Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

Bypassing the Icons

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

The last couple times I wrote about taking advantage of iconic images to recall travel experiences. But sometimes I have to break away from the expected and depict images from a less common perspective.

Standing Sentinel

The fact is that, though I have been to Venice numerous times and have depicted that city by using images of the boats encountered throughout its canals, I have never actually taken that quintessential gondola ride myself. So to retell my own travel tales, I often seek out less-anticipated images.

In Venice, these include the buildings, eroded by the ever-present effects of sea water; working boats in all their various forms; statuary, bold and bare in the open campos, or moss-covered in shaded seclusion; leashed pets who are sure this island domain is theirs and theirs alone; bridges that arch and turn, leading usually from via to via, but sometimes into a private door or window; and people who look comfortably “at home” … or out of place. The unexpected can be enlightening.

Icons do have their place, by bringing to mind a general recollection of a city. But non-iconic images relate specific experiences unique to my own travels. They speak to other viewers, as well, who want to remember … or imagine … more than the sights and experiences common to the everyday tourist.

In a shady memorial park in Venice, the lady depicted above in “Standing Sentinel” (#110706) has stood watch, season upon season, through unnumbered generations. Her moss-cloaked form blends with the foliage surrounding her until she has become a part of the land herself. I discovered her one day when exploring some of the less traveled byways of the city. Since then, she and the memorial park are on our must-do list whenever we visit Venice.

Iconic Images

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

How better to retell the story of our visit to an age-old city than to illustrate it through iconic imagery? One of the classic icons of Venice, of course, is her gondoliers, garbed in their striped or sailor-collared shirts and their brimmed and beribboned hats.

A la Venezia

As the weather was particularly pleasant while we were in Venice this past spring, the canals teemed with boat activity of all kinds. Gondoliers hung out on their landings in hopes of catching the eye (and custom) of a tourist. Cocky, callow youths flirted with tank-topped teens who ambled past while jaded fellows snatched cigarette breaks between fares. Seasoned boatsmen, poling their crafts through the shallow water, used their feet to shove away from inconveniently jutting walls. And, as depicted in “A la Venezia” (#110703) above, muscular men, supplementing their winter income during the lucrative tourist season, stood by their gleaming gondolas and critiqued the style of their competition.

I couldn’t help asking myself: Who are these men in their “off” hours? Why are they doing what they do? And how do they feel about the passengers who madly snap pictures of every novel sight they pass, or the drunken party who crowd into a craft with raucous laughter and bawdy ditties, or the pairs and threesomes of ladies who hope to experience the romance of the classic (and often non-existent) gondola serenade.

Although I captured the literal image of many of these situations with my camera, my challenge comes in expressing through watercolor the essence of each experience, telling my version of the stories those images recall.

A Venice Adventure 2001, Part 2

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The precipitation and cold we experienced throughout our first winter trip to Venice, ten years ago this month, made for perfectly miserable touring weather. Our folding umbrellas barely fit down some of the narrow alleys, some of which were scarcely three feet wide. When pedestrians met from opposite directions, they underwent an unspoken process of negotiation to determine who would lift and who would lower or tip their umbrellas as they passed.

Venetian Green

Despite the weather, my husband and I walked extensively around the city. We went to the stadium in Sestiere Elena at the southeast end and explored the Maritime Memorial Park, the first extensive green space we’d seen since our arrival. Aside from playground and lot-sized parks, the Royal Garden near Piazza San Marco, and a few tiny private gardens, most greenery seemed to be potted. In the residential districts of Costello and Elena, flowerpots of geraniums, cyclamen, and primrose adorned windowsills, in defiance of the crystalline clumps of residual snow still on the ground.

Fruit and fish vendors’ stalls served the local populace, as remnants of Carnivale decorations dripped overhead and bits of confetti dissolved into the cobbled walks.

We meandered past the cathedral of Giovanni e Paolo, through the heart of Venice, through the trim Ghetto district with its plethora of private gardens and the memorial plaques in the central campo to victims of the holocaust: “…We will not let your memory die.”

Gondolas sat covered along the canals, gleaming with rain. Occasionally we saw one in use, its occupants huddled under umbrellas, the gondolier silent or playing recorded music to avoid straining his voice in the cold air as he poled along. The signature striped shirt of the gondolier was as often tied around the shoulders as worn over other multiple layers for warmth. The city seemed a bit less romantic in such unfavorable weather.

We strolled through Dorsoduro to Piazza Roma, crossed the Ferrovia Bridge to the shops along Strada Nova, with prices as reasonable as any we’d seen in Venice. There we found some glassware and a chandelier to take home.

The morning before we left, we got up early to see Piazza San Marco once again. The water there was higher than we’d observed it before. The raised boardwalks in the piazza were in use by a few other early risers—committed joggers in their lycra tights, and photographers with tripods to help them catch the dusky light.

I took some last-minute pictures, too, as a kind of farewell, as we strolled along the promenade, which was now awash with the tide. I didn’t know if we’d ever have an opportunity to come back. And there was so much of Venice I wanted to remember.

If you enjoyed reading this account, you might want to also see part 1, posted February 1, 2011.

A Venice Adventure 2001, Part 1

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

The first time my husband and I flew to Venice during the winter, we landed in driving, wet snow—a rare weather phenomenon in that city. That was ten years ago, the day after Carnivale, February 2001. By the time we had crossed the lagoon in the Alalaguna water bus, it was hard to see much through the fog and snow, which by then had changed and was falling in thick, fat flakes and beginning to stick. The first stop, after passing the islands of Murano and San Michel, was at Venice’s Fondamente Nove. From there we continued to circle the city until we reached San Marco, where we disembarked.

Venice in the Rain

We pulled our bags through slush and puddles, over a bridge, through a narrow street, through Campo San Moisé, toward our hotel. We slogged past portable platforms stacked along the sides of the streets and in the open squares. These were walkways to provide pedestrians a dry surface over the acqua alta, though flooding was not immediately evident upon our arrival. The boardwalks had not been in evidence on our first, summer-time, visit to the city almost thirteen years before.

Moroccan vendors tried to display their wares from the minimal protection of recessed doorways. We didn’t pause to browse but continued on our way to the hotel.

Over the hotel desk was a print of a Venier painting showing Piazza San Marco with a 15th Century style ship in the lagoon. In the depiction, a man lounged comfortably on a flight of steps that led down to the water. … It was horrifying to realize what a serious change has occurred in only a few hundred years; those steps were all under water now. We had heard reports of the city’s sinking, of course, but it was shocking to see the evidence for ourselves.

Yet Venetians appeared to be facing the problem with optimism. Construction was underway throughout the city—an ongoing procedure, with the continual need for structural as well as cosmetic repair. I was interested to note that most of it was covered with protective sheathing to mask the mess of construction from the general view. Along the Grand Canal, some of the hangings were even painted with trompe l’oeil to simulate the façades they covered.

If you enjoyed reading this account, you’ll want to watch for Part 2 later this month.