Countries, Culture, Europe

Here’s to the next 1600 years, Venice

Up there with those to avoid in life, like taxmen and Ed Sheeran, are those who say Venice is dying… well, on this, their 1600th anniversary year, here’s to the next 1600.

Firstly, the world’s most famous city on a lagoon, has thrived for 1600 years already through plague, foe and the elements.

And despite the doom mongers’ prophecies Venice is actually better placed for the next 1600 years than any of the 1600 before.

No, not because of that picture of that dolphin returning to the Grand Canal which proved the effect of climate change.

No, that was a fake. But because, surprise, surprise, the Venetians know more about preserving their unique way of life than anybody else.

The celebrations have been in full flow since late last month and will run until March 25 next year.

So plenty of time to plan for Veniceophiles (OK I made that term up) to return to a city we have been away from too long.

We return too to the Chronican Altinate (no, me neither) and diarist Marin Sanudo for detail on Venice’s beginnings.

Sanudo referenced the San Giacomo di Rialto as being the first church, begun on March 24, 421.

These days, of course, we have the internet to go to.

And as mia moglie will tell you I’m always happy to let someone else to do the heavy lifting.

Just follow the Venezia calendar on their site for a host of cultural and historical events which you can follow.

And our breakaway party from our trip to Padova

And per tua informazione Venice I’m free pretty much the rest of the year.

Heck, it’s Venice, I’m free l’intero anno.

MEET YOU ON THE CANAL

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Every story tells a picture – from Caravaggio to Van Gogh

Surrounded by our four walls in lockdown one of the few ways to transport ourselves to exotic shores is through our pictures.

It is after all  what our Vincent did when he struggled for his sanity.

Van Gogh had developed a taste for all things Polynesian from housemate Paul Gaugin.

Van Gogh also had his demons to exorcise too, particularly when incarcerated.

And he would explore such existential themes in his art as the Reaper himself.

Manic twirls: Van Gogh

Now I’m not saying that I obsess on the same even during lockdown.

But a print of his Wheatfield with a Reaper hangs proudly in our guest room, hopefully not spooking out our visitors (when they come).

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

But reminding us of the captivating Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on our tour of Amsterdam.

All of which meanderings has prompted me to share some of the finer art I’ve enjoyed on my travels.

Beheading for Malta

Lose your head: Caravaggio in Valletta. www.caravaggio.org

Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio, Valletta: There’s always something a bit unhinged about artists.

And the meeting of brushmeister and subject comes together in this classic painting, described as ‘the painting of the 17th century.’

Caravaggio was on the run and took refuge with the Knights of Malta in Malta.

But he fell out with them, was imprisoned and then escaped from their dungeons.

A theory floated in 2010 has it that Michelangelo Merisi, for it is he, was killed by poisonous paints.

Caravaggio’s Malta

And suspicious has since fallen on the Knights.

Caravaggio’s masterpiece hangs in St John’s Co-Cathedral and shows real insight into the shady side of life.

Valletta with its stunning harbour is a real jewel.

And and you can picture the intrigue and the underworld of Medieval Mediterranean life.

When we’re all able to get out again then Malta should be on your radar.

Monster Munch in Bergen

Keeping warm: A troll in Bergen.

The Rasmus Meyer Collection, Bergen: And you’ll gasp at what those naughty trolls are doing in the drawings in this gallery.

Up a fjord in mystic, fabled Norway you’ll find this artistic curio.

It wouldn’t be a Norwegian gallery without a host of Edvard Munches and Bergen doesn’t disappoint.

And the story notes give you a real insight into the travails of the Great Man.

Dark Secrets: Munch in Bergen

Bergen is also the place for the travels of JS Dahl whose paintings first popularised cruising in the fjords

The Real Dahl: In Bergen

A must visit on your MSC Cruises stop-off while, of course, you simply have to pull a Munch Scream pose.

Paint the ceiling in Padua

Giotto down your ideas: In Padua

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua: And it’s doubtful you would have a fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without a Scrovegni Chapel.

Well, you probably would, but it might have been the Medieval version of Dulux!

Giotto was something of an inspiration for Michelangelo and you can see his halo work here.

And yes we know the finesse of Firenze, the merits of Milan, the riches of Rome and my own recent favourite, beautiful Bergamo.

But Padua, often in the shadow of Venice, should be praised to the heavens which in fairness to Giotto he does.

Masters and Mississippi

The settlers: The Mississippi Art Museum

Museum of Mississippi Art, Jackson, Mississippi: Yes, when we think art and America we immediately focus on MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York Art, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The First Nation: In the Mississippi Art Museum

But in truth America is a sweep of wonderful art, so take it in wherever you find it.

Which in Jackson, Mississippi is the Museum of Mississippi Art where you’ll see early Frontier art and much more.

Dirty old Lane

Art for arts sake: The Francis Bacon Studio

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin: And it’s the Francis Bacon studio you want to see here.

Bacon bequeathed his studio to his home city on the understanding that it would be recreated in every detail.

All of which means it is messier than any student bedsit…

To think I was probably sitting on a goldmine back in Aberdeen in the Eighties.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Roll Over Beethoven

And because this week I’ll be hooking up with my German pals for a virtual celebration of Beethoven, this being the 250th anniversary of his birth, I give you the classics.

Ear, ear Beethoven

This one’s for Elise

Beethoven, Teplice, Czech Republic: And you’d expect to see Ludwig in this wellness town back in the 18th Century.

Because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Vienna and Prague were musical centres where Germans flocked to.

I paid my tribute to The Great Man this year at the Beethoven Spa Hotel in Teplice where he stayed, and his room is still there for him.

And he got treatment for his ears, tried out some funky horns and left his death mask.

We also tried out the titular cafe, and the hot chocolate and chocolate cake for research purposes. An empty piano awaited the maestro.

If Beethoven had written a Fur Katarina I’d point you to that in celebration of our host and my pal, but we have the equally enchanting Elise, so here’s Fur Elise.

Rock me Amadeus

Eine Kleine Sadie Music

Mozart, Salzburg, Austria: And, yes, the Austrian singer Falco toasted Mozart with this hit.

A Wiener, he was what Mozart wanted to be, though almost certainly not in musical terms, but certainly in his origins.

Wolfgang was no fan of his home place, Salzburg, which he thought had a small-town attitude.

High standards. We loved it on out ski trip to Soll (it is a Sound if Music Mecca too).

Although the museums are too spread out, you do get right under Wolfie’s skin ;and hair). Here’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, pretty much the only German I know.

Vivaldi’s Veneto

The Dragon, Constsnce and Bandanaman in Venice

Vivaldi, Padova/Veneto: And for many, particularly the Eighties generation, punk violinist Nigel Kennedy, and his rendition of Four Seasons, was it for classical music.

I don’t know if Kieran ‘The Dragon’ who was in our party in Padova was an aficionado but he took casual chic to a new level.

I take some responsibility as I’d wheeled him and fellow Venice newbie Constance out to Lagoon City.

We were back late but had each taken a change of clothes while Dragon was still in his boardies.

While the orchestra were kitted out and the waiters and waitresses too in the sumptuous Padova Botanical Gardens.

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt of L’Autunno from Il Quattro Stagione.

Boheme Rhapsody

Raising the roof: Prague

Puccini, Prague: And long before rockers namechecked cities, the Classical composers were doing it.

Whisper it, the opera is set in Paris, the Bohemian bit is the fun label attached to what are modern-day Czechs.

And so, for me, the ideal place to watch Giacomo Puccini’s Classic is the State Opera in Prague.

Everybody loves to party in Prague, monks in the Strahov Monastery Brewery and priests swigging Champagne during the intermission at the State Opera.

Handel with care

No cats or mice allowed

Handel Dublin: And George Handel chose Dublin, the second city of the Empire, because he felt the London audiences had started to take him for granted.

No shrinking violet George, there was a statue to him erected in Dublin while he was still alive.

The premiere was packed and ladies were asked not to wear hooped dresses so as to allow more in.

That show was performed at the Musick Hall in Fishamble Street. Now you’ll want to go to Christchurch Cathedral for your opera fix.

But not the place for a cat or a mouse whose mummified remains are on display in the cathedral’s crypt…. they’d got stuck in the organ.

It’s immortalised in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

Anyhoos Christ Church Cathedral puts on recitals and thanks to my friends at Travel Department we channeled old Handel one balmy evening.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Forza Italia

Back in the day in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, the poets and dreamers all took the Grand Tour… yes, all odes led to Rome.

Being a rhymer myself (Forth Stanza, Edinburgh Fringe/2002) it sure as heck is tempting to follow them to Italy just now.

Which it’s worth repeating we can do with Italy, the first visited by the virus in Europe, open again for business.

Rome, it has msn a lovely dome

With the world shrinking because of COVID Grazie Dio per Italia.

And so say our holiday providers, our dream-makers.

I can’t say if Byron, Keats and Shelley relaxed by the banks of Lake Garda but if they didn’t they ought to have.

A boat, a lake… ah, Italy

Our friends at Travel Department are offering a seven-night guided tour with extras under the label of Incredible India.

Explore the lago by water on a private boat trip and visit the region’s picturesque towns.

Before heading up into the Dolomite Mountains.

Churches and the rest: Padova

And special treat, you’ll be taken to the ild university town of Padua.

And see St Anthony’s tongue, Giotto’s fresco and a main piazza of imposing statues… well, it is Italy.

Then up to Bolzano, the Gateway of the Dolomites.

TD are offering flexible low deposits from €100pp on all new bookings until September 30.

And there’s them thar mountains too

And check out too their helpful cancellation policy.

Prices from €939pp for seven nights including 4* hotel accommodation with return flights, transfers, excursions and local guides. Depart September 22.

MEET YOI IN THE TRATTORIA

Asia, Europe, Flying, UK

Flyday Friday – Flight to the Promised Land

God’s people had spent years in exile, facing down plague and pestilence to get to the Promised Land.

Sound familiar.

But they got there… and so will we.

The Holy City

Pegasus www.flypgs.com are resuming flights from Wednesday (three times a week) from London Stansted to Tel Aviv via Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen.

From €244.99 one-way or on the Pegasus mobile app.

And like the Chosen People I have waited for this.

G force

From the moment I was invited by G Adventures https://www.gadventures.co.uk/on a Jordan http://uk.visitjordan.com/mobile/Home.aspx and Israel two-week cultural trip.

Lie back and think of the Middle East

And herein a lesson to us all. I altruistically opted for the alternative Jordan trip rather than leave my workmates to cover me for another week.

It did allow me to empathise with Moses when he reached Mount Nebo and looked over The Promised Land but was forbidden to enter because of a row with God.

I’ve been trying to get on God’s good side praying furiously in lockdown… I don’t want to give HIM any reason to block me.

Auld Greeky

Echoes of Athens in Edinburgh

And this one you’ll get if you’re from Edinburgh or are a fan of the Scottish capital.

The city was known as Auld Reeky on account of the smell which came up from the lochs, or lakes, across from the Old Town.

Which was dredged and made into today’s Princes Street Gardens with bridges put over the new land to the newly-built New Town.

Athens of the North

And the architecture inspired the name Athens of the North.

And why am I telling you this?

Athens of the South

Because Edinburgh Airport is resuming flights again to Greece https://athensattica.com and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/dresdens-renaissance-martin-luther/europe/my-greek-odyssey/.

And France https://www.google.ie/amp/s/about-france.com/mobi/index-amp.htm, and Italy http://www.italia.it/en/home.html.

And here’s how I see it… The Boat D’Azur and The Lourdes prayer. And https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/11/padova-city-of-frescoes/amp/, Small roads lead to Rome and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/04/see-rome-on-e50/.

What a difference a year makes

Service with a smile behind the mask

I’m reminded that this time last year I was being entertained by Etihad www.etihad.com on board one of their planes in Dublin Airport,

And although none of us knew then what was coming down the tracks I was struck by how adaptable and innovative Etihad were.

And it will serve them well as they set out their plans for flying to more than 50 destinations worldwide.

The way it was: Etihad last year

Now with flexible fares and the opportunity to change the date of your flight for free if you need to.

Well, well, well

I’ve already told you about their Wellness Ambassadors at every point of your journey. And a wellness kit.

All’s well then!

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

Uncategorized

Give us this day -Padova

As calling cards go it does the job – simple, functional and just what is needed if your stock painting will be halos.

With a swish and a brush of red paint Giotto di Bondone had announced himself to the Papal envoy with his freehand circle.

And within a few years he would announce himself to the world with his magnum opus.

His fresco in 1305 in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova would in turn inspire Michelangelo when he came to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

For all of us who have attempted a still life and ended up with an egg in a basket of fruit instead of an orange you will know how difficult it is to draw the perfect circle.

But only perfect circles would do as Giotto’s patron Enrico Scrovegni had let his halo slip and needed a grand gesture.

To gain absolution and enter through the gates of heaven.

Enrico’s crime was usury – charging excessive interest on loans.

A crime so serious that it resulted in the banker being damned the fires of Hell.

Worth a shot in Ireland.

Rather than appealing straight to Our Lord, though, Scrovegni had the bright idea of asking Jesus’s mother to intercede on his behalf.

Mary cradles Christ

And then dedicated the chapel and the frescoes to her life with a celebration of her role in human salvation.

And just to leave nobody in any doubt of his devotion he had Giotto paint him into the main scene.

Presenting a model of the chapel to her in the fresco The Last Judgment.

The Scrovegni Chapel is Padova’s calling card but it is only a hint of a more expansive canvas.

I am in Padova (Padua), 38km west of Venice in the Veneto region and 209kms from Milan.

St Anthony’s Basilica

As well as looking upwards – Padova is the City of Frescoes – it looks outwards.

It has been home to the Venetians, French and Austro-Hungarians over the last millennium and embraced all their influences.

Today it is looking westwards which is where we Irish probably come in.

But more immediately to Milan’s Expo 2015, a showcase for feeding the planet and energy for life.

Padova has a rich history of doing both.

The Brenta River which leads right down to the Grand Canal teems with life.

While the Venetian Plain attracted the mariners of that great city to avail of its rich agriculture.

And build grand villas and palaces to entertain dignitaries.

It is also home to the oldest botanical gardens in the world.

On this trip, we will get to witness all of this.

But today it’s Sunday so Church and a visit to the Basilica of St Anthony of Padova.

The Piazza dei Signori

Yes, that St Anthony, the one who helps you – for some coins in his charity box – to find your keys,

St Anthony we are told has a wider reach than just those objects that fall out of your rucksacks and handbags.

He is also the patron saint of people who have lost their way in life or lost or fear losing something or someone close to them.

St Anthony’s bones are kept in an altar tomb in the basilica and people pass it in veneration, touching the side.

Which is adorned with photos of their loved ones.

A little bit more of St Anthony

The image of a young man, his head bowed and his hand placed on the side in silent invocation was truly moving.

I have to confess that this simple devotion touched me more than the veneration to St Anthony’s tongue and the bottom of his teeth in elaborate gold reliquaries further up the church.

The story goes that when St Anthony’s body was exhumed his tongue was still moist in recognition of his great preaching prowess.

So the Padovans decided to place it on show for veneration.

St Anthony hailed from Lisbon, but had he been Italian then you’d have to think his hands would have been on display.

Water, water everywhere

They are a famously expressive people, the Italians.

And while in the big cities there is less of a willingness to indulge those who wish to try out their Italian.

I found the Padovans and, in particular, our guide Mariaclaudia charmingly engaging.

Perhaps it is because this is a university city but not just any old university city, among the top ten oldest in the world.

And where Galileo taught.

Naturally the statue to him which is among 78 in the Isola Memmia in the Prato della Valle portrays him with his hands outstretched.

It is also where the first woman anywhere in the world graduated.

Piazza special

An inclusive place then and one where you can, if you don’t have two left feet like your writer, get up to dance the tango.

With dozens of other Padovans in the piazza at night.

The Villa Pisani

Perhaps with another glass of Venetian Spritz – the local speciality of Aperol (think Campari), Prosecco and mineral water.

Well, next time.

My own personal foodie

A word on the food and drink.

I had the good fortune to have accomplished Travel writer, food expert and bon viveur Peter on our trip.

I’m insisting that he come on all my future expeditions with me.

To describe in erudite fashion how good the likes of regional favourite Risi e bisi is.

A merely English translation as rice and peas clearly doesn’t do it justice.

So it’s best left in Italian.

A work of art on a plate

I’m sure other restaurants do Risi e bisi just as well as Taverna degli Artisti but my dish came at the end of an enchanting visit to Cittadella.

It is a 13th Century walled city which stands 14-16ft high and 4,793ft around.

Taverna degli Artisti stands opposite the quaint old we entered behind a market stall.

And through what looked like a lock-up door.

A treasure more memorable because it feels hidden away.

A touch of colour

There is nothing shy and retiring though about the baroque Villa Pisani in Stra on the banks of the Brenta.

Built by Alvise Pisani, the 114th Doge, or leader, of Venice in 1735, there would be 114 rooms.

Villa thriller

With frescoes of gods and men and women living and loving lustily.

With vino flowing as copiously as the water on the nearby Brenta.

And without the dams that that river employs to hold it back.

In the pink

Pride of place in the villa is Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom – the little general bought it in 1806.

Bony’s bed

Bony’s bedroom is surrounded by empirical emblems and deliberately is the first the sun hits in the morning.

Not to be outdone, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler met here in Villa Pisani for the first time.

One imagines there must have been a fight to get Bony’s bed.

The Villa Pisani comes with its very own maze, the Labyrinth of Love.

Where we are told a young cloaked woman would stand in the centre at the top of a spiral staircase.

Amazing maze

She was, of course, the prize for the man who managed to wend his way through the maze.

There is no historical record that Bony, Benito or Adolf burrowed their way manically through the maze.

But you would imagine that like us, they did.

We can only assume too that the young woman was on a day off when we visited!

But anyway it was time to get back on our burchiello – or boat.

As we skirted along the river at a gentle pace, gurgling wine and scoffing hors d’oeuvres we feel like those nobles of old.

Energy of the water

We are informed that many of the villas along the banks are also richly blessed but lie empty, still needing to be renovated.

It is a theme that keeps recurring: that the Italians, having finished what they had set out to build during the Renaissance packed up early.

And laid back and enjoyed the fruits of their labour.

So with dragonflies gently skimming along the water by our side I contemplate how the energy of life sometimes has to come in great rushes.

But it is often best captured in quiet moments and in water colours.

A gondola by the banks suggests Venice is drawing nearer but that is for another time.

Merchant of Menace

And besides the Brenta boat voyage runs both ways and it was inland to Padova and its environs that the Venetians, after all, came for their pleasure and sustenance.

So, who am I to argue?

Travel facts

How to get there: Aer Lingus flies to Venice on Fridays, returning Sundays.

From €657.80 www.aerlingus.com. Or depart for Treviso www.ryanair.com, depart and return Thursdays. From €297.80.

Package: The Only Weekend Padova option offers a double room in the central Hotel Europa which offers a comfy night’s stay, a balcony and breakfast. For two nights at €155.

And some extras

Extras: Padova Terme Euganee Convention & Visitors Bureau offers the PadovaCard for free www.weekendpadova.it/en/hotel-europa.

The Padova Card is valid 48 hours (€16) or 72 hours (€21) and valid for one adult and child under 14 www.turismopadova.it/en/context/423.

Besides free admission the Padova Card www.padovacard.it also provides discounts on attractions and allows visitors to use urban transit buses for free.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.

And why not check out some other Italian adventures https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/small-roads-lead-to-rome/ And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/04/see-rome-on-e50/.

And I’m flagging up http://www.topflight.ie and their Italy sale in https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/10/holiday-snaps-save-money-on-italy/.