Goodbye Venice: Peggy Guggenheim, Zanipolo, Punta alla Dogana and Regata Storica

Goodbye Venice

Goodbye Venice

The last few days in Venice are jumbled in my mind.  We did see the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the amazing church Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, or as it’s locally known Zanipolo, one of Francois Pinault’s exhibition spaces Punta alla Dogana and the Regata Storica but what days I can’t remember.  We packed so many things into our days in Venice and I was too tired to write it down.

I loved the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.  We walked by her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, now museum, everyday on our way into the other sestiere of Venice.  I’ve read her autobiography Out of This Century and plenty of other material about her and as much tragedy she experienced she also lived her life to the fullest.  I loved the pictures of the interiors of her house as it once was combining her art with home decor and such.

The amount of painting and sculpture that live inside the churches of Venice is staggering.  Zanipolo contains Bellini, Veronese, Bassano, Cima da Conegliano and more.  Another fun fact is that after the 15th century the church became the official host of the Doges’ funerals–inside are the tombs of 25 doges.  One of the most powerful Venetian families the Mocenigo have 4 members represented: Tommaso (d. 1423), Pietro (d. 1476), Giovanni (d. 1485) and Alvise (d. 1577).   In the square outside the church is an equestrian statue started by Verrocchio and finished by Leopardi.

After our trip through Croatia visiting the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni meant more.  To see the Vittore Carpaccio painting cycle of Dalmatia’s patron saints George, Tryphone and Jerome, c. 1502-07, so intimately was outstanding.  History was revealing itself front of me as the close ties between Venice and Croatia were emphasized again.

Carpaccio, St. George and the Dragon, c. 1502-07.

Carpaccio, St. George and the Dragon, c. 1502-07.

Of course we went to the Accademia and of course there’s no photography allowed inside, although maybe without a flash.  It was another treasure packed place.  A special exhibition of Titian’s Flight Into Egypt was on view which was amazing.  After several years of restoration the painting went to the National Gallery in London and then the Accademia.  It’s the first time the painting has left St. Petersberg since 1768 when Empress Catherine the Great bought it in Venice.

Titian, The Flight into Egypt, 1507.  Courtesy The National Gallery, London

Titian, The Flight into Egypt, 1507. Courtesy The National Gallery, London

Our last day in Venice, September 2, was the historical Regata Storica race.  It’s the main event in the annual rowing calendar of Venice.  There’s a pageant of boats and gondolas through the Grand Canal with costumed crew followed by four different races: young rowers twin-oared pupparini regatta, women’s twin-oared mascrete regatta, six-oared caorline regatta, and finally the one everyone comes to see, men’s twin-oared gondolini regatta.  A lot of the participants are employed as gondoliers and some are just fanatical rowers.  To know the tides and currents of the canals is important.  The race starts out in the lagoon near the Arsenale moving into the Grand Canal near the Basilica di Santa Maria Salute, winding through the Grand canal towards the Rialto bridge, turning at a pylon just ahead of the bridge and finishing at Ca’ Foscari.  Since it’s a major event it’s covered on TV so we were able to see the start of the race (our hotel Ca Maria Adele was next to Santa Maria Salute) and then go inside and see the finish on TV.  The teams are designated by color and the Blue and Red team have alternated winning the race for the last 10-15 years.  They definitely trash talk and sometimes get into physical fights if their gondolas get too close.  It was very exciting even on TV especially with the commentators yelling in Italian.

While we were waiting for the race to start we were entertained by a choir dressed in traditional Gondolier costumes in front of the Santa Maria di Salute.  I’m not sure if any of them were ever gondoliers but they sang local songs.  We also went into the Punta della Dogana.  Tadao Ando did a wonder with this former customs house transforming it into a useful exhibition space but also a work of art.  We had excellent views of the start of the Regata Storica so we took our time.  There’s a sculpture of a boy holding a frog outside the museum and the day of the Regata it was protected by two guards.  Actually there’s a guard there all the time.  We walked to the tip of the island one night and a guard was sitting in the shadows near the building.

Overhead view of Punta della Dogana.  Courtesy Punta della Dogana

Overhead view of Punta della Dogana. Courtesy Punta della Dogana

There is so much to see in Venice.  There’s was no way we could see it all but I hope to return because it’s truly magical.

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