Gorgeous photo of Venice *with Mountains* !!

If one were to compare this view with, say, my college in Maine's view of the White Mountains, the American mountains are about 20 miles closer but appear maybe half as big as these Italian Dolomite Alps.

That's cuz they just about are! The highest point in the Dolomites is Mount Marmolada (pictured in the background here, if I'm guessing right), which is about 11,000 ft. tall, making our Mount Washington at 6,288 ft. seem a little puny in comparison!

This photo below is from the splendid, not-to-be-missed blog Venice Daily Photo, which seems to be back in full swing after a brief hiatus. Enjoy!!

A Light Scratch on the Mind: Breathtaking Poetry of John Updike

John Updike passed away this week. Oddly enough, I have realized that I'm only two degrees of separation away from this great American author, since I know someone who knew him well (and apparently even inspired one of his early stories). How strange are tangled social webs we inadvertently weave.

What struck me even more though was a poem which was read on the PBS News Hour that he'd published in a collection back in 2001. A poem so amazingly lovely that I cannot help but share it here. May the ink make a light scratch upon your mind as well... Enjoy!

A Rescue

Today I wrote some words that will see print.
Maybe they will last "forever" in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird—a goldfinch?—
that had flown into the garden shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings on the deceptive light
of the dusty, warped-shut window.

Without much reflection for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy soft hands
pinned it against a pane, held loosely cupped
this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball,
to all that lovely, perishing outdoors.

(via languagehat)

P.S. You can also hear the author read it himself here.

Interesting Fact o' the Day

"Barack Obama was elected president on November 4, 2008. On January 20, 2009, the date of his inauguration, he became the fifth-youngest person to ascend to the Presidency, at 47 years, 5 months and 16 days old. Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Ulysses S. Grant , in that order, were younger than Obama when they took the oath of office..." (source)

Venetian Art Nouveau

I spent most of my Christmas break this year on the Venetian island of the Lido, where my in-laws live. It's largely a sleepy suburban version of Venice, with mostly 20th century houses and even cars. It does however have some attractions, which I should start to share here!

First of all, the Lido boasts one of the greatest concentrations of art nouveau villas in Italy (called in Italian "Liberty style.") Most chose to emulate the Venetian gothic palaces of the historic center, except with much more flourish.

To celebrate this unique twentieth-century heritage, the City of Venice has recently inaugurated a website dedicated to Liberty architecture on the Lido. So far, it's only in Italian, but a clickable list of the 250+ buildings catalogued with photographs is here.

Here are a couple of my favorites from the first 50... Enjoy!

Villa Lombardi

Villa "La Montagnola"

Casa Licia

A Glimpse of Tourist-Free Venice

This past December, when my Venetian husband and I returned to walk the streets of Venice, we found them almost devoid of tourists. It seems that the few hours of exceptional acqua alta that they'd had at the beginning of the month had scared most of them away. It was peaceful, yet unsettlingly eerie... a city out of time.

If you'd like a taste of that profoundly rare experience, here's a lovely video of a touristless Venice. Enjoy!!

Two of the World's Oldest Family Businesses are from Italy's Veneto

Of the list of the world's 100 oldest family businesses, Venice's local region is represented by Barovier and Toso glass company from Murano, founded in 1295, and shipbuilders Camuffo from Portogruaro, founded in 1438. As a whole, family businesses from Italy represent 13 out of the 100.

The whole list is an interesting one! The world's oldest family business in the world is a hotel in Japan that was started in 718 A.D.!! The other fascinating observation is that, of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is represented the second most often. Not bad for a country that's been around not even half as long as some of the others!

Other countries represented nclude:
Germany - 17
United States - 16
France - 11
Japan - 10
Netherlands - 10
Great Britain - 9
Norway - 3
South Africa - 3
Chile - 2
Austria - 1
Finland - 1
Ireland - 1
Mexico - 1
Scotland - 1
Spain - 1
Sweden - 1
Switzerland - 1

Have a snail in your throat?

Today was the first day that I've ventured out of my Venetian in-laws' house in over a week. I stopped by the pharmacy to explain that all I have left is a dry cough, and cough syrups and suppressants aren't doing me any good. The only relief I get is holding a mouthful of water, and I can't exactly do that while trying to get to sleep. Luckily, the Italian pharmacist had two moisturizing throat sprays to suggest... I'm so desperate for a solid night's sleep that I took both! And so far I've tried one of them and been thrilled that it works so well!!

While I was waiting for my credit card to process, another customer came to the counter with a similar complaint. The second pharmacist who was there listened to his complaint and said that there was just the thing for it... I expected to hear again about the throat sprays, but instead she took a box off the shelf and handed it to him. "This cough syrup's made from snails," she said in Italian. Snails?! I must have understood that wrong, I think. "Actually," she continued, "it's not really made from snails." Whew, I think! "What you need is a thick, moisturizing syrup," she went on, "and this is one is made rather from the slime of snail trails."

When I got back to my in-laws' house, I looked it up online. One such syrup is apparently called Karacoflu, and comes from Chile. Information about it says that, in addition to its special characteristic consistency, snail slime is supposed apparently to have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. The snail farmer reported that he had more than 8500 snails working "so we can get material for this ancient cough medicine recipe."

Wow, there but for the grace of God went I! Had I only arrived a couple of minutes later, that would have been the advice I would have received... and as open-minded as I try to be about the medical practices of other cultures because I know that my own can be biased in all kinds of ways, but this I just couldn't, as they say, swallow!

1960s Italian Design

For years, I've wanted to take pictures of my Venetian mother-in-law's housewares from the 1960s. Such slick, mid-century design for such quotidian objects! We have here, from left to right, her Girmi blender with coffee grinder attachment, hamper, and sugar and salt canisters, the font on which is particularly fun. Enjoy!

(It's the best first-hand Venetian post I can manage this break even though I'm in Venice, since I've spent the last week cooped up inside with a ferocious virus...)