Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Venice 2013 - Olivetti Showroom by Carlo Scarpa

Some of the main agendas in our Venice bucket list was to visit Carlo Scarpa's architectural works. Scarpa is often considered the foremost modern Italian master architect. He was born in Venice in 1906, relocated to Vicenza when he was 2 years old, and later on moved back to Venice where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts specializing in architectural studies.

The Olivetti Showroom right on Piazza San Marco is one of Scarpa's architectural masterpieces. In terms of scale it is quite small - a 2-storey showroom which was commissioned in the 1950s. It was a showroom and office for Olivetti typewriters. Olivetti was once the leading typewriter manufacturer in the World, and they had always had a strong focus on design. It was not surprising that they would engage a talented architect to design their showcase space, and the result is one of the most beautiful architectural creations of the 20th century.

The centerpiece of the design is the impressive marble staircase which is a masterclass in creativity, composition, detailing and construction.

 The meticulous detailing and craftsmanship is quite breathtaking.

The showroom is now a museum which you can visit by paying a small fee of 5 euros. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and closed on Mondays.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Venice 2013 - Lunch

When you are in Venice, you really want to maximize your time looking at the beautiful sights rather then cooped up in a restaurant with no views. Good thing is there are many places dotted around the islands where you can pick up a quick snack and be on your way. Once such good place is Rossopomodoro (*the takeaway bar, not the restaurant) near the Piazza San Marco, along Calle Larga San Marco. It is one of those small snack bars that are very everywhere in Venice - the prices are affordable, and the food is quite tasty.

Pizza slices are the most economical and convenient snacks while in Italy. You can get them everywhere, and sometimes they are pretty good. These were full of nice, fresh and tasty  ingredients.

We also tried this popular Italian snack - deep fried spaghetti balls.  The filling inside is spaghetti with peas and some minced beef. Not bad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Venice 2013 - Mercato del Pesce

Not far from the Rialto Bridge is a small square next to the Grand Canal called Campo della Pescaria. Here you will find the fruit and vegetable market and the Mercato del Pesce - the fish market. This small little market is where all the chefs worth their salt in Venice shop for their seafood for the day.

Though the market is very small, the variety of seafood on offer is amazing.

I couldn't resist trying one of the plump scallops - it was delicious raw ! I also wanted to buy a langoustine - but the generous fish monger just gave it to me. I also ate it raw - and it was so sweet and delicate.

The fresh produce market in the square was also quite interesting. The Venetians obviously eat very well.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Venice 2013 - Ponte del Rialto

The Ponte del Rialto is one of the 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal. Connecting San Marco to San Polo, it is also the oldest - being built in 1591. This used to be the prime meeting place in Venice, as it used to be the only bridge to cross the Grand Canal. Hence it was also the centre of gossip and news in the City. Even Shakespeare's characters in Merchant of Venice would ask repeatedly "What news on the Rialto ?"

The bridge features porticos on both sides with a walkway in the middle. The porticos accommodate mostly shops selling tourist trinkets nowadays - I wonder what they used to sell in the old days.

The views from the bridge are great.

At the San Polo end of the bridge is the Rialto Market, which is a collection of old arcades and street stalls. It is so crowded at times you are being squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder. You need to be on pick-pocket alert at all times.

Those along the main path are mostly souvenir stalls, but wander off into the side alleys and you will find the fresh produce stalls which are a lot more interesting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Venice 2013 - Doge's Palace

Palazzo Ducale - the Doge's Palace - besides St. Mark's Basilica, is the most recognizable landmark in Venice. Just off Piazza San Marco, the Palace occupies a commanding position on the Grand Canal - facing out to the sea.

Venice was once ruled by powerful merchant families. From these families they would choose a Doge who would be the ruler of the City for life. To symbolize this power, they had to built the most impressive palace for the Doge who would live and rule from the building. And it is of no doubt that the Palazzo Ducale is one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings in Venice. The architecture is in Gothic style, with a colonade on the ground floor and an open loggia on the first floor. This combination make the building appear very light and delicate, visually defying the weight of the stone used for its construction.

The views from the promenade in front of the Palazzo are spectacular.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Venice 2013 - Piazza San Marco

Finding a the police station in Venice is like going on a wild goose chase. We went to the police station at the Train Station, and were told that we had to go to the one at Piazza San Marco to make the report. Once we got to the Piazza San Marco police station, we were told we had to go to another station 2 bridges down from Palazzo Ducale. We got hopelessly loss as the police station was no where to be seen, and asking around didn't help very much. Finally we managed to find a helpful hotel reception staff who pointed us in the right direction. The Police Station is actually in Campo San Zacaria, which you reach through a narrow alley.

While rushing around to find the police station, we felt like we were in a movie as the setting was spectacular. If it was anywhere else it would have been a drag, but in Venice it was actually quite fun !

 Piazza San Marco is the biggest square in Venice - and the only one called Piazza. All the other squares are called Campo. Surrounded by 3-storey buildings with an arcade on the ground floor, this is literally the heart of Venice, a gathering place for both Venetians and tourists who arrive by the tens of thousands every day.

The arcades are filled with shops and cafes, mostly catering to tourists. Some of the establishments such as Caffe Florian is a local institution and has been around since the 17th century - and the decor probably has not been changed a bit.

Some of the cafes feature live music to attract customers. There seem to be 2 main rivals on the Piazza - one featuring red chars, and another featuring yellow chairs.

At the eastern end of the Piazza is the famous St Mark's Basilica, and the impressive campanile - one of  the tallest structures in Venice.