Saturday, November 7, 2009

Venice and the Biennale

On our next to last day we took the train to Venice. Very easy. In Venice we took the water bus. Ugh! The 'bus' made a 100 stops and took forever. While this may have been a pleasant way to see Venice unfortunately seeing out the windows was impossible as the bus was packed. Wall to wall people , everyone of whom were talking into their cell phones. Seems Italians are crazy about their cells and everyone from kids to little old ladies can be found talking on one.
This was my third time in Venice and while it definitely can be crowded and touristy it is still, in my opinion, a magical place. Walk a few steps away from the grand canal or the main piazzas and you are lost in a maze of endless winding streets. The light reflecting on the water is breathtaking and the beautiful mansions crumbling into the canal are heartbreaking.
As evening came I stood on one of the bridges and realized that I would probably never see Venice again. After all, I had 'done' all the sights so no reason to return as a tourist, it's too far for a get-a-way weekend and I can't imagine anywhere I'd be going that would have me passing through. It was a weird feeling, one I suspect may be common in your 90s as you say good bye to various things in your life, but not one I thought would hit me so strongly at this point. Perhaps I'm older than I like to believe or maybe Venice with it's beautiful decay just inspires melancholy .
Now the main reason for the Venice visit; to see the Venice Biennale. The Biennale,, for those of you who don't know, is like the Olympics of the art world and has been going on since 1853. The work, done by artists from all over the world, is very contemporary, and very cutting edge. Almost all of it is installations. The art is set up in two main locations, incredible enormous wooden and brick structures that seem to be falling apart around you. The Biennale is organized like most of Italy, that is, not at all. There are no maps, little to no sineage, and no guards. One building leads you into another and for hours you are lost in a world of flashing lights, strange construction sites, and flickering films. The work is scary, beautiful,creepy, and sometime breathtaking. After a while we decided to leave the first site and find the second one. This never happened. Instead we wandering thru giant outdoor art installations that had us climbing up moving walls and swinging on gymnastics rings.Then we wound up walking on a gravel path through the woods. Who knew they had woods in Venice? Scattered throughout the woods were broken down sheds that seemed to be tool or storage sheds. When you opened the door to each one you stepped into a art installation. One, a nod to Hansel and Gretel, was covered inside with wrapped hard candies. Since these had been here for months the sweet smell was overwhelming and the oven in the middle added to the strangeness. Again, no signs anywhere so you had no idea if you were heading in the right direction or how long you might be wandering. A bit like being dropped on a foreign planet with no directions home. Eventually we came to a exit gate. Of course since there were , again, no signs we wandered for quite a while trying to find our way to a canal. During that time we often passed the same people we had passed wandering lost in the woods which was some comfort.
Next stop, Peggy Guggenheim's home. She had a large home right on the grand canal which is filled with her art and open to the public. ( For a fee, of course).While I think we would have enjoyed it more if the home retained her original furnishings it did allow you to hang out on her patio? veranda? which hangs out over the Grand Canal. Since I don't expect to ever be invited into anyone's home who lives on the canal it was a fantastic experience to be there.
All in all, a great day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Arrivederchi padova

Well I 'm back from my trip to Italy to visit Melissa. It was very fun and we had a great time. It was quite different from my usual experiences visiting places in which the days are quite busy, filled with things that must be seen and done. I had been to Italy before and while we had things we wanted to do if we got to them at 11 or 3 it really didn't matter. It was more a matter of hanging out together. I'm really blessed that we enjoy each others company so much and hope I don't ever take that for granted. I got to have dinner with several of her friends over 2 nights and had a great meal at her family's home. Her friends are terrific and we laughed and had some great food. Her family is very nice, smart, interesting, and very warm and sweet.They seem to be crazy about her.
Padova is a fantastic city, very pretty. Small narrow twisty streets with no cars allowed, 2 incredible piazza's filled with people selling fruits and vegetables and people out on the streets night and day drinking coffee or wine. Next to the piazzas are two long alleys of tiny shops that only sell one thing; one only sells cheese, one bread, one being back in time. You feel very authentic as there are no tourists. I don't think anyone speaks english but since I was never without my personal translator that wasn't a problem.
Friday we went to Ferrera which is a very cool little town. The Italian trains are quite nice and very easy to manage, as long as you speak excellent Italian! Like Padova the part inside the medieval wall is forbidden to cars and filed with narrow cobblestone streets. Walking in heels is out of the question! They have a huge amazing castle (moat included that you wander through in and out of every room. Obviously they don't have law suits there as they let you walk down a 600 year old very unsafe cobblestone staircase into the dungeons completely unsupervised. No guards, just one or two little old women who point and grunt. Then off to bologna- a larger , very active city. Around 6:30pm every person living in the city comes out and just walks around and hangs out. It's unbelievable. The place is packed all night. On sat eve we returned to Padova and had (another great meal). Our meals were pretty simple. Plates of pasta and carafes of red wine. All good.
The north is definitely different from the south. You can see the people are well dressed, every woman has a large louis vuitton bag, and there is no cannolli.
Venice in the next post!