Redentore 2017

I’m in Venice right now and don’t have much internet access. But here are a few quick photos that my friends took at Redentore last Saturday. I’ll post more later.

3 at Redentore

Me in the middle of my British sister friends. I had just won that necklace in the tombola.

bubby at festa

B pops the prosecco!

crew on land

Our host, Alessia, who I am renting an apartment from this summer. The young couple are renting her other place.

on S Giorgio

Laura took a great photo from inside the church of S Giorgio Maggiore, looking out at the Dogana and Salute.

our happy crew

On Alessia’s boat, at S. Giorgio Maggiore.

playing tombola

We play the tombola, a raffle to raise money for the church.


I won a sponge!

waiting for fireworks

As we wait for the fireworks….

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Boston’s Beautiful Woman in Venice

Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent

Okay, one more post about the Boston-Venice connection. While in Boston, I also visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, my favorite type of museum because it is set up to feel like a home full of art. Isabella, a Boston patron of the arts and a collector, traveled extensively, but guess which place in the world was her favorite? Yeah, you got it. She usually stayed in Palazzo Barbaro, also the home away from home of Henry James, who was a friend of hers.

Fenway Court, the inner courtyard of Isabella’s museum

A lovely window detail

So once back home, Isabella had a house built that was inspired by Palazzo Barbaro. Here’s the Barbaro so you can compare:

Palazzo Barbaro on Grand Canal (Wikimedia Commons)

Isabella was not your typical stuffy Victorian matron. She was playful and creative and enjoyed the company of many artists, including Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. Isabella once said, “Don’t spoil a good story by telling the truth,” (a quote that I thought would suit Casanova quite well).  She was also an ardent sports fan. If you show up at the museum wearing Red Sox garb, you get in free! Museum entrance is also free if it’s your birthday or if your name is Isabella.

I would call her a Beautiful Woman in Venice (and Boston).

One of many Venice paintings hanging in Isabella’s house, followed by a close up of the gondola with its cloth felze:IMG_0666IMG_0670

Paintings are hung in the rooms of what used to be Isabella’s house and are now the museum itself. It reminds me a lot of the Museo Fortuny in Venice, where I always feel like I’m walking through Mariano Fortuny’s home. Isabella intentionally created this space to have that feel. The museum website says, “Isabella Stewart Gardner disliked the cold, mausoleum-like spaces of most American museums of the period. As a result, she designed Fenway Court around a central courtyard filled with flowers. Light enters the galleries from the courtyard and from exterior windows, creating an atmospheric setting for works of art. Love of art, not knowledge about the history of art, was her aim. Her friends noted that the entire Museum was a work of art in itself. Individual objects became part of a rich, complex and intensely personal setting.”

In this room, notice the two empty frames. They are two left as they were after a major heist of 13 art pieces, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet. In 1990, thieves disguised as police came in, tied up the night guards, and cut the paintings from their frames. The stolen works have never been found, and the reward was recently increased to $10 million. You can read more about it here:

In 1902, Isabella’s friend T. R. Sullivan said about her home: “Has the music room dissolved, this morning, in the sunshine? I felt last night as though I were in a Hans Anderson Fairy Tale, ready to go on a flying carpet at any moment.”


Laces, some from Burano

A couple paintings by Francesco Guardi, a Venetian painter and teacher to Giacomo Casanova’s brother, Francesco. Guardi’s house is in Venice’s Castello district. IMG_0688IMG_0689

Typical Venetian mirrors:


Here are a few more details about Isabella’s life and her museum, on display plaques.IMG_0698IMG_0699IMG_0700

If you’re in Boston and need a Venice fix, this is your chance! More info about Isabella’s life and her museum can be found here, at the museum website:

Addendum: By a strange coincidence, about an hour after I posted this blog entry, my Boston friend who told me about the museum then sent me this article about the art heist, which was in yesterday’s news. One investigator thinks the stolen art is in Ireland. Read more here: Gardner museum theft


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Not Just in Venice Anymore…

Of course, gondolas are an iconic symbol of Venice. But there’s a surprising number of gondolas in America, too. My most recent sighting: Boston.

Boston natives Joe and Camille Gibbons started the company after they fell in love with gondolas in Venice. They actually went to Venice to see their gondola being made. And then, after meeting a local gondolier, they bought his boat for their operation as well. You can read their story at their website: 

Boston gondolas

I checked in with Greg Mohr, the president of the Gondola Society of America. He said that the Gibbons are “Wonderful people with a true heart for the craft.” Greg and his wife helped them launch their company in 2000, including how to row the dang thing. Gondoliers from The Gondola Company in southern California also helped with training. 

Meet the gondolas: Maria and Firenze (named after the Gibbons’ mothers).


One gondola near its boat launch


The other gondola out with customers.

I don’t know which gondola is Maria and which is Firenze. When I saw them, I was with friends, and the gondoliers were working, so I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to them.

If you won’t be in Boston any time soon but want to see these gondolas in action, here’s a video the local TV station made. It features gondolier Steve Bruno, who’s been rowing with Gondola di Venezia since 2001 and is a partner in the business.

Gondola di Venezia video

Want to become a member of the Gondola Society of America? Check out the Gondola Network page for details and a list of members in America:

Gondola Society of America

Or hear what President Greg Mohr, known as Gondola Greg, has to say in his blog:

Gondola Blog

Greg says, “The Boston servizio is one of my very favorite gondola operations in the US.” I’m all about promoting and supporting gondolas in every body of water they want to float in! I leave for Venice in a week, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to enjoy a gondola ride in Venetian canals again….

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Basilica Ghost Image

Last week I spent some days at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. The college is run by a group of Benedictine monks who also operate the California school where I work, and I was there with a group representing my school.

St. Anselm’s College has on loan a heritage edition of the St. John’s Bible, a modern commission that follows many of the traditional practices for creating an illuminated manuscript. But you’ll see that this is a rather modern version, with a range of artistic styles represented. The original on vellum and done completely by hand is at St. John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota. A printed “heritage” edition of it, which is what we saw, costs a cool $135,000.  You can see details about the St. John’s Bible here: St. John’s Bible

But why am I blogging about it? The group I was traveling with enjoyed a curated “tour” of the volume that contains the gospels. Here are the opening pages to the Gospel According to Mark:


When I looked closer, I noticed this detail. Behind Mark are the gilded outlines of the Basilica San Marco in Venice. They are vague impressions rather than sharp depictions, but the Basilica is unmistakable.


For comparison, here’s the Basilica:

Basilica di San Marco venice

I asked the curator, Keith, who has received extensive training in the making of the St. John’s Bible, and he confirmed that the imagery is intentional.



A statue of St. Anselm on the college’s grounds

The lion os St Mark is not only seen in Venice. He also lives in the library at St. Anslem’s College.


(Photo of the Basilica from Can you believe I didn’t have my own photo to use??)
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What Thunder Is His!


A friend pointed out that in a letter to Giuseppe Pelli, Elisabetta mentioned Casanova:

È da osservare che la notorietà del personaggio era grande e che anche della sua attività di scrittore, oltre che di avventuriero, si parlava molto, negli ambienti intellettuali, ancor prima del suo rientro a Venezia. In una lettera datata Venezia 9 novembre 1771, Elisabetta Caminer, rivolgendosi a Giuseppe Bencivenni Pelli, scrive “…È dunque costì quel famoso Casanova che ha fatto tante pazzie e alcune cose buone? Io lo conosco assai di nome, e mio padre lo conosce anche di persona. Ditemi, in che le sue maniere sono diverse dalle vostre? Qual tuono è il suo? Voi già sapete la sua prodigiosa fuga da’ piombi di Venezia. Stampa egli codesta sua Storia della Polonia? Avete voi letta la sua confutazione dell’opera di Amelot della Houssaye?…” (Fonte: Rita Unfer Lukoschik, (a cura di) Lettere di Elisabetta Caminer (1751-1796), organizzatrice culturale, Edizioni Think Adv, Conselve, Padova, 2006).

(This text is included as note 63 on the Italian Wikipedia entry on Casanova.)

I won’t translate the whole thing here because I’m not a translator by any stretch of the imagination! But basically Elisabetta is asking Pelli what he knows of Casanova, this guy who has done so many crazy things and some good things. She says her father knows C, and she mentions some of C’s writings. The best line: Elisabetta pronounces, “What thunder is his!” (or something along those lines). (Anyone out there want to provide a better translation? I’m not sure how to produce the best idiomatic translation of this phrase.)

Elisabetta was enamored with the world of letters, so it’s no surprise she would be interested in Casanova and know about his writings and not only his more salacious reputation.


One of Elisabetta’s journals

(Thunder image:; Turra’s journal image:


My friend Adriano wrote to share this very helpful information about the difference in language, not only from Italian to English, but also from Elisabetta’s century to our own. Here is what he shared:

We have to be careful because it is written in Italian language of the eighteenth century that is different from the present one, in fact the phrase:
 "...È dunque costì quel famoso Casanova che ha fatto tante pazzie e alcune cose buone? Io lo conosco assai di nome, e mio padre lo conosce anche di persona. Ditemi, in che le sue maniere sono diverse dalle vostre? Qual tuono è il suo? Voi già sapete la sua prodigiosa fuga da' piombi di Venezia. Stampa egli codesta sua Storia della Polonia? Avete voi letta la sua confutazione dell'opera di Amelot della Houssaye?..."

tòno o tuono

(anticamente tuòno), sm. [sec. XIII; dal latino tonus, dal greco tónos, propr., tensione, da téinō, tendere].
1) In linguistica, accento e in particolare accento musicale. In alcune lingue, come il cinese e il vietnamita, i toni hanno un'importanza decisiva ai fini della distinzione semantica di parole altrimenti omofone. Più generalmente, grado di elevazione del suono e della voce: alzare, abbassare il tono; nell'uso comune, modulazione, colorito del suono e in particolare della voce: tono affettuoso, minaccioso. Per estensione, carattere stilistico: poesia di tono elevato. In loc. fig., atteggiamento, contegno: darsi un tono; con riferimento allo stile, al carattere: avere un tono signorile.
So the phrase means “What is his style (attitude?), his way of doing?” because the word “tono” was written “tuono”. So it is not thunder.
example (text of XVIII century):,+stato+per+s%C3%AC+lungo+tempo+a+capo+della+Setta+e+ascoltiamo+in+qual+tuono+egli+grida+contro+la+Bolla+in+una+sua+Istruzione+Pastorale:+E+lungo+tempo,+carissimi+fratelli+miei...&source=bl&ots=WKit8Z1198&sig=1Hk_nuHAJ3BFyC0iIc211CWRXc0&hl=it&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQjPvqktHUAhVEIsAKHQjmBoQQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

1787 “Apriamo per es le opere di Monsignor de Montpellier, stato per sì lungo tempo a capo della Setta e ascoltiamo in qual tuono egli grida contro la Bolla in una sua Istruzione Pastorale: “E’ lungo tempo, carissimi fratelli miei…”

Very interesting: see on the pic Copertina (the cover of the magazine) we can read:

 Caminer copertina

“…anticipate Lire 24. L’indole della cosa richiede che così sia, avendo la sperienza insegnato che altramente facendo si perdono molti corpi con grave discapito.”

 = (in today’s italian language) “…anticipate Lire 24. La situazione richiede di procedere così, poiché l’esperienza ci ha insegnato che, facendo diversamente, si perdono (vanno smarriti) molti esemplari con grave danno.”

= “…will pay in advance Lire 24….The situation requires this to proceed, as experience has taught us that by doing differently, many issues could be lost with serious damage.”

So you can see the difference between the two languages.

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Only Three Minutes for You


Only a precious three minutes of exterior Venice footage, from the TWA plane flying into the old airport to when Faith and Kate drive off into Tuscany.

That’s why I rented Only You, the 1994 film by Norman Jewison and starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. Of course, I didn’t realize there were only three minutes of Venice bliss; the Netflix sleeve read: “As a child, Faith Corvatch was told she’d marry a man named Damon Bradley. Years later, she receives a call from her fiance’s friend–named Damon Bradley–and sets off for Venice, Italy, to track down her soul mate.” Wouldn’t you have expected more than three minutes in Venice? Yeah yeah, she falls in love in ROME, of all places. But everyone knows you’re supposed to fall in love in Venice.

Ah, but there was that delicious film moment as they’re riding the Alilaguna from the airport to Venice, and they round the cemetery island of San Michele and get their first proper look at Venice’s spires. I always catch my breath when I’m the lucky one on that boat!

Faith and her friend Kate execute the obligatory boat-up-the-Grand-Canal scene as they arrive into the city proper, very reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn in Summertime, except Only You shows the locations in the correct order. (If you’ve seen Summertime, you know that’s one of viewers’ pet peeves about the film: it drives all the Venetophiles bonkers as the palaces and churches are shown in the wrong order, as if the film editor just spliced in whichever palazzo pleased him at the moment.)

There’s also the obligatory gondolier scenes. Faith and Kate see a flotilla of them glide by as the sun glints off the water. Then they see the traghetto crossing at San Moise, and the gondolier at the boat’s stern sure looks like a gondolier I know named Lino. (I wrote a chapter on him titled “Lino’s Livingroom.”) I even watched the movie scene again and froze the screen to see if it really was Lino, but his face was just too pixilated for me to know for sure.


Lino, back in the day

Faith doesn’t fall in love in Venice–or at least not with Damon Bradley. But there’s a sweet moment with her lifelong friend Kate where they seem to fall in love with each other. Faith looks at the parade of palaces, leans back onto Kate’s shoulder, and says of Venice, “Where people come looking for something they can’t find anyplace else.” I remember a week in Venice with my girlfriends where I was in love with both of them, and the lady we rented the apartment from, and the guy who sold us gelato, and the woman who made our coffee, and every gondolier we met. See, you’re supposed to fall in love in Venice. And though Faith’s line about “Looking for something they can’t find anyplace else” is on the trite side, I can attest that in my case, I found all sorts of things in Venice that I didn’t find elsewhere, such as a strength within myself…. but that’s an entirely different story.


In love with my friends in Venice


Strangely, Faith and Kate’s boat captain announces, “Ecco Danieli,” when they’re still in front of the Salute church. Maybe he was as excited as they were and couldn’t wait till they were actually in front of the Danieli. There may be only three minutes of exterior Venice, but then there’s a longer scene inside the hotel. I guess you could count that as precious Venice film time, but I’ll never in my lifetime be able to afford a night at the Danieli, so I’m just a casual gawker and can’t count Daniele time the same as all the free Venice viewing I get when I’m outside.


Hotel Danieli lobby

Here’s a clip from the film (with maybe two seconds of Venice screen time):

Only You Trailer


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Spoiler Alert!

NYT Biennale Review

Want a sneak peek into the Venice Biennale? New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin sent out her video showing various pavilions in both the Giardini and Arsenale parts of the exhibit, as well as some events in other parts of the city. She talks to American artist Mark Bradford about his installation. Grottoes as art! Then she walks through the award winning German pavilion. But be forewarned! If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to see something before you see it in person, then don’t watch this! But without giving too much away, I have to say that the German pavilion reminds me of a piece they did many years ago that had people standing in a room repeating the same phrase over and over. People as art! Anyone else remember that one? I tried googling it but didn’t get a hit. It was from maybe 1997 or 1999, I think.

Robin Pogrebin also takes you into Palazzo Grassi to see the Damien Hirst exhibit, and you get to hob nob with the suit and gown crowd as they sip their prosecco on Giudecca. There’s also a controversial interactive piece where refugees make lamps. Refugees as art? Umm, I’ll withhold judgment until I see it myself, though this raises some red flags for me. I look forward to the Austrian piece, also interactive, where my butt can apparently be part of the art. Arse as art!

For a walk down memory lane, here are a few pics from the Biennale two years ago.

2015-07-16 02.06.58

Me fixing my shoe in front of a wall of suitcases, uh, I mean, art

(Thanks to Karen for the NYT link!)
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