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Ponte Santa Trinita, Florence, Italy

Ponte Santa Trinita, Florence, Italy

Just downstream from the Ponte Vecchio, the Ponte Santa Trinita, the world’s oldest elliptic arch bridge, was constructed from 1567 to 1569 by Bartolomeo Ammannati. The bridge was destroyed during WWII but reconstructed mainly from original materials raised from the Arno.

San Giorgio and the Giudecca from Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice

San Giorgio and the Giudecca from Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice

The cupola of the Redentore is visible beyond San Giorgio Maggiore. The modest-looking piers in the foreground are used by the Marco Polo Boat Club.

GPS: 45.433732, 12.345992

A Section of the Grand Canal in the Dorsaduro Sestiero of Venice

A Section of the Grand Canal in the Dorsaduro Sestiero of Venice

The stretch of Venice’s Grand Canal between the Rialto Bridge and the Bacino includes some of the city’s finest buildings. Owners of these buildings invested great effort and funds into creating impressive facades facing the Canal.

The five buildings shown here — with the dome of the church of Santa Maria de la Salute and a tiny slice of the former Abbazia di San Gregorio in the background — are, left to right, Palazzo Genovese, Palazo Benzon, Palazzo Salviati, Palazzo Barbaro, and Palazzo Dario.

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Bridge of Sighs

Upon entry into the great city of Venice, every camera-toting visitor is required to sign a document committing them to taking a photo of the Bridge of Sigh (Ponte dei Sospiri). This is my entry from our latest visit.

Beech Forest, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Beech Forest, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Beech Forest, in the Cape Cod National Seashore near Provincetown, offers a glimpse of the original arboreal landscape of the cape. According to the National Park Service,

In the period before European settlement, Cape Cod was covered largely by pine-oak forests, interspersed with smaller areas of hickory, beech, red maple, and birch. In the 18th and 19th centuries, much of Cape Cod consisted of open heathlands and grasslands created and maintained primarily by the agricultural practices of early settlers that included cutting, grazing, and burning. The cessation of these activities by the mid-1800s allowed trees to re-invade the landscape and forests now occupy the largest land-surface area and biovolume of any vegetation community.

Currently, the sole remnant of beech forest is this preserve at the northern end of the cape. The forest is in a low-lying area that was not worth logging. The trees, which don’t seem to mind wet feet, surround ponds covered with lilies and lined with reeds and other marsh vegetation. Wildlife is abundant and melodious birdsong fills the air.

There are bicycle and hiking trails that lead all the way to the dunes (about three miles). In past, the Provincetown Fire Department set up lights to illuminate the ponds for winter skaters, but I don’t know if this tradition continues.

Beech Forest Pond, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

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Vegetable venders near the Ponte dei Pugni

Greengrocer near the Ponte dei Pugni, Venice

Greengrocer near the Ponte dei Pugni, Venice

So convenient to pop down to the canal and pick up a few fresh fruits and vegetables.

The nearby bridge is called the Ponte dei Pugni (Bridge of Fists) because until the early eighteenth century the rival Castelloni and Nicolotti clans would meet in the middle of the bridge for fisticuffs. The losers would be tossed over the side of the bridge into the canal.

The bridge spans the Rio di S. Barnaba in the sestiero of Dorsoduro. The Church of San Barnaba, which gives the canal its name, appeared in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where its Paladian facade was supposed to be that of a library where Jones’s father disappeared. The church was rebuilt several times. The present version, from the mid to late eighteenth century, is by Lorenzo Boschetti. Its campanile, however, is one of the oldest in Venice, probably dating from the twelfth century.

Grand Canal, Venice, looking south.

Ca’ Farsetti, Venice

East bank of the Grand Canal, looking south from the Rialto Bridge. The two buildings to the right of the yellow facade are the Ca' Corner Loredan and the Ca' Farsetti, both built in the the early 13th century (and later modified). These are the earliest major palazzi facing the Grand Canal.

East bank of the Grand Canal, looking south from the Rialto Bridge. The two buildings to the right of the yellow facade are the Ca’ Corner Loredan and the Ca’ Farsetti, both built in the the early 13th century (and later modified). These are the earliest major surviving palazzi facing the Grand Canal.

I have been researching the interesting history of Venice and the Veneto, and will be posting a few entries, mainly incorporating photos I’ve taken during visits there. (This one was taken 30 Oct. 2010.) The second building to the right of the yellow facade is the Ca’ Farsetti, a palazzo of historic importance.

Before 1200 the focus of life for most Venetians was the open campo outside each island compound’s church. However, as the city filled up, becoming one rather than many, the divisions between those compounds were blurred. The great open space of the Piazza San Marco became the city’s campo—a place for the citizens of a unified state to gather. In the same way, the Grand Canal became its central boulevard, filled with traffic of all kinds. Where the palaces of rich Venetians had previously faced their local campi, they now turned toward the Grand Canal. The wealthiest Venetians jostled for position along the waterway, each attempting to outdo the other in grandeur. The oldest surviving such palazzo is the Ca’ Farsetti, built by Ranieri Dandolo, the son of Doge Enrico Dandolo. This impressive Gothic structure near the Rialto Bridge is today used as Venice’s city hall…. Unlike family palaces in other Italian cities, the Venetian structures remained unfortified—a feature that speaks volumes about the lack of factionalism and lawlessness in the Republic of Venice.
—Thomas F. Madden, Venice: A New History

Claude Lévi-­Strauss quotation

Camel plaque, Palazzo Mastelli, Venice

The House of the Camel, Venice

Camel plaque, Palazzo Mastelli, Venice

Camel plaque, Palazzo Mastelli, Venice.

In the Canareggio sestiere of Venice, between the Jewish Ghetto and the Madonna dell’ Orto church, on the Calle dei Mori (the Street of the Moors), resides the Palazzo Mastelli. It is an venerable edifice, marked with a plaque depicting a camel laden with burdens. (Consequently, the palazzo is familiarly known as the House of the Camel.) The camel is an enduring symbol of the position of Venice as an entrepôt for trade between East and West.

The original meaning of the camel plaque seems to have been lost to legend, most of it xenophobic. According to legend, three brothers came to Venice from “Morea” (the Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece) in 1112. Or maybe, according to other accounts, they were from the Levant. Maybe they were Arabs. In any case, their names are always given as Rioba, Sandi, and Afani, and they were traders, wicked men who, one story has it, sought to sell cheap fabric to a Venetian lady at an exorbitant price. But the victim of the scam cursed the money, and the three men were turned into turbaned stone statues that stand near the palace in the Campo dei Mori.

Another variant of the story says that the unscrupulous merchant used his favorite phrase while peddling his cloth, “May my hand turn to stone if what I am saying is not true.” Unfortunately for him, his intended victim was an avatar of St. Mary Magdalene (or maybe she simply answered the woman’s prayer) and once again the brothers end up as stone figures.

Turbaned figure in exterior wall niche,Campo dei Mori, Venice.

Turbaned figure in exterior wall niche,Campo dei Mori, Venice.

On one of the statues, known as “Sior Rioba,” satirical poems and protests politicians and other powerful people were traditionally hung. In the nineteenth century Sior Rioba lost his nose, and in 2010 his head, although it was later found in the Calle della Racchetta and restored.

Legends endure, and Venetians and travel guides have enjoyed relating the story for centuries. (One version appears in Giuseppe Tassini’s Curiosità Veneziane, 1872.) But the bases of the statues are in fact parts from a Roman altar, and the statues were not constructed as a group but are a composite from various sources, put together in the fourteenth century.

The Palazzo Mastelli is a similar mélange, combining thirteenth-century Byzantine fragments with sixteenth-century construction, Roman fragments set in a column, and all of that topped with a Gothic balcony. All quite Venetian and, if you ask me, charming.

Palazzo Mastelli, the Fondamenta Madonna dell'Orto facade.

Palazzo Mastelli, the Fondamenta Madonna dell’Orto facade.


Roman fountain.

Warwick downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island

Warwick downtown.

Warren downtown.

Warren, Rhode Island, is a town where the somewhat dumpy downtown seems frozen in the 1950s. In other words, my kind of place.

Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

To The Lighthouse: Nubble Light House, Cape Neddick Light Station, York, Maine (and a few other lighthouses)

Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Recently I visited Sohier Park in Cape Neddick, York, Maine (near Ogunquit). About 100 yards offshore on a small rocky island perches one of the prettiest lighthouses I have seen, called Nubble Light House. The lighthouse was built in 1879, and the original lighthouse and perhaps outbuildings are still standing (though no doubt much repaired and updated). The 41-foot-high lighthouse — built of cast iron lined with brick and equipped with a Fresnel lens — remains in use today.

No. 85000844 on the National Register of Historic Places, the lighthouse is a New England icon: its image was included among the Voyager spacecraft materials so that any extraterrestials the ship encounters can gape at it, just as we do. The day before we visited we were hit by an April Fool’s Day storm that dumped ten inches of snow on us. But when we got to the lighthouse the sky was clear and blue.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

Nubble Light House, York, Maine.

The visit to Nubble made me recall a few other lighthouses I’ve visited, some of which I was able to dig up from my photo files. My favorites are two Northern California lighthouses, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse near Pescadero (the tallest on the U.S. Pacific coast), and the Point Cabrillo Light Station near Mendocino.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA.

The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse near Mendocino (and the small community of Caspar) is one of the most complete remaining lighthouse complexes.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Caspar, CA.

Fun with panoramas

Stitching together photos can be great fun in the proper context. I think the Piazza del Duomo in Milan counts as one of these. This photo was taken 5 April 2013 with an Olympus E-Pl2. I stiched the images together with Olympus’s own photo software, called Olympus ib, but I’ve uploaded the result to a new service I found called Dermander, because I like its scrolling and embedding functions. Its a bit bare-bones (I wish it had the capability of selecting where to begin the scroll), but in contrast to Clevr (a service I’ve used before), it does allow full-screen panoramas (click the play icon and then the full-screen icon at upper right).

This version is downsized for web viewing. The original comprises seven large images.

panorama of piazza del duomo, milan

Travel photo: Castel Vecchio Museum courtyard, Verona, Italy

castel vecchio museumcourtyard, verona, italy

While we’re in Verona, here’s a picture from the courtyard of the Castel Vecchio, which is a handsome museum indeed. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect they slyly chose the planting to coordinate with the banner for the Maria Morganti show.

Travel photo: Venetian gondolier

gondola on a canal in venice, italy

This photo amuses me because the gondolier reminds me of the Eric Blore role in the Astaire/Rogers film Top Hat.

eric blore (manservant in top hat)

Travel photo: a street in Verona

Please bear with me while I post a few photos from my recent trip to the Veneto and Upper Adige.

I travel with a little (maybe 12-inch) tripod, but for photos at dusk like this one I usually just set my camera on something steady, like a trash bin or fire hydrant, in order to get a longer exposure. Usually I’m able to hold the camera steady for quite a long time in such situations.

It’s a small world aperol

spritzes in trento, italy

Spritzes al fresco in Trento, Italy.

During our recent visit to the Veneto I developed a taste for spritzes, which were being drunk everywhere. When we checked into our vacation rental in Venice our host took us out for spritzes, which was the beginning of the end for me (Carol never got hooked). We spent about a week in Venice and Verona, and then several days in Trento, where I was press checking a book, and everywhere all sorts of people, from ladies in heels to laborers in boots, were knocking down the same bitter, fizzy, rosy concoction. The image above was taken in the central piazza near the Duomo in Trento — you can see about six spritzes on the tables.

The main ingredients in a spritz (pronounced “spriss” in Venice) are white wine, aperol, and bubbly water (“acqua frizzante”). In place of aperol campari can be used, but aperol is the more common ingredient. (I tend to favor campari; aperol is used in the Sir Oliver Skardy video, “Fame un spritz.”) Both Aperol and Campari are amari, which is to say bitter aperitifs that can be drunk on their own, as opposed to “bitters” proper, which are used as flavorings. BevMo, where I picked up a bottle of Aperol (just now being made available in the U.S.) says that its unique flavor and color is acheived [sic] through a subtle blend of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and an array of herbs and roots, using a secret recipe that has been unchanged since 1919.”

Although variants abound, the basic recipe is pretty simple:

3 ounces white wine (preferably something like a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc)
1-1/2 ounces aperol
1-1/2 ounces soda water or prosecco

At least, that’s more or less what I read in the New York Times, which says the drink is catching on in the U.S. The Times advises to garnish the drink with a green olive (“Gently stir all liquid ingredients over ice in a tumbler and add olive”), but all the ones I saw on this visit were garnished with slices of orange (I don’t remember seeing so many spritzes on three previous visits). The Times also says to use prosecco instead of plain white wine, but if you used prosecco it doesn’t seem to me you would particularly need the soda water. The ones I saw made used white wine from the Trentino region.



Motorized paraglider

I don’t know what you call this — it appears to be some form of motorized paragliding. There were a couple of guys taking off from Anna Maria Island when we were there in Florida during the biting cold spell this January.

Whatever it is, like jet skiiing, off-road biking, and similar activities it’s probably fun to do but seems a little noisy for the context.

The video was taken with a Kodak EIS camera that my sister gave me. It shoots high-res videos, is slim enough to fit in your shirt pocket, and includes a built-in usb connection.

BTW, if a youtube video does not appear to be high-definition you can force the issue by appending &fmt=6 &fmt=18 or &fmt=22 after the url. But I think that soon most or all high-res videos will have an option at the bottom to simply select high definition. (Or, you can go to your youtube account page and tell it to always show high definition.)


This brief video is for James Higham, who loves thunderstorms. It’s a glimpse of a monsoon thunderstorm seen from my guestroom at CS Graphics in Singapore, where I am press checking the Asian Art Museum’s new art of Shanghai book. There has been some pretty spectacular thunder along with the rain, but I didn’t succeed in capturing it. (I haven’t actually viewed this, except through my camera, because the computer I am using doesn’t have flash installed — hope it looks like rain!)


When this post publishes I will be on  a plane to a distant press check. I will miss being with family, who will keep the home fires burning (literally, since we seem to be in for a long wet spell). In fact, I will be traveling through much of the next few weeks, and posting may well continue to be light until about mid-January (after several years of pretty regular posting I have scaled back during the last couple of months for a variety of reasons, but this is temporary).

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