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March 2008 Archives

March 1, 2008

A month of blogging - we did it!

Well, the February Blog Challenge has been a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and I loved seeing all those red dates on my February calendar! But what really made it fun was doing it together with all the other Slow Trav bloggers. I’ve truly enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs, and it’s been so much fun to click from blog to blog every day and see what this interesting and diverse group of folks has to say. Here’s a recap:

Things I’ve learned: how to wash dishes correctly and that the best way to clean kids is to hose them off, from Chiocciola! I’d never heard of digital scrapbooking before Leslie’s blog – I’ve enjoyed seeing her beautiful work. I didn’t know what a meme was and I’d never met Flat Stan. I now have a crush on him too (thanks Jill!). I never knew that wearing your pajamas inside out and backwards would make it snow (thanks Kim!).

Places I’d like to go: St. Louis, thanks to Deborah (I really want to see the mosaics in that cathedral!); Norway, thanks to Chiocciola (the more I read her blog, the more I think that Norwegians are just very wise and sane people); Santa Barbara (I’d love to see the rat on a cat on a dog, thanks to Krista); Rome (reading Sandra’s blog has me thinking about returning there); Nova Scotia (to see the folk art, thanks to Jerry and Anne).

I’ve enjoyed the vicarious trip planning with Sandra, Girasoli, Deborah, Leslie, and Jerry and can’t wait to read about your trips.

Other things I’d like to do: learn to tango, thanks to Angie. I want to start keeping a book list like Jill and learn how to take photographs like Marta. I’m going to restart my bird list and add dates like Kim does. I want to do the James Lipton meme. I need to make a better and more specific plan for what I’m going to do when I win the lottery.

Food for thought: One of the most thought-provoking entries was Kim’s essay about Valentine’s Day. I’d never made the connections between food, love, candy, weight, and our cultural craziness connected to all of the above. I’m still thinking about that one. And I loved reading about Anne’s church, her thoughts on faith, and her female (!) minister Valerie.

Living the Good Life: I think that Palma and Jerry should start a magazine - I would definitely subscribe to it! I’ve got several recipes in my “want to try” folder: Palma’s scallops with lime, Jerry’s steak with blue cheese crust, and Krista’s coffee bean cookies. Actually, Krista and Marta could do the gardening section of that magazine.

Beautiful things I saw for the first time this month: Angie’s paintings, that gorgeous bark from the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree (thanks Girasoli); Anne’s grandmother’s paintings, Marta’s photographs (all of them!), Krista’s Valentine to Venice.

Thanks to everyone and especially to Angie for jump-starting us. I’m in the blogging groove now and look forward to reading more from all you guys. Happy March!

March 3, 2008

Madonna dell' Orto


The most beautiful gothic church in town with one of the loveliest facades in Venice. Of all the many red brick-fronted churches, this one is special with its white stone tracery, trim, and sculpture.The church was originally named for the patron saint of travelers and gondoliers, San Cristoforo Martire, but early in its history the church came into possession of a miracle-working statue of the Madonna and Child, and the name changed.

There are a couple of different stories about this statue. One is the legend that the statue flew to Venice on its own power and landed in a nearby orchard. The other is that the statue was commissioned from sculptor Giovanni de Santi by another church (Santa Maria Formosa) which then rejected it after its completion. The scorned artist placed it in his garden where it began working miracles and attracting crowds of pilgrims. The statue was moved onto the high altar of this church which then became known as Madonna dell’Orto (Our Lady of the Garden or Orchard) or Madonna Odorosa (The Sweet-Smelling Madonna). The statue attracted many visitors whose financial donations probably helped the church to acquire its impressive collection of art.

Madonna dell'Orto

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March 5, 2008

Room with a view

view from window

This is the view from the window of my room at the locanda where I stayed in December. I’d hear singing or an accordion playing, and I’d open the shutters and watch a gondola (usually full of Japanese tourists) float by.

I’ve never been on a gondola ride! I’ve been on the traghetto many times, but I’ve not had the full-fledged quintessential Venetian gondola experience. During my short first trip to Venice, my family went for it but I went to the Accademia instead. If I’d known I’d end up returning to Venice so many times, I’d have gone with them to split the cost. I think the prices are a bit outrageous.

But if I could find a gondolier who was a church expert AND could sing…..

March 7, 2008

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

A church that’s now part of Venice’s prison, this one’s got an interesting history with not one but two miracle-working Madonna legends.

In the 1400’s, this was a remote and poor fishing neighborhood on the western shore of Venice and then an old hermit and the locals began seeing the Madonna and Child walking on the water of the canals. This happened often enough that a Franciscan nun named Caterina asked the Senate for permission to build a church here in honor of the Virgin’s miraculous visitations. The first church (built in 1497) was small and made of wood, and then someone gave the church a miracle-working Madonna icon brought to Venice from Greece, and the icon was another attraction that drew people to this area and this church.

So the miracles continued and donations poured in, and the church we see today was built in 1503-1514 along with a convent. Interesting that this all happened shortly after the Miracoli was built under similar circumstances in another part of town. Tuilio Lombardo might have been the architect of this church too, which was modeled on a church of the same name in Rome.

The convent grew from 12 nuns to hundreds, many of them noblewomen from wealthy Venetian families. It became an important religious center and the church was decorated with some great art, but the convent was not without scandal. At some point in the 1500’s the prioress had an affair with a priest from San Stae; they were caught and she was banished to Cyprus (but what happened to the priest?!).

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March 9, 2008

Sotoportego de la Madonna

San Polo 1286

Another nice shrine with fresh paint, this one has a history that dates back over 800 years. This San Polo sotoportego is supposedly the place where Pope Alexander III slept when he arrived in Venice in 1177. He came to Venice in disguise, exiled from Rome and on the run from Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

The Pope put a special blessing here for anyone who comes inside and prays before the shrine, according to the wooden plaque above the entrance.

San Polo 1286

There are several other legends about this pope-on-the-run. One is that he worked as a janitor for six months at the convent of La Carita before someone recognized him and helped restore him to power. He also spent the night on the portico of the church of San Salvador. Eventually, the Venetian Republic (a neutral party in the dispute) intervened and negotiated reconciliation between the two enemies, and the spot where they kissed and made up is marked with a stone on the floor of Basilica di San Marco (another floor detail to track down).

There's a little statue of the sleeping Pope inside the shrine at the bottom.

San Polo 1286

2012 Update: Check out Yvonne's recent visit to this shrine. So many mysteries!

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March 11, 2008

Shrine to John the Baptist


I love the funky frame on this shrine in Castello.

I wonder if someone had decorations left over from a wedding or baby shower and decided to honor the saint with them?

Nice image of the saint inside the shrine too.



March 13, 2008

Farmer's Market Report #1

Our Farmer’s Market is still on its winter schedule (every other Saturday from 10-12) but goes back to the weekly schedule in April (every Saturday from 8-12). I went this morning and it was very crowded and fun – everyone has spring fever, I think, and it’s a beautiful warmish morning here. Not that many vendors were there but lots of buyers with their kids and dogs. A young girl was playing the banjo, and an Easter Egg Hunt was in the works in the daffodil-filled garden next to the market. I wish I’d taken my camera!

I’ve learned that you need to get to the market right when it opens because things like figs and asparagus sell out very quickly. Too early in the year for either of those but today’s hot item was rainbow chard. I bought a bag at 10 am and by the time I left at 10:30, all the chard was gone.

I also bought arugula, parsley, green onions and green garlic, radishes, and eggs. I love my egg man because a few years ago he told me that his chickens are not livestock, they are his pets with 15 acres to roam around in. His eggs are delicious – almost as good as those orange-yolked eggs in Italy.

I bought chocolate chip cookies for my nephews from Emma, who has one of several baked goods booths. I was tempted by her coconut pie but went with the cookies because they are the boys’ faves. I was surprised to see strawberries at one booth – they were beautiful but the man was honest and told me that they were greenhouse-grown and not as sweet as the field-grown ones will be, so I decided to wait.

I also bought six red tulips. They are in a vase in the kitchen, and LuLu is in there now circling them and rubbing against them – she loves fresh flowers and it’s probably just a matter of time before she knocks the vase over. Only one of the tulips is open so I’m looking forward to seeing them bloom this week if my crazy cat doesn't destroy them.

March 15, 2008

Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta)


I love this church. I should probably confess that I loved Elvis’ Graceland too. It’s not an off-the-wall comparison, believe it or not. Both places are completely unique and kinda crazy because of their over-the-top decor.

J.G. Links (Venice for Pleasure) noted that, “Nineteenth-century guidebook writers found the Gesuiti inexpressibly vulgar but taste changes and we may well find its interior witty and entertaining…” I don’t think it’s an either/or, really. Graceland is pretty vulgar but that’s what makes it entertaining!

But I don’t think the Gesuiti is vulgar at all. Despite all the excess, it works. After you recover from the sheer volume of decoration and look at the church as a whole, you might see a beautiful and harmonious space. Or you might think it’s the tackiest church you’ve ever seen. Either way, it’s a fun church to visit. Elvis would have loved it too.


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March 17, 2008

March Madness

It’s that time of year. Here in North Carolina, we are all in the “eat, breathe, sleep, dream, and talk about nothing but basketball” zone that overtakes our state like clockwork every March. To call it an obsession is no exaggeration at all. We’re hoops mad all the time but once the tournament begins, we get even crazier. Forget Easter or spring fever, for now it’s all hoops, all the time.

My team is the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, known affectionately as “the Heels.” The typical conversation starter these days is “How ‘bout those Heels?” and I hear that at work, in the grocery store, at the dentist, and from both friends and strangers pretty much everywhere I go. People carry their brackets around with them everywhere, and we compare notes about who we picked. I'm starting to get emails from old college buddies who want to talk about our chances. We pull out old “good luck” clothes or charms that helped us win previous championships in 1957 or 1982 or 1993 or 2005 and do various other things to try to please and appease the hoops gods (I have a very tattered but very lucky pompom that I build a shrine for).

I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances this year. We’re ranked Number One in the country, have the best player in the nation, have healed from some mid-season injuries, and are playing very very well. But winning it all in a “one-and-done” tournament like the NCAA is very difficult, and it only takes one giant killer playing the game of his life to knock a better team out. So while I’m trying to take it one game at a time (survive and advance), I can’t help but smile when I think about cutting the nets down on April 7. We’ll see what happens.

Here are a few photos. First is my nephew scoring a basket at the recently opened Carolina Basketball Museum. See all that light blue? That’s Carolina blue! One of our fight songs goes, “I’m Tar Heel born and I’m Tar Heel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tar Heel dead” and my nephews are being “bred” to carry on the tradition, just like my brother and I were.


Our star player was recently named National Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Some folks are concerned about an alleged SI cover jinx, but not me. I’m superstitious about other things but not that, and I’m happy for Tyler (aka Psycho T, what a cool nickname!).


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March 19, 2008

What's a Tar Heel?

Tar HeelI get asked that question all the time. Well, North Carolina is “The Tar Heel State” so everyone who lives here is a Tar Heel. And it’s also the nickname for the sports teams of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

There are several different legends about the origin of the name, and I usually go with the one that dates back to the Revolutionary War. In colonial times, one of North Carolina’s major products was tar from all the pine forests across the state. Some people think that originally "Tar Heels" was an insult, something along the lines of "redneck" or "white trash."

Then the war began and supposedly the troops from North Carolina were very brave (or foolhardy) and refused to retreat or back down, and some famous general said, “Those boys from North Carolina must have tar on their heels” to compliment their bravery. And after that, being called a "Tar Heel" was positive rather than insulting.

UNC-Chapel Hill (founded in 1789) is the oldest public university in the U.S. and “Tar Heels” became the nickname for all the sports teams at that school. So while every resident of NC is a Tar Heel, not every resident is a Tar Heel fan (there are other universities in the state and some people chose to pull for those other teams, though I don't understand why).

UNC_RamsesBut here’s what really confuses people. Our mascot is a ram named Ramses. But we are NOT the UNC Rams, we’re the UNC Tar Heels. Even I don’t completely understand that. Maybe it was just too hard to make a furry suit that looks like a foot?

Our rivals like to point out that a Tar Heel is, in reality, nothing but a dirty foot, and they are right. But I love the name…there are lots of teams called lions or tigers or bears, but ours is unique.

The rivals also like to note that Carolina Blue is a wimpy color more suited to baby nurseries than to athletics, but that’s just sour grapes on their part. ;)

mason and ramses

March 21, 2008

Opening lines

Sandrac and Andasamo blogged about this great topic, and I decided to chime in too with a few opening sentences from books I found here at my house. It's cold and rainy this morning, and it's going to be a loooong day as we wait for the Heels to play tonight at 9 pm, so collecting these was fun!

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

Little Women
Louisa May Alcott

From the old and pleasantly situated town of Maienfeld a path leads though green, shady meadows to the foot of the mountains which look down from their majestic heights upon the valley below.

Johanna Spyri

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
J.K. Rowling

I woke up with a start at 4:00 one morning and realized that I was very, very pregnant.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
Anne Lamott

In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.

Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey.

Skinny Legs and All
Tom Robbins

There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I’d been treated by at least six of them. And married a seventh.

Fear of Flying
Erica Jong

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March 24, 2008

San Zan Degola (San Giovanni Decollato)


San Zan Degola is located in a small campo of the same name, and this is one of those magical places in Venice where you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. There are no other tourists, no glass or mask shops, no indication whatsoever that you are in modern times. And the church itself is charming and wonderful with rediscovered frescoes that might be the oldest works of art in the city.

The church dates back to the 8th, 9th, or 10th century (sources vary). It’s possible that it was originally an oratory that became a parish church in 1007. Regardless, it’s definitely one of the oldest churches in Venice, and it’s one that hasn’t changed much despite various restorations over the centuries. In 1994, the church was restored and reopened after having been closed for over two decades, and it’s now the church for Venice’s Russian Orthodox community.

San Zan Degola

The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist aka St. John the Beheaded (San Giovanni Decollato) which morphs into San Zan Degola in Venetian dialect. There’s a curly-haired stone relief of the martyred saint’s head on the outside of the church.

This very small and very sweet church is Veneto-Byzantine in style with a plain brick façade and a nice campanile in the back. The interior is simple with Greek marble columns with 11th c. Byzantine capitals and a gothic wooden ship’s keel ceiling.

The highlights of this church are the ancient frescoes that were unearthed during restoration. It’s unusual for frescoes to survive the damp and salt air of Venice, so seeing these is very cool. There’s an image of Saint Helena, an Annunciation, and a particularly nice image of Archangel Michael standing on a dragon.

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March 26, 2008


Something about this shrine makes me think about being underwater - I guess it's that shiny blue material lining the back of the shrine. Love the wall, love the yellow flowers!

Cannaregio 920 A

Cannaregio 920 A

March 28, 2008

The Final Four

Well, my Tar Heels are still alive and have made it to the Final Four! Twelve days ago, there were 64 teams in the tournament and now there are only four (North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, and UCLA).

To win the National Championship, you have to win six games in a row. Four down, two to go for the Heels, but the competition gets tougher with every game. And this year, for the first time in history, the Final Four teams are the four Number One seeds which means that the teams left are the best in the country (no Cinderellas this year).

We play Kansas on Saturday night which means a whole week for the excitement and anticipation to build. I’ll be bouncing off the walls by then. Go Heels!

Just to show that indeed, everything is connected...hoops in Venice! In December, I found this basketball court at the base of the campanile of the church of San Francesco della Vigna.


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This page contains all entries posted to Churches in Venice in March 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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