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Dreaming of Italy



Ben

I’ve only been back a week, but Italy already feels like a dream.  Summer is shifting now; here for a week or two longer perhaps, but that moment of new notebooks and an autumn clean start is around the corner – one of my favourite times of year.

I got back to an office that’s busier that normal. There wasn’t really time to sift through photographs or write a blog.  The strange thing is that when I was away, lying in the sun and reading, it felt like I’d been gone for ever. Now that I’m back for a week, it feels like weeks and weeks since I was eating good Italian food and doing nothing. Time has strange morphologies when you go away, but also when you come back.

We were in Venice for a few days with our friend Skye.  Nothing is more thrilling than the moment when you first turn into the canals. 

Bursting out in to the lagoon and St. Mark’s tower…

Turning into the Arsenale, where Skye and her Mum lives. 

Opposite her house is a little group of chairs, for the old boys to sit in and pass the time of day. 

On our first morning we went out to Torcello.

Skirting the edges of the Arsenal.

The Cathedral at Torcello is a wonderful building, with extraordinary mosaics – some of the earliest in the Venetian lagoon.

We climbed the bell tower.

Everyone knows that I love a stacking chair in an old Baroque church. 

Lunch:

I loved these rusting old buildings on some of the back canals, places I’d never been to before.

A sparkling day:

We walked home.  

A happy evening out, early to bed. The following day we went to the architecture Bienale, which was fascinating – but not, perhaps, the way that the exhibitors intended. 

My favourite corner of the Nordic pavilion.

The British Pavilion was completely empty.  All the effort had been spent on building a huge platform scaffolding over the roof, where tea was served each afternoon at 4pm.  We couldn’t help thinking it was…. boring. Reading the catalogue, the architects and curators obviously couldn’t help thinking it was… extremely exciting.  Hmm.

On the way back we went to the Nautical Museum. Brilliant and full of really exciting things to see.

Museum display case leg porn:

I really wanted to take this home with me:

Rooms full of models of ocean liners:

And then, next door, the boat collection, the dream:

My instagram followers got quite excited that evening by this photograph. 

We were off to Guidecca that evening, but went via San Giorgio, to look at the Vatican City entry into the Bienale, a group of beautiful temporary small chapels but contemporary architects. Well worth seeing….

Although nothing quite competes with the beautiful church itself.

The weather was turning. Thunder was building.

Evening wear.

We had a drink in a house with the most beautiful walled garden I’d seen, filled with vegetables; the heaviest tomatoes you have ever seen. Charlie heaven. 

We had dinner overlooking the water but as the storm blew in we had to retreat inside. Rain belted down. 

The following morning we got up early…

Breakfast at Palazzo Papadopoli, the Aman Hotel. The breakfast was nice but the ceiling was a lot better. 

The fire station.

And then we were travelling. Charlie was heading back to Dorset, to the doggies and his giant pumpkin – I was heading down to Tuscany for a few nights catching up with Val.  A few hours later I was on the wall. 

The golden hour:

On the Thursday we were in Siena for the Palio – probably, I think we worked out, the fifteenth or sixteenth I’ve been to, and still thrilling. That moment of entering the narrow alley that enters the campo….

The excitement is tangible:

This is not quite the moment for my usual ‘it’s hotter in Siena‘ blog, but the best things in life don’t change, as we know:

Back to the Duomo – this was new for me – where the winning horse and Palio are brought to the altar by cheering crowds. Amazing.

Celebrations all night long.

We didn’t do very much for the next few days.  A lot of reading, a lot of lying in the sun, sleeping, eating good food, drinking good wine. My idea of heaven.

One afternoon we went swimming at the Lecchi pools. You walk for a little way down a track in the woods and then get to the coolest, deepest, most delicious swimming pools. 

Heaven. 

Evenings drifted by. 

And on our last day, this extraordinary sky, thunder storms ringing around the valleys. 

The holiday was over. We drove down to Rome – Valentina and Cree catching their flights home to New York, me to London.  Masses and masses has happened since we’ve been home – Charlie and I have been to the Melplash Show, the Dorset steam fair, family days out – work’s been crazy too – but all that is going to have to wait for another day.  For now, let’s just take a small moment to dream of Italy.

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