September 2015
More photos here

Sunday 13th September
My last trip to Venice was a bit dominated by pain and painkillers and disappointing exhibitions, but was also something of a Venice mojo re-energizer. This time I'm here to check out the new rooms opened this year at the Accademia, investigate some churches open for the Biennale and the shock new addition to the Chorus scheme. A day in Padua is planned also.

A lunch-time flight meant a leisurely breakfast and plenty of time to not find my euros, which seem to have been swiped by the Euro fairies since I got back from Madrid. Weekend engineering works on the railways, of course, but only some platform changes and short delays for me. Between Purley and Horley I looked up from tapping this stuff into my tablet and noticed that the indicator was saying we were approaching Clapham Junction and momentarily panicked, internally, that I was going in the wrong direction. But out the window were rolling hills and sheep, neither of which are common in SW London. I forgot the coins in my pocket so beeped and got a good scanning and patting down. BA's veggie lunch option was an egg and spinach white bread sarnie with very little flavour. The statutory party surrounding me was of young teenagers, mostly girls, who applauded the safety film and the landing, but who mostly just yacked undisturbingly.

At Venice a new terminal with automated passport machines, which worked. Same old tedious wait at the new baggage carousel though. The usual Italian cigarette smell as you leave the terminal. And the ACTV number 5 buses are now bendy. Weather cloudy but humid.

Check in at the Ca'Pozzo. A bit disappointed that the comfort room I'd booked because the ones on their website have full height windows, unlike the above head height strip in the room I usually have, is next door to my usual room and is not much different. But it's fine and not small. Out for an evening stroll through Cannaregio, as far as Campo Santi Apostoli for al fresco falafel and a Lemon-Soda. From the Gelateria Ca' d'Oro I had ricotta, honey and sesame-seed paired with mango sorbet, which was nice.

Monday 14th September
I woke up a few times in the early hours to relentless rain, but as I finish breakfast it seems to have stopped. First to the Frari, but passing San Simeon Grande which has reopened, but with the apse inside still lined with scaffolding. Passing the Scuola San Giovanni Evangelista I see the door open, but a woman appears from behind a red curtain to tell me that today it's closed. Although it has a rare opening day Wednesday, scuola and church. The Frari is delightfully empty of visitors and the angle of the sun was just right to add a glow to the apse. The Pesaro Altarpiece is still in restoration and replaced with a photo and the Bellini is still a treat worth spending time with, especially when you have it to yourself. They have an audio guide now,
2, which I didn't try.

To San Sebastiano, stopping off at Palazzo Zenobio, open for various Biennale reasons, to wander in their cute garden (see below right). San Sebastiano still undergoing restoration with much scaffolding on the left near the apse and two restorers of wooden carvings working on them on the floor in front of the apse. With a radio on! Surprised to find a Crucifixion by Domenico Brusasorci in the sacristy, under Veronese's ceiling panels. DB being a discovery in Verona I thought I'd never seen anything by before. Over to Giudecca where I discovered some tempting art in a window by the vap stop the work of brother and sister called Lo Verso. I bought an ink drawing and various cards and bookmarks. To the Redentore along a treacherously flooding fondamenta. It's been a while and I had promised a correspondent who loved the place I'd revisit. It still strikes as monumental, of course, and the art is still not major. I did get into the sacristy this time though, through a door in the last chapel on the right, and it's a bit of a highlight. A lot of paintings mostly Marys, including one I especially liked, by Rocco somebody and a Baptism by Veronese. Also lots of reliquaries and some creepy wax heads of saints under glass domes, reminding this 21st C boy of the similar preserved heads in Futurama. As I left the sacristy was closed again, as the woman supervising relieved her colleague on the front desk, for lunch I presume as it was 1 o'clock.

Caught a vaporetto back to Pi Roma to get a pair of my favourite pasties to eat in my favourite spot, then it was back to the hotel for a cup of redbush tea and an almond slice I'd bought on Guidance, but am only now fessing up to. Then a 4 o'clock snooze.

Tuesday 15th September
Misty this morning, but warm too, which is weird if you're used to cold winter mists. Vap to San Pietro to visit Sant'Iseppo, the new Chorus church. It was indeed open, with a low-key poster outside, a modest desk inside and no attendant, initially, to mark my card and give me the modest laminated notes.

It an aisleless but oddly spectacular church with a trompe l'oeil painted ceiling seemingly doubling its height. There's also the Grimini monument dominating the left wall, which wouldn't look out of place, or small, in San Zanipolo. There's also a rather good Veronese altarpiece.

As I was out this far I thought I'd go see Sant'Elena. Heading through the tall maze of a typical Venetian housing estate you eventually reach the football stadium and the church is in an unlovely spot between the stadium and an army base. I heard Italian chanting as I approached and thought it an odd time for a football crowd, but it was coming from the army base. Sant'Elena was as closed as I'd expected, but a sweet cloister could be appreciated and photographed through iron-grilled windows. Back through gardens containing many midges and eventually through Piazza San Marco, which seemed to be getting it's aqua alta on, and into Santo Stefano, briefly, to confirm that it's just its museum which is Chorus run, and to take some pics. Over the Accademia Bridge to that pizza window between San Vio and the Guggenheim where the man sold me a slice of stone cold margarita and when I took it back said I couldn't have a refund because I'd touched it but I could wait 10 minutes until the oven was free. Back to the hotel via the same bakers and fave spot as yesterday. A four-cheese-topped bun thing and a a mozza/tom pastry verily took the bad taste of the pizza episode away. Which was further banished, from mouth and mind, by a visit to the Alaska gelateria, famed for its interesting flavours, where my taste buds where treated to rocket and orange flavour, I kid you not, which I teamed with a scoop of almond.

After the afternoon snooze I went to the Accademia to check out the new rooms mostly, but the old rooms first. Not much change until some missing Tiepolos around room 5. Then the corridor rooms are all now empty and closed. Down to the ground floor near the end gets you to the toilets and a temporary exhibition of modern tosh. I have to go back to the desk and ask where the new rooms are, to be told I've left it too late and they're closed. Much complaining and two further members of staff later I'm allowed in, as were several more people later, who were presumably sensible enough not to ask. The new rooms are heavily Samsung branded with many screens. Tablets for each visitor were mentioned but not in evidence. The rooms supposedly cover the later centuries, with a room devoted to Tiepolo and Veronese ceilings, one over stuffed with random 17th Century stuff, and some dull portraits in a corridor. Maps reveal future expansion into closed rooms, so watch this space, I think, but not yet. Vap back to hotel vicinity to visit Al Faro for one of their fine Bufala pizzas. The waiter asks where I'm from, and when I say London he asks if I'm a broker! The discussion of London being so big and busy is more productive. A mascapone and fig combined with fragola was the gelato from Majer, eaten along the fondamenta in the dark.

Wednesday 16th September
Having found out on Monday that the scuola and church of San Giovanni Evangelista is open today my trip to Padua has now been moved to tomorrow. On my way I find the door of San Simeone Piccolo open, which is a first, and a young woman playing a small organ inside. It's circular and unkempt and has a domed central space with a big net for a roof.

As the first visitor of the day I had the church of San Giovanni Evangelista to myself for half hour. Then over to the scuola itself, up the impressive staircase by Codussi into the huge and spectacular Sala Capitolare (see right) with large canvases down each side and many panels on the ceiling, all depicting scenes from the life of the Saint by the likes of Domenico Tintoretto, Marieschi, Balestra, Guarana, Diziani and even Longhi. Other rooms on this floor include the Oratory of the Cross where the Bellini and Carpaccio True Cross cycle used to live. The final room, the small Sala dell'Albergo has four panels by Palma Giovane just as you might be thinking this is the one place in Venice without examples of his work. But they are odd scenes, and there's a rather nice 14th Century gothic panel too.

On to the Rialto to catch a no.1 vaporetto the down to the Accademia, sitting opposite a man with a sweet and alert little dog sitting on his lap. Off the boat and on to the Palazzo Cini a place unusual in Venice for its concentration on early Tuscan art. The first room has ceramics and some ivories. The second has small works, including a couple of Daddis and two studio of Gaddi. The third room is furnished and carpeted like a dining room, but is full of polyptychs, which is unnerving. The art is good but the names minor. The big names are in the next room - Fra Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Ghirlandaio, and usually Bronzino and Boticelli, but the last two have been swapped for an exhibition in the Uffizi for the Madonna of Pontasieve which is fine by me. A room of Ferrarese art is the last, making for a small but satisfying feast of the Tuscan. Lunch a repeat of yesterday, even down to the nibbles being the identical.

A stroll through Santa Croce out past the Santa Maria Maggiore prison in the evening, by San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, along the Zattere, to find Gianni's closed and so get falafel from the place behind San Pantalon. Returning via the station to not get a ticket for Padua tomorrow I decided to try the new gelateria along the Cannaregio canal, which seems somewhat customer-less currently, going for the classic vanilla and lemon, which were fine.

17th September
I tried last night to buy a ticket for my postponed trip to Padua, having to accept that an early enough train would be four times more expensive than the more usual
4 and then having had all three of my cards not recognised and pressed back to see if cash would work and been taken back right to the beginning, I decided that the fates were trying to tell me something. And decided that a last day wandering, revisiting favourites and ticking off small tasks was for the best. I crossed over into Santa Croce to do a favourite walk parallel to the GC towards the Rialto, where I had been asked to find a shop to buy a calendar for a friend. Which was achieved after some serious and pleasurable searching. I also looked into San Giacometto which has recently been adopted by Chrorus, but is still free, presumably because it's so small and is now over lit with a concert and CD desk with display cases of instruments, so it now lacks even the, admittedly pretty grimy, atmosphere it had before. Santa Maria Formosa next, which I felt the need to reappraise and indeed found more likeable than previously. I then made for San Zaccaria to stand transfixed by the Bellini. The 50 cents for its light is the best 50c you'll ever spend, but it's good to experience it without the light and with the general church lighting too, also 50c. The 1.50 to see the chapels out back is always good value too.

A couple of wrong turns returning saw me by San Canzian, and so nearer to my hotel than the dinky church of San Gallo where a biennale exhibit meant unusual access. Accepting fate and returning via Santa Caterina I find an exhibit inside, replacing the huge Portakabin of schoolrooms that used to be there. Pitch darkness meant waiting for your eyes to adjust and too much darkness for photos, but a much better idea of the space, it being empty, with strange pseudo-excavations on the floor, of dug up spacemen and other oddities. I quite liked. Thank you fates. A slice of margarita on the steps of the Maddelena for lunch, and then a snooze.

Bought a bus ticket in the evening from a machine on the platform for the new shiny maroon-coloured tram. Then along the Zattere to the tip of the Dogana to maybe find a breeze as the humidity was a bit oppressive. Back around to Gianni's to confirm with the waiter that there is no breeze, and to order a big bottle of water and penne with pesto and a side salad. The penne came with penne-length bits of green bean and bits of potato. Nice. And a stracciatella and pear coppa was too, on a last walk along the Zattere in the dark.

18th September
I set the alarm for 7.30 but was awake before, relished a last morning lying and gathering and listening to the people in the flats out my window coughing, opening shutters and calling cats. Out just after 8.00 after bidding grateful farewell to Nicola. Easily caught the 8.25 ACTV bus, which was full but no-one standing. (ACTV buses leave at 10 25 40 55 past the hour, there is an ATVO bus also.) Boarding card checking is now automated at Marco Polo, a quick process, unless you don't know what a barcode is, or how to look at an enormous explanatory picture, like the man in front of me. The attendant woman was wonderfully impatient. The bag scanning has got even more labyrinthine but is quick too. So I was sitting in the lounge typing this, with an Americano and a wholemeal honey croissant in no time. But then an enormous queue - the length of the whole lounge - for passport control. Unprecedented according to my Italian queue-mate, handy for quizzing the airport person, who reassured us we'd be called forward if it got close to our flight. Then it speeded up, maybe because there where now six checkers rather than the two earlier. Flight delayed, but not massively, I had a window seat with an empty one next to me, no school parties, and only two occasionally screaming babies. In flight pre-lunch was a white bread cheese sandwich, which I managed to lessen the fat rush of by taking out half the cheese. The usual choice at passport control between the slow-moving short queue for the machines or the fast-moving long one for the actual human beings. I went for the machines option, but it's almost always a mistake, not least because you then have to put up with the people in the machine queue complaining about having made the wrong choice, so I may have to change policy. Met by J, weather delightfully cool and rainy, home in time for lunch.









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