Eurolog V: Art, Music, Genius, Pizza

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This was our last full day in Venice and though we’d already had quite a bit time to spend exploring the city already we woke up with a long list of must-sees still to see.  So we got up, got ourselves to the hotel breakfast and got on our way with as little dallying as our vacation attitude would allow.

We had purchased 24-hour water-bus passes the previous day so we decided to take advantage of the money spent and cruise the Grand Canal before the passes expired at 12:30pm.  We walked to the nearest water-bus stop and hopped on, taking seats in the open back area and keeping our cameras at the ready.  We rode until we got bored and hopped off somewhere in the vicinity of a few attractions we were hoping to find.

We scratched our heads and craned our necks as we walked this way and that in search of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and what do you know, serendipity led us straight to the front door of the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum – which was definitely on the day’s list – as serendipity tends to do.

The Da Vinci museum

There was a good ethnomusic band busking outside for tips, including a guy that played a very curious flute that changed pitch solely through embouchure fluctuations and by taking his hand on and off the hole at the end on the flute.  We listened for a couple of songs, took a couple of pictures and short videos and threw a few euros in their case.

Housed inside a gorgeous old church, The Da Vinci Museum is comprised of recreations of the master’s inventions in an open-concept, hands-on environment, and it was awesome.  You could crank a handle and operate ball bearings yes, Da Vince invented the ball bearing), bicycle chains (mm-hmm, he invented the bicycle chain too, oh, and the bicycle), cam shafts (another very clever invention of his and it was super-fun to make them spin around and do their camming), mock machine guns (it’s surprising how many military devices he invented, including the tank) and countless other creations (like, countless), any one of which would have been enough to immortalize Da Vinci’s name in history.  Taken together they are evidence of one of the greatest minds in recorded history and yet they still amount to just a fraction of why everyone on the planet for the last 500 years has known his name implicitly.  The guy basically invented anatomy and oh yeah, there was that whole best-painter-in-history bit with The Last Summer and The Mona Lisa and stuff. Basically, we’re talking about history’s greatest Renaissance Man (literally).

Leonardo Da Vinci invented almost everything in this picture

The single room was small but all the exhibits held our attention for nearly an hour.

Back on the cobbled street we stopped for a slice of pizza and found a stoop by the canal to sit and enjoy our lunch.  I made the mistake of sharing a bit of crust with a cool little pigeon that was lurking nearby and soon a bunch of his decidedly uncool friends dropped in for a piece of the action.  We shooed them away but like big feathered houseflies they just wouldn’t shake until we finished our slices.  With their meal tickets unpunched the birds scattered and we headed to find the Guggenheim.

Which was right around the next corner or two.  We bought our tickets and shelled out for the audio guides so we could get smarter.  We started in the outdoor garden which contained about a dozen nifty sculptures.  Inside we strolled through the late Ms. Guggenheim’s lovely home and gawked at a mob of very serious art on the walls.  Peggy was a firm believer in buying art only from living artists and she did most of her collecting in the ’40’s so the place was full of work by Picasso, Kandinsky, Pollack, Braque and a host of other modern surrealists.  

We took a break on the divine canal patio which featured a few more sculptures, including my favourite Angel Of The City.  I even bought the t-shirt.

The audio guides slowed us down some and we often lingered over pieces as we took in the narrative but we still got out of there with plenty of time to continue our cultural treasure hunt.  

Next up was another church, this one containing a very cool musical instrument collection of violins, violas, viola de gambas and other oddities that dated back centuries.  Unlike the Da Vinci museum these were the real deal and everything was kept behind glass.  

Then…let’s see now…we stopped into the nearby Teatro Fenice where I looked in vain for a postcard to commemorate our night out seeing La Traviata, m’lady got a gelato at one of the ten million gelato places, we stopped into a small art shop and bought three beautiful prints directly from the artist himself (including one of the Teatro Fenice, which made up for the postcard strikeout), and finally we got back to our hotel and recharged our camera batteries and our weary bodies.  

The Rialto Bridge

After a leisurely rest we headed back out to find a restaurant that m’lady’s friend had recommended.  We crossed the famous Rialto Bridge in the fading light and immediately and unknowingly walked right by the Trattoria Alla Madonna.  We proceeded to walk almost forever through endless winding alleys before we finally circled back and found the restaurant just a few steps from the Rialto.

The Trattoria Alla Madonna has been there as long as Venice has been there.  Apparently they started by serving food under a vine tree and they eventually built a restaurant around it.  That very same vine tree still lives and it grows out of the ceiling.  We had to wait a while for a seat and when we got one it was crowded.  We didn’t have much elbow room but who cares?  The food was good and the service was perfect.  The waiter chastised me for not having wine and everything.  

After dinner we walked back over the Rialto, wound our way through San Marco Square and found Harry’s Bar, a very busy and overpriced place famous for having invented The Bellini.  M’lady and I found a table upstairs and ordered a pair of their famous drinks (of course).  

I was taken aback to find out that their “invention” was merely a matter of mixing Champagne with peach juice.  That’s it.  Slap a clever name (I guess) on it, make sure a few celebrities are overheard ordering one in some fancy New York City cocktail bar and whammo for the next forever you get to charge eighteen euros for a 300ml glass of the stuff.

Even without audio guides, at that price we lingered.

I got the bill and tried my best to pay it with a straight face and then we exited the bar and emerged into a gorgeous evening and walked along the fairy-tale cobblestone alleys back to our boutique hotel  holding hands like we were in some sort of romantic fantasy world.

I don’t even like peach juice.  

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