Last minute holiday giveaway, til midnight tomorrow!

There’s still time. Hurry and leave Susan Van Allen a comment about who inspired your love for Italy for a chance to win a heap of wonderful Italy-inspired books (including Italy: Instructions for Use, & Gemelli Press‘s newest release, True Vines)!
To enter the giveaway, just click the link below, and leave your comment until midnight tonight, Sat, December 8, 2012:

Susan Van Allen’s
Golden Day Holiday Giveaway

NOTE: Don’t leave your comment on this post, make sure to skip over to Susan Van Allen’s blog.

Sirens announce “code red” high tide.

140 cm is a very high acqua alta tide warning…and the four ascending tones (the maximum number) tell you so:

They sounded at about 8:15 p.m. this evening, between three and and half hours prior to when the tide’s expected to peak. It’s a dramatic tide, and a bit early in the season; the rain and wind have stepped right in to make sure that promise is fulfilled. Though there’s little abnormal about the weather anymore; last year there were so few high tides we were beginning to think they’d subsided for good. Of course there was no snow for skiing either, which it didn’t sit well with winter wonderlanders at all.

That, and the next high tide will still be nothing to sniff at, 130cm that will peak at 10:5o, still accompanied by rain and diminishing winds. This is what we’re expecting tonight; the ISTAT site will bring it to you in real time.

While not at all pleasant, and in many cases labor intensive (two friends have been working in ground level stores and apartments and storerooms to get merchandise and furnishings up and away from the water’s intrusion), it pales in comparison with the devastation and havoc Sandy wreaked along the U.S. eastern seaboard. As water begins to seep under the downstairs entryway door from the calle even now, I consider myself quite lucky.


Grandi Navi: Two Demonstrations say “Open Season”

There’s lots of activity around the opening of “cruise season” in Venice, and citizens are mobilizing to continue to protest their presence.

It’s a rainy weekend in the forecast, so it’s hard to say what the participation might be. In the meantime, here’s a rough translation from their Facebook page:

No Grandi Navi ProtestThe cruise season resumes in full force the weekend of April 14 and 15: as many as 9 (nine!) ships will arrive and depart this Saturday and Sunday. The Comitato No Grandi Navi has decided to mobilize now, raising its voice to renew the demand to remove these monsters from the fragile lagoon.

At 15:30 on the 14th, there will be a procession of private boats from San Marcuola to the Canale Grande Bacino of San Marco: citizens, in fact, are invited to repossess their water city in any sort of private boat: rowing, motorboats, sailing, pedal, canoe, kayak, or surfboard! Who doesn’t have a boat, or is on foot, will be transported by the Committee.

It’s important that there’s a lot of us, to give the peaceful sign that we don’t need cruise ships to stay afloat in the lagoon, and that certain ships and the dredging they demand are incompatible, polluting, destructive.

If anyone wants fly a flag or sign or banner that asks the cruise ships to stay out of the lagoon, obviously it would be welcome. Venetians, given free rein to your imagination!

Then, from 14:30 on the 15th, we will set up a garrison along the Zattere with an information point, launching a signature campaign for the ouster of ships from incompatible lagoon.

Drinks, cichèti, and jazz and blues music for everyone!

Please join with us to proclaim that Venice belongs to its citizens, and not to the airlines or cruise ships or the Port Authority.

Boat sflilata of the 14th in Canal Grande
Meet at 15.30 at San Marcuola

Signature Fest, Music & Drinks for all
14:30 on the Zattere 



Klimt (and Hoffman) Conquer the Correr

The time is la Belle Èpoche, the place is Vienna. Women are still corseted, but Freud is probing their psyche; while Art Nouveau begins to sweep the continent, Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman ‘secede’ in igniting a new world of art and architecture.

Klimt at the CorrerThe excitement at press conference was palpable, even in an off-Art Biennale year. And such a crowd: perhaps two hundred journalists and photographers, gathered in one of the most splendid ballrooms in the city. Not to dance, at least not literally…

The Museo Correr on Piazza San Marco has just launched “the art event of the year in Italy,” according to Correr director Gabriella Belli, and hails a return to international collaboration for the museum because, as director of the Belvedere in Vienna Agnes Husslein-Arco puts it, “A country’s art is its best ambassador.”

“Being his 150th birthday year,” reported Husslein-Arco, “We had requests from all over the world to host Klimt’s work. But we chose Venice.”

The Secession was the movement in Vienna founded in 1897 by Klimt and architect-interior designer Josef Hoffman (among others), so named because they seceded from the conservative artist’s union of the time to pursue and document the creation of Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art.

The exhibit itself is multifaceted, and richly illustrates the symbiotic collaboration between Klimt and Hoffman along with their contemporaries with a commentated timeline of two decades of paintings, jewelry, personal artifacts, and even the Beethoven Friezes (albeit copies) created by Klimt, once installed the iconic Hoffman building modeled before it.

Klimt at the Correr

The museum interior has been completely refashioned to highlight the works presented: windows are covered, walls re-formed and painted, and in some cases effectively replaced (as in the case of the friezes) to permit each work to shine.

Klimt at the Correr

And shine they do. Curator and Klimt expert Alfred Weidinger recounted the story of when Klimt was visiting Venice with a few friends, one of which was the charming Alma Schindler (later Mahler, whose former-Venetian abode is now the Oltre il Giardino B&B). The luminous mosaics of the San Marco Basilica interior, along with the equally luminous Alma Schindler, must have created quite an impression on Klimt, which manifested, said Weidinger, during his Golden Phase when he employed the extensive use of gold leaf and recalled mosaic form in paintings such as the opulent Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer* and The Kiss. The deeply-hued walls are ideal for featuring these works’ shimmering golden tones.

Klimt at the Correr, VeniceThe Kiss is not at the Correr (“The Kiss does not travel,” in fact); but Judith is here, as is Salomè, the Portrait of Marie Henneberg (above), and even Girasole — the Sunflower — donated to the Belvedere only ten days before the opening of the show at the Correr. (By the way,  Salomè did not travel to the Correr from the Belvedere—but instead from across the Canal at the permanent collection at Venice’s own Ca’ Pesaro museum of modern art, where it was acquired after Klimt’s grand success at the Biennale of 1910. In fact, Ca’ Pesaro is hosting a collateral exhibition on the same theme, The Spirit of Klimt, a perfect complement the Correr exhibit.

Klimt was an interesting character; he painted no self portrait (If you want to see me, look at my work) and kept no diary. He died of complications of Influenza 1918, leaving a number of unfinished paintings.

So, Happy 150th Birthday, Heir Klimt. We’re happy to be able to celebrate your life and work today in this splendid exhibit.


Klimt in the Sign of Hoffman and the Secession

Museo Correr, Piazza San Marco
Vallaresso stop (Line 1, Line 2)

Daily 10 – 7pm (ticket office closes at 6pm)
through July 8

discounts for seniors, students, and with the San Marco Museum pass.


* A recent NPR story highlights The Lady in Gold, a book recounting the recovery of Adele’s Portrait, appropriated by the Nazis during WWII.


Emma and Effie (and Claudia!), Movie Making Most Venetian.

Emma Thompson on the set of "Effie" in Venice

Last December, Emma Thompson arrived for “Effie,” along with Dakota Fanning, Claudia Cardinale, husband and co-screenplay writer Greg Wise, and an opportunity to make believe that in Venice, it’s 1850 once again.

Venice Grand Canal background film shoot for Effie (screenplay by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise) (Nan McElroy)It seems to me this is the sort of film that ought to be made here. It’s a sustainable sort of film: no explosions, no taxis careening down tiny rii, no fake collapsing buildings. Just a recount of John Ruskin (played by Greg Wise), one of the most famous foreigners to ever have been consumed by Venice, and his ill-fated marriage to the young Eufemia Gray (Dakota Fanning).

The film’s backdrop is a rich one: the Victorian Ruskin feverishly documenting Venetian Gothic architecture as he feared it might be destroyed at any moment by occupying Austrians, while he simultaneously patronized (in the literal sense) contemporary artists William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Ricardo Scamarcio), John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). This trio formed the rebelliously contemporary Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood, dedicated to the pursuit an art form born of and inspired by the natural. Millais (who painted poor Ophelia, lifeless in the watery reeds…) also used Effie as model, in fact—perhaps that was when their romance began…

Venice Grand Canal background film shoot for Effie (screenplay by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise) (Nan McElroy)My romance, instead, began the first day of shooting here, on set with Emma, Claudia, Dakota, et. al., actors meticulously costumed by Ruth Meyers in 1850 garb shipped in mostly from Spain, as Venice seems to only stock attire from 1700’s (didn’t the Venetian world die with Casanova?). You’d think as a former editor, I’d be a bit more blasé about the whole process. Anzì–it was nice to be back in the milieu.

They’d meticulously recreated an alimentari on the ponte leading from a small campo near San Giovanni e Paolo; it was astounding how the Venetian aspect retreats into another century voluntarily. Everyone seemed quite excited to be there—or (being a big Thompson fan anyway), maybe I was just projecting my own delight. I’d helped transport one of Arzanà’s traditional boats to be used in the background, so once we got there, I was free to take in the scene. Lots of publicity cameras, Emma in a bright white piumino coat circulating with her teenage daughter, Director Richard Laxton posing with one stella after another, Greg Wise looking quite Ruskin-ish. Set ups weren’t too taxing, everything went as scheduled—and I got some great shots.

I also got to try out some of that 19th c garb a few days later, rowing for an entire day in the Grand Canal in the traditional boats of Arzanà. The rowing wasn’t too taxing, but I have certainly acquired a new appreciation for modern, light-weight vestments.

The weather was splendid, and it was a holiday to boot, so there was little traffic. We rowed back and forth on cue as the 2nd unit halted water traffic when the shot was rolling. The fact that I just can’t seem to cull the shot selection only speaks to how fascinated I was by this unusual, marvelous spectacle. How often to you see a caorlina vela al terzo with its firey orange sails proudly traversing the Grand Canal, seeming to reclaim its once indisputable domain? (I know, I know, the tendency to hyperbole strikes again.)


The film is “Effie,” it’s in post now and due out in July, 2012. Surely it will get some sort of nod at the festival in September?