Wednesday, May 20, 2015

when in...la biennale

I am writing to you from the supreme comfort of my own personal compartment on the night train to Vienna. Granted, it’s second class so there are five other seats and odds are probably not in my favor but I’m holding out against hope that not many people are travelling to Vienna overnight AND as I wrote that my serenity was shattered by two Chinese tourists. Well, so much for Romance. I guess it’s back to plan b, an evening of casting serious shade at all people in this compartment as I nervously nod off to sleep. At least I have the best seat and claimed the plug.

Okay, my euphoric high was just shattered there, but it can’t stop me from enjoying my LAST DAY IN ITALY. Cannot believe it. Sure I will still be in Europe, but I don’t know—even as different as Venice as been. And it was different, I can’t stress that enough. I now understand why some people don’t care for Venice though I am certainly not part of their number. I’ve done a whole lot of wandering over the last few days which has been great and was always one of my favorite parts of Rome, but either it’s super touristy area or quiet residential street and NOTHING. But, like I wrote last night. There’s something to be said for that magical maze of canals and that magnificent  architecture that just washes over and enthralls you.

I took, of course, a very limited trip to Venice. Two and half days is certainly not long enough to visit any city but especially Venice. And there were places I wanted to see- the Cini Palazzo, the Doge’s Palace, the Ca d’Oro that I just had to give up on. Because I was not going to exhaust myself just to say I did things. I was more about the experience of travelling to Venice.

Though of course, I can’t avoid all tourism. This morning I went to St. Mark’s. Which just blew my mind. That magnificently huge piazza and that church. Certianly not as large as the churches in Rome (clearly I’m a little biased) but those mosaics were just incredible. It’s like stepping back into time. Plus, I love a mosaic and the ones in the Basilica made me feel better about skipping Ravenna. St. Mark is the patron of Venice, by the way, because his body was brought to Venice by merchants who saved it from Muslim radicals. According to the legend, they feared for the relics, so they hid them in pork (which would repel the Muslims) and snuck the body to Venice. The mosaics tell this story and knowing the history explains (and adds some humor) to some apparently random frames of some middle eastern guys looking at a basic of meat.

I did pay the extra five euros to see the museum which I think was worth it. There were some fabulous ancient mosaic fragments that are too precious for the church and some wonderful medieval tapestries. There’s the porphyry statues of the tetrarchs and the original gilded bronze horses that sat atop of the basilica (there are copies there now). But the real reason I paid was because the museum takes up a hall in the Doge’s palace which is connected to the basilica and much of the upper levels of the Basilica. So you get a real close look at the high up mosaics AND best of all you get to walk out on the roof and get this just STUNNING view of the piazza and some of Venice. I just had a nice sit and took it in.

After the Basilica, I actually went to the extraordinarily cheap and good trattoria that the Diocese runs. For 15 euros I got two course, a side, bread, service charge, and tip. Not bad, especially in Venice. While I was wondering I actually stopped into a free San Marino/China pavilion that was open in association with La Biennale. It was pretty good but the lady inside was so nice and gave me a free booklet that was SUPER nice of all of La Biennale and a nice map. Which was awesome because that was my main stop of the day.

Your next question is, of course, what is La Biennale. Well, if you got from its name, it’s a festival held biannually that celebrates the contemporary art from around the world. Nations of the world get pavilions (many which are permanent, now beautiful structures) and it’s all located in La Giardine which, as I mentioned yesterday is a beautiful location. My best description for you is that it’s like a world’s fair for contemporary art and my guess is that it’s the closest thing I’ll get to a world’s fair. La Biennale is actually kind of a big deal (Peggy Guggenheim had her own pavilion in the 50s) and apparently its quite a lucky thing I was in Venice during a Biennale year.

It’s a good thing I probably was alone because I don’t know too many people in my life who’d be willing to spend three hours perusing the modern art of the world. I, however, loved it even if I found some of it very outlandish. The theme was pretty broad this year (apparently compared to other years)—“All the World’s Futures” which encompassed everything from thoughts on the economy, colonialism, etc. I really liked Belgium’s which was a neat commentary on Africa and their influence in the area, Spain’s (which was all about Dali—well mainly I just liked this one TV that was showing clips from Merv Griffin’s interview of Dali, but whatever) and I could go on. Some was just weird but some was fun and it was kind of just interesting to see this huge international showing in an already beautiful setting.

After the Biennale closed at six, I finished my book in the gardens, went to a small café right near the lagoon in a converted greenhouse to have my last spritz, and then headed to the train station. Which is where I am right now. Well actually, right now- I’m on my way which is exciting. Ciao Venice. Ciao Ciao Italy. I will be back.  

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