Home, Sweet Home

This update is coming almost two weeks late, but as loyal readers will have already guessed (or seen), I made it back home to the states after a long, eventful journey around the world.  During my first full day back, I was still in the mode of documenting everything, so I’ve got a few photos below from my return.

It’s been pretty difficult to get back into my routine, but it’s great to be home.  By the last week of the trip, I felt like my return was not coming quickly enough, as was made evident by my sporadic posts.  It was great to finally see my wife again (in person, as opposed to over Skype) after two long months, and after all that time on the move, it was nice to get a couple of days of rest.

Over the next several months, I’ll be trying to put together a book, and I’ll try to post details as they become more clear.  A friend of mine is also starting a magazine, called Works Sited, for which I’ll be putting together a brief series of essays about my travels (something more coherent and less off-the-cuff than what I’ve written here), and I’ll also post details as I learn more.

I was able to get a little time to relax when I got back to New England, so here are the photos (as always, click to enlarge):

I was greeted with beautiful weather on my first full day back, which demanded a bike ride to the beach, and procrastination on unpacking.

The water was significantly colder than the Bosphorous, and I only lasted about 30 seconds.

Since I was in the habit of only dining on local specialties, a stop at Bob Lobster was a requirement during my ride back to town. Bob is a local Plum Island lobsterman, and he sells his own fresh-caught lobsters, and my favorite lobster rolls in the area, out of a shack on the way to the island.

My humble abode.

Not quite as impressive as the Istanbul skyline.

This is what is referred to as a "small ice cream" in this part of the world. A few more of these, and I'll be back to my pre-trip weight.

This was my attempt to reproduce some flavors from the trip, or what I call a Turpan Penne alla Tad - a little bit of Central Asia, a little bit of Italy, and a lot of fresh local vegetables.

A Last Hurrah in Milan

I know that this post is coming almost two weeks late, but, for those of you who are still checking in from time to time, here it is.  The final destination of my journey was Milan, where I just spent an afternoon and night before flying out in the morning.  I only had half of an afternoon for site-seeing, and not much time to do anything else.  I was, however, able to meet up with an old Milanese friend for a beer in the evening.

I plan on having a couple more posts before I can really say that I’m finished, so keep checking back over the next couple of days.

The train station in Milan, the Stazione Centrale, has one of Europe's great huge sheds.

When I walked through the station's beaux-arts entry portico later in the evening, a boxing ring had been set up in the center. The matches hadn't started yet, though, and I promised myself that I would come back to see the spectacle. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to return until it was too late.

Seeing the Duomo reminded me how far I had come since first arriving in Xi'an. Over to the left, you can see the entrance to the Galleria Victorio Emanuele II.

The scale of gothic churches is always a little ambiguous to me until I see someone standing in the foreground. The Duomo, which was built over 500 years in a somewhat strange melange of styles, is no exception. Compare the people in this image to the size of the doors.

Maybe this trip has given me a new-found appreciation of light, but the interior of the Duomo seemed incredibly dark.

There was a mass taking place, so I was restricted from exploring much of the interior.

Here, gothic arches show their real potential.

This display, featuring the preserved, if somewhat decayed, dead body of a former pope, was pretty grotesque, and will give me nightmares for years.

Rather than gargoyles, the buttresses are capped with statues of notable saints, priests, and a few lay-people.

Napoleon was crowned King of Italy inside the Duomo, and he promised to pay for its completion. However, a little problem in Russia prevented him from ever making good on the promise.

I purchased a ticket to take the stairs to the roof from quite possibly the rudest person that I encountered on my whole trip. The iconic 1954 Torre Velasca can be seen in the background.

John Ruskin famously said of the Duomo that it stole "from every style in the world: and every style spoiled."

The view over MIlan, towards the distant mountains, was worth the interaction with the grumpy ticket salesman.

My ticket also gave me the privelege of climbing around the flying buttresses.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was a precursor to modern shopping malls.

Designed in a cruciform pattern, the two axes come together at this enormous dome. What do you know? There's a real Italian McDonalds there.

I suppose this is the last of the many photos that I've shown of domes during this trip.

The Galleria stretches from the Duomo to la Scala, where it is severed at an angle.

Unfortunately, I arrived at the Teatro alla Scala after closing time, but here it is from the exterior.

Leonardo Da Vinci pokes up in a lot of places in this town.

I lost count of how many statues adorn the Duomo, but this must be one of three million.

Troubled Kashgar

It was with pain that I heard the news today of violence in Kashgar, and I’m deeply saddened for all of the people affected by it.  I met some truly great, friendly, and caring people there, and getting a chance to see the old town was a dream come true.  I only hope that the current events do not result in even more restrictions on the already limited freedoms of the Uighur people living there.  Fear and impending cultural doom were the great unspoken presences while I was there.

One of the things that I’ve recently learned is that, after taking this trip, the remote corners of the world where terrible events take place no longer seem quite so remote.

Also, when reading or hearing reports of the violence, keep in mind that almost all accounts come filtered through Chinese officialdom, and usually serve government motives.






More Verona Catchup

Here’s another round of post catch-up, and more of my visit to Verona.  This chunk included one of the better meals of my life, which most likely edged into my all-time top five (So long, fresh-made tacos in Tijuana.  I hope you enjoy being relegated to the top ten.), so check out the pictures below (click to enlarge):

A late lunch crammed in between site-seeing sessions, this pizza held me over until a late dinner.

Verona's quiet backstreets are great for refreshing crowdless exploring.

Cangrande I brought Dante here, after the poet was exiled from Florence, and his statue occupies a central position in this square.

Although these squares seem quaint now, the old fortresses and towers that surround them were built for nefarious purposes.

Yet another sample from my ongoing series of photos of people taking photos of people posing for photos.

Verona's squares are enclosed by arches like this one, remnants of a time when large areas could be closed off.

Cangrande I's equestrian statue, which I showed in my post about the Castelvecchio, one stood over an arch around here. Scarpa tried to provide a similar view from below, but also gave visitors the treat of seeing the statue's wide smile up close.

There was a big wedding taking place in this church when I went by.

I wonder where Scarpa got his obsession with detail.

Sant'Anastasia makes an OK place for a wedding. I waited a while for the ceremony to finish, hoping to get a photo of the couple as they emerged from the church, but I gave up after about twenty minutes, seeing that the mass was far from over.

I figured that with a line of locals like this, the gelateria inside had to be good.

After vacilating for a while, I settled on a cup of hazelnut (nocciolo). It was pretty good, and obviously I'm writing home about it.

Hills surround Verona's northern extents, making pretty decent spots to build villas.

I decided to hike up to the castle on the top of this hill to get a panoramic view. It wasn't much of a hike compared to anything I encountered in Central Asia.

This hike was paved, and had steps.

A look east, towards the area from which the conquering Venetians came.

I'm not sure it would have been possible to pick a hill with a more picturesque view to climb.

Seems like a pretty good place for a vendetta.

Sant'Anastasia's tower is one of the more recongnizable elements in Verona's skyline. These trees do their best job to emulate it.

Competing towers.

They're barely visible in this photo, but there's a couple having wedding photos taken on this bridge.

The Duomo is recognizable by its square white tower.

Verona is another one of those cities where layers of architectural interventions coexist side by side. Here is a baroque addition to a medieval church.

Although I know I shouldn't, when I hear the word, "duomo," I automatically expect cathedral with a huge public square in front, but Verona's is much more compact and understated than those in Milan or Florence.

The door to the duomo is guarded by these strange beaked beasts.

Another view across the Piazza delle Erbe.

On my last night in Verona, I splurged, and went to dinner at a restaurant that I had found earlier in the day. It was on a narrow side street off the beaten path, where no tourists could find it, and seemed to be only patronized by people in the know. Before my first course, they brought out this crab salad, which was garnished with a little bit of basil and olive oil. I also started out with a half bottle of local soave.

I asked the waiter what he recommended, and he got very excited. He told me that they had just this morning gotten in some Sardinian tuna that was only available for one month during the year. The chef was walking by as he said this, and exclaimed with glee that it was a "very particular" dish, and was exactly what he would order. With this glowing recommendation, I had not choice but to get the tuna. It was spectacular.

After looking at the prices on the menu, and with a still shrunken stomach from a long journey, I decided to only order two courses. This was the second course, which the chef hurried over to tell me was even "more particular" than the previous dish. This was cuttlefish pasta done right, with little tiny cuttlefish that are only available for twenty days per year. Just mentioning them brought a beaming smile to the waiter's face. Unlike the similar dish that I had in Venice, the cuttlefish just melted in my mouth, and the ink sauce was the perfect consistency. It was topped with shaved dried anchovies, which added a salty kick much in the way that Parmagiano Reggiano does for non-fish dishes, but was not overpowering.

At the waiter's further recommendation, I decided to have desert in-house, and ended up ordering this, which the waiter described as flaky pastry filled with cheese and berries, but was not too sweet. It was also sprinkled with an "Indian meat spice," that imparts a "very particular" flavor not often found in deserts. As this was the "most particular" desert on the menu, I couldn't resist. It was not the sort of thing that I would have typically ordered (no chocolate), but I was pleasantly surprised by the subtle flavors, and it really wasn't too sweet. Before bringing it out, they also brought out a small cup of gelato as a palate cleanser, and the waiter asked me to identify the flavor. After slowly enjoying it, and doing my best to localize every single flavor, I came up empty, and meekly guessed cucumber. It turned out to be parsley, and I was surprised at how good it was.

Last up, with my espresso, they brought me a full plate of biscotti. After having only ordered the two courses, I was glad that I had decided not to go for three, because I was completely stuffed. I was so stuffed that I was only able to cram three of these in my mouth before calling it quits.

Verona alla Scarpa (or as much of it as I could see)

In my last post, I featured a few images of the exterior of the Castelvecchio in Verona.  For this post, I’ll focus mostly on its interior, and show a few images of another Scarpa building in Verona, the Banca Popolare di Verona (which I was unfortunately forbidden to enter).  As a disclaimer for those that get bored with images of buildings, this post may be a little architecture-centric.  Not to worry, though, I still have a backlog of two more posts after this one, which I will be publishing in the next few days.

Castelvecchio was built in the middle of the 14th Century by Cangrande II, a ruthless local ruler, and after Verona fell to Napoleon, and then the Austrians, it was further used as a barracks and for ammunition storage.  In the Fascist period, it underwent a number of renovations that restored it to a version of a Medieval castle that designers at the time thought appropriate, converting it into a museum.  However, some strange moves were made, like salvaging gothic windows from nearby houses for use on the facade of the former barracks.  The castle was bombed during World War II, and was afterwards again restored similarly.  In the 1960s, a progressive museum director was hired, and he soon hired Carlo Scarpa to renovate the entire museum complex.

According to Scarpa, when he was hired, the Castelvecchio was completely fake.  The previous renovations of the past forty years were fantasy constructions to make the place appear like an intact medieval castle.  Damaged frescoes, which were missing large chunks, were filled in, and all of the new work done was designed to blend in with the old.  Artifacts and paintings were displayed how some curator thought they might have been hung in the fourteenth century.

Rather than continuing in this mode, what Scarpa did here was quite revolutionary at the time, and remains influential to this day.  His concept was to expose the various layers of construction, and to clearly delineate new interventions from old.  Although subtle by today’s standards, his introduction and celebration of concrete and steel within the brick and stone walls of the castle was groundbreaking.  Rather than attempting to blend in with the existing building, his details clearly separated his work form the old, almost making it float above in some cases.

The pictures probably do a better job of explaining it than I do, so here they are (click to enlarge):

In the sculpture gallery, Scarpa left the backdrops spare. One of his consistent obsessions was the connections between different surfaces. Here, the concrete floors are rimmed with a limestone channel at the joint with the vertical walls, which accentuates the relationship between existing and new.

The space towards which this woman is walking, off of the sculpture wing, is the only modern appendage that penetrates the facade. Called the Saracellum, it sits as a pristine box in the interior garden, and brings natural light from above to highlight medieval artifacts from the castle's original inhabitants. Notice how Scarpa challenges the symmetry of the window above (the faux non-original gothic windows mentioned at the top of the page).

Not only did he design the renovation, Scarpa also designed every display stand in the museum. Here, the Master of Sant'Anastasia's crucifixion group gets the Scarpa treatment. Also notice connection between ceiling and walls, where a small shadow-line is created. Also of note is the steel girder that spans in the direction of movement through the galleries, which is offset form the ceiling.

At the pivotal intersection of the east and west wings of the castle with the ancient town walls and bridge, Scarpa demolished a portion of the rebuilt east wing, and created this area, where all of the circulation paths come together. The focal point is on an equestrian statue of Cangrande, which is on display above.

A variety of textures and building materials come together in this place.

The wall that the bridge above penetrates is believed to have been an original town wall, which was later incorporated into the castle and bridge across the Adige (photographed in yesterday's post).

The bridge across the Adige, which is open to the public, is accessed by the walkway above, which extends through the castle to the river. The museum circulation is under this bridge, and then above it later in the journey through the castle.

Museum-goers are constantly confronted with juxtapositions of old and new, interior and exterior, as they move through the complex.

Each joint is an opportunity for expression. Notice how the direction of the wooden formwork was changed at this point.

Back in the intersection with the Cangrande statue, each change of use, structure, or material is clearly delineated.

Again, textural changes were incredibly important to Scarpa. Notice how the sill, which is a slab of polished limestone, is inset form the edge, clearly expressing its difference.

Scarpa also designed each of the frames, which are in stark contrast to those that are usually seen on paintings of this era.

Rather than just hanging the paintings on the walls, they are displayed in three dimensions, taking advantage of certain natural lighting features, and also taking up the space of the gallery. The frescoes on these walls were a source of particular consternation for Scarpa. They had been restored in the fascist period, and the gaps had been painted in. Scarpa meticulously removed any portions that were not original.

Even with its human-inspired shape, I had trouble fitting through this door.

What an unfortunately placed exit sign, presumably installed recently. The altarpiece doors are hung by their hinges.

Scarpa abhorred symmetry, which is exemplified by his placement and framing of Nicola Giolfino's Triumph of Pompey.

Each detail was meticulously designed and crafted.

The easels on which many of the paintings are displayed were first used in the Correr Museum in Venice, and repurposed here.

It was a surprisingly rare treat to see these canvases from the back.

A frame within a frame.

Altarpiece doors were meant to be seen in three dimensions.

Not even the electrical outlets escaped Scarpa's attention.

Artifacts are displayed on this bridge, which Scarpa inserted between two towers.

The upper ramparts were only opened to visitors in 2007.

The clock tower was actually renovated by one of Scarpa's disciples, Giuseppe Tommasi, and was only opened in 2010. The floors are supported by exposed struts that can be seen from the courtyard. Separated from Scarpa's interventions by the walk along the ramparts, this is a pretty sympathetic, minimal-impact renovation.

Tommasi also created a roof garden next to the clock tower.

Scarpa created this walkway along the riverfront ramparts that gives views across the water, but also a close-up look at how the various layers of the building come together.

Scarpa delighted in creating stairs, most of which would never pass code in the US.

Cangrande's statue is meant to be approached from all angles. Here, a bridge over the area that I showed in some photographs above gives the first eye-level view.

You may need to click on this image to enlarge it in order to see, but Cangrande has an enormous smile on his face. He was the ruler responsible for bringing Dante and other luminaries to Verona, and ushering in an era of prosperity. His son, Cangrande II, was responsible for building this castle, and is credited with none of the positive attributes of his father. The castle was built for the ruthless ruler to keep out Veronese, not foreign invaders.

The painting wing features a narrowing corridor, which accentuates the perspectival effect.

Again, the somewhat sparse surroundings and spare frames help visitors focus on the artwork (non-architects, at least). Here Girolamo Dai Libri's Modonna of the Parasol gets some star treatment.

This section is devoted to Tintoretto and Veronese. It's a little shocking to see these displayed in a non-climate controlled environment, and I wonder how long it will be before air conditioning is introduced.

The dark gray plaster ceiling is punctuated by wooden grills.

Another view of the interior moat, and the bridge area with Cangrande's statue.

The Banca Popolare di Verona, designed by Scarpa later in life, is unfortunately almost impossible to enter. No amount of pleading convinced the bank officials to let me in, although a Spanish architect that I met at the Castelvecchio told me that he was able to get in for ten minutes after three days of begging.

Although it's a bank, Scarpa did not hold back from his customary obsession with detail on this project.

These stepped motifs show up a lot in Scarpa's later work, particularly at the Brion Cemetery.

It was only after taking this photo that I realized the circular windows are different sizes. I have always wanted to get inside this building, and I'm pretty disappointed that I couldn't. I wonder how many architects' sob stories the guards have heard.

From Frescoes to Opera

I’m finally back home, but I, of course, have a big post backlog, so I’ll start here, with a roundup of Padova, and an intro to Verona.

My trip to the Scrovegni Chapel was memorable, not just for Giotto’s frescoes, but also for the elaborate security and acclimatization procedures.  Before entering, we were brought into a sealed glass anteroom, in groups of twenty-five, to watch a fifteen minute video about the chapel, during which we were acclimated to the interior environment.  Once inside, it was fascinating to see the frescoes that I had only seen in photos in person.  I was surprised at how large they seemed.  I found Giotto’s depiction of hell to be the most exciting aspect of the chapel, which certainly seemed more exciting than heaven, which seemed really boring.  Needless to say, photos were strictly prohibited.

I’m also throwing in some images of the opera in Verona.  I had the pleasure of seeing Rossini’s Barber of Seville performed in the ancient arena.

Here are the photos:

I arrived in Padova in the middle of doctoral dissertation defenses. Once candidates have successfully defended their dissertations, they are subjected to public ridicule by their friends and family in the form of mock defenses along the river. Usually, they are forced to dress in funny costumes, and take embarrassing questions from the audience. Frequently, the crowd breaks out in a song that goes something like this: "Dottore, Dottore! Something and a something, and a so-o-omething!"

After visiting the Scrovegni Chapel, I took a walk next door to the Eremitanii Church, which featured some frescoes by Mantegna that were destroyed during World Ware II. Restorers have pieced them together tiny bit by tiny bit over the past fifty years, in what must be considered one of the world's most difficult jigsaw puzzles.

Padova still has its fair share of Mussolini-era architecture.

Pasta all'amatriciana (salty pork and other stuff in tomato sauce), with some nice shaved parmigiana reggiano.

A view up the Adige River in Verona, with the Castelvecchio on the right.

The Castelvecchio bridge was bombed by the Germans as they retreated, but was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

The Castelvecchio, of which I'll have plenty of photos in the next post, glows in the evening. First built in 1354, Carlo Scarpa renovated it in the 1960s.

The arena, an old Roman colosseum, now hosts Verona's outdoor opera festival, and draws half a million people annually.

Although I had a nosebleed seat, and a view obstructed by a pole that held an exit sign, it was still a pretty great experience to be there.

Operas begin just after sunset, around 9:15, and the tradition is for the audience to light candles at the beginning of the performance. Neither I, nor anyone else in my section, was given one of these candles.

The opera, the Barber of Seville, by Rossini, was performed with no artificial amplification. Despite my cheap seat, I was surprisingly able to hear everything with ease. Most people would recognize the arias from any kind of exposure to TV advertisements or old cartoons.

The opera didn't finish until around 12:30, and by that time, the marble ledge on which I was sitting had become more than a little uncomfortable. That did not prevent me from dozing off for a few minutes in the second act.

Post Backlog

Hello from Verona.  I know that some of you have been patiently awaiting some post updates, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to give a full update just yet.  I will attempt to relieve the post backlog over the next couple of days, and after I return to the states, on Wednesday.



Relics and Bufala

Since I was forced to post only a brief update from Padova yesterday, here’s the rest of the news from the Veneto.  This is one of those places where I wish I could spend more time, not necessarily because I want to see more sites, but because I have enjoyed acclimating to the culture.

I'm moving away from Venetian seafood, and this pasta with meat (not sure which kind), olives, and mozzarella made a great lunch.

This is the Piazza delle Erbe, in the medieval center of the city. The building across he plaza is the Piazza della Ragione, which dates from 1218.

The winding narrow streets open up onto small piazzas that are filled with cafe tables.

There seem to be equal quantities of bicycles and cars in this town. After being in Venice, i was a little out of practice in sharing the road with them.

Padova has an endless series of arcaded streets, which provide a cool breeze on a hot day, and shelter in the rain.

The Basilica di Sant' Antonio is surrounded by some peaceful cloisters, and the monastery here is still active.

Sant' Antonio houses a bunch of relics of Padova's patron saint, Saint Anthony. Among other body parts on display, his tongue is preserved in a glass and gold jar. I would not have known that it was a tongue if I hadn't been told, because it looked nothing like flesh. Photography is strictly prohibited within, but I must say that after seeing Hagia Sophia, which was built in 537, the church, built around 1200 could not help but seem dark and a bit stifling. It's amazing that I'm still more and more impressed with Hagia Sophia, and I'm now nowhere near it.

Next to Sant' Antonio, the Scoletta del Santo (pictured here) contains a number of early Titians, and the neighboring Oratorio di San Giorgio is covered in frescoes by Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzi. For some reason, these are not at all popular with tourists, and while I was joined by the sleepy guard at the Oratorio, he let me into the Scoletta all by myself (which is why you see a photo of it). I was thoroughly impressed by the Oratorio, and after later seeing Giotto's frescoes, it was interesting to see how much painting had changed in sixty years. The frescoes depict the lives of Saints George and Lucy, and it was fascinating to look at them as precursors to comic books. I was particularly taken with Saint Lucy's story, and her face was recognizable in each frame. In one panel, which reads from left to right, she appears three times in the same scene, escaping death twice, and succumbing to a ruffian's knife.

The eliptical Prato della Valle is lined by 78 statues of Padovans from history. In the distance, the Basilica di Santa Giustina can be seen.

Another site that tourists seem to disregard, the Basilica di Santa Giustina is a huge, quiet church with spare ornamentation, and a painting of Santa Giustina by Veronese.

The apse contains the most ornamental portions of the church, and gold provides the dominant color.

In the distance of this picture, which was taken across the transept, a small service was taking place. The monks were singing the mass in the most mellow, delicate fashion, which made every other mass that I have heard seem like heavy metal compared to Chet Baker.

The music definitely contributed to my appreciation of the church, and like witnessing a service in one of Istanbul's mosques, it was great to hear the church filled with its intended sounds.

After seeing countless churches coated in frescoes and intricate carvings, this place was refreshingly simple.

From what I could tell, the doors to the basilica, in addition to the relief above the left door, were added recently to the 16th Century facade.

The Prato seems like an incongruently grand space for a town like this.

Towards evening, Padovans make their way to one of the countless outdoor cafes for aperativi.

Not a bad place to enjoy a spritz.

The roads in the older part of town are composed of round river stones, which makes them somewhat uncomfortable for walking. Fortunately, smooth marble paths surround them.

My waitress recommended that I try this dish, mozzarella di bufala, tomato sauce, and pureed eggplant. I had been looking forward to having some bufala mozzarella for a long time, and this did not disappoint.

For dinner, my waitress suggested this, tagliatelle with rabit and mushrooms.

Padova's little streets get silent at night.

A beacon for late diners.

Although the streets go quiet, the piazzas come to life, and people stay at these outdoor cafes well into the night.

I turned a corner to find these kids practicing their breakdancing.

Within earshot from the dance party, a view from the eighteenth century.

Onward to Padova

I set off from Venice this morning to the pilgrimage/university town of Padova, home of Saint Anthony’s assorted body parts.  Some of you may be wondering why I am continuing to travel after I’ve already reached Venice, the destination in the title of this blog.  The answer is fourfold:  a) I’m interested in Venice’s context among its neighbors and rivals, and the resultant transitions, b) Padova was technically part of the city-state of Venice for centuries, c) Venice was prohibitively expensive after four days, and d) flights out of Milan are half the price as those out of Venice, so why not visit some places along the way.  My next stop is Verona, where, in addition to paying some more respects to Scarpa, I’ll be attending an opera in an old Roman coliseum.  I must say, however, that I had a hard time leaving Venice this morning, which was really only made possible by the fact that I couldn’t bear another day in the hotel where I was staying (this mosquito-infested dungeon ranked somewhere between awful and hell).

Unfortunately, I only have very limited access to internet tonight, so I need to quickly post only a couple of images.  I’ll hopefully have more as soon as I can find a reliable internet connection, preferably tomorrow.

Padova is great, and it’s a town from which, despite it’s relatively small size, I would have a hard time leaving if I stayed a whole year, and a couple of days will be pretty tough.  Tomorrow, I have a morning appointment at the Scrovegni Chapel (often called the Arena Chapel), and I’m looking forward to seeing Giotto’s frescoes in person after years of interacting with them in books.

Unfortunately, for now, this is all that I have time to write.


PS:  Allez, Andy!

Padova is one of the livelier small towns that I've visited, especially at night.

Scarpa’s Venice (at least part of it)

Today was my last day in Venice, and I spent most of it visiting some of Carlo Scarpa’s work around the city.  Scarpa, who was a Venetian native, left a number of projects in the area, including a number of small works at the Biennale, which I saw yesterday.

I also waited in line to get into San Marco for the first time, and, as usual, had some memorable meals.

I’m packing up, and heading for Padua tomorrow, and I’m sorry to leave Venice.  I’m also getting a little tired of moving, but I’m looking forward to the last week of my trip.

Here are the photos (click to enlarge):

I awoke to a glorious morning, with no trace of last night's rain.

Rambling towards the Palazzo Querini Stampalia, in Campo Santa Maria di Formosa, I stopped off at this church, Zanipolo, on my way.

These statues are lit as though they are intended to strike fear in the hearts of would-be sinners.

The Palazzo Querini Stampalia, was originally a palace belonging to a wealthy family, but it now houses a library/museum. Carlo Scarpa renovated the 16th century palace's ground floor, and garden. He also built a new entrance bridge in the 1960s.

Water and lily gardens always seem to play important roles in Scarpa's outdoor spaces, and this is no exception.

Water flows from one end of the garden to the other.

Scarpa's interior allows water from the neighboring canal to enter the building. At high tide, a siphon system drains water into this neighboring room, which trickles in a series of paths created for it until it covers those. Unfortunately, I was there for low tide, and wasn't able to watch the process. By the way, photography is not allowed inside, but one thing that I've learned on this trip is that by pouring on a little charm, and offering a big warm smile, most rules can be broken. I was able to sweet-talk the guard pictured in the background here, although, for some reason, she was insistent on staying in the frame (I didn't object because it was certainly nice to have a scale figure).

I've gotten in the habit of soliciting my waiter's opinions for every meal. This one suggested fresh duck ravioli with compliments from the chef. I was not disappointed, although my judgement may have been impaired because, in addition to the wine that I ordered with my meal, the waiter insisted on bringing me a complimentary spritz before the meal, and a limoncello afterwards.

Shoot first, ask questions later. Photography is strictly forbidden inside San Marco. Although none of my discreetly captured images came out well, I figured I needed to show one for the record.

To my great joy, the old Olivetti showroom, designed by Carlo Scarpa for the beautifully-designed-typewriter company, has been recently restored, and just opened up to visitors in April. For years, it had been a cheesy souvenir art shop, and its proprietor didn't like architects poking around.

Although most people would find the entry fee to be a rip-off, Scarpa enthusiasts, and Olivetti afficionados (I fit in both of these categories) will find the tiny museum well worth the price. The original typewriters and adding machines are on display, too.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of discovering an old, beaten-up Lettera 22, just like this one, in my grandparents' attic. It now graces my mantle, when I am not nostalgically writing with it, and it was nice to see one in a setting designed specifically for it.

Upper level windows look out onto Piazza San Marco.

The wash room is on the other side of this wall, which is provided with ventilation (and eavesdropping potential) by these teeth. A beautiful wooden door encloses the toilet room.

The entrance is directly off of the arcade on the piazza.

From my brief observations while standing out front, most people, who carrying around their overpriced gelato, are only briefly distracted by the bizarre and ancient machines in the windows.

A little touch of color.

Cicheti, again. I'm going to have a hard time without the snack time to which I've grown accustomed here.

The sleepy residential neighborhoods are sometimes enlivened when locals see one another on the other side of the canal, and shout a friendly, "Ciao, Paolo! (or some other name)" across the water.

Only the motorboats and the Teva sandals betray the century.

If the only color provided is from pale brick, the boats make up for it.

The kids were called to dinner, and this soccer ball slowly bounced to rest in this corner.

This alley is far wider than the one that I showed the other day, but a scale figure is provided.

The tide slowly approaches the high water mark.

The Campo San Barnaba is a lively place to hang out in the evening. In fact, this whole neighborhood is. Not coincidentally, most of the universities are located nearby.

My first course for dinner: spaghetti alla vongole. Just after my plate was cleared, a loud marital argument broke out in a fourth floor apartment above the enclosed courtyard in which the restaurant was located. Without warning, a plate and fork were violently ejected from the window. Fortunately, they both happened to land without hitting anyone in the crowded eatery. About twenty minutes later, it was made audibly clear that the couple had settled their differences.

My second course: a mixture of fresh local seafood. I think this is what I ordered last night, but I finally got it tonight. The rest of the meal was enjoyed without any defenestrated silverware.

Camp Santa Margherita is full of restaurants and bars, which are very popular among the student crowd at night.

My final view towards the Grand Canal on my way back to Cannaregio.