The timeless magic of Venice
Venice is a city of great art and grand old masters. So it’s not surprising that Laguna Beach artist Betty Shelton loves it so dearly. “With its beautiful architecture, magnificent music and timeless art, it’s nothing short of magical,” she says. Shelton, who has a Laguna Canyon studio, frankly admits she has wanderlust. She attributes it to being raised on Air Force bases around the world. But there’s another reason. “I’m an artist and art lover, and have a great desire to see beautiful artwork, up close and personal.” She shares this love with her students at Laguna College of Art + Design, and other artistic travelers, whom she has been escorting to Europe on trips since 1995.
It has all of the beauty and excitement of the rest of Italy, but without the traffic, noise and crime. It’s actually one of the safest cities in Europe. Another plus: Because Venice is made up of 117 islands connected by 409 bridges, cars are banned. You walk or take vaporettos (water taxis) to navigate this magnificent city.
Time is right
September to November is considered the best time to visit Venice, but since I’m teaching during those months, I usually travel in late May to early June. It isn’t too hot yet, and most of the tourists haven’t arrived.
Make an appointment to see the Palazzo Labia, just off the Grand Canal, in the Cannaregio district. Hidden in the middle of Venice, this palace houses one of the most important 18th-century frescoes painted by master artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The walls and ceilings are amazing examples of trompe l’oeil. As you walk around, you are not sure what is real and what is an illusion. It is owned by the television station RAI, and you must email to reserve a tour (available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, firstname.lastname@example.org)
For me, a trip to Venice always necessitates a day trip to the Venetian island of Murano. The hand-blown glass made here is exceptional, and the prices at the factories are competitive with prices elsewhere. The real advantage is that there is so much from which to choose. You can find everything: jewelry, goblets, chandeliers. I purchased a Murano chandelier 20 years ago, and I’ve never regretted it. If you only have a short time in Venice, walk across the Rialto Bridge, which is lined with shops. You are bound to find leather journals, Murano glass and Venetian masks.
As you walk through the city, stop in at the churches that you pass. It will give you a chance to rest and escape the crowds (except in St. Mark’s) and you’ll see magnificent art. More than 100 churches in Venice contain amazing art by the likes of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bellini and Tiepolo. My favorite church destinations are St. Mark’s Basilica, the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, San Giorgio Maggiore, Santa Maria del Rosario, Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria della Piet à and the Church of San Zaccaria. Don’t forget to look up; even the ceilings have art on them.
I love to head to the romantic Piazza San Marco at night. The hordes of day-tripper tourists have left, and each café in the piazza has an outdoor terrace, where small orchestras take turns playing throughout the evening. It is hard to beat sipping a Bellini and dancing in the sparkle of the moonlight.
I like to eat and stay in the Dorsoduro. It is close to everything, but quiet and not so crowded. My all-time favorite restaurant there is Ristorante San Trovaso, (ristorantesantrovaso.it), near the Accademia Gallery. The atmosphere is beautiful, and it is like dining at a Northern Italian mother’s home. You will be surrounded by locals eating delicious fish and risotto dishes.