What a wonderful day I had! After my usual second breakfast, I decided to take advantage of my free morning to quickly visit the huge and quite marvellous exhibition Homo Faber that is now -until the 30th of September- on show on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The theme is crafts and craftsmanship, 'Crafting a more human nature' is, in fact, the subtitle. Consider that the exhibition occupies the whole island and features over 16 types of experiences, that range from live artisan workshops to interactive activities and events. It is enormous and incredibly rich of things to see and do, reason why today I just had a quick walk through and got a general idea, but will definitely have to return.
San Giorgio Maggiore is an astonishing island located at the centre of the San Marco basin, just in front of the Doges Palace. Seat of the most wonderful Benedictine convent, it is thanks to the Giorgio Cini Foundation, founded in 1951 by Vittorio Cini in memory of his son, if it returned to its original splendour. Initially it was called the'island of cypresses' and used as vine and salt mine. In 790 a first church dedicated to San Giorgio was erected and in 982 the construction works of the Benedictine convent began, while it was only in the 15th century that noble Venetians started using it as circle for philosophical and literary disputes and that Cosimo I dei Medici, exiled from Florence and confined in Padua, donated precious codes and books, enriching the library of San Giorgio. (reference 'Venezia. Le isole incantate' by L. Menetto and P. Fabris) .
As you know, the facade we see today was designed by Andrea Palladio, who also designed the second cloister and the refectory, where once stood The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese, today at the Louvre museum in Paris. The library and the monumental staircase, instead, are works by Baldassare Longhena. I don't know if you remember, but this winter I took you to San Giorgio to see 'The Last Supper' by Tintoretto (see post), in front of which there is his other work 'The Falling of the Manna'. If you go, you must head to the top of the tower bell (don't worry, there is an elevator). It costs 6 euros and you get to see the best view of Venice. I also enjoy stopping in front of the 'Saint George and the dragon' by Vittore Carpaccio. Every time I see that painting, I can't help but laugh at the image of Saint Benedict (on the upper left part) naked, rolling in the thorns and brambles to punish himself for having had dirty thoughts.
Anyway, this time I didn't enter the church, instead I went straight to the exhibition. When you arrive on the island, in front of the vaporetto stop (oh yes, I forgot to mention that there is a free shuttle service from San Zaccaria), there is a stand with some very kind hostesses, where you need to register for the accreditation (it takes less than a minute and it's free). You will be given a map, with a brief explanation and lots of useful info to get around. As soon as you'll enter, you will find yourself in a marvellous cloister, from there go straight on and before delving in the garden, visit the first pavilion. Dark and packed with fine objects, you will find artisans engaged in their craft and available to answer questions and give you an insight on their work.
The day was too beautiful, so I remained inside only a couple of minutes, then I went outdoors and followed the path sided by trees and bushes. A wooden boathouse covered in ivy on the right, and a lovely temporary bar on the left. The catering service is organised by the renowned pastry shop Rosa Salva. The snacks are the same -but less- as the ones in their cafeterias in Venice, but with a little over cost. I recognised one of the barmen that usually prepares my coffee in Calle Fiubera, so I stopped for a drink and a ham and mushroom tramezzino. The place was busy without being overcrowded. Families, couples, groups of friends and classes of high school students were all well distributed and, what most struck me, all seemed very serene and relaxed. San Giorgio, in fact, with its pastel coloured buildings, the maze and the green areas, invites to this sort of approach.
Wandering around I saw some very elegant furniture for the house and garden and fantasised about how they would look in my imaginary villa. Take the time to stop at the small pavilion at the far left corner of the maze, with its beautiful wooden sculptures and objects of interior design. After the light blue food truck, there are some bright rooms dedicated to Venetian Glass and Carlo Scarpa's work at the prestigious Venini showroom on Murano. My favourite, were the matte white vases that recall Giorgio Morandi's metaphysical still life paintings.
After the final explorations around a wall made of coloured glass bricks, I interrupted my cultural investigations and phoned Vito. He's working at the event, so he took a five minute break and came to say hello. As previously mentioned, I only stayed for a short while, but a proper visit takes about 2/3 hours. I strongly suggest you to go: personally I think it's a great opportunity to see the green areas that aren't always accessible, and to delve into a fun and fascinating world of art and design.
The exhibition is open until the 30th of September, every day from 10 am to 7 pm (last entrance 6:30), the free shuttle service leaves from San Zaccaria - Pier B every 20 minutes and if you are in Venice in this period, you simply must go.
If I had a full free day, I would organise it like this:
- visit the church and tower bell in the morning
- enter Homo Faber around lunch time and snack in the garden
- take the whole afternoon to wander and explore the exhibition
- take a vaporetto to Palanca and have an aperitif at Bar Palanca
- eat a traditional dinner at Trattoria l' Altanella (booking recommended)
I hope these suggestions will turn out useful, so let me know!