

We stayed in a giant hotel on the island called “Giudecca,” in a Hilton Hotel, once a flour mill.  This island is delightfully calm compared to the main island San Marco.  We saw 5-6 cruise ships, in fact they passed right by our noses on the Giudecca Canal as we were having breakfast.  We know they disgorged thousands of passengers each day and we did our best to AVOID THOSE THRONGS!

We walked the back streets of Giudecca Island and discovered how the locals live.  Mind you, there are no cars in Venice.  Everyone travels by foot or by boat.  We loved the repurposed monastery,  now an artist’s enclave.  A relaxing island, with little commercial activity, just lots of canals, boats and windowboxes.

A vaporetto (boat) took us to peaceful San Giorgio Island, where there is absolutely NO commercial activity, only a beautiful papal Basilica. There we saw a glass art exhibit from Marseilles, France. It is part of the Biennial.  Since our home town, Seattle, is known for art glass, we were most interested and pleasantly surprised.  We attempted to see the 12 Vatican Chapels, commissioned by the Holy See for the Biennial.  Alas, it was invitation only.  We will return in November to see the chapels.

Ai Wei Wei’s “Gilded Cage” is visible from a vaporetto, a boat one can take to the Biennial Giardini, the cluster of 30 some pavilions, each from a different nation, each housing an architectural exhibit and the true centerpiece of the Biennial. The US pavilion showed a giant map of the US/Mexico border, elaborating on the many things that can cross borders:  ideas, questions, books, insects, air, water and disease, just to name a few.

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We dared into hot, crowded San Marco square to see another exhibit of the Biennial, the original Olivetti store.  Bob sold Olivetti so many chips that he thought we should have been guests of honor.

I could go on for days about the Biennial and about Venice.   I’ve become a Venetophile. I’ve become a “lagoonatic.”  I love it, I love the water, the boats, the vistas.  We dined beside the Giudecca canal. We ate small plates of “Cichetti.”  We’ll be back!

Next posting will be about my observations of the people, the natives, the locals, who live around here.   Wonder what they think about me?   A dopo – “see you later!”





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