Saturday, January 8, 2011


I love the view over the terracotta - it is a look that has remained largely unchanged for centuries

I always find it incredible that someone could have the thought, that for defence security, it would be a good idea to build a city entirely on water! If ever there was a thought "outside of the square" then this is it!

I adore the glove shops in Italy. Unlined, cashmere lined, fur lined, spots, lilac, pale pink - whatever you desire, the choices are here. I often fantasise about a "glove wardrobe" -  colour and style changed daily to match one's outfit!
Peak Hour Venetian style

View of water from the prisons in the roof space of the Doges Palace
Interior ceiling of Doges Palace
Magnificent glass wall lights - these would look a little out of place in most other  places - though perfect in our restaurant in Venice
Over the top and magnificent! Each individual piece is hand blown - a work of art
 Parking Area - Venetian style

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I have just bought the book Pinocchio - in Italian! Reading it may be a little ambitious of me, but apparently it is reasonably simple as, apart from being written for children, it was initially written as a serial, so the writing is (I am told), less complex. The original version, written by Italian Carlo Collodi, was first published in 1881 - long before Disney made it a film in 1940. I will have to have my trusty Italian dictionary directly beside the book as I, very slowly, make my way through it. No doubt I will be utilising every inch of white space on each page for the note taking. It may be awhile, but I will let you know when I finally get to the end of the 205 (!!!) pages!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I truly do love visiting this magnificent city. Visually it is as though time has had little impact upon it, and if one was to ignore current day fashions, you could almost feel you were visiting several centuries ago. I have a number of favourite things which I love to do each and every time I visit.

1. My all time favourite thing is to wander among the small calle (streets) and get lost in the magic this city has to offer. The true essence of Venice is found not in the main well trodden paths, but in the tiny streets where every day life carries on despite the hordes of tourists who descend upon the city daily. The labyrinth of streets initially seems daunting, that is, until you surrender to the pleasure of getting lost and discovering the delights off the beaten path.

2. Vaporetto #1. Take the #1 vaporetto from the station the whole way down the Grand Canal for one of the most captivatingly beautiful public transport rides one could experience. Try to score a seat in the front and soak in the spectacular architecture of the palazzo that line the canal. Once you have been in Venice for a few days you realise it is more pleasurable to walk than ride the vaporetto, but this trip is certainly an exception.

3. Bascilica San Marco - The Basilica, consecrated in 1094, is a spectacular display of the power of the Catholic church in Byzantine time. The gold, glass & marble mosaics gleam in the low light & the intricatly designed marble undulating floor is testimony to the fact that it is not built on solid ground. Enter through the door on the left rather than the main entrance - it is more peaceful & solemn.

4. Piazza San Marco This Piazza, is simultaneously vast and intimate. The scale and majesty of this "enclosed" space evokes the feeling of a very grand room. My advice is to visit in the evening when the throngs of tourists have dissipated and peace descends upon it. The surrounding architecture makes this a truly elegant and regal place to practice the Italian art of "passegiatta" - promenading around a magnificent square.

5. The Peggy Guggenheim museum. I love visiting this small and intimate museum of modern art. Located in Peggy Guggenheim's former home, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, it is collection of her own pieces which she accumulated in the first half of the 20th century. It comprises works by Max Ernst (to whom she was married), Piet Mondrian, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali and Constantin Brancus, to name a few. Much of the art was collected as Hitler ravaged Europe and her autobiography is amazing for its unconventional and privileged lifestyle. Whether you are a fan of modern art or not, the Palazzo and its beautiful calm gardens are a wonderful respite from the crowds and you can easily relax here for several hours.

6. The secret tour of the Doges Palace. This tour, taken by a very knowledgable guide takes you behind the beautiful facade of the palacial Doges palace and into the bowes of the gaol that housed prisoners for centuries. The guide explains how the Doge and aristocracy of ancient Venice ruled the Republic through a combination of elaborate monarchic pomp and a republican constitution. Tickets can be pre booked by arriving to the ticket office in the Doges Palace

7. Visit the Rialto Food Markets. 6 Days a week, set on the backdrop of the Grand Canal, the restaurant owners and home owners of Venice shop in Erberia Food market for their fruit and Vegetables and the Pescheria for their fresh fish, calamari, octopus and prawns. It all begins early and ends around midday, so arrive early and wander around for a visual feast. Not only is the product so fresh it's almost jumping, but you will also get to experience a slice of the real Venice. When things start to slow down around midday, and you do not have a kitchen to cook in, just drop in to "Pronto Pesce Pronto" (directly opposite the fish market in the same street) - a small counter service fish cafe which serves an array of wonderful cooked seafood dishes and wine by the glass. The prices are good, plus the food is directly from the market so beautifully fresh and it is a local haunt of many of the market stall holders.

8. Take the elevator to the top of the Campanile in San Marco. The perspective you get from the top of the campanile can not be gained from any other vantage point in Venice. The view is one of terracotta intermingled with water - a scene that would be hard to replicate elsewhere! And into the bargain you don't even have to climb any stairs. This is preferable to do on a bright sunny day, either early or at sunset. You won't be disappointed.
9. Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Established by a group of wealthy Venetians philanthropists in 1478, Tintoretto was commissioned in 1564 to adorn the walls of this major guild. The result is large spectacular artworks depicting scenes from the New Testament, largely considered to be his best works. The scale, immense detail and use of colour to create intensity must be seen.

10. An atmospheric Venetian wine bar to have a few glasses of locally produced wines. This is always on my agenda when I visit as the local wines are delightful and I love to consume them in the same places as the locals go. Coupled together with a few pieces of Cichetti - a variety of small freshly made snacks - it is a lovely way to pass some time. There are numerous bar to go to, but a few of my favourites are Alla Botte in Calle della Bissa 5482 San Marco and Al Marca San Polo 213. The other drink definitely worth trying is a "spritz con aperol" - a fabulous orange colour, it is a mix of Prosecco, soda and aperol - slightly bitter and very Venetian.


We are currently in magnificent Venice for Christmas/New Year period. Having been here many times previously, we choose to stay near one of our favourite places - the fish/fruit/meat markets near  Rialto bridge in San Polo. With all 5 of our children here with us we are planning to have a huge Christmas feast, cooked in our apartment and purchased in the wonderfully exciting Mercato (market) downstairs. An added bonus this year is the "Aqua Alta" - high water, has rolled in and we did the whole Christmas food shopping in gumboots and 200mm of water! It is certainly an experience one would not find anywhere else and one for life's memory bank!  A wander around the Mercato in Venice is certainly one of the highlights of visiting this remarkably captivating city. The fish is so fresh it is literally still moving and the scallops are so large they are like pieces of meat - a few of them is a feast!

We had a memorable photo taken in our gumboots while food shopping for Christmas Day, with the amazing decay of the city's superb Palazzo on the Grand Canal as a backdrop.

I took this photo while we were shopping for the Christmas Day food - everyone was wearing gumboots and acting like it was totally normal to shop in 200mm of water!

Midnight mass was celebrated in the incredible Basilica San Marco with the full complement of Catholic hierarchy. Basilica San Marco, consecrated in 1094 is one of my favourite churches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting - the gold mosaics that cover the ceiling from Byzantine era glow brightly when the church is lit for full Catholic celebrations. The mass was celebrated in a mix of Latin and Italian and at the conclusion (midnight) we left via the platforms that are laid out for the onset of aqua alta. These walkways, known as passerelle, allow one to walk without getting your feet wet, but in reality one needs the gumboots to access the many areas where the passerelle do not reach - particularly when the water rises to levels above 100mm. 

Our midnight mass in San Marco was a sublime end to the prelude to Christmas Day - memorable, exciting and reflective.

Our Christmas Day lunch was spectacular, albeit unusual. Our 3 bedroom apartment with "full kitchen" did not possess an oven, so we had to improvise for our roast. But this did not deter us - we made a slow cooked beef roast with lemon, rosemary and potatoes as a stove top pot roast - simply covered with another pot (to simulate an oven), we cooked it for 7 hours. The result was magnificent - it melted in the mouth! Together with fresh pasta with a sage butter sauce for entree, plenty of incredibly fresh vegetables and the most amazingly "boozy" tiramisu for dessert, it was such a memorable Christmas day lunch.