We are in our second Venetian week, concentrating on walking from the Dorsoduro to the Fondamenta Nuova in ten minutes, exploring the Naval Museum of the Serenissima (Venice to you). Imagine, a room dedicated to gondolas, including Peggy Guggenhheim’s.There’s a copy of the last Bucintoro, the Doge’s ship, from which the Doge threw a ring into the lagoon symbolizing the marriage of Venice to the sea.
Only in Venice: During the week the Venice Marathon Bridge was erected across the Grand Canal from the tip of the Dorsoduro to San Marco. The general public can walk across it the day before the marathon. On Sunday, the Marathon is run. A temporary walkway is constructed for religious festivals such as the Redentore to celebrate the end of the plague in the fifteenth century as well as for athletic events. Next week I’ll include photos.
Wecome to Venice! We arrived on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Marco Polo Airport and took the Alilaguna (wings of the lagoon) into the city to the sestiere(one of the six Venetian sections) of Dorsoduro. We dragged our luggage over the inevitable, and at any other time charming, bridges to our hotel. Since then we’ve walked from the Zattere on the far side of the Dorsoduro across the Accademia bridge to the Fondamente Nove, stopping in at churches and shops along the way. San Giovanni and Paolo has a wonderful, vast interior filled with crypts, chapels, equestrian statues, reliques and a chair reserved for the doge. On its exterior walls are reliefs of dignified lions, the symbol of Venice. The weather has been sunny and cool but there’s evidence of aqua alta. The platforms that are placed on top of the watery walkways are stacked around the city. The food has been delicious – fresh and homemade. Desserts were never given the same care as the rest of the meal and I think it’s still true. Last night I had a concoction that tasted and was the same color as toothpaste.At my friend’s suggestion, we went to a wine shop that makes its own wine. We bought bottles of red still wine and one of sparkly prosecco, watched him fill the bottles and trotted them back to the hotel, to be returned when empty. More later.
It’s been a busy week. On Monday, I attended a concert reading of Walden, The Musical. It’s about Thoreau and the Underground RR. The treatment of the theme is reverential. A few days later I headed into outer space with Imax glasses, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.I guess they couldn’t hire a robot so they settled on Bullock.Buffed but girly, cited as a genius but unable to read the space ship’s dials or how to land it, she could have been a member of the 9/11 gang. I want to dislike Clooney but he does his regular guy routine to perfection. $22!
I was supposed to go to the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s downtown near Battery Park and housed in the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, but it was not to be.My witty friend, J. D., explains it all: Syllogism of the day: The Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Museum.The Smithsonian is run by the Federal Government. The Federal Government is shut down.Therefore, the Museum of the American Indian is ….
The Book of Mormon was a hoot. I’m still laughing over its inspired naughtiness. It’s at that dusty old fossil, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The theatre rocked with laughter. A young Chicagoan told me she was shocked, delighted, but shocked. Are we New Yorkers more blunt about political correctness and the taboo subjects of politics and race? Hope so.
The Italian Cultural Institute is on Park Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets. Passing by on Friday, I noticed that the Institute is promoting the Marche region. In one of its upstairs galleries Raphael’s The Little Saint Catherine of Alexandra stands on lonely display. Raphael was a native son of Urbino, one of the Marche’s better known cities. That’s the tourist tie in, as if we needed any excuse to gaze at a superb painting of an angelic figure. It brought home to me why I’ll always be tied to Catholicism. The art and architecture have a hypnotic spell. Recently, a Jewish friend having spent several weeks in northern Italy, jokingly said that he’d spent so much time in Italian churches that he felt half Catholic.
Since I have one foot out the Catholic door and am always on the look out for a new religion, I asked an acquaintance why he had remained a Catholic and he said it was because he liked lost causes.
A Protestant friend told me that her son had married a Catholic and agreed to raise their children as Catholics. Protestant grandmother, her Protestant son and his Catholic wife attended their seven year old son’s first holy communion. The priest announced that only baptized Catholics could receive communion. In one stroke, he alienated the Protestant contingent and embarrassed the Catholic mother. Well done, spokesman of a dwindling church. The Protestants did something I would never have done, they took communion anyway. I guess that’s what it means to protest. Recently, Pope Francis criticized the Catholic Church for putting dogma before love. The priest didn’t get the message.
Catholicism is polytheistic.All those saints are minor deities. My mother, a woman without hope, prayed to St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes. In Padua, hometown of St. Anthony, there’s a church dedicated to him. At one of the chapels people post requests and leave offerings. The last time I was there someone had left her wedding dress.
Sant’Eustachio is a Roman church that honors a discredited saint. According to legend and to Wikipedia, prior to his conversion to Christianity, Eustace was a Roman general named Placidus, who served the emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of a crucifix lodged between the stag’s antlers. He was immediately converted, had himself and his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustace. Like Job, Eustace suffered.
Part of Catholicism’s lure is the fairy tale + damnation quality. Anyone who loves opera, I say, is crypto-Catholic.
If you squint, you can see the stag with the cross between his antlers perched at the top of the church’s pediment.