Venice and the Vogalonga
Ahh Venice. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this amazing city 5 times now, and every time there is something new and fascinating to explore. This year we travelled to the city so that my partner could take part in the Vogalonga – a parade of hundreds of paddle powered boats – canoes, gondolas, dragon boats, paddle boards etc – along a 30km course in the Venetian Lagoon. Phil was in a dragon boat with a team from Henley and Wraysbury, and they completed the course in just a couple of hours. It was a real spectacle to watch so many interesting boats on the canal, and the atmosphere was incredible with crowds on every available viewing spot cheering them on. Since I am an artist rather than an athlete I enjoyed watching the boats from a few different spots – the wonderful fish market, the Rialto and Academia bridges, San Salute and I ended up in the Peggy Guggenheim gallery, watching the finishing boats from the deck of the gallery. It was a special and memorable experience! (And I also had an introduction to an artist I haven’t seen before, Mark Tobey, who’s work is really interesting)
The rest of our trip was spent visiting places that we either haven’t had the time to stop at before (such as San Michele Cemetery) or that we wanted to go back to as last time we were there the fog was so thick we weren’t able to see where we were going (Burano and Torcello). We also spent an amazing and exhausting day at the Biennale – we have been to the Biennale before and I would definitely recommend seeing it over two days rather than one, there is so much to see and the space is enormous! The Giardini pavilions are really wonderful, with artists representing many countries in their own pavilion. My favourite was the French Pavilion, which was beautifully constructed and featured a moving soundscape. The huge Arsenale area houses an impressive collection of international artworks, and the buildings themselves are very interesting to walk around. Various pavilions are scattered throughout Venice as well, although we only had time to visit one – the NSK Pavilion, which was a very thought provoking and disconcerting exploration of the refugee experience. Another very impressive exhibition in Venice at the moment is by Damien Hirst – not normally one of my favourite artists, but his creation – Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable in the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana is beautifully and imaginatively put together.
I was so happy to have the opportunity to go back to Burano and Torcello – we went there last January while I was in Venice to photograph an apartment, and the weather was beautifully atmospheric, but so foggy that we really couldn’t see anything of the lagoon, and the legendary colours of Burano were very muted. So to go back in the sunshine and see the incredible rainbow houses, and the stunning view from the campanile on Torcello was really amazing. The atmosphere on the lagoon islands is very different to the main island of Venice, with smaller houses and wider streets and canals letting in the light – they feel much more homely, and the fish in the restaurants in Burano is mouthwatering. The cemetery island of San Michele is a spot that I’ve wanted to see for a long time – I’m a bit ghoulish and have always loved to hang around in cemeteries with the beautiful monuments to loved ones long gone. San Michele is a lovely, peaceful place, which should be treated with respect as it is still where Venetians are laid to rest
For the first time I actually felt like I knew the place reasonably well, and only got a bit lost twice! I hope this won’t be our last visit to Venice, there is still a lot to see, and so many more delicious fish to eat, but if we go back it will have to be in the winter when it’s quieter and cooler – we avoided the area around St Mark’s square completely due to the crowds. There are calls to limit the number of tourists in Venice, which could hopefully make it more pleasant for the residents who have to put up with hundreds of thousands of tourists crowding the narrow streets.
The gallery below was taken on an old Bronica medium format film camera using Kodak Portra 160 film - I just love the colours of Portra, and it's so nice to be able to use this camera. You can see lost more highlights (digital!) on my Flickr gallery - if you haven't visited this amazing place, hopefully it'll whet your appetite!