Well! We’ve been back for a while now, and I’ve had several people ask about NEPR’s Trip to Italy…how did it go? Was it FUN? What all did you see? What did you DO? What did you hear? How was the food? The wines? The art? Etc., etc., etc. So I figured I’d better share some pics with you, and tell a little about the trip. There’s a LOT to tell you, so I’m going to do it in installments.
In the beginning…
We started our sojourn in my favorite city in the world, Venice! We were met at the airport by Natalia Mandelli, who would be our tour leader while our group travelled Italy. She gathered our folks together for the transfer to our hotel. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, my partner Don and I decided to take advantage of the afternoon’s free hours so I could show him some of the city that I knew we wouldn’t see as part of our group tour. This worked out well, because our first “official”event was scheduled as a welcome dinner that evening. So we leisurely made our way to the Piazza San Marco, where we toured the famous Basilica, and took the elevator up to the top of the campanile, or bell tower. About halfway up, the bells began to ring, and when we arrived at the top, we were greeted by the tremendous, booming sound of all five bells, which at that point is FELT as well as heard! It’s an incredible experience, and one not soon forgotten!
While were in the area, Don and I walked over to the Anglican Church of St. George to meet up with a friend of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in many years. She is a lovely soprano who has been living and working in Venice since the early 1990’s. Liesl Odenweller has sung opera all over Europe, including at the fabulous La Fenice opera house in Venice, and is currently working with a Baroque music group, The Venetia Antiqua Ensemble, whose Venice Music Project uses funds it raises to help conserve works of art contained in the Church and Scuole of San Giovanni Evangelista. It was a real delight to catch up over espressos, and that wonderful drink, Aperol spritz. (My favorite!).
After our visit with Liesl, we made our way back to our hotel, which is a converted monastery, the Hotel Abazzia, located near the train station. It was a GREAT place to stay, with wonderful staff (THANKS Alvise and Daniele!) beautiful, comfortable rooms, and an excellent breakfast bar! Which was a good thing, because we needed the fuel for our walking tour of the city (with Venetian resident Andrea).
Our guide led us through winding alleyways and numerous “campi”, or squares to the Accademia (the museum of art), and we did a brisk trip through a few rooms of fantastic paintings. Afterwards, we crossed the famous Accademia bridge to continue our walking tour.
One of the major highlights of our time in Venice was attending a performance of Donizetti’s opera ‘La Favorite’ at the famed La Fenice opera house. It was a real treat to sit in the boxes in that most glorious house! The staging of the opera was unusual – a modernistic approach- but the singers were great, with the leads being particularly splendid. I wish we could have snapped a few pics of the performance, but that (along with recording!) is not allowed.
While in Venice, we also attended a performance of Vivaldi’s music, including a complete “Four Seasons”. The group featured two male violinists, with women making up the rest of the ensemble. It was very well done, and the lead violinist played entirely from memory. It was also fun that the players were in 18th century costume, which lent an air of authenticity to the concert, if you allowed for modern-day eyeglasses on the double-bassist! Afterwards, our group ran into a couple of the players who were on the same vaporetto (water bus) we were taking back to our hotel. It was fun chatting with them as the glittering lights of the nighttime city slid past.
Next installment – Ravenna and Bologna!