For centuries Venice has been a beacon for writers . . . Lord Byron, Robert Barrett Browning, Henry James, Marcel Proust and, later, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, just to name a few. For 19th and 20th century painters, Venice was a siren that called like no other place on the planet. Perhaps one of the reasons for its irresistible allure is that it is really two cities — one of majesty and solidity above, and an ephemeral one echoed in the shifting waters below. Venice’s shimmering reflections tell you so much about the essence of this city of mirrors and mirages … at once substantial and fluid, with a past that reverberates in its architecture.
The romanticized, mythical Venice may be hard to grasp on a steamy day in midsummer when the city swells with tourists . . . but when the fog, la nebbia, settles in, it is easy to imagine that things can appear and disappear in its labyrinth of canals, or that you could turn the corner and walk into the past.
This slideshow was put together with the hope that in the aftermath of last month’s historic flooding, Venice will be restored and once again appear as it did in the magnificent paintings by the likes of J.M.W.Turner, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Raoul Dufy, Anders Zoran, Maurice Prendergast, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeil Whistler. (I am grateful to have seen and photographed so many of these wonderful paintings; photos I didn’t take myself are from Wikimedia Commons). Please consider donating Save Venice
An elegant gondola with its striped-shirt gondolier plying one of Venice’s 177 canals, silently gliding beneath one of its 450 stone bridges. Extravagant carnival masks … simultaneously concealing their wearers’ identities and projecting fantasies. Blown glass … dizzying bouquets of translucent color magically forged from sand. Or, perhaps that architectural confection that feels more like an imagined Xanadu than an inhabited city. No other place on the planet conjures such images! The novelist Thomas Mann called Venice “the most improbable of cities” … and all on a piece of real estate just two times the size of Central Park.
La Serenissima, long may you float. The world’s prayers are with you.
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Orvieto’s cathedral doesn’t have the global profile of Saint Peter’s in Rome, Saint Mark’s in Venice or the Duomo in Florence, and if the Catholic church were to do a survey of Italy’s most glorious churches it might even trail Milan’s cathedral or Siena’s stunner. But if you arrive in Orvieto on a blue-skied day and stroll up Via Nebbia, then turn the corner with all the tourist signs and cast your gaze heavenward, there’s a good chance that you’ll forget all the others, at least for a while. There before you is the Duomo, in all its grand Gothic glory. Construction began in 1290 but wasn’t completed until three hundred years later, and by that time, according to one historian’s count, it had become the collaborative product of 33 architects, 152 sculptors, 68 painters and 90 mosaic artisans.
Art historian Jacob Burckhardt called the Duomo “the greatest and richest polychrome monument in the world.” Pope Leo XIII suggested that on Judgment Day the Duomo’s beauty would levitate it straight to heaven … I think so too!