Venice. The word alone makes me smile. And my favorite architect? Without a doubt, that would be Palladio. This summer, I was fortunate to enjoy both by celebrating Palladio’s upcoming 500th birthday while taking in Venice’s spectacular Festa del Redentore. Linking these two historic celebrations were four days of events benefiting Save Venice Inc. ~ an organization that restores art and architecture in Venice, and on whose board I happily serve.
Many of the events were held in some of Palladio’s greatest public and private buildings while others took place in Venice’s most sublime private palaces. The lunches, dinners and concerts we attended in these unforgettable buildings were framed by scholarly tours and lectures, making the trip educational as well visually sumptuous. To experience such a city under these ideal circumstances is, to put it mildly, a real WOW.
The final event of the gala was the festival of the Redentore, a Venetian festival that began in 1577 to celebrate the end of the plague. The famous monument, built as a plea for divine help in dealing with this horrible plague, was the Church of the Redentore, designed by Palladio.
Venice at that time was all about processions, but there was no bridge to allow such a thing. So, to accommodate the procession , a bridge was made of boats that were lashed together. This make-shift foot bridge connected the islands of Dorsoduro with the Giudecca, making them accessible by foot for the first time. Like many Venetian traditions, this one has continued over the centuries. Walking that long expanse over the water is to embrace Venetian culture in a way that only a Venetian festival can.
On our final night, after a fantastic Venetian dinner complete with strolling singers dressed as dashing gondoliers, we watched fireworks over the lagoon. Never in my life have I seen, or for that matter, ever imagined a more stunning display. And unlike Beijing, these fireworks were not digitally enhanced for television viewers. With a thousand boats on the lagoon and San Marco as a backdrop, the endless and astonishing fireworks blazed images in the sky that I will never forget. It was a truly spectacular finale for an unforgettable visit to Venice ~ the city of (my) dreams.
To learn more about Save Venice, visit savevenice.org. The projects taken on for restoration are of historic and artistic significance, and once restored will continue to bring pleasure and allow continued scholarly study of Venice’s great art and monuments.