The Great Fashion Escape: Venice
Being in the thick of the fashion flock’s biannual four-city tour can be exciting, but there are undeniably times that one needs to step away to recharge. For this week, you should note that there is nothing easier than stepping onto the train at Milan’s Stazione Centrale and then stepping off into the centre of Venice just two and a half hours later. (One tip: Don’t battle the ticket lines but use the touch-screen computer terminals instead.)
These days, there’s a special atmosphere in this watery city thanks to the Biennale. The main art drag is in the Giardini della Biennale. Here, you’ll find most of the international pavilions where you can see Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno’s “Galaxies” installation (pictured above). But it’s worth tripping over to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore to see Peter Greenaway’s 3-D digital extravaganza, which pulls Paolo Veronese’s painting The Wedding at Cana to pieces in the most spectacular way.
Outside the Biennale, the Fortuny Museum is another inspiring stop. The Gothic palazzo acts as a revolving exhibition space, but the backdrop of darkened interiors lined with mystical symbolist paintings and Fortuny’s signature heavy damasks and velvets are worthy attractions in themselves. And of course, the biggest splash at this year’s Biennale was made by François Pinault’s Punta della Dogana. It’s proof that even miles away from Milan, you can’t escape fashion. Inside, you will find works by Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami, artists that the masses associate more with handbags than art fairs. (Though that’s more thanks to Monsieur Pinault’s rival, Bernard Arnault.)
To cap it all off with a bit of seeing and being seen, head for the lunchtime terrace at the Hotel Monaco; then, for drinks, dip into the Bauer Hotel. For a more authentic Venetian eating experience, go to the Trattoria Altanella on the Giudecca, where you will find good Venetian food and tables set on a wonderful geranium-lined balcony hanging over a peaceful canal. Enjoy that capsule of calm before rejoining the frenzy of the fashion faithful.