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The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice

Tucked away in a quiet nook in the sestiere of Castello is Palazzo Grimani, newly opened to the public, after years of restoration. I arrived late one afternoon, just as dusk was falling. As I climbed the wide stairway to the first floor, the sound of ethereal music floated down to greet me. A tall, slim woman in black was singing Josquin, accompanied on period instruments, to a small assembly in the portego. It was a magnificent way to begin a tour of this extraordinary place.

The palace was begun (so the Blue Guide tells us) around 1530 by Cardinal Domenico Grimani, son of Antonio (who was Doge from 1521–23), and work was continued to enlarge the palace by Antonio’s grandson Giovanni, Patriarch of Aquileia. It has been suggested that Jacopo Sansovino may have been involved in the work, collaborating directly with Giovanni Grimani.

Cardinal Domenico had a famous collection of Classical sculptures. At the death of his grandson Giovanni (in 1593) they were donated to the Republic, forming one of the first ever museums of Classical antiquities (and they are still on public view, constituting the main core of the Museo Archeologico in Piazza San Marco). Domenico was an important collector in other fields, too: he purchased works by Bosch, Memling and Dürer, drawings by Leonardo, and paintings by Raphael, Giorgione and Titian. At the death of the last descendant of the family in 1865, all the works of art which had remained in the palace were sold and dispersed. What you see today, as you visit the palace, are the rooms themselves, stupendously decorated in a wealth of original styles, the former backdrops for these marvellous works.

Vista through to the Laocoön, viewed from the vestibule in front of the Tribuna.

At one end of the portego, the central hall that runs the length of piano nobile, is the Cameron d’Oro where plaster casts of famous Classical sculptures (including the Laocoön) evoke the marbles once exhibited here by the Grimani. The room leading off it, the Sala a Fogliami, is perhaps the most remarkable in the whole palace, because of its ceiling, covered with a fresco showing thick foliage and fruit trees—peach, pomegranate, pear, medlar and quince—populated by birds which appear to be attacking each other. Amongst the plants the painter included maize and tobacco, recently arrived from north America. The motif of the birds, it is said, was designed to symbolise Giovanni Grimani’s stern stance against heresy, a reference to his acquittal by the Inquisition, who had accused him of unorthodox attittudes to predestination. There is a bench in the room: the best thing you can do is prostrate yourself on it, flat on your back, and just look:

Fighting heron and hawk. Ceiling detail of the Stanza a Fogliami.

The extraordinary Tribuna was designed by Giovanni Grimani to display some 130 pieces of his statuary collection. Its sober atmosphere recalls the vestibule of the Laurentian Library in Florence—and it is now empty except for the Ganymede (a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original) which has been returned from the Museo Archeologico and now again hangs from the centre of the ceiling as it did in the Grimani’s day.

The Sala di Doge Antonio, and the little vestibule and chapel adjoining, are decorated with exotic marbles. The ceiling of the chapel is decorated with the following Latin motto: “Thou has protected me, O Lord, in thy tabernacle, from the slander of tongues.” By fireplace in the main room is a bronze bust of the Doge himself, a stern-looking man. Leading off from here are the Camerina di Apollo and Camerina di Callisto, decorated in the 1530s in stuccowork and fresco.

Camerina di Apollo: ceiling decoration.


In an adjoining room are four extraordinary panels by Bosch (c. 1503) representing Paradise and Hell, the Fall of the Damned, and the Ascension to Heaven. The image of the Fall is memorable in the extreme: like a scene from a nightmare, souls are represented as having tumbled through a great hole, and they now sit helpless in the dark, far from the light which streams through upon them, unreachable, from the manhole high above their heads.

Adapted by Annabel Barber from the forthcoming new edition of Alta Macadam’s Blue Guide Venice.

Burano in February


As work on the new edition of Blue Guide Venice gets underway, and as I start planning my next trip there, my thoughts turn to the island of Burano. On a sunny day in February—and if we’re lucky there will be some sunny days this month—the colours of Burano’s houses are at their absolute best.

Burano is most famous perhaps for three things: its lace, its S-shaped biscuits, and its colourful façades. But there is more. The little church of San Martino, for example, approached down the wide Via Galuppi, contains a wonderful painting by Tiepolo. It is a rare treat to be able to admire a work of Tiepolo without having to crick your neck back to look at a ceiling fresco. This is a Crucifixion, commissioned by a pharmacist in 1722 (his donor’s portrait is included, in an oval frame at the far left, not shown in the detail here). Christ is depicted victorious, his eyes cast upwards. One of the thieves has already being taken down and his body is being untied; the other still writhes upon his cross. In the foreground, the grieving, grey-faced Virgin swoons into the arms of the two Marys.


Via Galuppi and Piazza Galuppi, where the church stands, are named after the island’s most famous son, the composer Baldassare Galuppi, who was born here in 1706. He was immortalised by Browning, in “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”.

Oh Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very sad to find!
I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove me deaf and blind;
But although I take your meaning, ’tis with such a heavy mind!

Here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings.
What, they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were the kings,
Where Saint Mark’s is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?

Ay, because the sea’s the street there; and ’tis arched by—what you call
—Shylock’s bridge with houses on it, where they kept the carnival…

The skipping rhythm of the verses is intended to imitate the notes of a toccata played on a clavichord. The themes of gaiety and masked revelry and death are particularly relevant in a Venetian February, the season of Carnival and Lent. Though if the sun shines, there is no need to dwell on them for long.

There are plenty of places to eat on Burano. Al Gatto Nero offers local fish dishes, including a risotto di gù alla buranella (Burano-style goby risotto).

In praise of Venice’s water transport system

by Alta Macadam

After spending many weeks in Venice preparing the text for a new edition of Blue Guide Venice (out next year), I feel moved to sing the praises of the remarkable transport system run by ACTV in the city and the lagoon. Despite the huge number of passengers involved, the service is amazingly efficient and there is excellent electronic information supplied at the landing stages, telling you when the next boat is due. Although a single ticket is very expensive, there are numerous passes which give you free travel on the entire system for a certain number of days, and the season tickets for those who stay longer are extremely good value.

As an approach to Venice and all its wonders, nothing can be compared to the leisurely trip on vaporetto no. 1, all the way down the Grand Canal from the railway station at one end to the basin of San Marco at the other. It is only like this that you can appreciate the uniqueness of the city, see some of its greatest buildings to their full advantage from the water, and understand how the city functions with its myriad forms of water transport, from boats propelled by oars (gondolas to sandoli),through barges of all shapes and sizes, to motor boats. In addition, it provides the visitor with a glimpse into the way of life of the Venetians. For this reason the Blue Guide—ever since its first edition in 1957—has reserved a whole chapter exclusively to a description of the Grand Canal as seen from this vaporetto:  the left bank from the station to San Marco and the right bank from San Marco to the station.

Those who work on the ACTV boats are all trained sailors from the Italian navy, and one never ceases to wonder at the skill and efficient aplomb with which the boats are docked at every landing stage. The sailors always attend to the unloading of their passengers with great care and kindness, giving their arm to the elderly or infirm (extended to everyone on days of particularly rough water) or helping mothers carry off their prams. They always step off the boat before the passengers to make sure the vessel is securely moored and usually like to announce, with a flourish, the name of the stop as they do so for those on board, and then the name of the destination for those about to board (and at this point they are always patiently ready to give the added explanations unprepared visitors usually require). It is also fun to observe, even in the most crowded boats full of tourists, how the Venetians stand out for their elegant dress and way of greeting each other, and their quickened step the moment they set foot on the landing-stage as they leave the boat. You can often catch visitors almost mesmerized by these rituals as the boat proceeds on its way.

The design of the larger vaporetti has remained virtually unchanged and there is usually a small area where you can sit outside (now almost always in the stern). Although officially they can carry a maximum of around 200 passengers, their capacity seems limitless, and when very crowded everyone seems faintly amused  to feel the boat sink lower and lower into the water as it moves off at a more sedate pace. The ability of manoeuvre by the pilots is astonishing, especially in the crowded traffic on the Grand Canal, where they always manage to give right of way to the gondolas, how ever many of them cross their bows. And after San Marco, they always accelerate and steer out into the basin of San Marco making a wide loop in the water before returning to the quayside at San Zaccaria, simply in order to avoid disturbing the many gondolas moored on the molo at the Piazzetta. But this is always an exhilarating moment in the trip and the chance to catch the best view of all of the Doge’s Palace and the Piazzetta, with the domes of San Marco conspicuous behind.

Whenever you suddenly get tired of walking in Venice it is always worth finding the nearest vaporetto stop. There is nothing more enjoyable than taking a restful boat trip, for the joy of the ride and the wonderful views. Some of best lines are those that serve the many stops on the wide Giudecca canal; the ones that follow the Cannaregio canal out to the Fondamente Nuove on the edge of the northern lagoon; and the ones that leave from the Riva degli Schiavoni for Sant’Elena and San Pietro di Castello on the eastern edge of the city, where you get a unique view of the extensive dry docks of the Arsenale, and where the boat now calls (on request) at the island of Certosa. And then there is the truly wonderful trip (still for the price of a single ticket) via Murano out to Mazzorbo and Burano, where you get the ferry (for no extra fare) across to the remote island of Torcello. This is by far the best way (and the cheapest) of exploring that evocative part of the lagoon, but unfortunately since this ACTV service starts at the Fondamente Nuove, I suspect that the private motor launches which offer tourist excursions to Burano and Torcello from the quayside nearer San Marco often get more custom. Another real bargain is the no. 11 bus service, still offered by ACTV, which runs to the southern tip of the Lido. You then stay on the bus as it boards the ferry across the channel to the island of Pellestrina. After that, the bus takes you the whole length of that island and terminates beside the connecting passenger ferry which continues to Chioggia, where you arrive about an hour and a half later.

The small ACTV motorboat which provides a regular service from near San Zaccaria to the Armenian community on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, just a short distance beyond the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, also calls at San Servolo, where you can get off and have a walk in its walled garden. The view on the return journey, of all the domes of the churches on the Giudecca canal, of the Salute and of San Marco, is spectacular. There are other regular services from Fondamente Nuove to the more remote inhabited islands, very rarely visited, of Le Vignole and Sant’Erasmo. On request, these stop at the Lazzaretto Nuovo, open to visitors by appointment (when you wish to call the boat to get back to Venice, you activate a ‘traffic light’ at the landing stage).

It has to be admitted that there are also some mysteries attached to ACTV. The numbering system of the vaporetti and motoscafi changes every few years, for reasons that are difficult to fathom: in the last few years, for instance, the 51 and 41 and 52 and 42 (which do the circular route in each direction via Murano) have become 5.1. and 4.1. and 5.4 and 4.2. The services to Burano and Torcello have been given completely new numbers. And as for the special summer services, including thevaporetti to the Lido, which take crowds of Venetians there for a swim on hot days, it is never clear what number they will have (nor, in some cases, which route they will take). You can also sometimes be perplexed about the validity of your ticket (all of them last for one hour, so you can use the same ticket if you change boat—but only if it is going in the same direction!). Even if you have a valid pass or season ticket, you are now asked to present your ticket to the machines before you board (although it seems that many Venetians, all with their special passes, quietly refuse to adhere to these new regulations).

Innovations in recent years include illuminated electronic signs in the cabin, showing which stop is coming up next, and also, rather more obtrusively (but usually only in operation in high season) recorded messages in both Italian and English (I once heard a Venetian mother repeating “next stop” to her child, to teach it a little English). The Rialto markets have been given a vaporetto stop for the first time, and the San Marco stop now has a grand new floating shelter which facilitates the flow of tourists (even though many Venetians have complained that it is too big and blocks the view of the Salute from that side of the Grand Canal). A ‘vaporetto dell’arte’ has been introduced at certain times of year, which costs considerably more than a normal vaporetto but which has the advantage that you can get on and off as you wish, and which at present is never crowded. This is particularly helpful to the elderly or those confined to wheelchairs (although of course vaporetti are one of the very easiest forms of transport for wheelchairs).

The transport system has to deal not only with the enormous crowds of visitors at certain times of year, but also the problems of ever more frequent acque alte (flood tides), when some of the services have to be suspended because they can’t get under the bridges, and even the winter fogs which can make navigation treacherous, so that some lines have to be cancelled. But despite all this, ACTV remains to my mind one of the great Venetian institutions, which facilitates a visit to the city in so many ways. It deserves the support and gratitude of all those who go to Venice.

On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light

In the art of the Venetian artist Canaletto (Antonio del Canale, 1697–1768), Venice returned to one of her oldest habits: the depiction and celebration of her own beauty. Unlike the works produced in Venice’s heyday, however, Canaletto’s art and that of his contemporary Francesco Guardi (1712–93), both of whom were at work in the last decades before the end of the Serene Republic, was a depiction without the glorification of earlier times. And the works attained international fame in the artists’ own lifetimes.

Canaletto’s views of Venice and its canals were exported widely, especially to England through the British Consul, Joseph Smith. Their popularity was due in part to the outstandingly rendered light and shadow which suffused the ordered spaces. His works give remarkable delight to the eye both from a distance and from close to. Canaletto came to London between 1746 and 1754 and painted it: in his views of the northern city, he performed the remarkable feat of making the banks of the Thames look as serenely lovely as the Bacino di San Marco. Stillness is all in Canaletto.

Canaletto: The Grand Canal and Church of the Salute viewed from the Bacino

The works of Guardi are far less serene.

Here, the coruscations of light and vibrancy of atmosphere reveal a diametrically different response to the city’s beauty, a response which was only appreciated many generations later, once European sensibilities had been educated to see things differently by the Impressionists. For Canaletto, the light is the vehicle of his passion for the architecture: for Guardi the architecture is a necessary receptacle for his passion for the light.

Guardi: the Church of the Salute and the Bacino treated in less serene, more Romantic way

The works of both these masters remind us that so much of Venetian art, indeed so much of the fascination of the city, has always depended upon its unique light—immediately, tangibly different from anywhere else in Italy because of the surrounding water which constantly modifies it. It is this that explains the primacy of the the visual sensibility in Venice: it has produced no internationally great writers, poets, thinkers or scientists. Venice has no Dante or Leonardo, no Galileo or Machiavelli; but it produced painters whose universal influence has been incomparable, because of one fundamental lesson they imbibed from the endless modulations of their native light. They instinctively understood how light in painting is the vehicle of human empathy.

An extract from the introduction to Blue Guide Venice. © Blue Guides. All rights reserved

Venice without the crowds

People often worry that a trip to Venice will be marred by excess numbers of their fellow human beings. True, the city gets very crowded at certain times of year, and yes, there are ever fewer Venetians and ever more wretched carnival mask shops. But overcrowding afflicts only St Mark’s Square, the Accademia Bridge (and the route between the two), the Riva degli Schiavoni, Rialto and sometimes the island of Murano. Other parts are as tranquil as they were when Ruskin came to sketch them. Below are my top ten favourites (list still in progress).

Read the rest of this entry »

City Picks: Verona

Verona is a lovely city. It is just the right size for exploration on foot, and there lots to see. Many of its restaurants are justly famous. It is amply stocked with comfortable places to stay. Its Roman theatre, whose tiers of seats rise high above the river Adige, must have commanded one of the finest views of any ancient theatre in Italy. Its churches are magnificent. And then there is the Museo del Castelvecchio.

This fortress of art displays an astonishingly rich collection of sculpture and painting in the rooms of the old brick-built, Ghibelline-battlemented stronghold of the Scaligeri, or della Scala, who were overlords of Verona in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, until overthrown by the Visconti of Milan. At dead of night, the last of the Scaligeri fled this castle, across the bridge over the boiling river, and melted away, fading out of history.

Castelvecchio has one of the finest collections of paintings in Italy. Architecturally the building is interesting too, because its museum space was remodelled by Carlo Scarpa in 1959–73. Concrete now vies with brick. Once so cutting-edge, Scarpa's arrangements now seem a bit quaint. The equestrian statue of Cangrande I (ruled from 1311) stands on an elevated concrete platform which has all the stateliness of a lift-shaft in a multi-storey carpark. But this means the paintings really have to speak for themselves--and many of them eloquently do. The Pisanello and Stefano da Zevio are of course outstanding. There are some interesting paintings by Francesco Morone. Giovanni Francesco Caroto, the teacher of Veronese, is well represented. His Boy with a Drawing (c. 1515) is wonderfully modern: a grinning, red-headed lad holding up a scribble of a stick man. Any parent who has been called upon to admire a proud child’s not terribly brilliant masterpiece will warm to it.

And what about where to eat? Well, it was pouring with rain when I was last in Verona, so I didn’t spend a long time searching. Sometimes the tried and tested are just what one needs. An Aperol in one of the Listòn cafés overlooking the Arena and then lunch in Antica Bottega del Vino. The lamb with rosemary was excellent. The Amarone even better.

Find Verona in Blue Guide Venice & The Veneto and Blue Guide Concise Italy.

Rereading Ruskin

Ruskin’s sketch of Torcello

by Alta Macadam

As I begin a revision of the Blue Guide Venice for a ninth edition to be published next year, my thoughts have turned to Ruskin and all he taught subsequent generations about the way to look at the city. I have always been fascinated by his detailed descriptions in The Stones of Venice and the picture of him at the very top of a ladder propped against one of the columns of the Palazzo Ducale to peer at close range at the carvings on the capitals in order to scrutinize their every detail and be able to describe the expressions of the figures, the texture of the stone, the very spirit of the work of art. But it was his autobiography, Praeterita (1899), that I have recently reread with particular pleasure.

Here his very earliest memories as a four-year old during his idyllic childhood in his simple home with its orchard at Herne Hill are memorable. His father was a wine- merchant and in the summer months John and his mother would accompany him by carriage throughout Britain on visits to his clients. He recognizes that his parents over-indulged him and he made sure their ambitions for him to become no less than a bishop were foiled. His fond descriptions of the people whom he most admired, including his Croydon aunt, children of his own age, as well as his nurse Anne (“she had a very creditable and republican aversion to doing immediately, or in set terms, as she was bid”), reveal his generous spirit and insight into character.

Later in the book he describes at some length how he delighted in making detailed  sketches of the places and things he saw throughout his life. According to Kenneth Clarke (in 1948) these include “some of the most beautiful architectural drawings ever executed”.  Ruskin also gives us a delightful account of his writing method: “My own literary work…was always done as quietly and methodically as a piece of tapestry. I knew exactly what I had got to say, put the words firmly in their places like so many stitches, hemmed the edges of chapters round with what seemed to me graceful flourishes, touched them finally with my cunningest points of colour, and read the work to papa and mamma at breakfast next morning, as a girl shows her sampler”. A simplistic description of how some of the great prose in the English language was constructed. It is difficult to detect that the period in which he was writing these memoirs was clouded with terrible bouts of depression, which his contemporaries were quick to put down to fits of madness.

When at last, about half way through Volume I,  the family decide they must go and see for themselves the wonders of the Continent, Ruskin notes just how much things had changed since then:  “The poor modern slaves and simpletons who let themselves be dragged like cattle, or felled timber, through the countries they imagine themselves visiting, can have no conception whatever of the complex joys, and ingenious hopes, connected with the choice and arrangement of the travelling carriage in old times”. And of course we realize how far removed we are now from his time and are fascinated by the details of the carriage which was to be virtually their home for the next six months or so, led by four “properly stout trotting cart-horses” who, with a change at each post-house, were able to take them some 90 miles a day. We are given a description of the postillion as well as the courier: “A private Murray who knew, if he had any wit, not the things to be seen only, but those you would yourself best like to see”. Ruskin remembers the “luxury and felicity” of never being in a hurry, in contrast to the “modern” tourists who were travelling by train at the time he was writing his memoirs.

Much of the description of his travels with his doting parents is concentrated on France and the sublime Alpine scenery of Switzerland—“the revelation of the beauty of the earth”—although he is perceptive enough to understand that “the temperament belonged to the age” and a child born a hundred years earlier, or (we may add), a hundred years later, would not have been carried away as he was by his first distant view of the mountains from Lake Geneva.  But we are also given some wonderful passages about Venice. He remembers that he knew the city before ever setting foot there through the art of Turner (he and his father delighted in purchasing many of his works), and the writings of his master Byron: “here at last I had found a man who spoke only of what he had seen, and known:  and spoke without exaggeration, without mystery”…“he bade me seek first in Venice—the ruined homes of Foscari and Falier”…“Byron told me of, and reanimated for me, the real people whose feet had worn the marble I trod on”.

In Volume II when finally he arrived in Venice he experienced “the pure childish pleasure in seeing boats float in clear water. The beginning of everything was in seeing the gondola-beak come actually inside the door at Danieli’s, when the tide was up, and the water two feet deep at the foot of the stairs; and then, all along the canal sides, actual marble walls rising out of the salt sea, with hosts of little brown crabs on them, and Titians inside”…“Thank God I am here; it is the Paradise of Cities”.

Ruskin remembers fondly the days he spent in his gondola: early in the morning moored among the boats at the busy Rialto markets and then in the afternoon fastening a rope to a fishing boat to be pulled out to the Lido as he sat sketching the wind in the sails, or the view back of Venice shining beyond its islands. He tells of hours spent in the Scuola di San Rocco among the Tintorettos—the painter he most admired there and whom he considered had been totally neglected by the English public up until then. He speaks with great affection of two Englishmen he met on his travels, Rawdon Brown in Venice, and Joseph Severn in Rome, pointing out their generous spirits with unaffected admiration.

In Volume III he treats us to the most delightful description of his dog Wisie (“exactly like Carpaccio’s dog in the picture of St. Jerome” in the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni) who when he took him out to the Lido for a “little sea bath” charged straight into the waves and was lost for three days. At last “he took the deep water in broad daylight, and swam straight for Venice. A fisherman saw him from a distance, rowed after him, took him, tired among the weeds, and brought him to me…I was then living on the north side of St. Mark’s Place, and he used to sit outside the window on the ledge at the base of its pillars greater part of the day, observant of the manners and customs of Venice.” Ruskin then took him home with him across the Alps (which, to Ruskin’s chagrin, made no impression on the dog) and when they stopped in Paris Wisie was equally unimpressed—but hearing a bark in the street which sounded Venetian jumped out of the window and fell over thirteen feet to the pavement below where he immediately picked himself up and trotted back up the hotel stairs and eventually returned to England where he lived for many happy years.

As Kenneth Clarke wrote in an introduction to Praeterita in 1948, Ruskin’s “chief merit was his power of analysis—the power of scrutinishing an object so patiently and so perceptively that he could reveal something of its true character”. The traveller today has much to learn from such an approach—often all too intent on hurrying on to visit the next place and rarely content with halting for long enough to fix his attention before a building or a painting or sculpture to take in its instrinsic value and try to understand how it was constructed and where its beauty lies.

The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?


Anonymous tweets: essential for protest against oppressive regimes or the safe refuge of trolls and people who make trouble for fun? The Republic of Venice confronted this problem too, and they came up with the Bocca di Leone, or ‘lion’s mouth’, a hole-in-the-wall box where citizens could post denunciations of their foes and neighbours. The illustration at the top on the left shows the Bocca di Leone on the Zattere, placed there for ‘denunciations against public health abuses in the sestiere of Dorsoduro’. There are few surviving bocche in Venice today. The most famous is in the Doge’s Palace. Most of them were destroyed by Napoleon, in his mania for altering the world order, to underline the fact that Venice’s autonomy was no more and that she was subject to the laws of Napoleonic France.

Commentators have often used the Bocca di Leone as an illustrator of how sinister the workings of Venetian justice and government were. But in fact the inquisitors of the republic were circumspect in their treatment of anonymous defamations. A good blog about this can be found at bit.ly/Mw0E48.

The other two illustrations show a surviving bocca in Verona, which elected to join the Venetian republic in 1405. It invites ‘secret denunciations against usurers and usurious contracts of any sort’. It is placed beside the door of the old Palazzo della Ragione. Above it once proudly stood the Venetian lion—until Napoleon’s men hacked it to death.

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Egypt, Greece, & Rome
The Medici Villas of Tuscany and Tourism
Artwork of the Month: November. Reason, Unreason and the...
The first collectors of 'Primitives'
From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
Artwork of the Month: October. The Arch of Constantine
Sorting out the Uffizi
Waging war with a view
Dull London? Surely a mistake
Artwork of the month: September. Watercolour of the Great...
Italian Venice: A History
A tale of three museums
Rissëu
All Aboard the Cheese Train
National Gallery London to allow photography
Artwork of the Month: August. Bust of Augustus Caesar from...
Sacred Splendours: reliquaries of Florence's pious grand...
Book Review. Helena Attlee: The Land where Lemons Grow
Holiday reading
Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc
Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet
Marvellous and Macabre: the art of Jacopo Ligozzi
David Esterly - The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of...
Artwork of the month: June, Pordenone's Noli me Tangere
Budapest to Serbia by EuroCity Avala
Saving the Great Bear: Trieste's floating crane
News from Florence
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
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Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
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Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
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Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
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The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
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The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
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Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
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The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON CRETE
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
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Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
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Familiar face
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
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A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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