Thursday, November 23, 2017

Details, Details... Palazzo Grassi

Gaudy as the handles to the French doors of the piano nobile of Palazzo Grassi are (see an example of one above), I recently turned to them--and really noticed them for the first time--as a respite from the massive display of kitsch filling the center of the palazzo's exhibition space: Damian Hirst's Andromeda and the Sea Monster (detail below), which is a comically overwrought combination in bronze of, among other things, woman-in-peril pulp fiction and comic book covers of a half-century ago with the unconvincing rubber sharks that surfaced in popular films of around the same era (and then, most famously and profitably, in Spielberg's Jaws).

So much has been written about the Hirst show that I've never felt any need to bother with it myself. You can still catch it until December 3. There is no time limit on when you can have a look at the flashy door handles, about which, I must admit, I know nothing. 

Sometimes a piece of art, no matter how spectacular it aims to be, only becomes interesting in the presence of viewers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

7 Views of the Festa della Madonna della Salute, Today

Candles, balloons, castradina, and sweets, thanks for one's good health and prayers for good health in the year to come: these are the key elements (sacred and profane) of the Festa della Madonna della Salute.

For more on this major Venetian holiday, please see:

For information on the three-day process of preparing the feast's ritual dish of castradina, see:

One can't help but have candles on one's mind when it comes to this festa

For those concerned about the health of their soul, as well as their body, the sacrament of confession was available

The speed with which balloon vendors locate and disentangle a specific balloon from the massive cluster of them they sell strikes me as one the day's minor miracles

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unseen Venice: A Cantiere in Cannaregio

Every two years the city of Venice is supposed to hold a lottery for its resident boat owners to assign any new mooring places (ormeggi) around the city that have opened up since the prior lottery (something I've written about both here: "Adrift in Venice" and here: "Moorings Found and Lost"). The latest statistics show no less than 180 ormeggi are now free. However, it's been a full five years since the last lottery and the calls of local politicians, such as Monica Sambo, and resident activists for another lottery have fallen on deaf ears.

Embroiled in the corruption charges that would ultimately lead to his removal from office, perhaps it's understandable that ormeggi were the last thing on the mind of the city's previous mayor, Giorgio Orsoni. But what about the current one, the one who likes to present himself as Mayor Can-Do?

Some harbored the suspicion that as Mayor Brugnaro was born and raised on the mainland, and continues to live on the mainland, near Treviso, he was unfamiliar with the boat culture of Venice, and the importance of ormeggi to residents. These people tried to alert him to the fact that this was not just a matter of leisure boats--as a terraferma-dweller (the less-polite term would be campagnolo) such as himself might imagine--but that having access to one's own boat, for work and for other everyday needs, was a defining feature of Venetian life.

Once again, this fell on deaf ears. It seems difficult to get the attention of Venice's "First Citizen" when it comes to issues affecting the lives of those residents who might very well be his neighbors if he deigned to actually live in Venice. Brugnaro's focus is almost invariably on developments (in all senses of that term) related to tourism: whether he's very publicly insulting four British tourists who wrote to him with their concerns that they'd been ripped off by a Venice restaurant or supporting the continued sell-off of public properties to be turned into hotels.

Which means that more than a few Venice residents, my family among them, find themselves renting space to keep their boat in one of the private marinas at the edges of the city or in a cantiere (or boat workshop and warehouse) of the sort you see pictured in this post--and of which most visitors are completely unaware, concealed as they are behind walls and stretching through neighborhoods that appear simply residential.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Wild in the Streets (or Calli), Five Years On

During our first couple of years living here, to pick up our son from school was to be reminded how in car-free Venice pre-schoolers and kindergartners are the kings and queens of the calli, frolicking through them with complete (and sometimes operatic) abandon, as I recounted in this post:

This begins to change as they move toward the end of first grade, and by the time they hit their fourth year of elementary school, as our son has, they've mostly abdicated what was once their realm, bowing, on the one hand, to a creeping sense of what it means to be "cool" and, on the other, to the unmistakable fact that in many parts of the historic center the streets really belong to the tourist masses, who greatly outnumber them.

But sometimes, as in the instance pictured above, as a chain of boys make their way to an after-school birthday party, they reassert their old dominion and for a short time there's some life--rather than just foot traffic--in the city again.