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Friday, August 9, 2013


A Favorite  Destination For  All The Senses... 
For many tourists , Venice is a 'three day town'- St.Mark's Square; Doges Palace; St.Mark's Basilica; St. Mark's Campanile; Rialto Bridge; Accademia Gallery; Ca d'Oro; Redentore Church; and the island of Murano.  But for travelers with more time, there are other gems to be discovered. 

For the most amazing way to see the extravagant display of buildings along the Grand Canal, my friend and I with cameras at the ready, sat on the open deck of the Vaporetto #1 line from the rail station to the Aresenale and back, all for the cost of a single ticket! 

We now felt prepared for our in-depth walk-about of the Cannaregio sestieri  (district) and begin our exploration with the 15th century  Ca’d’Doro Palazzo, one of the most famous architectural Venetian gems built for the Contarini family. The creamy pink façade with its delicate filigree fenestrations had been the inspirational setting for Act 3 of Ponchielli's opera 'La Gioconda' in its time and now adapted for the eclectic collection of the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti with paintings by Tintoretto and sculptures by Tullio Lombardo.

From there we happily lost ourselves among the maze of canals and cobbled stone streets until we reached the northern edge of the district and the 18th century baroque Gesuiti Church. The columned exterior belies the interior with its walls, podium, paving and pulpit swathed in white marble inscribed with a design of greyish green marble powder called Pietre Dure that appears as a simulated damask fabric. The effect was celestial, like the glow of the northern 'white nights.' 

Later we discovered under the famous Rialto Bridge between the San Marco and San Polo sestieri, the hide-away shop of Emilio Ceccato as the supplier of Venice’s gondoliers official shirts, scarves, sweaters and straw hats for the same price as the tourist knock offs. Naturally we left topped off with a straw hat!

Also close to the Rialto we checked out the Trattoria Alla Madonna, San Polo 594, a great Venetian restaurant with beamed ceilings, dark wood framed chairs, white table cloths and paintings by contemporary Italian artists. With its old world ambiance, this family - owned restaurant would appear to be a big hit with regulars and tourists alike where a bountiful selection of seafood choices are  presented on the tables ready to order. As the guests at the next table departed, they said 'try the Bolognese and Risotto with a Barolo wine' and 'Buon appetito!'

If antique and vintage markets are of interest, Venice's largest antique and vintage markets are held in the covered fish market by the Rialto bridge on the second Sunday and Monday of the month.

With some sleuthing we located the Campo San Benedetto and the Gothic palazzo of the  Fortuny House/Museum, the former atelier of Mariano Fortuny whose fabrics continue to be world famous. The museum is a testament to the artist's inspiration and fields of investigation of photography, textile design and painting along with a second floor library and works in progress. We were able to include the Diana Vreeland exhibition ‘the doyenne of fashion' as the museum is open only at the time of exhibitions.  

With further gems ahead in the Dorsoduro Sestieri, we peeked into the Campo San Polo Church to view Tintoretto's painting of the Last Supper, the Church of the Frari with some of Titian’s best work and then the Scuola Grande di San Rococo where Tintoretto decorated the interior.  Without missing a beat we strode on to the Ca’ Rezzonico Palazzo with some of the best preserved ceiling frescos and antique furniture in the city. It is worthy of mention that both poet Robert Browning and water colourist John Singer Sargent once lived among their elegant ballrooms and Murano glass chandeliers! 

From the Zattere vaporetto stop, it's easy to locate our hotel, the family-run Pensione La Calcina with its pink façade and green awnings. Breakfast was served off the lounge area with a generous buffet of savory food and homemade cakes while outside their floating La Piscina terrace restaurant offered a dinner menu of local specialties and a romantic view of Palladio's 16th century Rendentore Church. The hotel possesses a certain literary cachet as British author John Ruskin also holed up here when he wrote The Stones of Venice. Highly recommended.

Heralding a new day we walked westerly on the Zattere past the Gesuati and Squero di San Trovaso to see the famous gondola workshops and then continues easterly past the Accademia to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and her exquisite, unfinished Art Deco palazzo with a stunning collection of early 20th century works from cubism to surrealism. In the garden among the sculptures we noticed her modest burial plot 1898-1979 along with the names of her fourteen dogs.

The Ponte dell’ Accademia leads us to the San Marco sestieri and the Chiesa San Vidal now adapted as a concert hall for Venice's premier interpreters of Vivaldi played on 18th to 19th century instruments. With growing anticipation, we located the iconic Fenice Opera House with its columned street entrance and off to one side, the canal entrance for arrival by gondola. What style! After the fire of 1996 the opera house was rebuilt in the original architectural style and traditional gold and red interior. 'The colours are too bright' said the tour guide during the Opera house tour as he acknowledged names of a few operas that had been premiered here; Verdi's 'Ernani'; Rossini’s 'Tancredi' and Vivaldi’s ‘Orlando Furioso’. For more of the intriguing story of the fire and aftermath, John Brendt authored an enthralling book titled ’The City of Falling Angels.’ 

Some of the finest shops of luxury goods can be found in the San Marco sestieri for antique prints, Venezia le Stampe Turio;  Fortuny velvet and silk shawls, scarves and handbags, Venetia Studium; leather gloves, J.B.Guanti; soaps and scents Santa Maria Novella and for exclusive cut- velvet pillows and throws we admired the Bevilacqua boutique. And don’t miss one of our favorite finds-the Paolo Brandolisio Atelier close to Campo Giacomo where visitors are welcomed to his wood carving workshop where he crafts the traditional forcole (oarlocks) found on the gondolas. 

From gondolas to vaporettos to walking the cobbled streets of Venice we tapped into all the senses as we discovered not only priceless gems less frequented by tourists but impatient to  discover others and new destinations!   

 For your next Italy Vacation, Call  1 877 411 6359 or Click here, and get ready for the vacation of a life time 


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