Tuesday 9 April 2013

Lost and Found in Venice

So, English Gent had to go to Venice for work a couple of weekends back and as my birthday was on the Saturday, he managed to organize things so I could accompany him, which meant that whilst he was working, I had the chance to wander around, both with purpose and without, savouring the many delights this decaying, yet still beautiful, city has to offer.

Grand Canal

He wasn't having such a hard time of it - this is where he was working:

Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista

Walking around Venice on my own, I tried to have an idea of where I was going - too many dark alleyways and it quickly turned into a "Don't Look Now" scary movie moment, so I preferred to stay fairly well on the beaten track observing daily life, Venetian style:

Laundry day

Fruit & Veg canal boat

Sun on a side canal

I gazed in Antique shop windows and dreamed of taking home more than my hand luggage would allow:

Canestrelli Antiques

Beautifully ornate Venetian Mirror

Painting of The Doge's Palace

Then it was off to the fabulous Peggy Guggenheim Museum where I feasted my eyes on her wonderful collection of modern art. When you have young children, art galleries become a complete luxury so just having time to stand and stare at the paintings and sculptures was a holiday in itself.

Vasily Kandinsky, Landscape with Red Spots No 2 (detail)

Adolph Gottlieb, Floating

Fernand Leger, Men in the City

Pablo Picasso, Man in a Striped Top

Barbara Hepworth, Single Form

Peggy herself was a fantastic woman, one of the original party girls, devoted to Venice, her dogs and her crazy sunglasses - doesn't she look like a whole lot of fun?

Photo: David Seymour/Magnum

Palazzo Fortuny was my next port of call, an amazing building in its own right, and home to Mariano Fortuny's many works - paintings and tapestries - but I was most interested in his beautiful Delphos dresses.  This is where the 'Fortuny pleat' originates and his designs were considered pretty radical when he started making the dresses in 1909. They were to be worn without corsetry and became known as 'lingerie' dresses, as they offered freedom of movement and emphasised a woman's shape.

Fortuny Delphos dress

Lauren Bacall wore a vintage Fortuny dress to the 1978 Academy Awards - she looks elegant, definitely 'liberated' and it fits her shape beautifully - Fortuny would have been delighted:

And Natalia Vodianova proves that the "Delphos" style still has a place in contemporary fashion:

After all this walking and culture and with my feet literally about to drop off, it was time to go and find English Gent and head in search of a Spritz, which is a mix of 2 parts Prosecco, 1 part Aperol and a dash of soda water - add a slice of orange and an olive and Salute!

This is the wildly popular Venetian aperitif, drunk by everyone, from the young to the old, and anywhere - in the local pasticeria whilst waiting for your cakes (at 11am!), in the bars and osterie - it's always Spritz o'clock....

My birthday treat was a visit to Harry's Bar, just off St. Mark's Square where the Bellini is world famous, but it was a Martini I was after. Sitting at the bar, sipping my ice cold cocktail, heaven.

Dinner, rain, getting a little bit lost on the way home, my birthday really couldn't have been any better and the following day we did a bit more of the same before having to head to the airport and home.

The postcard shot of the weekend?  When I was waiting to take the poor man's gondola, the local Traghetto, across the Grand Canal - truly Venice in a nutshell:

Gondola on the Grand Canal by the Rialto Bridge

Arrivederci Venezia, a la prossima!

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