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Arts & Culture

On to Verona!

Venice wept yesterday as we loaded up the water taxis and headed out. Maybe it was just rain, but I’d like to think the city was marking its regret at our departure. Throughout our four days there, the weather had been great, if a little cold. Now as we got up early and left right after breakfast, the skies above La Serenissima opened and let fall gentle tears which, while tinged with sadness, wished us God’s speed as we struck out for Verona.

Venice is such a breathtaking place it’s hard to imagine anything else could follow and not pale completely into insignificance.  Well, Italy yet again surprises in a very profound way.
As we headed on a private coach toward Verona, we made a stop in Padua to visit the magnificent Scrovegni Chapel.  Built at the very start of the 14th century, the chapel was originally adjacent to the Scrovegni palace and served as the private chapel for the Scrovegni family who had made their money through banking, or what used to be called “usury,” i.e. moneylending (not good in the Middle Ages!).
Enrico Scrovegni was the force behind its construction, and he retained the services of Giotto di Bondone (better known simply as Giotto) to decorate the interior walls.  What was produced is considered by many one of the masterpieces of Western art; Giotto painted a cycle of frescoes, numbering about 40, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and of Christ.
Eight hundred years later the colors are still vivid, the scenes full of symbolism and allegory, the narratives alive and instructive.  The Scrovegni Chapel is a wonder to behold.  Rita Justice, one of the KUHF tour group members, told me that, as a young girl, she had a book filled with the Scrovegni Chapel Giotto frescoes, and she made up her mind that one day she was going to see them “in person.”  Well yesterday Rita fulfilled a lifelong ambition.
After Padua we drove on to Vicenza and more stunning art.  This time the artistic honors belonged to Andrea Palladio, the famous architect.  Vicenza is filled with palazzi he designed.  We were given a private tour of one that now houses a bank, the Palazzo Thiene, which dates from the middle of the 16th century.
We also drove just outside of Vicenza to another of Palladio’s famous creations, La Rotonda, the Villa Almerico Capra, begun in 1566, which comprises a central domed rotunda around which rectangular rooms are built so that the entire villa is literally a circle fitted inside a square. 
Palladio’s buildings are known for their symmetry and proportion.  The great architect managed to erect houses that while grand and imposing on the outside, are surprisingly intimate inside.
Tonight we’re off to Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico to see a ballet version of Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s great musical theatre piece, Die Dreigroschenoper, or The Threepenny Opera as we know it in English.  I’m sure I’ll have more to tell you about Mack the Knife tomorrow.