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Posts tagged ‘Venezia’

Photos from Venezia: Capturing a city

I defy even the most inexperienced of photographers not to start snapping away, be it on a traditional camera or on a mobile telephone, when they go to Venice. It is, I would venture to guess, almost scientifically impossible for a visitor to the city not to become captivated by the beauty which exists at every corner, to fall under the spell of its utterly unique character, and to therefore attempt to capture themselves a little piece of the city, be it through photos or souvenirs (or usually both).

Regular readers of The Daily Norm have probably already noticed that I took a fair number of photos on my recent trip to Venice, even though it meant defying the cold and taking off my new comfy rabbit-lined gloves (bought on the Rialto Bridge) in order to do so. But despite the so often gloomy winter weather, it will come as no surprise that Venice inspired an entire flurry of photos, and I have plenty still to share in addition to those already posted.

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And so in this last post looking back over my recent Venetian adventure, I am including a miscellany of photos which do, I think, effectively capture something of the essence of the place. Through the textures of the city – from crumbling walls to luxurious golden silk, and through the colours – ocres, yellows, the turquoise green water and of course the characteristic Venetian red; through its historical palaces, and even a shop filled with old waterlogged books…This is a selection of photos which is innately Venetian, transporting me back to that foggy, watery wonderland where a part of my heart remains firmly captured by the city in turn.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Memoirs from Venezia, Part 3: St Mark’s from above, and within

As much as I have always opined that you can only find the real authentic Venice the further you travel out of the tourist centre, there is no doubt that the Piazza San Marco remains the heart and soul of the city, even though it also coincides as the epicentre of the tourist trade. And just as three previous visits had never seen me travelling on one of the city’s famous gondolas, I had likewise never visited one of the most important buildings in the city, the Doge’s Palace. There can be no justification for this shortfall, since the palace was, and remains at the historical core of what was one of the world’s greatest republics. And on this trip I was determined to put things to rights.

Walking through the main stone archway leading into the palace courtyard, passing one of the miscellany of ancient relics looted from all over the Eastern world, there could be no mistaking the grandeur of what had once been the centre of Venice’s administrative, political and legal core. But beyond the exquisite marble facades, the windows characterised by the iconic “Venetian Gothic” style and the impressive statues peppering every wall and corner of the exterior, the real grandeur was reserved for the inside. For up a heavily gilded staircase and into the pomp of the ceremonial rooms upstairs, our eyes sprung open in astonished amazement at the extent of opulence on display.

The Doge’s Palace outside

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There, paintings by the very historical best of Venice’s artists were practically beaten into submission by the heavily baroque gilded mouldings which surrounded them. However it was the combination of both gilding and paintings on every surface of the walls and ceilings which created the real drama, and we were only saddened (and rather surprised) by the extent to which the condition of all surfaces had, like the city surrounding the palace, been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.

The splendour of the gilded interiors

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One might wonder how the world outside this glittering palace could follow this magnificent display of splendour, but of course Venice always has a new treasure in store, and as we left the Doge’s Palazzo and saw a small queue forming across the square at the famous Bell Tower of San Mark’s, we had just discovered our next treasure… for from the top of the tower, mercifully reached by lift, you can enjoy the most astonishing views of Venice sprawling out beneath you.

I loved the fact that from the top of the campanile, you could get a flavour of the true personality of this fascinating island… the extent to which the city is packed into a tiny space surrounded by a misty, boggy lagoon; the consistency of the sprawling wave of terracotta rooftops; and the incredible beauty of the many churches and palaces springing up all over the skyline.

Venice from above the campanile of St. Mark’s

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A day full of such beauty could only be concluded by a visit to the other of the Piazza San Marco’s famous gems; Florian’s café, where we rightfully treated ourselves to a tray loaded with tea, macarons and cakes fit for the festive season. And with that marvellous afternoon tea, taste joined the others of our senses which had been utterly enchanted by a further day in Venice.

A well earned visit to Florian’s and the Piazza of San Marco at night

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Memoirs from Venezia, Part 2: Sestiere di Castello

Venice is not just any city for me. It was present at the inception of my teenage renaissance, when at the age of 18 I travelled to Italy with 20 likeminded young people to study art history. Venice was the first stop, and it was in that city that I felt myself transform, like a butterfly whose wings burst forth upon a mega-wave of sights, images and inspirations. So whenever I return to the city, there is always a part of me which yearns to revisit all of the sites which gave birth to that transformative experience. But at the same time I always want to see something new, and despite its compact size, the intricate labyrinth of the city always provides a new surprise around every corner.

On this trip, I was determined to discover some of the areas which I do not know so well, and there to expose myself to some of the lesser-known gems of the city. One such area is the Sestiere di Castello, which, tucked just behind San Marco, sprawls eastwards from the Rialto across to the Arsenale and beyond.

Gems of the Sestiere di Castello

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It is easy to tire of the repetitiveness of central Venice, with every shopfront loaded with mass-produced masks and tacky souvenirs, but walk just a few canals beyond the centre, and a more quaint, authentic city is ripe for the discovery. Such is the case with the Castello, from the grand Campo Santa Maria Formosa with its curving church, to the impressive square in front of the Zanipolo church, the size and scale of which makes it a clear rival to St. Mark’s itself. All this we explored as we traversed the area on foot, gawping at the stunning stone mausoleums of the doges set within the walls of the Zanipolo, as well as being mesmerised by the haunting chants of a Greek Orthodox service on the Rio del Greci in a beautiful little church which has its very own leaning tower.

The Zanipolo and the Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Greci

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But for me, the real star of the region is the Arsenale, this massive former industrial site which would have been the heart not only of the Venetian Republic’s economy, but also of its military prowess. Although sadly unused today, from the mammoth encircling walls, and the huge classical gates at its entrance, once can still feel the might and power of the place. For Arsenale was not only large, taking up some 1/15th of Venice’s entire landmass and giving employment to a huge proportion of the city’s population, but it was also a place of innovation, being the first to mass-manufacture boats with the kind of conveyor-belt style product output which can only be dreamed of by car factories of today.

The Arsenale

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But beyond the hard lines of the Arsenale, a stunning city of view is always just around the corner, and as our day came to an end, we were treated to a glimpse of sunshine (in an otherwise foggy visit) over the lagoon, where Palladio’s masterpiece, San Giorgio Maggiore glistened in the light, and along the lagoon, the warm cosy interior of Harry’s Bar lay in wait. Most expensive amaretto known to man? It was surely so, but an apt treat at the end of an impressive day exploring the real Venice.

The lagoon and a rest in Harry’s Bar

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  

Memoirs from Venezia, Part 1: Christmas on a Gondola

As most of us look, somewhat gloomily, towards a mediocre post-Christmas period with our homes becoming sparser as decorations are packed away and everything returns to normal, I am sustained by a head full of daydreams, as I recall the time I spent this Christmas in Venice.

I am no stranger to this utterly unique, magical floating city, but no matter how many times I go, I am equally if not increasingly held captive by its enchanting spell. For where else on earth can you find palaces whose golden doorsteps are laced with a layer of green algae; whose magical buildings appear and disappear within veils of mist as mysterious as the masked characters who walk the city’s streets; and where you can spend Christmas day on a gondola.

The jewel of the Adriatic, as photographed on Christmas morning

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For with my partner’s mother making our Christmas a family affair, this festive season was going to be special for all sorts of reasons. And first on the to-do list of the day was to toast Christmas and the city from the luxurious comfort of a gondola. Despite its being my fourth visit to the city, I had never before been in one of these iconic vessels, fearing the grossly inflated prices and tourist traps. But when you discover that it is as expensive to remain on land in Venice as it is to embark upon the water, this cheeky half an hour on board one of the world’s most famous boats can be easily justified.

On a gondola for Christmas!

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And so as families all over the world toasted the day over a roast turkey, we started ours floating gently over the milky green canals of Venice, gazing in wonder as we passed cracking palaces, rosy-pink street lamps and some of the most beautiful churches ever built. The day continued with indulgent feasting in the Taverna la Fenice, a stroll across the Accademia Bridge to the gentle Dorsoduro district, the purchase of far too many handmade glass santas from the island of Murano, and later prosecco bubbles with homemade Tuscan panettone munched in-between the exchange of presents aplenty.

Magical details, from the water and back on land

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It was, in every way, the perfect Christmas day, and the memory I hold with me now as I reticently prepare to leave Christmas behind for another year.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  

Natale Italiano | Venice – Day 1: The Arrival

There is something unquestionably unique about arriving in Venice, the Floating City of Italy. The city’s swish mainland airport, surrounded by its main roads and cars, is the last reference to the real world you will have. Leaving the airport behind, and walking left along a progressively foggy winding road, you head towards a mode of transportation far more suited to transporting visitors to the City whose very foundations are forged in partnership with water: a boat. Taking the step from firm ground onto the bobbing wooden floor of a water bus, attempting to balance luggage with one hand, and steadying yourself with the other, suddenly the ordinary becomes a little more extraordinary, as the next stage of the journey to Venice makes its progress across water. And this is when it hits you – that Venice is indeed no ordinary place; cut off from reality not just because of the very unique look and feel to the city, but because stranded out in water, it is literally an island separated from the rest of the world. This sense of separation and mystery increases as the journey by boat steadily increases in length, as the boat heads further and further into the thick mists of the lagoon until suddenly, without so much as a warning, the elegant facades of palazzos, and the stripy gold-fringed finish of poles for tying boats begins.

A water bus into Venice

A water bus into Venice

This was how we arrived into Venice; our senses gradually reprogrammed so that by the time we arrived into the city, we knew that we were coming upon something special; a conclusion which cannot have been doubted when the boat took us into Venice’s heart via the Grand Canal, and before us the glittering lights of the bustling Rialto Bridge met our line of vision. Oh the beautiful Serenissima – Queen of the Adriatic. Is it any surprise that so many visitors have fallen under your spell, ensnared by your unquestionable beauty from palazzo to palazzo, bridge to bridge?

First views of Venice – the Rialto and the Grand Canal

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Stepping off the water bus just after the Rialto bridge, we could still feel the bobbing and rocking motion of the boat as we took our first steps on land, before gradually realising that we were on firm ground again, albeit ground with the most stunning views of the Grand Canal and of all the little shopping streets and side canals which run off it. Like being in a film, we wound our way through those small streets and across tiny bridges in search of our hotel, all the while pausing only to close our mouths which would otherwise hang open in astonishment. Was a city ever as beautiful as this?

Inside the Aqua Palace Hotel

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Upon arriving at our hotel, the splendid Aqua Palace Hotel, we were afforded yet further opportunity to gaze in wonder at this truly incredible city – being given, as we were, a superb room with not one, not two, but three windows looking directly onto the Guerra canal which surrounds the hotel. Barely able to comprehend the beauty of what lay beyond our windows, we managed to stagger away from those windows and out into the city, heading first and foremost to the place where any visit to Venice must begin – the Piazza San Marco. The proximity of our hotel meant that this joy was not long awaited, and within minutes, the staggering view of the onion shaped roofs of Saint Mark’s Basilica rose into sight, along with its campanile whose roof was already shrouded in the mysterious mist which had enveloped its way around the city.

The Piazza San Marco

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Where to next? Why the Caffe Florian of course which, having opened its doors in 1720, is a contender for being one of the world’s oldest cafes and which has continued to woo visitors and locals alike in all of the years which have since passed. With its elaborate gilded and frescoed interior, together with its cute little corner seats nestled next to the window with a colonnaded view over Saint Mark’s Square, Florian’s is truly the best place to begin a trip to Venice – something we clinked our glasses to there an then; a glass of prosecco on one side, and a glass of Venetian Valpolicella on the other.

Florian’s

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From there, time before dinner afforded us ample opportunity to stroll around and acquaint ourselves with the city. For me, this was a re-acquaintance, having very briefly studied art history here in 2001, and visited for a short weekend a few years thereafter. For Dominik: this was a first visit to Venice, and for him, all of the inevitable excitement at discovering this gem afresh was evident to be seen – a glistening to his eyes caused, if not by the beautiful Christmas lights lining the colonnades of St Mark’s and the plush shopping streets surrounding it, then by reason of the emotion which greets one when the sheer beauty of Venice is taken in for the first time. Past baroque churches and small piazzas, over bridge after bridge crossing quiet little canals, their greeny waters still like ice, and along finally to the Accademia Bridge, from which that famous view, stretching down the Grand Canal towards the Santa Maria della Salute, could be enjoyed in all its elegant majesty.

The Accademia view and walking the streets of Venice

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With our eyes nearly popping, and our legs already exhausted from the continuous ascent and descent over bridge after bridge, it was time for a rest, and for a heart-warming culinary welcome to the city: dinner. Our gastronomic benvenuto was provided by the perfect little eatery: Alle Testiere (Calle del Mondo Novo). Able to give their full attention to the few little tables squeezed into the restaurant, the staff were wonderfully attentive, spoke perfect English, and made this culinary welcome a warm one. The wine – some more of that Venetian Valpolicella – was as sensationally smooth as was our gentle arrival onto the Grand Canal but hours earlier.

But the food was something beyond mere description – taste sensations which need to be sampled rather than photographed or described. But in an attempt to at least provide some insight into that perfect little meal, let me tell you that my pumpkin and shrimp ravioli with which I started (but alas did not photograph) was amongst one of the best dishes of food I ate in 2013 – perfectly cooked al dente pasta, with a fusion of sweet creamy pumpkin and delicate salty shrimp which had my palate dancing for joy. The creamy saffron gnocchi with fennel and prawns which I gorged upon afterwards did likewise. For Dominik meanwhile, the freshness of a squid salad presented all of the benefits of eating in a city surrounded by water, while his main of spaghetti vongole made us realise just how mediocre the same dish can be when eaten locally in London.

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Our evening was rounded off, as all evenings should be. by an equally sensational dessert of smooth ricotta cheesecake, a glass of dessert wine with cantuccini for dipping, and a further stroll around the tiniest of alleyways and grandest of Piazzas which the area of our hotel provided in their multitude. After only a few hours in Venice, we returned to our hotel well aware that in visiting the city, we were living out some kind of dream; a surreal experience like none other. Where there are no roads or cars to wake you, taxis and buses that move on water, and houses that plunge straight into water. And if we needed further clarification of the surreal character of this very unique city, a glance out of the window that night to see Santa, dressed in red, crossing a bridge a little further down the canal (no joke) was confirmation that there truly is no place quite like Venice.

Join me on The Daily Norm for a whole load more in homage to Venice and beyond – coming soon.