I AM BACK IN VENICE!!! With all the rains we are having and Aqua Alta activity, I am sure when Spring arrives it will explode into colorful beauty! For me, as a painter, the fog and moody skies are a painter’s dream.
We are now in our final phase of the program. The students will finish their Italian II course with a final exam Wednesday. We are also in the middle of the Art and Architecture course. I approach this class with so much joy. I like to hook these monuments, art works, and artifacts to the historical timeline we learned in the History and Culture of Venice course when I was here in January. This conceptual approach helps students understand what they are critically examining and visually experiencing as they contextualize the “who, what, where, when, and how”. Art reflects the times they are created in. This is satisfying to me when the students connect everything (culturally, socially, historically, religiously, socially, militarily) to the ancient times of Venice.
I greatly enjoy being with my students. They are working hard and are feeling the pressure and emotions of our final month. They are embracing everything. One of my highlights of the week was taking them to one of my favorites, the Chiesa (Church) Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari. The church is special because of its mission set in 1200 by Francis of Assisi helping the poor and plague victims. The church is set in what was the outskirts of the city and being very large inside could host hordes of Christian believers as they made pilgrimages to Rome and Spain. A few of my favorite treasures lie inside by Titian, Giovanni Bellini, and Donatelo (a Florentine sculptor). What would take a tourist one hour to see took us 2.5 +. I enjoyed so much our discussions and questions. I also loved taking everyone out to Torcello where the initial inhabitants settled in the 400’s… it was a nice reprieve to be in the quiet “countryside”. One other highlight was our cooking lesson with Chef Anna and her two assistants both named Andrea!!!!
Cheers and Smiles from the lagoon,
FVCC Semester in Venice Program, Director
This was my birthday week! 19 couldn’t have been spent better than in Italy. I’m so grateful to everyone in my group for making it so special, from the birthday dinner to the actual day. This was the first birthday I’ve spent away from my momma, so that was a bit tough for me and I got a bit homesick, but a few more adventures with Savannah (like seeing Piccolo Mondo and having fish pedicures) made it a little easier to cope! I also got to experience the beautiful Aqua Alta in San Marco Square on my birthday evening. I was warned by Susan it would be dangerous but I was determined to see my father off, who visited me this week in Venice. Wading through the water in plastic tourist boots I normally glide through in heels was quite an experience. The flooded shops were even more beautiful and the owners dealt with it so well. I made sure to stop, spin around, sing and dance in the water whenever no one else was watching. Another part of this amazing week was seeing my father and his wife. It was so amazing to show them the places I’d experienced and recount everything I’ve learned! It just goes to show how engraved this trip is in my head and heart already.
This week we also started art and architecture class! It’s been really exciting for me to see an island and cathedral I’ve been reading about for months, Torcello. The cathedral was magnificent with an intricate judgement wall made of gold mosaic. I think I liked it even more than the judgement wall in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo in Rome! I loved learning about the Gothic styles versus the Renaissance (in painting and architecture). This had been one of my favorite experiences thus far and I can’t wait to see more!
The weeks are picking up with Susan’s arrival and the commencement of our art and architecture class while Italian class comes to an end. on Monday we went into the crypts of S. Zaccaria, also known as the naughty nun church because the nuns were forced daughters of fathers who didn’t or couldn’t pay for their future. In rebellion the nuns became scandalous rule breakers to many peoples delight or dismay. The crypts were flooded upon arrival however, but we were able to still see into it and the reflection of the pillars on the water made it worthwhile. The next day we visited an Art museum called Fondazione Querini Stampalia Orari with Mannerism, Neoclassical, and Renaissance painting styles. Wednesday we toured around the beautiful and massive church of St. Maria Gloriosa Friari. By far one of my favorite churches we have visited along with Chiesa di San Pantalon. The following day the clouds parted, and the sun shone through for Women’s Appreciation Day and the waterbuses strikes. This prevented us from following the original plan of the day and the three back up plans. Friday, we went to Padua and saw the famous fresco of Giotto in Cappella degli Scrovegni which dates to the thirteen hundreds. The natural realism, colors, design, and story behind the artist are very interesting and intriguing, definitely worth the wait.
For Saturday we went to the Islands of Torcello and Burano which I must admit I preferred to Venice. I liked Torcello more than Burano though because of how peaceful and open the island was. It was the first island to be set up by the fleeing natives of the mainland where the first church was brought over in pieces. Many of the inhabitants relocated though, due to Malaria, and now only twenty residents reside there. We went to Burano next which is a small fishing village with eccentrically painted buildings of vibrant colors that supposedly help the fishermen see their town through the fog. Burano is known for its lace work as well and we were able to see beautiful handcrafted lace work in their museum while walking through a pastel board of colors. Overall the weather was not too bad and though the week was full it was very informative and fun. Hold on for next week and let’s hope for better weather.
Today marks two months in lovely Venice, Italy. How crazy is that? It feels like just yesterday we were trying to navigate this maze of a city, and now here we are! Just three more wonderful weeks left in the land where pasta is plentiful.
This past week, we ventured to some incredible sights and places for our art and architecture class. Since we are currently learning about art movements from the Byzantine period up to the Neoclassical period, we visited Chiesa di San Zaccaria, toured the Fondazione Querni Stampalia, went to Chiesa Frari, took a train to Padua to see the Sgrovengni Chapel, and explored the islands Burano and Torcello. We were able to see many pieces by Titian, Canova, Tiepolo, and many other masterful artists throughout the week at these places. Their pieces were absolutely astounding and breathtaking. It felt like a dream come true to be able to learn about these pieces in the exact same place as them, in their original setting. We also had another cooking class with Anna where we made gnocchi by hand, fish soup, eggplant parmesan, and tiramisu too. It was such a fun and delightful evening!
We also had the privilege to travel out to Burano and Torcello to visit a Early Christian church with Byzantine art and architecture for the interior. The church was originally on the mainland of Venice, but then moved to the island of Torcello because the Ottoman’s at the time were invading Italy. It was truly such a sight to see. Later on that day, we went to Burano to see a lace museum and explore the island a bit. Overall, it was a very exciting and eventful week! I cannot wait to finish our Italian class this upcoming week, and begin the infamous tour I keep hearing about. This semester seems to continue to keep getting better and better as the days go on!
Ciao for now!
Susan has returned and the history of art and architecture as finally started! We have been learning about Baroque architecture and how it compares to the Rococo as well as Neo-Classical styles. I’m really enjoying the class so far. I like having knowing the name of styles of art and architecture so I can better to describe the art and building I see. I also really like looking at how art changed from the crowded complex styles of Baroque to the much more simplified Neo-Classical. It’s also interesting seeing thing the frescos done by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua. They are what you would call pre-Renaissance . He was one of the first to do the style we think of as Renaissance, his figures had volume and their clothing had shading that reflected that. It was also cool because when you do a fresco you only use as much wet plaster as much as you can paint that day so we were able to see the faint lines around the patches he did each day which you can’t really see in a photo. I love seeing little details like that in art It give it a much more human feel like you can actually picture the person that did the art doing it instead of the art just being a thing that’s there.
This weekend we went out to a few islands and my favorite stop was at Burano. We visited the lace museum and as a crafter I was inspired. They had tons of samples of different patterns of lace that were all hand made. It was amazing looking at it and seeing every tiny stich for things that would have taken so much time to make. Before leaving the island, I went into a shop that had demonstrations of lace making, the woman that does it had left for the day but the piece that she was working on was there and the woman working there showed it to me and gave me a quick explanation of the basic idea of how it worked. From a piece of paper with the pattern drawn on it they then stitch along the edges of the pattern through the paper and a layer of cloth then with a needle they stitch through the threat outlines but not through the paper. It’s amazing and must take some serious skill and patience to do it. I have been inspired to try and learn how to do lace. I’m going try my hand at it when I get home and can get the materials.
Another rainy few days in Venice with some sunshine. The sunshine was a nice break from the cold wet weather. Art and architecture has been a treat. We spend our class time looking at paintings and visiting some really neat churches. I now know how to tell the different between Gothic and Renaissance architecture. We learned future tense in Italian class and this week we start our review for our final. Crazy how fast time has gone by! Lots of great food was also consumed this week. Lots of gelato and we went to a nice birthday dinner for Dorothy which was a ton of fun. My favorite part though would have to be visiting Torcello and Burano. Burano was so cute and I loved the colorful houses!
Ciao friends and family,
Boy was it an exciting week here in Venice, we have been traveling around looking at some beautiful art and architecture. We had a nice blend of lectures on slow days and then other days we would go out and see the real originals of many great pieces of art. Great examples of Renaissance, Baroque, realism, and Byzantine styles of art. Which I can now happily identify when examining buildings and pictures all across Venice. I Personally enjoyed places like the Frari church, a building so big I could fit my house in it about 3 times. Huge paintings cover all the walls, portraying stories of the life of Jesus, Mary, and other significant religious stories. However, the thing that blew me was that it took them over a hundred years to build this church. During the mid 14 to 15 century, this church stood at the outskirts of town but now it’s located in a center part of the city. The stone columns that support the church are so large it takes three people holding hands to wrap this massive solid chunk of stones. I can’t imagine how they were able to conceive, plan and then build a place so massive, its size rivals places like St. Marco Basilica and the massive palaces throughout the city. This week was amazing and I’m glad because I know I don’t have much more time in this unique city. So until next week.
Ciao Amici (friends)
This week in Venice Mother Nature decided to pour tears of rain on our backs throughout most of the week. During these situations I find myself turning into a marshmallow as I bundle up with several layers of clothing in the attempt to stay warm. Besides the fact that I have to wear my whole closet whenever the weather decides to throw its wrath at us, I find myself flabbergasted at the thought of our Italian two class ending next week. As I learn more about the true history behind these beautifully created ancient remains I feel that this trip is quickly coming to an end and that there isn’t enough time to truly discover all the hidden treasures within the city of Venice. One of my favorite fieldtrip was the island of Torcello where the church of Santa Maria Assunta is located. As we walked alongside the canal towards the church I felt closer to home seeing trees and grass covering the small town. I was actually able to listen to my own thoughts without being interrupted by one of the thousands of tourist that arrive in Venice, giving me a sense of comfort and peace. If you keep walking further into town you will find the Church of Santa Maria Assunta styled in early Christian architecture on the outside and Byzantine on the inside. The best part of the church was the beautiful mosaic of the Last Judgment with its five tiers of life after death. The scene of Hell is illustrated in its most disgusting form with wormlike creatures crawling outside the eye sockets of floating skulls and naked bodies full of shame and self-disgust. There is also a black devil sitting around Turkish demons. It is in my opinion the most grotesque depiction of hell out of all the churches I have encountered thus far. Setting aside the depiction of Hell there is so much detail, color, and life in the mosaic that you almost lose yourself within the story and the terrifying trek to final judgment.
This week was a blast. I feel like I say this every blog post but writing these blogs makes me reflect on the fact that our trip is wrapping up and that time is flying by fast.
There is so much to do and see yet that I’ve needed to reorganize my priorities and sleep has been coming in last. This week I discovered a delicious little cafe called Noir. It’s always open and it’s so affordable. They make the best hot sandwiches and it has such a lovely atmosphere. The first time I went there was no open seating so we had to sit at this little wooden and lightly padded couch near the bar and at first I didn’t like it because it’s not an ideal spot and people ordering at the bar tend to block your view. However, since my first visit there somehow I always end up getting stuck with that couch. So it’s now become my little spot. No matter how busy it is I can always count on my couch to be open.
Other fun events this week include visiting several beautiful churches. One of my favorites by far is the San Pantalon it features the world’s largest oil painting by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani. It took 24 years to finish and when the artist finished he stepped back to look at his final product and fell off the scaffolding to his death quite ironically. The church from the outside is very plain and is misleading as to its interior beauty. It has a flat blank exterior due to lack of funds which were spent on the lavish interior. The oil painting on the ceiling is mesmerizing and I could stare at it forever. There is so much going on its hard to take it all in.
On another exciting note this weekend was Dorothy’s birthday and as part of her present I surprised her by taking her to get fish pedicures. What happens is you place your feet in this glass box of water and these tiny little fish begin eating the dead skin off your feet. It was such a tickling sensation and Dorothy and I could not stop laughing. All in all I’ve very much enjoyed this week.
Fortunately, the weather in Venice this week was pretty great. This was nice since we started our art and architecture class and were out and about visiting the Frari church, San Zaccharia Church, the Scrovengni chapel in Padova, and the ancient church on Torcello. My favorite place we went to in class this week was the island of Burano. This is the island of lace and also the busala cookies and fishing. All the buildings were stunningly vibrant red, purple, blue, etc. which Susan taught us these colors made it easier for the fisherman to see that they were home through the fog and they were less homesick. This quaint island is jaw-dropping beautiful. We also got to see a lace museum there where we learned how the lace is actually made (all by hand by the way) as well as actual pieces of clothing from long ago and paintings of how it was worn. In those times, lace was very expensive and precious so it was a sign of wealth.
Besides all the traveling we got to do around Venice, I was very spoiled with food this week. It started last weekend in Bologna, the food capital of Italy. Someone my mom knows let us stay with her and took us around with her friends. We experienced not only the food but Italy and the Emilia Romagna region through a local perspective. This we neat because we also learned a lot about the government, school system, and more about what it’s like to live in Italy. We were so lucky to be invited to a fantastic osteria with such exciting and sustainable food- these people really care about what they are doing. My favorite part of the meal was ribs from a black pig of the region and also the cauliflower flan. We tried many other new things of the region too but to keep it brief I’ll finish my Bologna experience by talking about the homemade tortellini and tortelloni. The difference, tortellini is much smaller than tortelloni. This week we cooked up the tortellini, filled with prosciutto and mortadella, in brodo (broth) as it is traditionally prepared, and it was to die for. Then on Monday, Sally, another connection my mom made, had Libby and I over for a traditional Venetian meal at her house here in Venice. I learned about Venetian cuisine and food in general; she actually has written and illustrated two FABULOUS cookbooks (one even handwritten). She prepared a spaghetti like pasta with anchovies and caramelized onions that was simple yet so delicious as well as some slow cooked regional cabbage with garlic. Then on Wednesday our class had another cooking lesson at the Istitito! It was again incredibly educational and so much fun. We learned how to hand-make gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings), fish soup, eggplant Parmesan, and tiramisu. And to top it off, I finally got to visit Costatini Pacifico for the famous burano cookies! When I asked the young lady behind the counter how old the business was she said since her dad’s grandfather; I thought that was so cool. These rich yellow-looking cookies are made from a dough of basically butter, sugar, flour, and lots of eggs. What I like so much about them is that they aren’t too sweet and are perfect for dipping in any beverage. The original busala cookies weight 500g and are basically a ring as big as my face. These became difficult to dip so they started making smaller s-shaped cookies to accommodate a cup. With that said though, the bigger they are the softer the cookie, what would you choose?