Monday, November 28, 2005

Venice on "Good Morning America"

Venice was featured on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" (BMAC) program this morning. Unfortunatley, I missed it, but the GMAC website ( has the story. There's a video clips on "Can Venice Be Saved?" and one featuring Thom Price, an North Carolina native, who nows builds gondolas in Venice. I haven't watched it yet, but I bet it's fascinating. A few years ago, Thom gave me a tour of his squero and explained the gondola-building process.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Boot--the Moses--Unveiled.

I wish I had a photo, but I don't. So I'll leave it to your imagination:

Its name is Moses, just like the prophet found floating in the water and who led the Hebrews through the Red Sea, and it's a curious tubular boot that was presented on Thursday 10 November at Harry's Bar by its creator, Venetian actor Maurizio Bastianetto. One side of the boot has stylised drawings of fish and, on the other, a ruler that marks the height of the tide. Anyone who wears these boots will be able to know the exact level of the "acqua alta". The price is very affordable -- 12 euros -- and the manufacturer, which will produce 100,000 pair a year, presented mayor Massimo Cacciari and governor Giancarlo Galan with the first two samples. ("BUONGIORNO VENEZIA - The News from Venice" published fortnightly by VENICEWORD INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SERVICES in Venice, Italy - 21 November 2005)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Update on the Moses Project

The entry posted below (pumping seawater under Venice to raise it) made me start wondering about the Moses project (erecting huge gates on the floor of the lagoon. The gates would rise up and block the floodwaters). To pay for the project (and for other expenses, because Venice is broke), the Venice city council has decided to sell 13 palazzi. If you've ever wanted your own Venetian palazzo, this is the time to act! Prices range from 5 million euro to 35 million euro. If you buy one, please invite me to your housewarming party!

The following article comes from the Times Online, ( November 08, 2005:

City sells Renaissance buildings to keep afloat
From Richard Owen in Rome

FOR sale: 13 Renaissance-era palazzi and other historic buildings in the heart of Venice.

The vendor? The Venetian city council, which is practically broke and hopes to raise hundreds of millions of euros from the auction. It is hard to believe that Venice, which receives 15 million visitors a year, could be so hard up, but Massimo Cacciari, the Mayor, acknowledged: “We haven’t got a cent.”

Most of the visitors are day trippers who spend little, he said. Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Government in Rome has cut contributions to regional and local authorities. Venice, once a proud and rich republic, consequently faces a budget shortfall of €40 million (£27 million) next year and has little choice but sell off some family jewels.

The properties, to be auctioned in January, include Palazzo Nani, which is valued at €35 million. It dates from the first half of the 16th century, fronts on to the Rio di Cannaregio, a picturesque canal that flows into the Grand Canal, and is described as “richly decorated with stucco work and Renaissance frescoes”.

Near by, on the same canal, is Palazzo Bonfadini, formerly used by the council refuse collection department but said to be in good condition. It has a provisional price tag of €20 million.

The Palazzo Zaguri, a late-14th-century masterpiece of Venetian Gothic, on Campo San Maurizio near the Grand Canal, is valued at €20 million.

Those looking for a cheaper option may want to bid for the recently renovated 600sq m Palazzo Foscari Contarini, on the Grand Canal next to the Church of San Simeon by the Ponte degli Scalzi (€5 million), or the five-storey Palazzo Costa, on Campo Santa Fosca (€12 million).

The mayor said that he was even considering adding Venice’s historic municipal casino, housed in Ca’ Vendramin Calergi on the Grand Canal, to the list.

A council spokesman said that offers were pouring in. He said: “We have even had approaches from international property companies interested in buying the entire portfolio . . . There is huge interest and commercial appetite in a city where property prices are at a premium.”

The council had initially assessed the value of the properties for sale at €34 million but realised that it had undervalued them when a set of offices behind St Mark’s Square unexpectedly fetched €5 million in March. “We are trying to obtain the absolute maximum value we can,” Mara Rumiz, the head of the council’s heritage department, said.

Luigi Bassetto, the official in charge of the sale, said that “in the end the market will determine the price”. He noted that some of the properties had been used as council offices, schools and warehouses. Some were in a “dilapidated or precarious state” and would need “considerable repair and restructuring”. Council officials said that there would be little difficulty granting “change of use” permits for converting offices into homes.

They added that Venice also needed funds for its ambitious programme of anti-flood and anti-pollution measures, including a controversial floating flood barrier, scheduled to be completed by 2011. The barrier, codenamed Moses and budgeted at €4.5 billion, is funded by central government and private firms but also by Venice and the Veneto region.

Yet Another Plan to Keep Venice Above Water

Yet another scheme to raise Venice above the floods is being considered. The story that follows comes from the Associated Press:

New Idea: Inject Sea Water to Raise Venice

Associated Press Writer

ROME (AP) -- A group of engineers and geology experts said Monday they are considering injecting seawater under Venice to raise the waterlogged Italian city by one foot to rescue it from the tides and floods that bedevil it.

That would enable Venice to regain nearly the same height it lost in the last 300 years, said Giuseppe Gambolati, the head of the project.

The $117 million project entails digging 12 holes with a diameter of one foot within a six-mile area around the city, and pumping seawater into the ground at a depth of 2,298 feet, said Gambolati, an engineer and professor at the University of Padua.

The seawater is expected to expand the sand that lies underneath, which combined with a topping of waterproof clay would eventually push up the soil, Gambolati said.

Gambolati said the experts were first planning to test the project on small area.

"If the pilot project proves successful, we will see an immediate benefit, even though gradual, while the complete elevation will be achieved in around 10 years," he said.

The project is still in its initial phase and it will have to be discussed and evaluated by various city, regional and state commissions before being approved.

The final version would be in addition to a much-publicized plan to build a flood barrier to ease the effect of high tides.

However, Gambolati's plan has its critics, including Michele Jamiolkowski, a professor of geotechnic engineering at the Turin Polytechnic, who warned the project requires years of research and millions of dollars before it can even come close to reality.

"We are really in the area of science-fiction," said Jamiolkowski, who also chaired the committee that oversaw the project to stabilize the Leaning Tower of Pisa. "This project is not something very realistic."

Jamiolkowski, who was asked for an independent evaluation by a group linked to the municipality of Venice, said such a plan would probably only raise the city by about six inches, thereby providing little respite from the rising tides. It also could cause parts of Venice to raise unevenly, "and this is absolutely unacceptable for buildings, especially historical buildings," he said.

Venice is threatened by water on several fronts. The city is sinking while the level of the Adriatic Sea is rising and high tides are becoming more frequent, flooding into famed St. Mark's Square and prompting officials to set up raised walkways.

The decades-old debate on how to save Venice from water brought approval in 2003 of a vast project to build a flood barrier to ease the effect of high tides. Dubbed "Moses," after the biblical figure who parted the Red Sea, the project calls for hinged barriers to be built in the seabed just off Venice that could be raised when high tides threaten the city. Completion of the $5.2 billion project is expected by 2010-11.

Giovanni Mazzacurati, the president of the New Venice Consortium, the agency overseeing the Moses project, said careful testing on the new plan will be needed to verify its most critical point - the evenness of the elevation.

"Venice is in a delicate situation, its structure is very fragile," he said. "Should parts of it be elevated in a different way, this would cause the city to crumble."

Gambolati said that, according to his preliminary studies, the project is not expected to affect Venice's stability.

The two experts also said that the new project will not conflict with Moses, but would simply be an additional help should there be any future rise of sea levels.

2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Arsenal Lions to Get Face Lifts (and more)

The lions standing guard at the gates of the Arsenale are among my favorite Venetian lions. Now thanks to Carive di Risparmio di Venezia (Carive), a local Venetian bank, the statues lining are going to be restored. I took this photo in May 2004. Here's the article from ANSA:

Symbols of maritime might to be restored
(ANSA) - Venice, November 18, 2005

One of the lesser-known splendours of Venice, the statues lining its powerhouse of seafaring strength, are to be restored to their original glory.

The statues, which include Venice's first Renaissance work, guard the entrance of the Arsenale, the shipyard and miltary fort which fuelled Venice's rise to power.

A local bank, Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia (Carive), is funding the restoration of the once-famous statues, which are located in a loggia lining one side of the Arsenale.

Carive President Giovanni Sammartini unveiled the project this week by saying: "The statues in the loggia of the 'Arzana' (the affectionate Venetian nickname for the site), along with the lions guarding its gate, are one of the main symbols of the Venice Arsenale." "The Arsenale has represented Venice's maritime power for 900 years, the origin and defence of its riches and commercial fortunes." Italian Navy Admiral Ernesto Muliere said: "The history of the whole Italian Navy was born and grew behind the walls of this ancient Arsenale, to which the Navy is bound by significant ties rooted in our history and traditions." The Navy is working with Carive to chart Venice's past, in particular its seafaring arts and military success in building an empire spanning the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean.

The Arsenale is the highlight of Venice's Castello district.

It is a city within a city, though nowadays largely derelict, which was the keystone of Venice's military expansion. At the height of the Serenissima ('Most Serene' republic), the 5,000 artisans working there formed a kind of aristocracy.

In the Arsenale's heyday it produced two ships a day. The gateway to the site shows the marked influence of antiquity, with lions, mythological statues and Greek marble columns.

It was the first Renaissance work in Venice (1460). The biggest lion, on the left, used to guard the entrance to the port of Piraeus in Athens.

It was brought to Venice as a war trophy in 1692. As well as Venetian craftsmen and skilled workers, the district around the Arsenale housed Arabs, Turks, Byzantines, Syrians, adventurers and former slaves. The area was a patchwork of nationalities, unique for its time.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2005-11-18 18:24

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Monday, November 14, 2005

You're Supposed to Put the Coins IN the Fountain...

Even though it's not about Venice, I couldn't resist the following article from ANSA. When I Rome in October, I couldn't get to the fountain--the crowds were too large. But these guys found a way...

Four nabbed stealing Trevi coins--Fountain cleaners pocketed charity donations (ANSA) - Rome, November 14, 2005
Four people were arrested on Monday for stealing coins from the Trevi Fountain, the famous Roman landmark they had been hired to clean.

Every day thousands of tourists throw coins into Bernini's baroque fountain in the hope that this will ensure their return to the Eternal City, a legend made popular in the film 'Three Coins in the Fountain'.

The coins are regularly collected and then given to charity.

The four arrested, aged between 18 and 50, were employees of the firm sub-contracted to clean the fountain.

They were arrested soon after the job and were still in possession of some 1,200 euros in coins.

The fountain is one of the most famous in the world, not least because of Anita Ekberg's celebrated dip in its waters during the 1959 Federico Fellini movie La Dolce Vita.

Designed to replace an older fountain dating back to the 1450s, it was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Pietro da Cortona in the 17th century but was not completed until a century later, around 1751 when Nicola Salvi was commissioned to finish the work.

The fountain, set almost entirely against the face of another building to maximize the space available in the small piazza, is divided into three niches telling different allegorical stories.

The marble centerpiece features the sea god Neptune guiding a chariot drawn by sea horses galloping over the water.

The fountain is the final outlet for the Aqua Virgo, the only Roman aqueduct which is still in use today thanks to constant repair work over the centuries.

� Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2005-11-14 15:55 Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Canaletto in London

Need an excuse to go to London? Here's one:

Canaletto - the English connection
London show looks at art dealer's role in painter's success
(ANSA)-London, November 12

An exhibition here of works from the largest Canaletto collection in the world spotlights the vital role of an English art enthusiast in the making of the Venetian painter.

The show at The Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace features 70 drawings on paper and 14 large oil paintings by Antonio Canale, or Canaletto (1697-1768).

The pieces are part of the collection amassed by Joseph Smith, an Englishman who lived most of his life in Venice and went on to become British consul in the city.

Smith was an art lover and dealer who quickly recognised Canaletto's appeal to the English market, particularly to members of the nobility taking the Grand Tour and eager for a worthy souvenir of their obligatory stopover in Venice.

Not only did Smith purchase Canaletto's paintings on behalf of these rich patrons - the Duke of Bedford bought 20 and the Earl of Carlisle 17 - but he also snapped up the Venetian's works for himself, collecting more than 50 paintings and 140 drawings over the years.

The partnership between Canaletto and Smith lasted more than a quarter of a century and it was this success with English buyers that convinced Canaletto to move to London in 1746.

The artist remained in the British capital for almost a decade but eventually returned to Venice, complaining that he could not adapt to English ways and weather.

Seven years after Canaletto's return to Venice, in 1762, Smith sold his entire collection to British monarch George III. The works have remained in royal hands ever since.

While some of the paintings produced by Canaletto for his English buyers have been criticised as mechanical, those in the Smith collection are considered exceptionally fine and testify to the Englishman's discerning eye.

The oils on show at The Queen's Gallery are all dazzling views of the Grand Canal while the drawings depict a large range of lively scenes of the lagoon city.

'Canaletto in Venice' opened on November 11 and runs until April 23.

© Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved 2005-11-12 12:24

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Inverno Veneziano --Winter in Venice

Winter in Venice often looks like this--a pack of umbrellas climbing the Accademia bridge. Winter is also a great time to be in Venice--the crowds are gone (despite the crowd shown in this photo), the museums are empty, and the restaurants are filled with Venetians--not tourists. So take your umbrella and your warm coat and go to Venice in the winter.

If you do go in the winter, here's some advice on things to do. This comes from (it's a great site, so please check it out):

"A special winter," by Luisa De Salvo

"The risk that we run today in discussing or proposing music and food is that of being banal or too general, to say everything and nothing at the same time. For three years now, Inverno Veneziano or Venetian Winter has been promoted by the Tourist Promotion Board of Venice with the aid and collaboration of many public and private bodies, and tries to avoid running this risk, or at least tries to look on the bright side by presenting ever more varied and exciting programmes for the autumn and winter seasons. When we look at the artistic and historic wealth of the Province of Venice, the events that take place every year seem to partly increase and partly change their locations; keeping in mind too the developments taking place in local tourism. The year 2005 has seen much attention focused on Mestre, on the new Municipalities and on some important tourist spots in the Venice area, such as Quarto d'Altino and Mirano.

"As regards the promotion of the initiatives presented over the past years, three of the main ones are being put forward again this year, enhanced though by a special novelty. Included in the Magici Ascolti or Magic Music shows in November are percussion instruments accompanying our guests in Venice in a rhythmic journey entitled 'Days of the Drum', part of the contemporary music section.
The Santa Maria delle Grazie Cultural Centre in Mestre is hosting four concerts - great styles of music ranging from the Balkans to Brazilian percussion, and from Afro-Cuban traditions to the modern expression of drums and electronic music. From November to January there is a programme of 16 concerts for choir and organ in some of the most awe-inspiring churches in the city of Venice and on the mainland. The organisers have managed to combine celebrated organists, of international standing, with Italian choral societies. Anyone enthusiastic about wolfing down sweets - and the curious visitor too - might like to taste chocolate in all its varieties and specialities: Dolci Asssaggi (Sweet Tasting) presents what is becoming a traditional appointment with 'Chocolate in the Villas'.

"For three weekends in the month of November, villas, gardens and historic parks in and around Venice (the city, on the Lido, on the Riviera del Brenta, at Terra dei Tiepolo) are sprinkled with little old-style Venetian shops where expert confectioners and chocolate manufacturers reveal the secrets of their craft, introducing visitors to the aroma, touch and feel of chocolate under a thousand guises.

"A Venetian Winter - right from its very first year - has undertaken to gather together and coordinate all the initiatives planned for Venice and its mainland area. And this year is no exception, with a very rich choice of cultural events covering wine and food and items of historic, artistic and musical interest: and all that public bodies, associations and Venetian businesses have programmed for the coming winter season."  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Where's Casanova?

The following comes from Liz Smith's column in today's NY Post. I hope she's right about a Christmas Day opening--I'm really looking forward to this movie.

This is what Liz has to say:

"'We are the Catholic Church. We can do anything we want!'

"So says Jeremy Irons as the vengeful, pompous Bishop Pucci, in director Lasse Hallstrom's ravishingly romantic, swashbuckling and funny "Casanova." It opens Christmas Day. This film, a fictionalized episode in the adventures of the famous 18th-century libertine Giacomo Casanova, should do wonders to revive Hallstrom, whose recent films — "Shipping News" and "An Unfinished Life" — fell short. "Casanova" has already screened at the Venice Film Festival but has yet to show in the United States or Canada.

"Filmed entirely in Venice — Hallstrom used magic to reinvent the city into its ancient loveliness — the movie stars Heath Ledger as the fabled swordsman. Although inescapably a modern, Heath is handsome and studly in his period costumes and convincing as a lad who has the wit and whatever else to woo and win all women."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Elton John Auctions His Venetian Palazzo

Last week, Elton John’s AIDS foundation raised $2.8 million by auctioning off celebrity items such as a week in Donatella Versace’s villa in Lake Como (Bette Miller paid $140,000 for the week). Elton John offered a week in either his Venetian palazzo or his villa in Nice. According to the NY Post’s Page Six, “Bidding became so intense that Elton finally decided to put both places up for temporary residence. Venice went for $150,000, Nice for $100,000.”

Elton’s Venetian palazzo is on the Guidecca, near the luxurious Hotel Cipriani.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sinking City of Venice

Tonight, the NYC PBS station (Channel 13) broadcasted a NOVA show called, "Sinking City of Venice." It's a re-run, that I've seen before, and it's worth watching when it comes to your town.

The accompanying website ( has a number of great featurers that show the proposed MOSES movable gates in action, an interactive map that lets you explore the many threats Venice faces, and links to a lot of great resources.

Check it out--and say a prayer for Venice.

I took this photo in November 2002. I was in Venice to take part in the Festival of La Salute, when a bridge is erected from Santa Maria Del Giglio across the Grand Canal to La Salute (more about that at another time). The acqua alta struck a half dozen times that week, forcing me into a frenzied search for boots!. Posted by Picasa

My Apologies

I'm behind on posting here and I'm sorry. But I have a good excuse. I've been in Italy. No, not in Venice. For the first time in half a dozen years, I went to Italy and did not set foot in Venice. And, you know what, I'm sorry, Instead of doing the "Tuscany Thing," I wish I'd gone to Venice. More on the Tuscany Thing in another post. Until then, maybe it's time to get to the Guggenheim in NYC or Venice. Our friends at Buongiorno Venezia tell us why:

"In New York, the 2006 programme for the Guggenheim museums was presented. In the Venetian branch in Ca' Venier dei Leoni, the chief attraction from 3 June to 24 September will be the exhibition 'Lucio Fontana: Venezia - New York.' It will gather the famous sculptor's works that he dedicated in the 'sixties to the two towns and that were exhibited for first in Venice at Palazzo Grassi and then in New York at the Martha Jackson Gallery. This show will be preceded, from 4 February to 21 May, by a photographic exhibition entitled 'Venice: The Stage's Art 1948-1986,' a series of black-and-white photographic portraits of famous artists whose works were presented at the Biennale from 1948 to 1986--a range of talent from Giacometti to MirĂ² and from Ernst to Chagall."