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In our bookstore tour of the world, we increasingly see the merger of bookselling with another retail concept – for example, the T-site in Daikanyama 代官山 in Tokyo and the Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – see our posts here and here. In Bologna, I (Chris) visited the Librerie Coop + Eataly Bologna – a combination that is more 50-50 than the earlier examples.


Librerie Coop is a chain in Italian bookstore with more than 30 stores.


Eataly is an international operator of food halls selling Italian food stuffs and restaurants – their stores are apparently wildly successful in NYC at first (that was after we left the city) and then in Chicago.


Admittedly, we have not yet been inside one in the US but we imagine them to be a kind of European imported food megastore with a high-end food court. The food halls of Harrods (London), Shinsegae (Seoul) and KaDeWe in Berlin (see post) come to mind.


The corporate parent is an Italian company founded near Alba and started first in Torino. Apparently, the two companies have collaborated at multiple locations in Italy.


The book-food store is located not far from Piazza Maggiore at Via degli Orefici, 19.


This location has a cafe, a wine bar…


a trattoria …

and an osteria.

I wonder if they will let customer take a book to the table to read while waiting for or consuming his/her order.

The bookstore floor space is tight, although it has several floors. Compare this with the oldest bookstore in Bologna, Libreria A. Nanni which I also visited – see post here.

The space feels intimate and cozy overall. Great idea, well executed.

I read in the news that Eataly will open a food theme park – Eataly World – in Bologna in 2017. It will convert 20 acres of old warehouses into 25 restaurants, 10 classrooms, a convention center, farms, and labs. Buono appetito. Looking forward to it …


I was visiting Bologna last December. Bologna is famous not only for its pasta sauce and several other foods but also for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 km (28 miles) of arcades, some 38 in the city center. While strolling in the historic center, I came across this bookstore which uses part of the arcade in front of its store front to display books and magazines.


Libreria Nanni is located at Via Dè Musei, 8 – under il Portico della Morte (Portico of Death) – its name arising from the nearby old Hospital of Santa Maria della Morte, which now houses the Archaeological Museum.


The bookstore was founded by the Marchesi family in the early nineteenth century became a reference point for students, scholars and bibliophiles. It was acquired by Arnaldo Nanni in 1900’s. This is the oldest bookstore in the city of Bologna.


It was just 7pm and the store keepers were closing down the store and moving some of the displayed books inside. I quickly wandered inside to look around.


Apparently, this bookstore was frequented by the well-known writer and film director – Pier Paolo Pasolini – murdered in 1975 unfortunately.


The bookstore also specializes in ancient books as well as old and rare magazines and comics – see the shelves behind the counter.


They also sell text books but it is in the back behind the wall of ancient books.


Judging by the age of the stalls, it is quite likely that books and magazines have been displayed this way for many years.


Old Architectural Digest …


comics …


… and travel magazines


If you are curious about bookstore, click here to see a renovated bookstore – Rizzoli – in a central shopping arcade in Milano.

Our next post will be about one of the newest bookstore in Bologna. Don’t miss it.

Continuing our tour of the world’s bookstores, we found a Rizzoli inside the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II in Milano. It is affiliated with the one in New York.


The Rizzoli Galleria are on three floors, it is not huge but carries quite a variety of Italian and international books.


According to the publicity material, the store guaranteed that true librarians are there to help customers, not mere store assistants.


It was temporarily closed and reopened in 2014, modernized.


The idea is to”re-launch physical brick and mortar bookstores, in order to highlight the beauty of discovering books and their contents, through a unique experience that could never be paralleled by an on-line store.” Bravo.


There are stations where one can browse today’s newspapers and current magazines electronically. Huh, even Abitare !


The store is flexibly designed to accommodate various types of events, notice the table on bicycle wheels above.

rizzoli-10Space for talks and book-signing.


The owners wish to have both stores, the one in Milan and the one in New York, to keep on being recognized as truly “iconic” places, to act as cultural agents and to act as catalysts to spread culture. While we were living in NYC, we certainly frequented the stores, especially the one on West Broadway, SoHo.


Travel books section.


The upper floor offers an interesting view of the Galleria and shoppers below.


On the day of our visit (in June 2016), it is the same day as the Champions League Final. There were chants by happy (and a little bit drunk) fans from Madrid on both sides. The two teams playing in the final were Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, both Madrid teams.


We are glad in a sense that the gallery where Rizzoli is has not been turned into yet another haute couture boutique alley. There are plenty of fashion houses in Milano that are within a few minutes walk from here.


There is even a McD in here (not visible from the bookstore). Happy browsing.

Click on the link books under category to see other bookstores around the world.

Foro Italico, formerly Foro Mussolini, is a Fascist-era sports complex in Rome, Italy. I(Chris) saw this as a part of a tour of modern Italian architecture.

The forum was built between 1928 and 1938 as the Foro Mussolini (literally Mussolini’s Forum) under the design of Enrico Del Debbio and, later, Luigi Moretti (according to Wikipedia).

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At the foot of Monte Mario, it is home to numerous sports venues, such as the largest sports facility in Rome, the Stadio Olimpico, Rome’s 70,000-seat football stadium.

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From the main road, an open, broad parade ground paved with mosaic tiles lead up to the stadium.

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There were some damages to the tiles. I believe they were not treated as a first priority as repairs go because there is some tension among the Romans about what the stadium represented.

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Benito Mussolini who ruled the kingdom of Italy from 1922 to 1943 is il Duce (the leader). He ruled constitutionally as the prime minister until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a dictatorship.

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He developed a cult of one-man leadership that focused media attention and national debate on his own personality. Towards the end of World War II, he was captured while trying to escape, and executed by communists.

The tiles are organized to repeat fascist slogans. I can imagine the sight of athletes or soldiers marching in formation over these mosaics.

Duce a noi = Leader to us

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Molti nemici molto onore = many enemies, much honor

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The ornate Stadio dei Marmi with its running track is surrounded by 60 marble nudes, each donated by an Italian state.

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The stadium was inaugurated in 1932.

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It has marble steps lined by marble statues in classical style portraying athletes that perform various sporting disciplines.

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The adjoining building is the seat of the Italian National Olympic Committee (originally built for the purposes of the Fascist Male Academy of Physical Education).

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The forum remains much as it was originally conceived.

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I don’t know what the sport portrayed by this statue is – taming a wild cat ?  – it has no modern day equivalent.

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Foro Italico has hosted important events, most notably the 1960 Summer Olympics.

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The entrance is marked by a huge obelisk, 17m high, made of marble from Cararra.

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Spectacular architecture by fascists, that’s in the past.

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The stadium can stay but we all hope the ideology never comes back.


Musei Vaticani –  I (Chris) had in Rome an opportunity of a private guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.


The tour was about 1 hour long and began at dusk after all the regular visitors had left.


These are painted on the spaces at the top of columns. Notice the 3D effect created by the vividly colorful foreground and faded monochromatic background.


The main attractions of the museum are not only the classical and Renaissance objects placed within it but also the artwork on the walls and ceilings.


The painting above was done in the corner of a room.


The Gallery of Maps (Galleria delle carte geografiche) is one of my all-time favorites – it is so cool to have all the beautiful and detailed maps in one place.


The Gallery of Maps contains a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti.



The gallery was commissioned in 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII and took Danti three years (1580–1583) to complete the 40 panels of the 120 m long gallery.



The highlight of the tour is the Sistine Chapel, the last of the 54 halls, the Musei being one of the largest in the world. The papal chapel was built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, for whom the chapel is named.


This is where the Papal Conclave takes place to elect a new pope.


I was initially told by the guide that photography is prohibited inside the Chapel but an official later indicated that during our visit, it is permissible as long as the flash is not used. Hurrah. I can share !


The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were restored between June 1980 and December 1999, instead of appearing monochromatic due to candle smoke, it is now bright and almost spring-like.


The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, I have never known his full name until just now) between 1508 and 1512. Along the central section of the ceiling, Michelangelo depicted nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.



One of the most widely recognized images in the history of painting, Michelangelo shows God reaching out to touch Adam.


Below, appearing at the far end of the Chapel, is the next most famous painting by Michelangelo – the Last Judgement – a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity.


This is, in the eyes of Renaissance catholics, how it all began and how it will end. Fascinating.

The outdoor installation by Liu Ruowang (刘若望, 1977) is known as 狼来了 (The Wolves Are Coming), created in 2008 and shown previously in Beijing’s 798 art space, New Zealand, and now in Venice. Click here, here and here to see more about the Venice Biennale.


The wolves are installed in the Telecom Italy Future Center located outside the Giardini and Arsenale main venues.  It is a great location – in a thoroughfare between Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge – lots of tourists.  Unlike the Biennale, there was no entrance fee.


In the courtyard, there must be at least 50 or more life-sized wolves, each assuming a different posture of aggression and beastial brutality.


The center of the wolves’s menacing attention is the Pieta by Michelangelo (a copy) placed in the middle.


The confine of the courtyard adds claustrophobia which is compounded by the number of animals in the hellish pack. While it is a static piece, the placement of the wolves between the columns near the entrance conveys a sense of an ongoing attack.


The wolves can be read as symbols of those who surround and attack the arts, history, religion, culture, etc.


Many of the wolves have blood in its jaw suggesting some targets are hurt but the Pieta is pristine white, untouched.


The exhibition is a part of the Friendship Project – between China and the Republic of San Marino. The artist lives in Beijing. On his web site, he noted that his name Ruowang is a phonetic translation of “Johann” and the village where he grew up in Western China was one of the first places that encountered Christianity.


In fact, the wolves can be installed to attack anything that is put in the midst of the snarling and bloody jaws. It is quite a clever piece of work that adapts itself to the surrounding. To some purists, this flexibility may be considered to devalue the merit of the art.


To say the least, it is quite sensational when one comes upon the installation, and it must have been a crowd-pleaser.

This post concludes our series on the Venice Biennale.

Another work we saw in Venice that is worth mentioning.

Xu Bing (Chinese: 徐冰, born 1965) is a Chinese-born artist who lived in the United States for eighteen years. Currently residing in Beijing, he used to serve as the vice-president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The two installations – The Phoenix – weighing 8 tons were installed in the Gaggiandre basin at the Arsenale over water.


We were not looking for it, just exploring the vast Arsenale venue and did not even suspect that there were something displayed at the boat basin.


So it was quite a pleasant surprise as the pieces are large and mysterious.  They looked supernatural or alien as they appeared to be hovering over water, ready to take off from the unusual venue.


The larger sculpture, 100 feet (30 meters) long, is identified as a male and named Feng in accordance with the Chinese phoenix tradition. The smaller one is 90 feet (27 meters) long and is a female named Huang.


In 2008, after returning to China to take the position at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xu Bing was asked to create a sculpture for the atrium of the World Financial Center, which was then being developed in Beijing. He was inspired to construct two large sculptures in the form of birds that are made largely out of construction debris and tools that he salvaged from the site.


Originally planned to take four months, the sculptures ultimately took two years to build (completed in 2010); by that time the developers of the complex had decided the sculptures did not meet their needs.


They were displayed at the Today Art Museum in Beijing and at the Shanghai World Expo before going to the United States in 2012. After a year at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, they were then moved to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, where they were unveiled to the public on 1 March 2014. They were suspended from the ceiling of the nave, where they spent about a year.


Another of Xu Bing’s work that I(Chris) saw years ago in New York was Tianshu (“Book From the Sky”) – a large installation featuring precisely laid out rows of books and hanging scrolls with written “Chinese” texts – 4,000 characters that looked Chinese but were completely meaningless according to standard Mandarin. It was not shown here but it was memorable.

Click here, here and here to see more about the Venice Biennale.

This and the following two posts will be about works by individual artists that caught our eyes in Venice. Co-incidentally, the three artists are all of Chinese descent. The first is Qiu Zhijie (邱志杰, 1969) who was invited to participate in the Biennale by the organizer.


His work –The Jinling Chronicle Theater Project – was exhibited in the Arsenale venue but not in the Chinese pavillion. The project appears in part as a series of ink-and-wash maps in the tradition of Chinese landscape painting. It renders aspects of certain intellectual concepts and recurrent roles that repeat themselves in Chinese history.


Bilingual names are provided for each concept or role. Our apologies for the small photos which are hard to read. The concepts and roles named in the painting immediately above are: memoirs, news, koan, inventor, revolutionary, stepping stone, frog.  


The concepts and roles mentioned in the painting above are: inn, fortune, thunder, geographer, shangri-la, tortuous path, lament, history maker, reform.

According to Wikipedia, his work deals with the struggle between the forces of destiny and self-assertion, as well as social fragmentation and transience. The concepts and roles mentioned below are:  out of border, wolf smoke, cavalry, merchant, great wall, epitaph, will, licentious emperor, central plain, joker, highway pavillion, supreme seductress, monk, curer, night rain.


The concepts and roles mentioned below are:  comet, lobbyist, deposed empress, dictator, eunuch, bribery, elixir, imperial court, jade seal, southern flight, local prince, fisherman, eastern palace, imperial in-laws, dragon vein.  


One can roam from one landmark (concept) to another topographically and ponder the meaning (if there is any) of their juxtaposition. The project also offers 108 surreal objects corresponding to some of the concepts and roles in the painting.



“Ploy” appears in the below ink painting. The other concepts and roles named are: warlord, soldiers, commoners, household, banquet, samsara, strategist, and princeling.


Evil cult  – this object reminded us of Rene Margritte’s pipes and certain Czech graphics designs.


Evil cult” appears at the bottom left corner of the photo. The other concepts and roles are: natural fortress, walled city, nostalgia, covenant, recalcitrant army general, northward march.


This is the bottom half of the same painting. The other concepts and roles shown here are:  bandit, canal transport, torture, prophecy, natural disaster, peasantry, taxman.QiuZhijie-15

I(Chris) liked maps and infomational graphics generally – so it was really fun to peruse the ideas and the execution. It was unfortunate that there was not enough room in the Aresnale space to spread out all the 108 objects.

Minister of Propaganda


The other concepts and roles named in the painting below are:  servant, nursery rhyme, story teller, mad man, ghost. The minister of propaganda is on the right side near the edge.


Qiu Zhijie is an accomplished author on art theory books and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Art. He studied printmaking and is skilled in calligraphy. He is interested in art production, employs many media, and champions the idea of Total Art.


There were several bigger panels of ink painting (see above for example) in the tradition of scrolls, with more details depicting the life of people in a small traditional town, but it is not possible to properly show them here.

Hope he publishes a book of these paintings.

The 56th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, entitled “All The World’s Futures” and curated by Okwui Enwezor, was open to the public for about 6 months at the Giardini and the Arsenale venues. Posts about the exhibition at the Giardini venues are here and here.


The Venice Biennale was founded in 1895 and has been recognised as the world leader in contemporary art exhibitions and the countries participating have reached 89 in 2015.


136 artists have been invited, of which 88 for the first time. The artists come from 53 countries, and of the works on display, 159 are expressly realized for this year’s exhibition.

 The Venice Biennale has been at the forefront in the research and promotion of new artistic trends – which makes it much more exciting than going to an art museum which just documents the past.
Many pieces need no explanation. One cannot help but react viscerally to these sculptures made with chainsaws dripping with a black paint or resin (above).
arsenale-5The meaning of the cannon (above), the copper dome, 2 pianos, money and mounted photos (below) need more explanation which unfortunately we did not have the time to discover.
There is simply a pile of cash (Euro) in the middle of a wooden platform.
There are thousands of faces mounted on a undulating surface suspended from the ceiling.
This is a miniature of an accident involving Santa Claus and his reindeers and a high-speed train.
There are more traditional sculptures.
These are backpacks that are decorated with a symbolic “fan”. We imagined that the backpack’s wearer will have his/her head lined up with the halo in the fan suggesting a certain type of holiness or superpower.
There are several shallow pools of water bridged by walkways in a vast empty warehouse – Tuvalu’s submission.
At the back of the Arsenale buildings are the docks as used for centuries by the once powerful Venetian navy.
The last piece of work we saw was ‘Out of Bounds” (below) by Ghana-born artist Ibrahim Mahama. He created for the occasion a 300 meter-long, 3,000 kg patchwork installation entirely made of old jute sacks that occupy a big corridor, on the southern side of the Arsenale. The jute sacks are commonly used in Ghana to transport coal, but were originally used in order to transport cocoa at the end of the 19th century.  The installation alludes to Ghana’s controversial cocoa industry and the hard labor hidden behind it, —a critic on the inequality and exploitation of the markets.
The next few posts will focus on the work of a specific artist.

A short break at the La Biennale Giardini site (56th International Art Exhibition), near the shop, we found this cafeteria.

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We were, by that time in late afternoon, quite tired from all the walking and gawking. It was a welcoming sight even it looked totally chaotic at first.

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While the patrons and their snacks and coffees were discernible, the counter was harder to see.

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Stripes and bright blocks of colors – nicely done.

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A cubist painting was created by the faceted mirrors that produce in real space a fragmented graphic effect.

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The cafeteria was designed by Tobias Rehberger in 2009, titled “Was du liebst bringt auch zum Weinen” (what you love also brings cry).

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The design reminded us of objects from Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis movement.

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Filled with bold and colorful motifs, the entire space was graphical.

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We relished our caffeine break and foot-resting … and then continued our tour of the nations’ pavilions in the Giardini.



Let’s take a closer look at some of the work shown at the national pavillions at the Venice Biennale. Part 1 is here.

Our favorite work is the mobile bonzai (as we called them) in the French pavillion. Several small trees with their roots bounded at the base move imperceptibly slowly around an open courtyard with a concrete floor. Very surreal.
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Sarah Lucas’s Deep Cream Maradona at the British pavilion, satirizing British culture, sexuality, and gender stereotypes.
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“The key in the hand” by Chiharu Shiota (塩田 千春) in the Japanese pavillion was very popular.
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The piece which was somehow moving (surprisingly) contains literally thousands of keys all suspended and connected to something in the room by red threads.
The external patio of the Swiss pavillion is illuminated by artificial green light burring the distinction between the indoors and outdoors, …
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… and the interior walls have a verdant colouring which dissolves the separation between culture and nature.
Pamela Rosenkrantz filled the Swiss pavillion with a monochrome liquid matching the standardized northern european skin tone (our photo below obviously does not render it accurately). It was a bit disturbing to view a pool of swirling skin-colored fluid – it is hard to explain the experience.
The nordic countries share one pavillion.
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… with a lot of broken windows
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… and some microphones inside
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The Danish (it has its own) pavillion is classical on one side …
but very modern and sparse inside.
It took us half a day to visit most of the pavillions at this venue and only in details in a few of them. We needed more time … but there was another venue. We really enjoyed the setting and the variety of works.

While canals, vaporettos and gondolas are really interesting (see earlier posts here, here and here), the main draw for us to go to Venice is La Biennale. The 56th International Art Exhibition ran from 9th May to 22nd November 2015. The exhibition took place at the Giardini, the Arsenale and in various locations across the city of Venice.

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The exhibition has three components: exhibitions by National Pavilions, each with its own curator and project; the International Exhibition by the Biennale curator, chosen specifically for this task; and Collateral Events, approved by the Biennale curator.

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The Giardini venue comprises the Central Pavilion (above) and 29 national pavilions, built at various periods by the participating countries themselves.
The venue is located near the eastern end of sestiere Castello, easily reachable by vaporetto.
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The Central Pavilion built in 1894 is open all year long not only in the service of hosting the main events but also provide educational activities, a library service, a bookstore and a cafeteria.


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A solo voice performs a cycle of Work songs which map and investigate the tempos of work songs sung in prisons, fields, and houses.
The national pavillions were built around the Central pavillion over a number of years in different styles. The Finnish Pavilion is a pre-fabricated structure designed by Alvar Aalto – it was assembled in 1956 from parts produced in Finland itself; entirely in wood.
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Spain’s pavillion has bricks.
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Belgian pavillion
Russian pavillion
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“Devastatingly direct”: Irina Nakhova’s huge helmet confronts a visitor to the Russian pavilion.
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United States pavillion
The South Korean pavillion is all techno – giant screens + futuristic interiors
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More to come.

This is the last of three posts on water transport, and it is about the gondola and water taxis. For centuries the gondola was the chief means of transportation and most common vessel within Venice. There are just over four hundred in active service today, virtually all of them used for hire by tourists. They are essentially dressed-up water taxis.

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While in previous centuries, gondolas could be many different colors. Now, all gondolas are supposed to be painted black.

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Four passengers are about the maximum number of passengers that can be accomodated.

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The gondolas still have a role in public transport in the city, serving as traghetti (ferries) over the Grand Canal. The service is offered only to residents and cost about 1-2 euros. I saw one operating in the morning ferrying commuters near the Rialto market.

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The historical gondola was quite different usually having two rowers. The banana-shaped modern gondola was developed only in the 19th century and the construction continued to evolve until the mid-20th century, when the city government prohibited any further modifications.

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Every detail of the gondola has its own symbolism. The iron head of the gondola, called “fero da prorà” or “dol fin“, is needed to balance the weight of the gondolier at the stern and has an “S” shape symbolic of the twists in the Canal Grande. Under the main blade there is a kind of comb with six teeth or prongs (“rebbi “) standing for the six sestieri (districts) of Venice.

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For some, one extra prong juts out backwards toward the centre of the gondola (see photo below), symbolises the island of Giudecca. The curved top signifies the Doge’s cap. The semi-circular break between the curved top and the six teeth is said to represent the Rialto Bridge.

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It is propelled by a gondolier and never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep.

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The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses (425) granted after periods of training and apprenticeship, and a major comprehensive exam which tests knowledge of history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola typically necessary in the tight spaces of the canals. Here, he had to tilt the gondola and bent over sideways in order to squeeze beneath the bridge and then steer the boat tightly to turn right.

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Gondola traffic jam is quite common.

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The modern water taxis are essentially speed boats. They are just as popular as gondolas and can take more passengers.

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Taxi stands

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They run typically between the airport and a hotel in the city.

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It is a bit pricy. But if there are several people, it is worth it simply for the thrill of speeding across the lagoon right after a flight to a hotel with its canal side entrance.

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Some tourists arrive by cruise ship – much bigger ones than these river crusies (see pictures online).  These mega ships apparently cause environmental problems for the city (affects the silt at the bottom of the lagoon ?).

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If you have missed them, part 1 and part 2 of Buses, Taxis and Gondolas are here and here.


Part 2 of this three-part posts is about all the other types of boats that we saw on the canals, beside buses, taxis and gondolas. As the canals are the main thoroughfares for the city, most if not all of the services are delivered by boats. It was fun spotting these boats.

Parcels by DHL

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Carabinieri (military police)

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Ambulanza (by the way, in the background of this photo is an island (isola di san michele) dedicated to serve as a cemetery, cimitero)

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Garbage disposal  – we saw men picking up by hand household garbage in bags placed in front of homes, and putting them into metallic carts, the carts were then pushed up to the edge of the canal where the carts are grabbed and loaded into the boat.

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Refrigerated storage (perishables for restaurants)

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General delivery (?)

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Heating oil delivery or drainage ?

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Delivery of clean linen and pickup of used ones (laundry for hotels and restaurants)

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We saw these boats frequently, considering that most of the businesses in the city are in the hospitality sector.

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Construction debris collecton

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Repair shop for boats (“garage”)

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Gas station

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It was fascinating for city dwellers like us who are used to seeing these services delivered on wheels. Not until one sees it, the functioning of the city completely lacking motor vehicles was hard to picture in the mind.

The waterways of Venice are world famous. The city is made up of 118 islands and 150 canals. It is home to over 400 bridges and the only way to travel in this city is either on foot or by boat. Click here and here to see our posts about the Grand Canal.

This post and the next two will be dedicated to what travel the canals. We will start with the buses, and finish with taxis and gondolas.

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The waterbus in Venice are known as “vaporetto”. We bought the Venezia Unica pass which allowed unlimited use of the vaporetto service for 5 days. Sue and I arrived by train, getting off at the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, and got on our first vaporetto ride at the Ferrovia stop – we took Linea 4.1 to get to Fondamente de Noue where we made our way to the apartment.

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The vaporettos operate just like buses, quite frequently, the service is basic but reliable. At smaller stops, boats will come from both directions. So it is important to watch the board or the sign on the boat otherwise one can quite easily be going in the opposite direction.

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Linea Uno (No. 1) zigzags along the Grand Canal running from Piazzalle Roma to San Zaccaria near Piazza San Marco, and then enters the lagoon to get to Lido, making 20 stops. Not only it is great for tourist to see the canal, it also offers a quick way to get from one side of the canal to the other.

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In 1881 a regular public transport service with mechanically-propelled vessels began in Venice. In 1978, the current Venice Public Transport Company (Actv or “Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano”) began operating. In 2010, ACTV owns approximately 620 buses and 160 boats and 150 floating pontoons. There are 19 scheduled lines.

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The vaporettos are super-crowded at certain times of day and the conductor is non-forgiving when it comes to crowd-control. I (Chris) was separated from Sue and IT and the crowd while getting off the boat at Accademia (I was too busy snapping the pictures for this blog). And I got stuck behind people who were not disembarking (with strollers and luggages). The conductor let a few people on and promptly put the chain across the little ramp, and signaled the boat to leave. My protests (verbal and eventually gestures) were totally ignored. Thankfully, there were enough boats going back and forth. I reunited with them within 15 minutes.

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Waterbus routes between the airport and the city and the lagoon area are provided by Alilaguna. We used Alilaguna service to reach the airport (Aeroporto di Marco Polo).

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The airport is located on the mainland 4.3 nautical miles north of Venice in Tessera.

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The waterway that connects the airport and the Venice lagoon operates just like a two-way highway on land.

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We saw pets on people’s boats.

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These dogs were watching the owner who got off the boat to bum a cigarette from a tourist nearby.

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More boats in our next post.

Wandering back and forth on the Grand Canal is one way to experience the “Invisible Cities” described in Italo Calvino’s fiction (1972). It would have been sublime if we could read it leisurely and try map the literal to the physical.

Here are more photos of the Grand Canal. We have obviously spent some time touring/commuting on a vaporetto. To see part 1 of this post, click here.


One end of the canal starts near Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (one with the domes).


The photo below shows one of the exits of the Grand Canal at the other end (top of the inverted “S”).


The name “Salviati” on this building may not legible in this photo. It is a family of very successful glass makers and mosaicists who started in Murano – we will have a post about this island later. Apparently, the Salviati family constructed the building at 235 Regent Street in London which houses the Apple Store now.


More mosaics here.


These buildings, near Piazza San Marco, have been converted into fancy hotels, each having a private canal-side entrance.


Guests can be picked up from Marco Polo airport and dropped off directly in front of the hotel.


Or one can walk onto a gondola from the hotel lobby.


Many people go to a restaurant by boat.


Church of San Simeone Piccolo


Venice’s palaces, churches, and buildings are supported by thousands of wooden pilings that date back hundreds of years. As long as they’re submerged, the pilings do not rot -but when they come in contact with the air when the canal is being cleaned, deterioration could begin.


Apparently, the Grand Canal does not need much dredging because of the tides that sweep silt and sewage out to the Adriatic sea. But the narrower ones need the cleaning once every few decades otherwise the canal becomes too shallow even for gondola and a foul odor develops.


The Grand Canal is indeed magical.


We will come back later with photos of the boats on the canals of Venice.


Canal Grande or the Grand Canal is the main street of Venice.

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In the shape of an upside-down “S”, it divides the old city into two parts, winding its way through the six sestieri (districts). To me (Chris), Venice resembles two clasping hands with the right hand on top. Our apartment is located on the right hand in sestieri Canneregio, near where the left finger tips nest into the right palm.

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It is about 4 km long, width from 30 to 70 m, and an average depth of 5 m. One end starts near the railway station and it ends near Piazza San Marco (see earlier post here).

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The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 recognized buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century. There are many books (touristy or academic) and maps (ancient and modern) showing each building with stories behind its history.

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The scale and architecture of the buildings demonstrate the wealth and artistry of the old Republic of Venice. Many are fanciful enough to be called palazzos and are owned by noble Venetian families and rich Italians.

Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

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Most of the city’s traffic goes along the Canal rather than across it.

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There was only one bridge crossing the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. We will have a future post about Rialto.

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There are currently three more bridges, the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’Accademia, and the recent Ponte della Costituzione, designed by Santiago Calatrava,

Ponte dell’Accademia

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Ponte degli Scalzi

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Along the canal, one can see all the architecture styles that flourished and influenced the Venetians from Medieval 11th century to Modern. Because of its long history as a trading post with the east, many elements of eastern architecture had been adopted and merged into a distinct local style.

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Venetian Gothic combines the Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Moorish architecture influences. The style originated in 14th century and examples of the style are the Doge’s Palace and the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice.

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Ca’ d’Oro is one of the older palaces in the city, built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges (the leaders) between 1043 and 1676.

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Palazzo Bembo (right)

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More sceneries on the banks of the Grand Canal to come.


This was our first day in Venice.

Sis had a business trip in Europe so Sue and I(Chris) thought it would be great if we spend a few days in Venice together, taking in a bit of art at the Biennale.  The plan was to meet at the Milano Centrale train station and take the Frecciabianca express together to Venezia S. Lucia on the island.  We had done something similar before and it was pleasurable, traveling from Munich to Vienna on Railjet (click here to see that post).


Our previous trip from Munich to Vienna went flawlessly; we forgot that we were in Southern Europe. Sis’s train from Monte Carlo to Torino was delayed and delayed and delayed.  However, Sis said that it is possible that she’d be at the train station just in time.  At 1405, Sue and I found our seats and Sis’s reserved seat which was located just a few rows away was empty.  As the train departure time neared, I was hanging on to the train with one hand and leaned out to see if Sis was on the platform; with the other hand, I was pressing the phone to my ear trying to hear her over the noise of a very busy Italian train station. Her train had just arrived at the other end of the station and she was fighting through the crowds, the luggages, … but our carriage was at the head of the train. She saw, from the piattaforma, our train departing.  The only thing missing was a handkerchief as our train slowly pulled away.


Thanks to modern technology … we kept in touch. Sue and I arrived without complication two and a half hours later, met our Airbnb host, and checked-in as planned. Sis had more problems. She could not get on the next train because there were a lot of people who also missed their train.  She ended up taking a train that left Milano about four hours later.


After getting situated, Sue and I left the apartment to meet Sis at the nearest water bus (vaporetto) stop, the Rialto.  It was after dinner time and feeling a bit peckish, I wolfed down a few slices of convenience pizza. Eating the individual slices from a paper plate reminded me of New York.


At long last she emerged from the disembarking crowd. Sis had been on the road since 8 that morning. It was a very long day for her. We wanted to find a place to eat quickly but could not bear to go into the tourist traps that face the canal. We started heading towards the apartment, turned a few corners and came across this place – Bacaro Jazz – which happened to serve food.  A traditional Venetian wine bar is called a bacaro, which translates into “house of bacchus” and it serves cicchetti (think Venetian tapas). But this place was more like a regular bar with a proper menu and pictures of famous Jazz players adorning the walls.


We were really happy to finally meet up and start relaxing. Then we looked up and saw the ceiling … that was covered by bras, suspended neatly arranged in rows.


From supersized pink G cups to regular whities. Some were signed by the donors. We wondered what made the ladies so enamoured of the place that caused them to give away their underwear. Or maybe they were simply drunk.


Some of you may remember the Hogs & Heifers in the Meatpacking district in New York. They were also well known for the same decor. When they closed this summer after 23 years in business, they reportedly counted more than 16,000 bras.


The food at Bacaro Jazz was unexpectedly decent … or we could have been just cheerful and hungry. I had my usual Alla Vongole.


Now this photo is priceless. I did not notice her hand until all the photos were uploaded back home. I could not have caught this, even if I tried. Who knows what she was doing.


That’s where we had our first meal in La Serenissima.











In October, we spent almost a week in Venice, primarily to attend the Biennale. We have not been to Venice since moving to the continent and the last time I(Chris) came to Venice was more than 20 years ago.


We stayed on the island in the sestieri Canneregio (not far from the Ponti di Rialto). We explored the islands and the lagoon on foot and by boats.

San Marco Basilica


The most recognizable and visited place in Venice is Piazza San Marco – the social, religious and political center.

San Marco Campanile and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)


Surrounding the square are three museums (Palazzo Ducale, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale) that occupied several of the historical buildings which housed past governmental institutions when Venice was a rich and powerful state.


The Clocktower (Torre dell’Orologio), completed in 1499, with the archway into the Mercerie leading to the Rialto.


The piazza is ringed by long arcades which is lined with shops and restaurants at ground level, with offices above.

Procuratie Vecchie


At least three cafes serve the square and erected a small covered stage for musical performance. Popular classical and jazz was played throughout the day and in turns. We have seen musician going from one stage on another after taking a break.


We discovered, in addition to the price of the beverage, Caffè Florian situated on the south side (and likely its competitors across the square) collects a 6 euro music fee per patron even if one sits inside. The inside of the 1700’s cafe is crammed but beautifully decorated in baroque details.


As much as it is a touristy place, the open space, the water and intricate architecture really provide a unique atmosphere – rumor has it that Napoleon called the square “the drawing room of Europe”.

Courtyard inside Palazzo Ducale


The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.


Palazzo Ducale – Giants’ Staircase is guarded by Sansovino’s two colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, which represents Venice’s power by land and by sea.


At dusk, the place is mesmerizing to say the least.


Views across the lagoon.


Piazzetta San Marco and Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana


This has to be one of the top sights in the world.


We all fell in love with Venice. Many more posts to come.




Dear Readers, Happy New Year !

Continuing with our first post of 2016, this post takes a look back at the places we visited in the first half of last year. In 2015, there were 94 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 650 posts. The post that had the highest number of views in 2015 was about our visit to a durian stand in a night market in Malaysia.

Click on links, where provided to read more about the places of interest. There are usually a series of related posts per location, you can discover them easily in the calendar at the bottom of the post.

In reverse chronological order from June:

Berlin, Germany in June to see the Champions League final – a part of the wall


München, Germany in April for work, Asam’s church


Catania, Sicily, Italy during Easter – Teatro Bellini


Taormina, Sicily


Siracusa and Ortigia, Sicily


Half way up Mount Etna and Meditterranean sea, Sicily


Langkawi, Malaysia in January


Hong Kong


Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia


Penang, Malaysia in January


Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016.