Syracuse University - Florence Program

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    Better late than never; back from Venice

    By Andy from Syracuse
    Oct 18, '04 7:01 AM EST

    Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while, it's been a bit crazy here but it's settled down some now. We've been to Mantua, Verona, the Aldo Rossi cemetery at Modena, Vicenza and, most recently, Venice.

    Venice is just about the coolest place I've ever been, a close second to Fenway Park. A brief overview: hundreds of densely packed islands, completely built up, with two city grids: canals between the islands and narrow roads with bridges, so you can get just about anywhere walking or on a boat. No motorized wheeled vehicles anywhere - even delivery services and trash collection is by boat, since you can't even drive a Vespa. It's a paranoid-critical fantasy trip that was once the capital of the Western world. It's also expensive and hard to get around in.

    The first morning we were there, there was an acqua alta situation. A large rain storm and a high tide combined to flood the city. Piazza San Marco was under a half meter of water, there was water in the stores, the church steps were under water, the streets under water, etc. This is perfectly normal. They have people to handle this kind of thing. Raised walkways were put up, traffic was directed, it probably didn't make the papers. This was a very interesting experience for the tourists, but the people who live there probably hate it as much as we hate the snow in Syracuse, especially when they just want to go to work and all the walkways are crowded with Americans, Brits and Germans stopping to take pictures.

    The second day we went to the Biennale. It's amazing. You should go. There are about 2 dozen countries with exhibits, many in the garden where they have their own permanent pavilions but some in the arsenale buildings. There is also an exhibit of probably 40 or 50 concert halls in the larger Italy pavilion in the garden, including huge models of Gehry's and Foster's. The Arsenale has an enormous display of primarily newer work, with the theme being "Metamorph". It's curated by Kurt Forster and the exhibit space installation is designed by Asymptote. There is an exhibit on harbor cities in a temporary floating structure.

    The main exhibit hall is the part of old Venice Arsenale, which is an enormous building, something like 1400 feet long, where they used to build and store ships for the Venician navy and merchant fleet. In its prime there were more than 10,000 people working there, they kept a minimum of 150 fully-rigged ships on hand and ready to sail immediately. Once they demonstrated their capabilities to a visiting king by showing him a keel in the morning and sailing the completed ship by him in the afternoon.

    I'll post some pics in a bit.

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