Feasts for the Eyes: Renaissance and Modern

We’ve got two full days to spend in Venice.  Luckily we are with friends who’ve been here before.  After breakfast, we take a vaporetto across to St Marks Square and cut up through some of the narrow streets and alleyways.  We are making our way north across the city to the Grand Canal frontage by the Rialto Bridge.

As with most cities which become tourist centres of the first order there is a mix of low-end trinket stores and middle-market-to-upscale boutiques lining the principal Mercerie running north between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.  More expensive clothing and gift boutiques can be window-shopped on the Calle Larga XXII Marzo which runs west of Piazza San Marco to the Accademia.

Venice is uniquely famous for local crafts that have been produced here for centuries and are hard to get elsewhere: the glassware from Murano, the lace from Burano, and the famous Carnevale masks made of papier-mâché which are offered in numerous botteghe.
As it starts to rain we decide to shelter and take coffee.  A canalside restaurant is willing to give us a table outside under the awning even though we are not taking lunch.  We sit and watch the water traffic: a gondola bearing a bride and groom complete with their photographer, and a bit later, another gondola bearing a coffin.  We linger over a second cup of coffee then trickle our way back along to an alley where we had spotted a small trattoria.
It looks less formal than a restaurant with a simple board rather than a printed menu, casual but busy service and modestly priced primo and secondi plates served from large bowls on the counter and in the window.  There is one table for 4 remaining and we have the impression that our lunching companions are regular clientele at their lunch hour.
After lunch we walk west, through the area of emporia.  There is a shop selling ornate silver- and pewter-ware and a one selling Italian majolica pottery, closed for lunch, but which I’d hope to refind on a return visit.
Crossing a small bridge we arrive at the Accademia.  The guide book tells us that there are 500 years of Venetian art exhibited here and that the finest works in the collection are housed in rooms 3, 4 and 5.  Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian and Tintoretto: the roll-call of painters is illustrious.  There are a number of paintings of the holy mother and child and the one I particularly like is Bellini’s Madonna degli Alberelli.
It’s all too much to take in and appreciate in an afternoon and as I walk around I pick up some of the printed commentaries which are intended to elucidate the paintings.  But I can’t help feeling it would be lovely to be accompanied by a knowledgeable companion, like my niece Briony, to really gain an insight into the themes and meanings of the pictures, and techniques employed by the artists to create their great masterpieces.

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