A few more from Venice

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A poster in the Ghetto Nuovo

There are five synagogues in the Cannaregio – two of them in active use – and, according to current figures, 30 Jews still living in the Ghetto itself. The medieval density of the area – really a tiny island within the island of Venice, subject to nightly curfews – meant that the houses were built several stories taller than elsewhere. Early skyscrapers.

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Carnevale is (never) over

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And neither is the spritz

Stones of Venice: According to Ruskin, this head on the facade of the church of Santa Maria Formosa, “leering in bestial degradation,” summed up what he called the ‘Grotesque Renaissance’ – or what we’d call the early Baroque. Madly moralistic as JR’s aesthetics were, it’s hard not to feel a sneaking admiration for his OTT vision of the Way Things Ought to Be. His one-man war on the Baroque was a little baroque in itself.

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The ‘Ignoble Grotesque’ outside Santa Maria Formosa – as Snoopy would say: “Bleah!”

More stones of Venice – sombre rather than bestial.

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Presumably Ruskin would have liked this better.

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A living face outshines all stone ones.

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A pensive face.

There is always room for kitsch in a place like Venice, especially surrounded with spring flowers.

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‘Waiting for Peace’ on Burano

And sometimes kitsch goes all the way through Baroque and out the other side, and becomes art.

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Glasscraft on Murano

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Burano, channeling the house colors of our old neighborhood, Buffalo’s Allentown

Also works of art in their own way are Venetian pastries.

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A sampling at Pasticcere Nobile

Venice famously has its dark side, but I got just this one reminder of its most gothic (non-Ruskin sense) movie representation.

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Don’t look now

Notwithstanding, we looked to the bright side, especially after torrential rain.

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Sunlight on the Zattere

As do Italians generally – despite austerity, unemployment and oligarchic corruption.

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Bye bye Berlusconi

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Venezia

Spring break in Venice, ‘half fairy-tale and half tourist trap’ according to Thomas Mann – but fortunately we found a spot in the third half, working Venice, in the remote northwest of the Cannaregio district. A low-key but atmospheric neighborhood, near the Ghetto and the Sant’Alvise vaporetto stop, it’s a place where there are hardware stores and supermarkets as well as canalside trattorias, where kids ply their scooters home from school, and where – we suspect – allotments are tended by the locals, just up from the park adjoining Calle della Rotonda where we were staying.

Looking along the Fondamenta Riformati

Looking along the Fondamenta Riformati

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A bit of calcio practice outside Sant’Alvise

But it’s still Venice. Water, water everywhere – especially our first two days, when it rained like Genesis, and Andrew, Kate, Naomi and Jacob had to ford alta aqua levels of rising lagoon on the way back from dinner one night. Someone – maybe the Rough Guide? – has pointed out that no city is both so closely involved with the rhythms of nature and at the same time so completely an artifact of human ingenuity and construction.

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Where brick meets water

Steps into greeny depths

Steps into greeny depths

You can easily forget Manhattan’s an island, but in Venice you never do. The great fish market at Rialto is another reminder – we wended our way down there on our second morning and had a hard time choosing dinner. The produce was overwhelming too – pyramids of purple artichokes (carciofi), blood oranges, salate, and herby bunches of what turned out to be young hop shoots (bruscandoli), which we used to make risotto.

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A corner on the Rialto market

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Didn’t get to try these, alas

Crates of chokes

Unloading crates of chokes

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Fruits of the sea – orate (bream)

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It’s what’s for dinner

Venice is improbable because it’s built on sticks, stones on top of silt and sticks, but what’s also improbable is the crazy profusion of styles and structures and artworks, sacred and secular, that rise on top of its rickety foundations. East meets West, dark meets light, stone meets sea, and everything curves like a mermaid’s tail. No wonder Ruskin was knocked for six when he first encountered the city. A few of the standout places for us on this trip were the Madonna dell’Orto, Tintoretto’s own parish church, the jewel-box that is Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the collections at the Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim museums, the canvas-packed Scuola Grande di San Rocco – a kind of orgone box for aesthetic stimulation – and the Palazzo Grimani, where ceiling art is raised to the level of, well, art.

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Madonna dell’Orto – in our ‘hood

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The creamy gorgonzola marblework of Miracoli

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Puh-lease – sculpture at the Peggy Guggenheim

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Zeus’s eagle abducts Ganymede through the ceiling of the Grimani Palace

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Mirrored hallway at Grimani

The most haunting of the places we visited was Torcello, both for the mosaics in the basilica and the island’s air of being abandoned long ago.

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Vineyard and statuary on Torcello

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Outside the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta (founded 639 AD)

Venice is also an intensely social city – home of such excellent traditions as the giro d’ombra and cicchetteria – and we were lucky to be able to socialize with the Vienna wing of the family.

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Outside the Accademia

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Inside the Guggenheim

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Cousins by the wellhead

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Abbracio from a nephew

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Enjoying a spritz con bitter by San Trovase

“It is held by some that this word VENETIA signifies VENI ETIAM, that is, come again, and again, for however oft you come, you will always see new things, and new beauties.” So says Jacopo Sansovino, and he ought to know.

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Arrivederci

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Ciao bella

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One could get used to this spritz ritual

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Pollici in su, Venezia