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August 2011 Archives

August 3, 2011

Nini the famous Venetian cat

ninicover

It's funny to me that a cat who lived in Venice over a hundred years ago is still "alive" and well in stories and art.

I just finished reading a recently-published children's book called "The Famous Nini: The Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star." It's a charming book with nice illustrations; you can watch a trailer on the author's website here.

I first learned about Nini from Jan Morris, who wrote about this "international celebrity" cat in both "The World of Venice" and "A Venetian Bestiary." Nini lived in the late 19th century and belonged to the owner of Caffe dei Frari. He held court in the cafe but was also a roaming neighborhood cat who spent time mousing in the Frari church across the canal and in the nearby Archives of State.

For some reason, Nini became famous, and visitors to Venice stopped by to meet and pay homage to him. He had his own guest book in the cafe, and among the many famous people who signed Nini's book were the composer Giuseppe Verdi, the king and queen of Italy, the czar of Russia, and even Pope Leo XIII. When Nini died of old age in 1894, there was a wake honoring him, with many tributes to "a gentleman, white of fur, affable with great and small."

The cafe is still open today, but evidently Nini's guestbook was sold and is now lost. There is a circa-1932 painting of Nini on the cafe facade which shows the cat reclining with his book and a cup of coffee. Long live Nini!


Caffe dei Frari

Nini the Cat

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August 5, 2011

PhotoHunt: Painted

This week's theme is "Painted."

Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon that's famous for its brightly painted houses. It's a happy island, about a 45-minute boat ride away from Venice, and is a fun place to visit and take pictures.


Burano

Burano


775


Burano


Burano

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August 11, 2011

Collections

As I said when I first started this blog, I "collect" church visits and photos of street shrines in Venice. Those are still my main focus (along with cat sightings) but along the way, I've managed to put together a few other collections (and in most cases, I didn't realize I had a collection until I got home and started looking at my photos). There's the "angel with the pointing finger" collection, faces of Venice, and various/sundry others that I haven't posted yet.

A few months ago, I got a blog comment from Lawrence who is putting together his own collection of public art in Venice that shows St. George and the Dragon. While I haven't purposely gone out looking for all the St. George images (and there are over 40 of them), I have stumbled across a few so I compiled a photo set of them. Actually, my collection is Dragons. Most of them are with St. George, but there are a few other variations (dragons alone or with different saints).

I'm posting a few of them here, and the rest are in a set on Flickr. It took me a while to find them all in my archives, and there are still many more dragons and saints in Venice that I haven't seen yet. I'm looking forward to seeing Lawrence's collection after he returns from Venice with them!

Santa Croce 1590

Dorsoduro 1360

This one, from the side of San Marco, is unique in that the dragon seems to be winning. No idea who the man is, but it's definitely not St. George.

San Marco Dragon

My favorite dragon, with no saints in sight~

Corte Rosario (Castello)

I did find one more angel to add to that collection when I was in Venice last year. This one is on Giudecca.

angel

There are several groups on Flickr where people can pool their collections with others: Windows of Venice is one, there's also a Venice Graffiti group.

There's even a group dedicated to one particular shrine in Venice! I laughed when I stumbled across this group and of course, had to add my photos of the shrine to the pool.

August 12, 2011

PhotoHunt: One

This week's theme is "One."

Here is one photo of Joey, one of my three cats. He's the youngest (just turned 2 years old) and the only boy. One of the sweetest cats I know!

Joey

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August 15, 2011

Acqua alta

If you mention “flooding” to a Venetian resident, they may correct you since acqua alta (high water) isn’t really a flood, it’s a high tide. Of course, high tides happen everyday in Venice, but the ones that fill the streets are elevated, usually because of sirocco winds, heavy rain, and/or the cycles of the moon. Venetians talk about acqua alta in terms of centimeters: “The forecast is for 100 centimeters,” they’ll tell you, “it won’t be that bad.”

100 cm: 5% of the city is flooded
110 cm: a siren will sound
130 cm: 43% of the city is covered with water
140 cm: an emergency situation (the December 1, 2008 acqua alta reached 156 cm).

I did hear the acqua alta sirens go off a few times while I was there last November, and I learned that the sirens themselves are part of the forecast.

110 cm: an extended sound of the same note
120 cm: two sounds in rising notes
130 cm: three sounds in rising notes
140 cm and over: four sounds in rising notes

I also learned the name of the walkways that I’ve always called “high-rise sidewalks” – passerelle. Many of the vaporetto stops have maps that show where the passerelle will be located during acqua alta.

Overall, the acqua alta wasn’t too bad when I was in Venice last year, nothing like what I experienced in May 2004 or December 2008 when I had to wear the dreaded rubber boots for extended periods. Last year, I was able to walk around the water most of the time, though there were a few times when I had to make a detour.

It was easy to walk around this; you can see how everyone was skirting the buildings on the right.

acqua alta

More challenging here. I was trying to go to San Giorgio degli Schiavoni,and I had to come back later.

acqua alta

A few inches of water in the Ca 'd'Oro courtyard. You almost can't see it except for the reflections of the columns in the water.

acqua alta

The most famous acqua alta was in November 1966 when the levels reached at least 194 cm. There’s a small plaque in the courtyard of San Giovanni Evangelista that shows how high the water was on that day. Pretty eerie.

acqua alta 1966

acqua alta 1966

A bit of water and passerelle-in-waiting on the Zattere~

Venice2010 395

Acqua alta and a stack of passerelle in the Rialto Market area~

acqua alta in Rialto

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August 19, 2011

PhotoHunt: Drink

This week's theme is "Drink."

A typical day of drinking in Venice~

Before dinner, enjoy a Spritz (recipe here).

There are several different versions, but the one in the photo contains prosecco wine, fizzy water, and a splash of Campari with lemon rind and a big green olive.

Spritz

Vino with dinner~

Vino


After dinner, and instead of dessert, try a Sgroppino, a Venetian cocktail made of lemon gelato or sorbet, vodka, and prosecco. Tart, sweet, delicious.

Sgroppino

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August 22, 2011

Well....

Here's an odd little collection of well-heads (vere da pozzo) with walls built through them, splitting them in half. Not sure why this happened since I think they are movable; maybe they were too heavy or it was too inconvenient to move them out of the way? And is the other half visible on the other side of the wall?

This first one, in Dorsoduro, is made of pink marble from Verona. I found this one when doing part of a walking tour from J.G. Links' "Venice for Pleasure." Mr. Links recommends a "curious little digression" off the beaten path to see a house not far from Campo Santa Margherita:

"Someone has built his garden wall through a well-head. The house belonging to the garden, which is numbered 3368, is...one of the oldest in the city, old even for Venice."

pozzi

This one is in a courtyard in Castello~

pozzi

Here's another one in a gated corte in Santa Croce~


pozzi

And this is my favorite, inside a charming corte in Dorsoduro. This one just looks so droopy!

Venice corte

pozzi

August 24, 2011

San Vidal

San Vidal

This is a deconsecrated but still active church, easy to find because of its proximity to the Accademia bridge and campo Santo Stefano. Founded in 1084 by Doge Vitale Falier who dedicated it to his name saint (Vidal is sometimes spelled Vitale).

This 2nd century saint was a wealthy man from Milan, married to St. Valeria, and their sons, Gervase and Protase, became saints too and have their own church in Venice (San Trovaso). For years, the clergy of San Vidal would lead an annual procession over to Dorsoduro to visit the sons’ church, keeping it all in the family I guess. The most famous church dedicated to this Italian saint is the basilica in Ravenna.

Venice's church of San Vidal was rebuilt in the 17th century, and Canaletto’s painting, The Stonemason’s Yard, shows the reconstruction in progress. The church was closed along with so many others after the fall of the Republic.

There’s a sweet little note in Lorenzetti’s guide book (Venice and Its Lagoon) published in the early 20th century. He notes that San Vidal is closed but says that if you want to visit it, you can ask the nearby flower seller for a key. Simpler times in Venice…

In his 1985 book, Vidal in Venice, Gore Vidal reported that dozens of cats lived in the campo next to this church, supported by local ladies and doing well. At that time, the church was an art gallery.

Well, the cats are gone, alas, and today, the church hosts concerts by Interpreti Veneziani and has recently joined the Chorus Pass organization and is now the headquarters for its cultural activities.

This church is almost always open and is worth stopping in since there are several nice paintings inside, including an Annunciation by Sebastiano Ricci and a Guardian Angel with Saints by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta.

The best is over the main altar, a painting of San Vidal on horseback by Carpaccio (I say, never pass up an opportunity to see a Carpaccio!). Hugh Honour (Companion Guide to Venice) says that he’s sure that Carpaccio used the San Marco horses as models for the horse in this painting. Here's a video of Interpreti Veneziani performing a Vivaldi cello concert in front of the Carpaccio.

San Vidal

San Vidal

Continue reading "San Vidal" »

August 26, 2011

PhotoHunt: Symbolic

This week's theme is "Symbolic."

What a crazy week. First an East Coast earthquake (my first experience with the earth moving and it was freaky!). Now Hurricane Irene on the way. Those of us who live in North Carolina have lots of experience with hurricanes, but that doesn't make it any less scary. I've got all my supplies and am ready to ride it out. Be safe if you're in her path!

On to this PhotoHunt...

The lion is the symbol of St. Mark (San Marco), and so ever since San Marco became the patron saint of the Venetian Republic over a thousand years ago, the lion has also been the symbol of Venice.

There are hundreds of lion images all over Venice. Many of them are relatively modern because after the Venetian Republic fell to Napoleon, the new regime ordered the destruction of the Venetian lions and sent stone-masons out to chisel them away.

This one is on a flag pole outside the church of the Redentore; it was erected in 1928.

Redentore


Not sure what the story is with this one, but it's a cool looking lion.

192


A few ancient lions did manage to escape the destruction, like these two which date to the 13th century and can be found on the palazzo Marcello dai Leoni. These lions might have come from an older incarnation of the nearby church of San Toma.

Lion


lion


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August 30, 2011

The bell tower of San Vidal

San Vidal


This is such a pretty campanile. The San Vidal bell tower is older than the rebuilt church, or at least its foundations are. This tower was damaged by fire in 1105, by earthquake in 1347, restored again in 1680, and then again in 2000.

Over the door is a 15th century relief in tondo of St. Gregory with a dove, a really nice piece of public art.


San Vidal

San Vidal

Here it is, visible from the Grand Canal~

San Vidal

Continue reading "The bell tower of San Vidal" »

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