Thursday, April 5, 2012

Girls Getaway to Venice - Guggenheim, Murano Glass & Carnival Masks

The next day Donna and Katie explored the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim. This unfinished 18th century palace was purchased by the wealthy American heiress and art connoisseur Peggy Guggenheim in 1949 to display her huge art collection. They say she invested $30,000 in her collection that is now worth more than $20 million. It is now renowned as one of the world’s foremost modern art collections featuring works by Picasso, Pollack and Dali. Guggenheim herself lived here until her death in 1979. Her grave, as well as those of her many dogs, is in the sculpture gardens.

After the Guggenheim, we enjoyed an afternoon of shopping. Some of the most popular items here are Venice Carnival masks and Murano glass. After being abolished by Napoleon in the early 1800s, Venice Carnival was revived in 1980 and attracts party-goers from throughout Europe. Elaborate costumes are the dominant feature of the festival that lasts 10 days before Shrove Tuesday with a masked procession through the streets and masked balls are held throughout the city. The world-famous Murano glass has been produced on a cluster of islands that make up Murano (just off of Venice) since 1291. Today you can still see craftspeople at work in their factories, blowing and twisting the glass into ornate objects from jewelry to platters. But you don’t have to travel to the islands to purchase is everywhere in Venice.

Another popular item in Venice are the gondolas (pictured above). There’s nothing more romantic in Venice than taking a gondola ride through the small, charming canals. And riding a gondola is like riding a piece of history. The boats have been in existence for at least a thousand years and there are ancient laws ensuring that each gondola is hand-made to specifications - size, shape, materials and color. We were ready to do a gondola ride after shopping, but the weather wasn’t cooperative and we could not partake. There’s always next time!

Known for its seafood, the Venice culinary scene (once thought below average) seems to be improving all of the time. Like the rest of Venice, meals can be quite pricey here, so we asked locals for recommendations and found establishments off the beaten path. One of our favorite places was at our neighborhood corner Quanto Basta....Italy’s version of grab and go food. Katie and I loved the late night fried chicken sandwich so much that we ate it again for lunch the next day.

As we said ciao to Venice, we took one last look at the “City of Water” that the New York Times described as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man.” We all agree!

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