Thursday, 19 November 2015

Venice, the festa of the Salute, and the Palazzo Mocenigo

A post from abroad. 

We're just over half way through our week in Venice, and it's been very enjoyable so far. At this time of the year, compared to the warmer months, there are much fewer people. And no mosquitos, which is a great relief. It's now final week of the biennale, and on Saturday it's the festival of the Salute, marking the end of the great plague of 1630 - 1631. A pontoon bridge has been constructed across the grand canal to the eponymous church at its entrance. On Saturday, people will walk across it to the church, and there will be stalls and fireworks. The traditional dish for this festival is castradina, or salted lamb, boiled and served with savoy cabbage. I haven't seen it on any menus so far, but I made it on a previous trip in our rented apartment and rather liked it. This time round I don't think I'll go to the bother of cooking it myself, but I'm still on the lookout for a restaurant that will serve it.

Earlier during the trip, we visited the Palazzo Mocenigo. This is a house dating back to the gothic period but extensively rebuilt during the early 17th century. The last surviving member of the illustrious Mocenigo family donated it to the city in 1945, and today it is a museum and study centre for the history of fabrics and costumes. The museum with its architecture, furnishings, paintings, and other objects evokes the life of the Venetian nobility during the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as displaying the clothing of the period.

There is also a section on perfumes with a display of the raw ingredients that you can sniff, and a lovely collection of perfume bottles. For those who are interested, they also conduct perfume making workshops.

18th century Venice is the era depicted in the views of Canaletto and Guardi, and in the genre paintings of Longhi. This is sometimes thought of as a decadent age, when the thousand year old republic went into decline and became the playground of wealthy tourists and pleasure-seekers. The truth is of course always more nuanced, and during this period the arts continued to flourish, while life in the city remained relatively prosperous and comfortable by the standards of the time.

The Palazzo Mocenigo museum is well worth a visit for anyone interested in this period. Smaller and more intimate than the other better known museum of the 18th century, the grand Ca Rezzonico, and giving an insight into the more modest life of the very rich, as opposed to the stupendously wealthy.

The day after, we visited the Fortuny museum, a stunningly beautiful place, but that's for another blog post.

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