UPDATED AUGUST 2019: THIS PLACE HAS PERMANENTLY CLOSED
If there is one thing Venice does not lack of, it is of interesting things to do. This morning I needed to take a little break from my computer, so I decided to stay close to my house and distract myself visiting the Querini Stampalia Museum and then eating a nibble at Ossi di Seppia, the new place opened a couple of months ago by me dear friend Marco.
The Querini Museum is located in Campo Santa Maria Formosa and it is one of the few Residence-Museums in Venice. It was established in 1869, when Count Giovanni Querini bequeathed his family's private collection to the city and consists of a stunning library -where I spent half of my university life- a museum, a conference room and a very special garden. The original aim of the Count was to provide the city with a place that could foster study and education and, in fact, the foundation is very active and constantly organises cross-cultural events (plus, it is one of the few libraries that stays open until late evening!).
The entrance is from the above mentioned campo. To access, you cross the new bridge designed by architect Mario Botta, responsible also for the unique see-through ceiling and roof top. If you want to take photos (obviously without flash), don't forget to purchase the "photo pass"(it's just 1 euro). Before entering the actual residence, you will cross the covered area designed by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa.
Once on the noble floor, the atmosphere changes completely. The collection includes ancient, modern and contemporary art works and everything merges together perfectly. I won't go through all the collection, but I have to mention at least The presentation of Christ at Temple by Giovanni Bellini, which earned me a summer job some years ago, and two contemporary works I'm pretty fond of, which are the installations by Elisabetta di Maggio and Anita Sieff.
The painting by Bellini, dated around 1460, is particularly important not only because it recalls the one painted by Andrea Mantegna some years earlier, but also because the absence of a frame and of the halos, together with the closeness of the characters, makes this scene incredibly human and easy to identify with. Every time I see this painting, I am amazed by the brightness of the colours and I absolutely adore the pedestal by Carlo Scarpa, designed to interfere as little as possible and enhance the painting. My personal story with this painting is that in 2013 I was at a job interview in Vienna and the president of the company -an American tour operator- asked me if I knew where the painting was and I could tell him something about it. Well, I had studied that specific work at university and, as some of you know, I live not even 5 minutes from this museum... so I impressed him and got the job (which, in case you are curious, was to escort American graduates through Europe).
Going back to the museum, the installation by Elisabetta di Maggio is so refined that it may be difficult to spot. It's called Untitled-Wall 5 (2004) and it's to be found in the Jappelli room, on the left side of the door. What she did was embroider the walls to let emerge past memories; in other words she used embroidery as a means to create a dialogue with time. The other work I really love is Resonance (2010) by Anita Sieff, located in the dining room. The table is set as if an elegant luncheon was about to take place, but there are no people, just voices that cannot be identified. The recordings are the Public meetings held at the Guggenheim Museum, thus a reference to her other work started in 1996 in Venice, when she used to organise weekly meetings with artists, curators, and so on. At the Querini, she plays with time and space, over imposing situations and centuries. Pretty awesome, don't you think?
The last thing I want to mention (but, really...there is so much more to say!) is the zen garden realised by Carlo Scarpa, a magical place where time seems to stops and where water plays a key role. In fact, water enters the palace from the water gates that overlook Campiello Querini and is present in the garden thanks to a multi-level basin whit a channel, producing that relaxing sound that makes a stop in the garden a sort of mystical experience.
After my visit, I crossed Calle Lunga S.M.Formosa, took the third calle on the left and reached Ossi di Seppia. Don't know if you remember I reviewed it some time ago (see review), anyway: it's a great spot! It's not a restaurant but a cicheti place offering simple daily homemade nibbles and quality Italian wine. The bar is small, with about 4 tables and it's the sort of place we locals like going to. The food offer consists of sautéed and baked vegetables, meatballs, stews, baccalà and vegetarian options like frittata. I was served a small taste (well, it looked more like a whole portion to me, anyway...) of beef stew, which was mouthwatering, and an assortment of veggies, which included spicy chicory, caramelised baby onions and a ratatouille. Obviously, everything was accompanied by a glass of red wine, precisely a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Imagine having two boys, Marco and Francesco, all for you. They cook, chat, entertain and eat and drink themselves, so whenever I go, even if I'm on my own, I always feel cuddled and well looked after. The prices too are quite affordable (which is never negative) and everything is very nice. Personally, I think that in this area, Ossi di Seppia is one of the best options for an easy going lunch and early supper. In the evening it's more crowded, when people finish their working day and gather for a toast and a chat, but if you don't mind company... I'm sure you will love it.