Penelope's Labour in Venice.

This post is very late, we returned from a very wonderful trip to Venice last week but I have been hobbling about on a very sore foot since our return. Nothing broken but I am feeling very sorry for myself after walking into a piece of furniture on the last day of the holiday. If it had been the first day it would have ruined things entirely so I suppose I should be thankful for that.

What can I tell you about Venice that you don’t already know? We avoided the crowds and queues in St Mark’s Square, instead we explored the quieter parts, the secret alleyways, churches, gardens and squares.

click to enlarge.

Every turn a photo opportunity, so many tiny shops, bookbinders and stationers selling exquisite marbled papers and mask shops galore, Venetian glass glimpsed through palace windows and everywhere light and sunshine and water. We crossed The Grand Canal in a traghetto, a poor man’s gondola ride, for half a euro you can take this “ferry” across Venice’s equivalent of the M1. How we avoided the very many vessels traveling up and down is a mystery, I can only assume that we had right of way, it was a bit scary but fun too.

We saw amazing art in the churches, palaces and libraries. Venice was host to the Biennale but by far the most impressive art we saw was here, the day we crossed over to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Penelope’s Labour is the name of a tapestry exhibition featuring works old and new. Each exhibit was delightful in its own way, I expected to be impressed with the antique tapestries but was completely bowled over by the contemporary pieces.

Craigie Horsfield - At 99 Posse concert. Via Gianturco, Naples. September 2008
2010, 375 x 855 cm, wool and cotton
Woven by Flanders Tapestries

The work by Craigie Horsfield was worthy of Carravagio, a scene from a pop concert has been woven into a stunning piece of contemporary art. If you look at the faces in the crowd you will see a Christ like figure, surrounded by faces who could have been disciples, some faces showing adoration, others menace. Some of the tapestries were displayed on the floor and provided you removed your shoes you could walk over them. I was puzzled at first, the works by Carlos Garaicoa appeared at first sight to be actual mosaics until closer inspection revealed the true nature of these extraordinary tapestries, with words and shadows woven into the structure. Do have a look at the links if you have time.

We returned home in time to celebrate the second birthday of our gorgeous grandson George.


  1. Stunning pictures, especially that first one!

    I love crossing the Canale Grande by traghetto. I use it as often as possible when I am in Venice. What I admire most are people who stand while crossing. I haven't dared yet (wouldn't want to send my camera to the bottom of the canale!).

    I hope you are feeling better soon!

  2. I hope your foot recovers soon.

    The tapestry exhibition looks so inspiring - I'm tempted to run down to Stansted to see if I can get a bargain flight!

    I should think you were in heaven looking around the bookbinders workshops :-)


  3. What a lovely trip. I liked reading your explanations of each photo. The tapestries sound especially amazing. Someday I hope to find my way to that city.

    I hope your foot gets well soon, my Friend. ((hugs)) You're right--it's a blessing it didn't happen the first day of your trip!

  4. Great post. Sorry about your foot - though thank goodness it was the last day. Venice takes some walking.

  5. Hope your foot is feeling better.

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. Venice looks very dreamy and romantic!

  6. ahh you take me back. I was a travel guide there for a while and loved the backstreets so much...

  7. Except for your poor foot, I'm totally totally bowled over and green with envy!
    Venice --AND the stunning contemporary tapestries.
    Yes, I love the little book binders in Venice and am tempted by lots of notebooks to fill with trivial drivel.
    This summer I saw tapestries made from Picasso paintings (commissioned by the Rockerfellers).
    Much better than the paintings themselves.
    Feel better soon --yes, it is a good thing it wasn't the first day.

  8. A dream vacation trip. Gorgeous pictures.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Hope you foot heals quickly.

  9. I had a look at the links and I couldn't believe the size of these tapestries! I remember doing a bit of weaving in high school and can't even fathom the planning into some of these not to mention the time involved. Thanks for taking me along.

  10. I love the marbled paper shops in Venice - and the food - and the little back alleys - like you I always avoid San Marco - it is either full of people or flooded.

  11. Valerie, what a grand trip you had. Too bad about that aggressive furniture with designs on your foot!

    I still have memories of that Venetian light...and all those paper sources, too. And Fortuny's house, gelato, and so much more.

    The tapestry exhibit photos really do show the variety of work. I am awed by tapestries from past ages, yet really love seeing what contemporary artists are creating with this art form. Amazing!

    You've got me wanting to get back to Venice for more exploring. xo

  12. What a nice looking couple you are, on a well deserved trip to a marvelous place. Although I have never been to Venice, I am a traveler of the mind, and can imagine it's sights and smells.( Of course, photographs are helpful too.}
    I sympathize with your injury, I have been hobbling around for 10 days after taking a Jack and Jill down our wet hill.

  13. The modern tapestry is amazing. I had no idea that artists were making such complicated works in fabric. Hope that your foot is better.

  14. Sounds like a wonderful trip--sore foot aside. I think I've been in that same bookbinder's shop as in your photo. Such a lovely city.

  15. Venice is so inspiring with so many beautiful things to see. Glad to hear you have had such a wonderful trip. I have no doubt you stocked up from one of the lovely paper shops.
    I followed the link, what amazing work, the time and skills involved and it must have been breathtaking.
    It brought back some lovely memories, yes that crossing was quite scary having to stand up.
    Lovely photographs.

  16. Valerie, this was a wonderful trip. What spectacular photos! Maybe one day I will see it all in person. In the meantime, thanks for giving me a preview. Hope your foot heals very soon, and happy birthday to George.

  17. What an amazing holiday. I don't know where to begin to comment.The tapestry exhibition is almost too much to comprehend.So many artists and craftsmen combining their talents to show us that,despite our technology and progress,the face of humanity really doesn't change.
    Also,I really thought that weaving with spider thread was the stuff of fairy tale.

    Happy birthday to baby George. How lovely to have a grandchild while you are still both so young.

  18. So sorry you banged up your foot! I hate sore feet! Put them up and grab a good book, and perhaps some chocolate. Feel better!

  19. It all looks so wonderful - you must have had an amazing time! Hope your foot is feeling better now:)

  20. Hello, WOW what a very lovely trip to Venice. You and your DH look like you was truly enjoying your adventure in Italy. Loved seeing ALL those book. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Hope your foot gets better quickly. Hugs Judy

  21. I am blown away by the modern tapestries, they are subtle and spectacular at the same time. How marvellous they must look first-hand.

    So sorry about your foot-toe injury. I broke my toe on a coffee-table leg some years ago and was hobbling for weeks.

  22. wow - so very lucky you to go to venice! thanks for the link to the incredible video footage. the weavings are extraordinary and i can only imagine what they were like in person. i love to see anything of venice. i hope to go there some day. steven

  23. oh this must have been a wonderful time.. Thanks for sharing the photos and descriptions of your travels.