Ca’Rezzonico – A Magnificent Venetian Palace

Venice is a city full of beautiful palaces and hidden treasures to discover and on my last trip I visited Ca’Rezzonico, a splendid palace designed by Baldassare Longhena a great Baroque architect of the city, for the Bon family.  Whilst building of the palace started in 1649, it was halted in 1682 following the death of Longhena at around the same time as that of his client and the palace left uncompleted. But in 1687, Giambattista Rezzonico, a merchant and banker from Lombardy, bought the palace and appointed Giorgio Massari, a renowned and eclectic artist of the time to finish the building for him.

By 1758 the palace was completed and was a splendid celebration of Venetian art and a show of wealth and culture. A collection of works, by the most prominent artists of the time. The rooms feature beautiful ceilings and frescoes, painted by Venetian artists, including Giambattista Crosato, Pietro Visconti and Giambattista Tiepolo. In the same year the younger brother of Giambattista Rezzonico, Carlo, Bishop of Padua, was elected Pope under the name Clement XIII. However, this was to be the peak for the palace and the family, as by 1810 there were no family members left. The palace was stripped of its’ furnishings and art works were sold off.  The house then passed through many different hands during the 19th Century, before being sold to Venice Town Council in 1935 and now it holds the Museum of 18th Century Venice!

IMG_3176

IMG_3175

Love this little cheeky parrot keeping a watch over one of the doorways of the palace! A rather unexpected addition!

I spent a rather dreamy afternoon wandering around its rooms, taking in all the beautiful colours and amazing chandeliers!! I dream of the day when I have a house worthy of an exquisite chandelier . I love looking around palaces and stately homes and fantasising about living in such a grand home and swirling around my ballroom and having a library and a music room (I don’t think that will ever happen – but a girl can dream!)!

The museum isn’t full of hundreds of pieces of furniture or loads of information to read, but the palace was so peaceful and has some really special pieces of art to see, definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourselves in Venice! My favourite part was the first floor, eleven rooms with frescoes and bright ceilings, as if only recently painted and of course all the chandeliers! I managed to only really take pictures of the chandeliers, but you can still get a sense of the grandeur and beauty of the palace. Even after its rather troubled period of financial loss and being passed from owner to owner, the Palace still shines bright and stands proud on Venice’s Grand Canal.

IMG_3181

Anna

Il Campanile di San Marco

One of the things I highly recommend when visiting Venice, is to go up to the top of the Campanile di San Marco.  The bell tower standing opposite the Basilica in Piazza San Marco, began its’ life as a watchtower in the 9th Century and was transformed into a bell tower in the 12th century. Other the years, it has suffered various forms of damage from lightning and earthquakes, including a fire in 1489, which seriously damaged its wooden spire. The bell tower took on the form we recognise now, only in the 16th century.

IMG_2731

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture from further away! So you can’t see the very top of the tower!

IMG_2723

The amazing Iron gates of the bell tower, with the Palazzo Ducale in the background.

It features a solid square brick tower, topped by the belfry which houses five bells, on top of which is a cube, with alternate faces showing the Lion of St Marc and La Giustizia, a female representation of Venice. On top of the cube is a pyramidal spire, with a gilded statue of the Archangel Gabriel holding a lily, completing the tower.  The tower stands at 98.6 metres (323 ft) tall and is 12 metres (39 ft) wide. There is a lift which takes you to the bells and the viewing platform. There you have 360 degree views of Venice!

IMG_2733

IMG_2732

The five bells of the Campanile, each had a different purpose!

The five bells of the Campanile, were each rung to mark different occasions, although all were tuned to the Scale of A.  The largest Marangona, was rung to mark the beginning and end of the working day; the Nona, sounded at midday; the Trotteria, called members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings, the Mezza Terza, signalled a session of the Senate and the Renghiera or Maleficio, announced executions!

After the tower had taken on its final form (between 1511 and 1514) it stood proudly in the square and became a landmark of Venice. However, on the morning of July 14th 1902, cracks started to appear in the bell tower, which quickly spread and before long the tower had crumbled to the floor, leaving only a pile of rubble! The way the tower fell caused very little damage to any other buildings in its vicinity, and I read that the only fatality was the caretakers cat! Poor thing!  The Campile, which had become a landmark of the city and known world over, was rebuilt in less than a decade to its original design, height and width and was reopened on the 12th April 1912, supposedly exactly one thousand years after the foundations of the original tower had been laid!

IMG_2735

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2015_10_07_21_33_36

IMG_2724

IMG_2727

IMG_2728

This plaque commemorates how Galileo Galilei demonstrated his telescope to the Duke of Venice Antonio Priuli on the 21st of August 1609.

IMG_2726

Here you can see the Duke’s Palace to the right and the top of the Basilica di San Marco on the left.

IMG_2729

IMG_2725

Piazza San Marco – which was slightly flooded when we visited!

The views from the top are magnificent and truly worth the queues! Wrap up warm though…as it gets really quite windy up there!! And make sure you don’t forget your camera!

IMG_2730

Here we are looking very happy to be re-united in Venice – just slightly windswept and cold!!

Anna

A Weekend in Venice

I consider myself very lucky that I have been able to visit Venice on a number of occasions, a few times just for the day and a couple of times for the weekend! But I find that every time I go, I discover something new and find beauty and magic in the city. Whether it be visiting the Basilica, stumbling upon a second hand bookshop – stuffed to the brim with quirky and unusual books or going for a Venetian Rowing lesson, there is always some new adventure to be had or something to be experienced.

Last weekend was no exception! I met my friend on the Saturday at Casa Caburlotto, a Convent situated very close to the main railway station, where we would be staying. The convent is run by the Suore Figlie di San Giuseppe del Caburlotto and we had found it on the website Monastery Stays, which my father has seen written about in the Guardian and suggested we checked out.  Expecting all the properties to be completely booked up at such short notice, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Casa Caburlotto had availability!  Monastery Stays, may not be for everyone, but I found it perfect for our weekend in Venice. The rooms were very simple, but extremely clean, with excellent, friendly staff and the  breakfast was typical of Italian hotels -croissants, cereal, bread, cake, yoghurt, coffee and juices! There was a small chapel and a pretty inner courtyard.  It was only half an hour walk to Piazza San Marco, which was great as we didn’t have to take any water taxis or ferry’s the whole weekend! The only thing is there was a curfew of midnight, but for us that was fine, as we were exhausted from all the walking – after which, I slept so well! It was very peaceful at the Convent and had a lovely calm atmosphere!

IMG_2705

Casa Caburlotto, built in the 17th Century – the congregation was established in 1850 and founded by Monsignor Luigi Caburlotto.

IMG_2706

IMG_2707

The building had really interesting heads on the exterior…all slightly weird and wonderful!

IMG_2708

The garden area was very tranquil and tended to by the Nuns. I wish I had taken more pictures inside the Convent, but you can check some more out on the Monastery Stays website.

Saturday we spent wandering around Venice, getting lost and discovering tiny streets and pretty bridges, as well as amazing macaroon and chocolate shops!  We ate extremely well over the weekend and found on both the Saturday and Sunday, lovely restaurants filled with Italians (which is always a good sign) away from the main tourist areas. On Sunday we went up the Campanile di San Marco for some amazing photo opportunities and visited the Ca’Rezzonico, a museum of 18th Century Venice, set in a beautiful palace with some of the most incredible chandeliers I have ever seen! I will be sharing photos from both of these later in the month, as well as my top tips for visiting the city!

IMG_2498

IMG_2497

The houses in Venice have strange and intriguing door knockers! Keep an eye out for them…I have spotted all sorts, heads, lions…

IMG_2499

This boat yard was opposite a great place we found for a glass of prosecco and crostini, which are pieces of bread topped with delicious things, such as aubergine and smoked cheese, pesto with mozzerella and tomato or smocked mackerel! It was packed with Venetians and was super cheap, I’m talking €2.50 a glass of prosecco! Look out for Osteria Alsquero!

IMG_2500

Have you visited Venice? Did you discover any hidden gems?  What did you think about the city? I would love to hear!

Anna

 

Meet me in Venice…

How can you refuse when a friend asks you to meet them in Venice? You simply cannot and so I find myself heading there for the weekend, rather spontaneously! We decided I think on Sunday evening! My friend, whom I lived with whilst at University, is living in Dubai, but has popped over to Europe for the week and as our meet ups are now spread so far apart from one another, they are even more special! So I am super excited!

This will be my second trip to the city this year, as I went to meet another friend from University there in March, when we ended up going for a Venetian Rowing lesson which you can read about here and I attended a talk by Art Historian and presenter of the BBC’s Italy Unpacked Andrew Graham-Dixon. The talk you can also read about here.

I am not sure what we have planned for this weekend, but I am sure we will end up having an adventure or two! The first, shall be finding one another…I don’t think I have ever visited Venice, without getting a little lost!

I am looking forward to my train journey as I can read some more of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which is the first book I am reading for my Read Around the World feature! More to come on that soon, but you can read my first post here and I am still looking for suggestions of other books, from each country around the world! So let me know if you have any!

For now, I must pack, as I am prone to leaving things to the last minute! Only thing is, I am at a loss as to what to take! This week has been a disaster weather wise, Wednesday was 13 degrees, stormy and rainy (I even wore wellies!), Thursday and Friday 23 degrees and sunny! It makes my head spin all this weather changing…but the forecast says it should be nice, so fingers crossed!

Have a great weekend everyone!

IMG_2427

A picture I took of San Marco from the water taxi back in March

Anna

Sun, Sea and Sand!

It’s that time of year again, when the majority of Italians head to the coast for weeks of relaxation and sun worshipping! Of course at the first sign of the sun they instantly transform into beautiful sun-kissed people with flawless tans! You rarely see an Italian with dodgy tan lines or streaky fake tan! For the rest of us mere mortals (i.e. English rose complexion) we have to put in some serious effort, so my best friend and I headed to the beach for a week of sun, sea and sand! It also marked the end of the school year and for both of us our first year in business – so the perfect excuse for a little break!

Vr8

We headed to Viareggio in Northern Tuscany, a small but rather charming little town on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. We had little else on our agenda except for spending the day on the beach and going for long dinners in the evenings and walks on the beach (a perfect romantic week really – except with my best friend rather than a boy! haha!!)

Vr9

We stayed in a lovely little hotel right on the beach front, with very friendly and helpful staff and managed to move rooms on the second night so we had a beach view! The beach mainly consists of private beaches, but it is worth paying for their facilities, as they have bathrooms, hot showers and some have swimming pools and bars! Plus you get an umbrella and sun loungers! Somehow we managed to convince them to give us two sun loungers whilst everyone else on our beach only had one (including families!) so we were feeling rather lucky and slightly smug!  Taking turns to lie on one, would not have been fun!

Vr2

 

Vr3

Viareggio

There were lots of great restaurants in the town, serving of course fresh seafood, so every evening we had a feast of sword fish, crab, prawns, tuna and all sorts of delicious food!

The sea was beautiful to swim in and very refreshing, however, it was teeming with jelly fish and so we had to constantly be on jelly fish watch! Also there were numerous crabs on the seabed and on the last morning, one nipped me right on my big toe! I was not impressed!

Vr4

Vr5

Vr6

We returned to Milan tanned (and a little sunburnt), relaxed and ready for the summer! However we are in a sort of heat wave in the city at the moment and I would do anything to be back at the beach, but alas work is calling me! Three more weeks though and I will be on holiday back in sunny (haha) England!

Vr7

Anna

Lake Como

Being a country girl at heart, I find that from time to time I long to escape the hustle and bustle of the city! To inhale long deep breaths of fresh, clean air. I dream of an English meadow, filled with wild flowers, or a quiet beach in the Essex countryside with my dog, an overgrown wood and spotting a sly fox on the path ahead, before it scurries away into the undergrowth. When I can’t make it home to England, luckily enough the Lakes are only a hop, skip and a jump from Milan!

Como 3

I think my favourite of the Italian lakes is Garda, as I have such lovely memories of my first visit there, but Como and Maggiore are both absolutely charming! In the last few weeks I have been to Como (on Lake Como) a couple of times and whilst I used to find it a little too busy and not particularly relaxing, it has grown on me!

Como 15

The first trip was with my two friends who were visiting from England. We decided that rather than take a boat trip on the lake, we would instead go on the Funicular Railway to see the spectacular views from the top of the mountains! The Funicular was opened on the 11th November 1894 and the slope is apparently 46%. It certainly feels very steep when you are going up and I wouldn’t suggest standing by the windows if you get a little vertigo!

Como 7

The views from the top though are amazing and just a short walk from the station is a wonderful spot to take panoramas of the lake. Conveniently there is also a charming little bar where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of Prosecco and take in the views!

Como 4

Como 2

Cheeky little Guinness and Prosecco’s whilst enjoying the view!

Como 1

Spotted this little guy relaxing in the sun!

If you are feeling energetic, further up the mountain is a lighthouse which you can walk to, I did so in October when a friend came to stay with me. The views are outstanding, but from my personal experience I would advise you to make sure you walk back down to the Funicular before sunset! The terrain in certain parts is a little steep and lose off foot, so in the dark can be quite dangerous – however you get some spectacular photo opportunities watching the sunset from the lighthouse!

Como 9

My friend on the last stretch to the lighthouse

Como 10

Watching the sunset from the lighthouse was absolutely stunning!

Como 11

Only halfway back down and it was pitch black on the paths! A little spooky!

Como 12

‘Love boats’ – look like Noddy’s car to me!!

The second time I visited recently with my two friends from Milan, we were feeling like a little adventure and exercise, so we rented a ‘Love Boat’ which is really just a fancy name for a pedalo and went out on the lake! Despite my friends doubting whether I was the best person to drive the boat, they did let me and if I do say so myself I did a really good job – we didn’t capsize or crash! It was hard work though cycling for an hour under the boiling sun – so a refreshing cocktail was greatly appreciated before heading back to Milan, tired but happy!

Como 13

Look at those driving skills! Haha! Photo credit: Bri and Grace

Como 14

Photo Credit: Grace

Have you ever been to any of the Italian lakes? Let me know where, and what you enjoyed most! I need new inspiration for the next trip as I am dreaming of a weekend at the lakes soon…..

Anna

The Thrill of Learning

I fell in love with Italy the very first time I visited with my family as a teenager.  We spent an idyllic week on Lake Garda, eating Italian ice cream and pizza and going on little jaunts around the lake!   One day I was sitting outside a small church sheltering from the blazing sun, when an old Italian Signora came over to me and pulled out from the paper bag she was carrying, the largest peach I had ever seen! She insisted I took it from her and wouldn’t leave until I had taken a bite! (I will admit this sounds a little like the story of Snow White, but luckily for me I didn’t end up in a deep sleep in a glass coffin, surrounded by the seven dwarfs! Except my Dad was there…so I guess I could say Grumpy made an appearance!! Sorry Dad!) Anyway…it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted and now every year when the peaches arrive and I gorge myself on them, I always remember that old lady and my first holiday in Italy which sparked my love affair with the country, culture, food and people!

Luckily for me, during the following years as I began studying Italian and before my eventual move to live here, I was never short of fantastic films or TV series to watch, which further fuelled my love for the country. Even now when I watch any program about Italian food, art or cinema I can not help but smile and be inspired by what the country has to offer and so grateful that I get to live here. I especially love programmes where the presenters are overtly enthusiastic and passionate about the country, as I find I feel even more drawn into what they are talking about. Which is why I was really excited to be able to attend a talk from Art Historian and critic Andrew Graham-Dixon on my recent visit to Venice.

Andrew presented BBC’s ‘Italy Unpacked’ with Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli, in which they travelled through Italy exploring the art, history, food, landscape and culture of the country’s different regions.  His passion for art and Italy itself is really quite captivating and in the talk he did for us in Venice, he concentrated on the idea of ‘desgni’ or in English ‘designs’.  Most of the people attending the talk were architects and interior designers, so he wanted to express to us the sense that this one word, can have multiple meanings. For example we can design a building, or a garden, scenery for a play, clothes or a beautiful ceiling or wall, but just as equally the same piece of art can be read differently depending upon the viewer.  An example which Andrew showed us, was the Dome of Parma’s Cathedral. In 1520 Antonio da Correggio, was commissioned to paint the dome of the Cathedral and what he created is awe-inspiring. He painted the assumption of the Virgin Mary being lifted up and taken to heaven to meet her son Jesus Christ after her death. The way he painted the dome creates a whirling effect like a spiral, so that if you are to stand underneath it, you feel as if you too are being lifted up to heaven.  The Dome which took Correggio eight years to complete was very innovative for the time, when most domes were being painted very simply, for example blue with stars.  To link back to the point Andrew was making that designs can be viewed and thought of differently and have multiple meanings, he told us about the immediate reception Correggio’s Dome received. While Titian, considered to be one of the greatest painters of this time, remarked Correggio’s work was incredible and that if you were to turn the dome upside down and fill it with gold it would not be enough to pay him with, the Canon of the Cathedral itself, said the work to him resembled little more than a ‘stew of frog’s legs’!  Maybe a little harsh, but it perfectly illustrates the idea that something beautiful and meaningful to one person, can create little or no effect on someone else.

The thing I found most interesting about the talk, was learning about the Franciscan movement and how during the time of Francis of Assisi and the order of the Franciscan Monks, the representation of Christ through art changed quite dramatically.  The movement saw a change in the representation of Christ on the cross change from an untroubled Christ to a bleeding Christ. The idea was that the art needed to speak to the people and be more realistic as opposed to idealistic, the result being that it would make the stories from the bible seem more relevant to the viewers of the time. It was all about taking art to the poor and making them believe the stories of the bible and feel connected to them in a way previous art had not. This is also relevant now, as the current Pope decided to be known as Pope Francis, in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. He chose this name as he is especially concerned about the poor, just as Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan movement was.

assisi4

Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi

assisi8

assisi9

assisi3

assisi6

These are just a few of the ideas Andrew discussed and are, in particular, the ones I found the most striking or interesting. I don’t know much about art as I have never studied it, but I love learning about it and will definitely be putting Parma’s Cathedral on my list of places to visit! I also highly recommend visiting Assisi, it is a beautiful place!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good quality photos during the talk, so I have included some from my visit to Assisi in 2011.

Anna