As tourist invested as it inevitably is, Venice is of such an extraordinary beauty that it's impossible to be disappointed. I could walk the streets all day and constantly be inspired. The buildings, the gardens, the colours, the details – it’s the most fascinating urban fabric in the world. We moved into a small garden apartment in the Dorsoduro district, a little off the beaten track, more authentic, more local. Very cool. First evening’s dinner with friends at Il Refolo – very relaxed, sat outside with a view across on one of Venice's classical squares, with a view of the church of San Giacomo. A leisurely evening stroll back to base to rest up ahead of a very busy 56th Venice Biennale.
A morning with Venetian Heritage a foundation dedicated to restoring important buildings and interiors in Venice and beyond. Our tour was given by Director, Toto Bergamo Rossi. There are so many Titian paintings in Venetian churches, but the most spectacular has to the Chiesa di San Salvatore which houses the incredible Annunciation on the south wall and the Transfiguration altarpiece with its 14th century gold and silver gothic altar. At a restoration laboratory conservators were working on a series of ceiling panels for re-installation in their original position, most of which had been separated from each other and were in the possession of various collectors and institutions around the world. It was incredible to have access to this inner sanctum and watch such detailed.
After lunch with friends at Il Bacaro on the Campo San Giovanni Crisostomo, Miranda and I went to Palazzo Grassi, acquired in 2005 by French luxury magnate François Pinnault (who owns Gucci, Yves Saint-Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Boucheron, Balenciaga and a handful of other mega brands). The Palazzo is an astoundingly beautiful late 18th century neoclassical building that has been delicately updated by by Tado Ando. Breathtaking! The current exhibition is Slip of the Tongue, a retrospective of French pop artists, Martial Raysse. The combination of the artist’s upbeat but slightly spooky paintings and neon works, the sublime original building and the careful modernisation by Tadao Ando was completely immersive and divine. I was really excited!
After a nap, it was off to Pinault's other museum, across the Grand Canal at the Punta della Dogana, the old customs house. Again, impeccably renovated by Tadao Ando, and right art the tip of the canal as it spill into the lagoon, it is really such a special place. And celebrates the original customs building and gently inserts his classic elements of off-form concrete, steel and glass. The collection is less impressive. To my mind, a too try-hard bit conceptual for the sake of it. Not my thing at all. But then, when you’re this spoilt for choice, there’s always plenty else to intrigue, delight and inspire – and the view across the lagoon Palladio's Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is pretty terrific!