Today we're taking a vaporetto from San Zaccaria and going to Giudecca - Palanca. A 10 minute boat ride that will allow us to discover a whole new and quite enchanted reality, made of arts, crafts, a magical ex convent and passionate people. As some of you may know, Giudecca has become a sort of hub for contemporary arts in Venice; thanks to the lower rents, many offices and laboratories have settled on the island, where life seems much more sustainable and people-friendly than in central Venice.
Once off the Palanca boat stop, take your right first and then turn left before the bridge that would take you to Harry's Dolci. Walk along the Fondamenta, see if the fig tree has something to offer you and stop in front of the church of Sant'Eufemia. You will already be breathing the peaceful and quiet atmosphere typical of Giudecca, the pale and faded facade of the church matches perfectly with the half-wild garden in front, now full of roses and with the usual group of paddling ducks. Just next to the church, on the right, there is the ex convent of Santi Cosma e Damiano, which in the 80s became object of a council re-qualification project and was assigned to 10 craftsmen (currently, only 8 are occupied). The venue was restored and 10 studios were created on the ground floor, all around the cloister, while on the first floor, the apartments for the artisans where built. A project that responds to the old Venetian concept of 'Casa e bottega', literally meaning home and shop.
I went on a Wednesday and did not stop in every single lab (because I kept chatting and then realised I was short of time, but I recommend you to see all of them), still I had a great morning. The first place I stopped in was the Murano Glass Fine Art studio and showroom, where I met Stefano Morasso and his lovely wife Nicoletta. The room is definitely spacious if compared to the ones we're used to in Venice, with a beautiful light, a window overlooking a private garden and and the door facing the cloister. Stefano is originally from Murano and is very passionate about his job, the technique he masters are lamp-work and glass-fusion and in his workshop the objects space from jewellery to glasses, small dishes and bowls. I particularly liked the transparent glass and metal pendants, which he produces in collaboration with the Venetian goldsmith studio Laberintho. Stefano was really really nice and was enthusiastic to share with me the behind the scenes of his production. Maybe it's because we have the same name, but I got on particularly well with his wife, who provided me with lots of useful info and material with the history of the convent. The kind of people I'd like to see more of, kind-hearted, generous and simple (in the best sense of the term).
When I had finished, I went to visit Fernando Masone's studio CartaVenezia - VenicePaper. Just one word: amazing! What a man and what a life. Confesso che ho vissuto we'd say in Italy, Fernando conveys calmness and tranquility but has had a very intense and rich life, typical of curious and clever people. Originally from Benevento (a town close to Naples), he first moved to Rome where he worked as a graphic designer and ceramist and eventually moved to Venice, initially to study and then to teach at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica. His research focuses on combining techniques derived from different medias and applying them to his personal paper creations. He explained he uses cotton paper because it has a long fibre and proves to be more resistant for his purposes. The thicknesses vary according to the specific art work he wants to create. In his studio you will see incredible lamps, decorative objects for the house, but also paper jewellery, bookmarks, notebooks and photos printed on paper. He was so nice to show me how he works, which helped me realise how much time and skill are required! I bought a small hand-painted bookmark with an engraving representing Fortune over Punta della Dogana for my husband (you know, the turning tables... our life right now!) and an absolutely gorgeous white and ivory bookmark for my mother with the tree of life. Fernando was so entertaining that when I looked at my phone I understood I didn't have enough time to visit the other studios (lunch break usually from 12:30 to 3 pm), but I was so happy it didn't really matter.
Another fact I really liked is that most artisans want to collaborate and support each other. As previously mentioned, Fabio regularly works with a goldsmith in Venice, while Fernando often collaborates with a boy (he's 40, is it okay to say boy?! In Italy at 40 you are practically still a baby!) called Federico Sutera, a talented photographer, owner of the studio XFrame, located just next to the Palanca stop, on the riva. Federico was born in Venice, then studied photography in Madrid and lived in Spain for a while. He told me that it was when he became a father he started feeling the need to return to the lagoon, amazing place for families. His work is centred on Venice and he documents both what he likes and doesn't like about the city, giving shape to images that are not only beautiful but also narrative. His initial project is called Postcards from Venice, while with Fernando he started printing some selected photographs on cotton paper. Well, the effect is incredible because they look like watercolours. I didn't take any pictures of his pictures, I suggest you have a look at his website and judge for yourself!
Anyway, Federico was really nice and, with the same spirit of collaboration, he showed me some works by Monica Casaril (was unable to find her website, but you can see something here), specialised in creating miniatures of existing places. So cool!!! If you decide to spend a day on Giudecca, I also suggest stopping at the painting studio of Claudia Corò and -it goes without saying- at the Marco Polo bookshop! In summer, this island is just great: breezier and less touristy than Venice, it's full of things to do and exhibitions to see, thus I strongly recommend spending a day here. For food, I am particularly fond of Altanella (see my review here), while I see that a lot of my friends go to Palanca and Crea (I really enjoy Crea, great for a traditional budget but filling lunch).
I don't think you need me to remind you of Palladio's churches, Villa Hériot, Casa dei Tre Oci and the yearly Art Festival (this year, 7-9 September) to give you more reasons for a visit. The only thing I can say is that Giudecca is magical and if you decide to go you will be rewarded!
Bye for now, talk to you soon!
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