Venice is like a friend I only see every two years; on arrival it's familiar but I need to reconnect. The 'reconnection' normally starts with a few words of French while my very un-linguistic brains stutters in Italian adjustment... but soon it is as if I have never been away and there is a level of comfort that can only come from familiarity, familiarity that makes me relax my shoulders and grants me the freedom to enjoy a city for what it is. In the case of Venice, it's a city of opposites - bustling with people until you are lost, where it then gets eerily lonesome, to the breathtakingly exquisite facades showing the scars of age and beautiful decay.
For our 4-day stay we had an AirB&B near the train station which is at the northern part of the island(s). Our less-touristy side street offered us the fantastic 17th-century Palazzo Gradenigo, complete with giant ship's lantern and private garden (which was one of the largest in Venice). Our street turned out to be incredibly self sufficient - two marvellous restaurants, Ai Garzoti and Osteria Trefanti (who, were fantastic at handling our rubbish Italian and that fact that two us didn't eat fish... in a fish restaurant). We also had a supermarket, and Enoteca Rio Marin (a bar) and a coffee shop, the Pasticceria Rio Marin, just the ticket for breakfast on the canal in the morning sunshine.
When we weren't stuffing our faces with fantastic and reasonably priced 'nosh', we spent a day at the Lido - an island to the south, only a short vaporetto ride away, and swam in the sea. The main reason for our visit however was the Venice Biennale (the international art festival) which is a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest... but for artists. Each country has a free-standing building with which they show off a chosen national artist, the art normally bears some relation to the country of origin too. For my own amusement I scored the art (unscientifically) like the Eurovision Song Contest. So without further ado can we have the scores from the United Kingdom please!
- Venezuela 3
- Russia (giant fighter pilot, what's not to like) 8
- Japan 8 (beautiful room full of keys)
- Korea 2.5
- Germany 6 (Tron-like room)
- Canada 10 (local Canadian shop followed by an amazing potting shed with a handmade er... coin-drop machine??? mad but great)
- France 8 (giant trees on wheels freely moving around the garden)
- Czech or Hungary (got distracted and forgot which) 5
- Australia 9 (best cuckoo clocks ever, amongst other things)
- Uruguay 6
- Norway 6
- USA 2 (I always find the USA entry a bit disappointing)
- Denmark 1
- Spain 6
- Belgium 5
I gave up at this point... as it turns out, there are loads of countries taking part.
Australia, Canada, France and Russia (see pic below) were great though.
Some countries got to exhibit in a palazzo in the city itself - this was a fantastic way of A) seeing inside some of these great buildings and B) making the traversal of the city a treasure hunt of contemporary art!
All too quickly it was time to return home, our four-day trip was over far too soon - but we'll be back for the Biennale in 2017 and to spark up a new conversation with this great city.