Venice is a stone fairy tale (Rilke), a living work of art, a magical place. At the moment is it also cold, rainy and overcast, so not as photogenic as normal. But I’ll include a few photos anyway. I wish I could include some smells and sounds too. The lapping water, the bells that seem to ring for an hour every evening around 6, the perfume and pizza. Ah — the pizza. Barnaby and I have abandoned all hope of trying to stick to our diet.
I thought I should add some photos of some of the amazing art we’ve seen on this trip. Our visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence will probably be the winner of the “most masterpieces in one building” award of the trip. Not only did we see some of my favorite Michelangelos and Raphaels, but this Titian — Venus of Urbino, is so completely erotic and perfectly painted that I can’t get it out of my mind. (Kind of like that Puccini aria “o mio bambino…” that Amy sang the other night, but it’s okay to have that kind of beauty looping in your head.) I always realize how little I know (or remember) about history when we visit places like this. So many details are lost on us. Like the cute little dog asleep at Venus’ feet. I finally looked it up tonight on Wikipedia because it was driving me crazy not knowing what was going on in that painting. Well — generally a dog stands for loyalty and faithfulness, but because that one is sleeping it probably means the opposite. Apparently Titian was commissioned to paint it for a Duke that gave it to his new (very young) bride for their wedding. It’s thought to be a sort of instructional piece. The Italians often have no English descriptions, and when they do — they describe the provenance of the work rather than describing the content. That’s especially sad for those of us that are weak on our Bible stories. I also fell in love with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Annunciation. This is a terrible photograph of it — the colors are glorious in person, but you can get the idea.
This morning we went to a gallery in Venice and saw several hundred more “Madonna and Child”, “Annunciations”, “Last Suppers”, and flayings (those Bible stories are really maudlin). Afterwards we went to Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery — what a breath of fresh air. Not only is the space (her villa) gorgeous, but the modern collection is so much more to our taste. She has several Magrittes, De Chiricos, a very pink and scary Francis Bacon and several delightful Calders (my favorites).
I especially enjoyed all of the sculpture — Brancusi! There are lovely gardens surrounding the villa full of great pieces. This one was particularly hard not to touch.
Venice seems to be quite a bit more corporate than it was when we were here in 1994. The streets are crowded with designer shops like Gucci, Prada, La Perla and Fendi. Barnaby gets nervous when we’re walking during the day and the stores are open. It’s kind of like being in a beautiful mall, that goes on and on. I’m trying to stay out of trouble.
This is a photo I took last week at the little grocery where we shopped during our Tuscany stay. Just in case you thought Italians are all sophisticated and don’t eat junky cereal like Americans… well, they do eat a little. At least they call it like it is — Chocolate Crack! We all think that in general though, the Italian diet, though heavy in pasta, is probably a lot healthier than the typical American diet. The food at the markets has less packaging and the produce is gorgeous. The cheese counter is great, but the meat case is a little skimpy. I think they eat less meat. And sadly — there’s still a lot of cigarette smoking. At least they’re not smoking inside, or we would be miserable.
Here’s one more little bas-relief from the exterior of the Duomo in Milan. I’m not really sure what’s going on, probably some king and his servants. If anyone has any ideas please tell me.
We miss you Abby & Theo!
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