Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Can't Find a Good Meal in Venice?

My first restaurant experience in Venice was not a good one. When we got to Venice after a week in Rome and Florence, we were tired and unprepared for Venice. A bit overwhelmed by the beauty and the maze of street, we didn’t wander too far from our hotel (Monaco & Grand Canal—pre-makeover) in search of our first lunch. That means we were at the mercy of the restaurants surrounding the San Marco area. And that’s not a good place to be.

Still, we were happy to be lured in by the waiter shilling outside his restaurant. The fish was fresher than anything we’d ever tasted (although looking back, I'm not so sure about the quality--I think we were overcome by Venice), and I’ve never looked for the receipt to see what we were charged because I’m sure it was too much. All I remember is that the waiter cheerfully took my credit card. After the bill was settled, he told us he’d made a mistake and didn’t put our wine on the bill. Could we pay in lira so the boss wouldn’t notice his mistake?, he asked. Of course, we were happy to help out.

Now if you’re going to Venice for the first time, or the 1,000 time, you can avoid mishaps such as mine (given the exchange rate, every penny counts!) by taking along Chow! Venice, Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, A guide to restaurants and bars in Venice by Shannon Essa and Ruth Edenbaum. The second edition was recently released and I highly recommend it for anyone searching for a good meal (or drink) in Venice.

As the intro to the book says, you may not find your favorite restaurant in this book, but you will find “places that we go back to again and again, that are consistently good and that treat tourists well.” In addition to reviews, Chow! Venice includes some handy tips (like the different ways to order a spritz) and the always-vital directions, as well as the usual opening hours.

Order autographed copies through the authors’ website ( If you order an autographed copy, the autograph--and postage!--are included. The website also has updates on restaurants in the guide.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dreams Do Comes True

I love this story from our friends at BUONGIORNO VENEZIA - The News from Venice (published weekly by VENICEWORD INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SERVICES). I took the photo in May 2004. Click on the photo to enlarge it and check out the broom the sweeper is using. They're handmade (I once got lost and came across a place where a sweeper was putting his broom together) and have probably had the same design for centuries.

The story reminds me of the Jimmy Buffett song, "It's my job..."*

Here's the article:

The dream of Federico Bastianelli, a street cleaner in Falconara Marittima (a little town in the Marches region in the centre of Italy) came true at dawn on 6 January. Last September, he made a wish, hoping to be able to clean St. Mark's Square, and the councillor responsible for the environment granted it. At 5:30 a.m. on 6 January, together with a team of Venetian colleagues, he began his work shift in front of the timeless splendour of the Basilica and of the Doge's Palace. "I love my job in Falconara," Federico says, "but to do it in Venice is beyond comparison." At 10:30 a.m., the end of his work shift, AIPE (Association of Commercial Businesses) offered him a toast, and Federico, beaming with joy for having accomplished his greatest wish, was only able to say: "I am very happy."

Congratulations to Federico.

* "In the middle of late last night I was sittin' on a curb
I didn't know what about but I was feeling quite disturbed
A street sweeper came whistlin' by
He was bouncin' every step
It seemed strange how good he felt
So I asked him while he swept

He said 'It's my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that's enough reason to go for me
It's my job to be better than the rest
And that makes the day for me.'

"It's My Job," by Jimmy Buffett, from his album Coconut Telegraph (1981)

Monday, January 15, 2007

YouTube in Venice

Given my weakness for webcams (I like to watch), I'm not sure exploring YouTube was a good idea. but, it's fun nonetheless! Go watch a bunch of homemovies about trips to Venice....

"Venice Italy 'In a Nutshell,'" is my favorite so far. Got a favorite Venice video? Let us know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

John Singer Sargent's Venice Paintings Coming to NYC

The painting is John Singer Sargent's Gondoliers' Siesta, c. 1904. Next week, an extensive exhibit of Singer's Venice paintings opens in NYC. From there, it goes to Venice. Here's an excuse to visit Manhattan (as if you should need an excuse!).

From the Adelson Gallery website:


New York, NY (Autumn 2006)—John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), one of a few truly international artists of the 19th century, had a love affair with Venice: He traveled there numerous times over 40 years. Adelson Galleries in New York, noted for its expertise in American art and the work of John Singer Sargent in particular, has organized an exceptional loan exhibition, Sargent’s Venice, comprising approximately 60 oils and watercolors painted by the artist from the 1880s until 1913. The exhibition will be on view at the gallery from January 19 through March 3, 2007 and then will travel to the Museo Correr in Venice—marking the artist’s first-ever solo exhibition in that city—where it will be on view from March 24 through July 22, 2007.

Sargent’s Venice will be organized as a journey down the Grand Canal, following the artist’s route from a gondola perspective and examining his choice of viewpoints and compositions. A majority of the paintings to be shown are on loan from private collections and have rarely been on public view; several institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, are loaning important works as well.

Inspired by the idea of idea of retracing Sargent’s routes down the Venetian waterways, Warren Adelson, president of Adelson Galleries and the sponsor of the Sargent catalogue raisonné, saw this approach as a means to gather together the Venice pictures that appear throughout several volumes of John Singer Sargent: The Complete Paintings (Yale University Press). “We had decided to write about John Singer Sargent's years of painting in the city that he most loved, and realized that in his long career and in the intervening years after his death in 1925 that there had never been a one-man exhibition of his work in Venice,” Mr. Adelson said. “Sargent's Venice will showcase the range of his painting in oil and watercolor over a span of forty years. It will be the first such exhibition in New York (Adelson Galleries) and, remarkably, the venue at the Museo Correr in St. Mark's Square in Venice will be the first exhibition of Sargent ever held in that magical place.”

John Singer Sargent was born in Florence to American parents and lived most of his adult life in England. Widely recognized as the preeminent portrait painter of his generation, he felt equally at home in Europe and the United States where he painted many of the most notable social and political figures of his day. When Sargent felt the need to escape the demands of his portrait commissions, he traveled to Italy and Switzerland with friends and family to paint (usually out-of-doors) whatever appealed to him. Of the many places he visited over the course of his long career, the allure of Venice surpassed all other destinations and it is where he produced some of his most evocative and masterful oils and watercolors—many painted while sitting in a gondola.

Featured in Sargent’s Venice will be not only pictures of beloved Venetian scenes, such as the Rialto Bridge, the Doges Palace and Santa Maria della Salute, but also scenes of traditional Venetian life including intimate glimpses captured of the interiors of wine shops, residents strolling along the streets, women at work stringing beads, café settings, and more. Among the most recognizable works to be seen will be The Sulfur Match (1882), Gondolier’s Siesta (1905) and Street in Venice (ca. 1882).

Adelson Galleries is uniquely qualified to present the artist’s work in this context. In 1980, Warren Adelson, an internationally recognized authority on Sargent, initiated scholarship on the John Singer Sargent Catalogue Raissoné in partnership with the artist’s great-nephew, Richard Ormond. To date, four volumes of the Catalogue Raisonné have been published by Yale University Press; Volume IV was released in October 2006. The gallery has also made significant contributions to the study of American art through critically acclaimed loan exhibitions and accompanying publications including Art in a Mirror: The Counterproofs of Mary Cassatt (2004-2005), Sargent’s Women (2003), Maurice Prendergast: Paintings of America (2003), From the Artist’s Studio: Unknown Prints and Drawings by Mary Cassatt (2000), Childe Hassam: An American Impressionist (1999) and Sargent Abroad: Figures and Landscapes (1997).

Assisting Mr. Adelson in organizing Sargent’s Venice is Elizabeth Oustinoff, director of Adelson Galleries and co-author of Sargent Abroad. A fully illustrated accompanying book of the same title will be published by Yale University Press in January, 2007, with essays by Mr. Adelson and Ms. Oustinoff as well as by Richard Ormond, co-author of The Complete Paintings of John Singer Sargent (Yale University Press) and former director of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England; Elaine Kilmurray, research director of the Sargent catalogue raisonné project and co-author of The Complete Paintings of John Singer Sargent; William H. Gerdts, professor emeritus of art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author of highly respected articles and books on many aspects of American Impressionism; and Rosella Mamoli Zorzi, professor of Anglo-American literature at the Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, and co-curator of the exhibition Gondola Days: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Palazzo Barbaro Circle, organized by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2004 as well as the author and editor of several publications.

On January 17, a gala benefit evening will be held from at Adelson Galleries for Venetian Heritage, Inc., a not-for-profit organization based in the United States whose mission is to encourage and support artistic and intellectual initiatives and cultural exchange between the United States and Italy; to safeguard the Venetian cultural heritage as manifested in architecture, music and fine arts, in Venice and its former dominion; to sponsor exhibitions, lectures and conferences intended to stimulate interest in the urgent and never-ending needs of Venice; and to familiarize people all over the world with the problems of the city. Patron tickets are $150 per person/$300 per couple and Benefactor tickets are $250 per person/$500 per couple. For more information about this special evening, please call 212.439.6800.

Adelson Galleries is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:30-5:30, and will be open on Saturdays during this exhibition from 10-5. The galleries are located 19 East 82nd Street, New York, NY. Tel: 212.439-6800. Fax 212.439.6870.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

When Murano Beads Ruled the World

Visitors to Venice often succumb to the lure of Murano glass. Few of us realize that the shiny glass beads once were of vital interest all over the world. I was rooting around in the New York Times archives and stumbled upon an article which was originally published on November 30, 1917.

Bead Supply Is Menaced.
Invasion of Italy Affects the World-wide Monopoly of Venice.

Washington, Nov. 27.--The menace to Venice from the Austro-German campaign [of World War I] in Northern Italy strikes sharply at one line of trade in which the whole world is interested. It is the trade of glass beads. Venice is the bead capital of the world. In the South Sea Islands, the heart of Africa, under the North Pole, Tibet, Patagonia, at the uttermost corners of the earth will the handiwork of the Venetian artisan be found. In this country tons of beads from Venice find their way into the handiwork of our Sioux, Chippewa, and Five Tribe Indians.

Harvey Carroll, American Consul at Venice, in a dispatch just received by the Department of Commerce, says that the Venetian bead-making industry is a monopoly and controls a world-wide exporting business, shipping to Africa, India, Oceania, Asiatic countries, Europe, and the Americas. It makes the beads that are used as money by certain tribes in the Congo and in German West Africa, and ships many thousands of tons of bead ornaments to the savage as well as the civilized nations of the world.

The offices of the company are in a magnificent old palace at Murano, the Palazzo Trevisan, which boasts frescoes by Tiepolo. The foundries and factories cover many acres of ground. Before the outbreak of the European war this company kept in storage more than 4,409,245 pounds of manufactured beads. At the present time less than one-fourth this quantity is in stock, and production has greatly decreased, owing to difficulty in securing fuel and raw material.

While exploring, I found the Venetian Bead Shop, which has some interesting information on blowing glass beads and other information. I know nothing about them, but if you're interested in Murano
beads, this could be a place to start.

A friend (thanks, Marie) sent me a link to Prairie Edge, which claims to have the " last and the largest collection of Italian glass beads (over 2,600 different styles and colors) from the same Venetian guild that supplied fur traders in the 19th century. The Societa' Veneziana Conterie closed its doors in 1992 and Prairie Edge acquired all the remaining inventory, over 70 tons in all. View exquisite examples of finished Plains Indian beadwork. Most of the beads on display are offered for sale in Sioux Trading Post." How the collection wound up in South Dakota is not explained.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sad News to Start the Year

<span style="font-weight:bold;">This has nothing to do with Venice, but I wanted to post it anyway.

Our house and our hearts are empty tonight. Gretel, the retired Seeing Eye dog who lived with us for the past two and a half years, died suddenly today (she would have been 12 next month). Last month, she passed her physical with flying colors. This morning, after her walk and morning treat, she collapsed. Never losing consciousness, she remained fully aware. We rushed her to the animal hospital and learned she had massive abdominal bleeding brought on by cancer. Instead of prolonging her life with painful treatments, we let nature take its course and, tearfully, let her go.

We didn’t have Gretel for long, but each moment was wonderful. She was a great ambassador for the Seeing Eye organization. She was a beautiful girl and strangers would often stop us to ask about her. When we told people about her working life as a Seeing Eye dog, people were fascinated.

At first, Gretel was serious, no doubt trying to figure out what her new “job” was supposed to be. Soon, she figured it out. Her job was to get petted whenever possible! She turned into a slightly goofy dog, who was always happy, always happy to see us.

True to her training, Gretel didn’t bark much–but she did quack! On her first day with us, my sister gave Gretel a stuffed, plush duck that quacked when you pressed it in the right place. Gretel soon used her ducks (her brood grew to six) to let us know she was happy. She ran around the house, duck in mouth, quacking at us. She’d also move her ducks around when we weren’t watching. Sometimes they’d be scattered around the house; sometimes they’d be in a pile; this week she had them in a semi-circle around her bed. I’ll remember Gretel quacking!

Gretel was a good girl, who really enjoyed her retirement. Thanks to the Seeing Eye Organization for giving us the opportunity to have Gretel become part of our lives. We hope to adopt another Seeing Eye dog as soon as possible.