Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Funeral of Valeria Solesin - Venice Transcends Terrorism


(Venice, Italy) Today the sun was brilliant in Piazza San Marco for the funeral of Valeria Solesin, the 28-year-old Venetian doctoral student killed in the Paris attacks on Friday the 13th. Valeria's family and friends have exemplified courage, composure and dignity in the way they have handled the tragedy, embodying the highest human qualities -- in direct contrast to the terrorists who committed the atrocity in which Valeria, and the other 129 victims, were murdered.

Alberto, father: Luciana, mother; Dario, brother & Andrea Ravagnani, fiancé Photo: La Republicca
The family wanted a civil ceremony, and invited people of all faiths to attend. The ceremony opened with the Italian national anthem, followed by the French, and was attended by Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, as well as Roberta Pinotti, the Italian Minister of Defense, who read a message from French President Francois Hollande. Also present were Agnes Renzi, the wife of Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who was here yesterday to pay his respects; Luca Zaia, the President of the Veneto Region; and Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor. Gino Strada, the president of Emergency, the Italian NGO dedicated to helping civilian victims of war, an organization for which Valeria Solesin was a long-time volunteer, also attended, as well as much of Venice.

Body of Valeria Solesin arrives by gondola
Even though the ceremony was not religious, three major faiths were represented -- Christians by Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice; Jews by Rabbi David Bohbot, and Muslims by Iman Hamad Mahamed. Also attending on behalf of the Islamic community of Venice was the president, Mohamed Amin Al Ahdab, who spoke very strongly, to much applause. He said, "Valeria was like own our daughter. We are here to say that she was not killed in the name of our God, nor in the name of our religion, nor in our name. Ours is a religion of peace."

Valeria Solesin died in the arms of her boyfriend, Andrea Ravagnani. Alberto Solesin, Valeria's father, said he felt it was a duty owed to all the "Valerias and Andreas of the world who work, study, suffer and never give up" to be an example of composure and dignity.

Parents of Valeria Solesin - Photo: La Republicca
It was a deeply moving ceremony that transformed the darkest energy into something sacred, dignified  and bright; it was as if the angels themselves were present overhead. The Solesin family personifies the best of La Serenissima, exhibiting the highest qualities of civilization in a time of chaos and anxiety.

Valeria Solesin
The ceremony closed with Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the national anthem of the European Union. Valeria Solesin's coffin was carried by the gondoliers. She will rest on the Island of San Michele, next to her grandfather.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin - Venice Victim of Paris Terrorist Attacks


Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
(Venice, Italy) Thousands of people gathered in Piazza San Marco last evening to honor Valeria Solesin, a young, beautiful, intelligent Venetian woman, one of Venice's -- and the world's -- brightest stars, who was senselessly murdered by Daesh aka ISIL in Paris on Friday night; we gathered to remember all the Paris victims, but especially Valeria, a hometown girl. About five to seven thousand residents of Venice, young and old, made the journey to the center of the city to hold aloft twinkling points of light, illuminating the darkness that has descended on the planet. Many Venetians arrived with their children.

Valeria Solesin
Valeria Solesin represented everything good, empowering and compassionate about Europe. She was a brilliant young woman, who believed passionately in peace, not war. Valeria grew up in Venice, graduating in 2006, then got her degree at Trento University. For the last four years she lived in Paris as a PhD candidate at the prestigious Sorbonne University, studying sociology, with an emphasis on family and children. For years, she was a volunteer for Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides assistance to the civilian victims of war -- the extreme opposite of everything ISIL represents. She was killed at the Bataclan concert hall at age 28.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
All monsters who use terror as a weapon must be held accountable. Because, what is ISIL? Who created it? ISIL is a Frankenstein demon out of control, a twisted conglomeration of failed policies in the Middle East, created by extreme greed, outrageous abuse of power, and astonishing stupidity by schemers in different governments and "intelligence" agencies. By turning directionless young people into militants, and deliberately targeting successful young people at a rock concert, ISIL is a mirror that reflects the dark state the world is in today.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor, made a poignant statement. I do hope that he is sincere, and that the death of Valeria has shaken him as much as it has all of Venice, all of Italy, all of Europe. He said, "Tonight, let our city be the basis and example for a new European policy. A melting pot, a crossroads of different cultures, as it always was -- we have to start from here... from this piazza finally full of Venetians. We would like it if the whole city could, once again, become a bridge to the intersection of cultures. In fact, from this evening, we could start building a new political Europe, with and for young people."

Now, that statement is nothing new. There are many residents of Venice who have been working for years to do exactly that -- make Venice the crossroads of civilization and cultures, as it always was. But one does not accomplish that by banning books about tolerance immediately after taking office, as Brugnaro did, or by canceling art exhibitions, or by declaring there will never be a gay pride parade in town, or by publicly insulting individuals with whom he disagrees. A future working for the cruise ship industry, which Brugnaro supports, or for massive tourism, does not appeal to Venice's finest, brightest youth, causing them to search elsewhere for opportunities.

If one wants to be a shining example for a new Europe -- which Venice does have the capacity to do -- one must start by building a dignified bridge within one's own community, not take actions that divide it.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazzo San Marco
Let us hope that the harsh reality of Valeria Solesin's murder acts as a catalyst for change, and that we can all work together to bring about hopeful a world for our youth. Rest with the angels, Valeria.

Il Gazzettino
Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


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Monday, November 9, 2015

From Venice to Treviso - Escher at the Santa Caterina Museum & Re-Opening of the Bailo Museum

Relativity by Escher (1953)
(Venice, Italy) M.C. Escher, the extraordinary Dutch graphic artist, saw the world with a geometric eye, creating impossible objects like staircases with different gravity sources in the same space. Escher was fascinated by nature and crystals, and enchanted by the Italian landscape, which inspired him to invent worlds where reptiles and birds morphed into the Italian coastal town of Atrani, which linked to a tower in the water, which was actually a rook on a chess board.

Escher flipped reality on its head.

Metamorphosis II by Escher (1939-40)
An Escher exhibition is currently running in Treviso, a small town in the Veneto that packs a powerful punch. Only about 35 minutes from Venice by train, Treviso is the headquarters of several major Italian brands -- like Benetton, De Longhi and Pinarello -- and is definitely worth the trip.

The world of Escher is a fantastic playground for both grownups and children. In addition to three floors of Escher's works, there are interactive games and optical illusions sprinkled throughout the exhibition, as well as clips from movies and commercials inspired by Escher. Even album covers like Mott The Hoople were zapped by Escher.


The curators of the exhibition, Marco Bussagli and Federico Giudiceandrea, are not your typical museum types. Federico Giudiceandrea is the CEO of Microtec, a company that specializes in imaging and machine vision, the ability of a computer to "see." Giudiceandrea is from South Tyrol, and uses artificial vision to inspect wood, important to the local timber industry. Marco Bussagli is an art history professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, and has written a lot about angels, nudes, and Michelangelo, in addition to Escher. This unique partnership has added a dash of magic to mathematics, and has captured the soul of Escher.

Hand with Reflecting Sphere by Escher (1935)
Traveling to Treviso is simple, quick and inexpensive (€3.30 each way). The stroll to the Santa Caterina Museum is about 15 minutes -- longer if you pause along the way to enjoy the specialty shops and eateries that line the cobbled streets and Renaissance squares. The town is full of people who actually live there, and would like it if some of Venice's millions of tourists headed their way.

Dario Franceschini and Cat Bauer
I initially went out to Treviso on October 29 for the re-opening of one of their civic museums, the Bailo, a 15th century monastery building which had been closed for 12 years, which now hosts the town's 20th-century art collection. After an extensive restoration, the museum re-opened with much pomp and ceremony: throngs of residents, a baroque orchestra, the mayor -- even Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism -- appeared. The works of the Treviso-born artist, Arturo Martini (1889-1947) are featured in the beautifully refurbished structure, which also got a new facade and a skylight, transforming the ancient monastery into a contemporary work of art.

Bond of Union by Escher (1956)
The M.C. Escher exhibition came to Treviso by way of Rome and Bologna, and can be seen at the Santa Caterina Museum until April 3, 2015.

ESCHER
October 31, 2015 to April 3, 2016

Museo di Santa Caterina
Treviso
Tuesday - Sunday 10am - 8pm
Monday - 2:30pm - 8pm
Tickets: €13.00
Info: +39 0422 184 7103
Directions: Take the train to Treviso, walk out the front, and ask how to get to Santa Caterina
More Info (in Italian)
LUIGI BAILO MUSEM
Borgo Cavour, 24
Treviso

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Island of the Dead - San Michele, Venice - All the Saints and All the Souls

Mary de Rachewiltz at the tomb of parents Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge - Photo: Cat Bauer
Mary de Rachewiltz at the tomb of her parents,
Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge
(Venice, Blog) It is uncanny how often I run into Mary de Rachewiltz on All Saints Day on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. This year, I was far away from the tomb of her famous parents, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, when Mary arrived in the afternoon -- usually I get there earlier, and so does she. I was in a completely different section of the cemetery at the tomb of my Venetian nonni trying to light a candle that the wind kept blowing out. After about ten attempts, I decided to go to the florist at the front of the island and buy a wind-resistant candle. I literally almost ran into Mary as she was heading in.

"Mary!" I cried. "I'm so happy to see you!"

"Cat Bauer!" she exclaimed. "I'm running into everybody today."

Tomb of Ezra Pound, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer
I told Mary there had been rumors that she was dead, which I had not believed, since I thought I would have heard about it. I had googled her, and saw she was most certainly alive, still going strong at 90 years of age.

We decided to take a photo to document that she was, indeed, alive -- not only alive, but I can attest that she is as witty, feisty and delightful as ever. When I made a remark about her father, she jousted me, jokingly using her cane as a sword.

Tomb of Olga Rudge, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer
I thought it would be appropriate to shoot the photo in front of her parents' tomb, and off we went; I can also attest she is as spry as ever. Every year Mary comes down from Schloss Brunnenburg, her 13th-century castle up in South Tyrol, to pay respects to her parents: her father, the influential poet Ezra Pound, who died on All Saints Day here in Venice 43 years ago today, two days after his 87th birthday, and her mother, the concert violinist, Olga Rudge, who died at age 101 up at Brunnenburg Castle.

Brunnenburg Castle
I have written about Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day often in the past, because it is a time that holds great personal significance. They say that the dead return to earth at this time, and this I believe. Before my father died, we made an agreement to explore life after death. We agreed on a code word that he would communicate to me if there were life after death. On November 2, 2006, ten years after my father had died, I was about to take an afternoon nap. In that hazy period between wake and sleep, I heard the code word! I said, "Pop! Is that you?" He had been cremated, and apparently there was a problem with the location of his ashes.... which turned out to be true.

Remembering the ancestors is something that should be highlighted in every culture, whether the emotions they bring up are good or bad, happy or sad. The celebration here in Venice of those who have gone before us is a tradition I deeply respect.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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