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Two fine watercolours of Venice © by Stan Miller (reproduced here with kind permission)


If you like this...

[One of my photos of the quiet Western Quarter of Venice]
[My photos of Venice in September 2001 - and what came after]
[Try clicking some of the tags at the top of this post... just a suggestion!]



Algae in the Venice lagoon, a new kind of "power plant" (the source of this image will be found here)

This excellent article looks first at the problems of Porto Marghera, the industrial zone of Venice, where declining industry has left behind it abandoned sites and major pollution (Porto Marghera is referred to in Italy as "the mother of all contaminations"), threatening the Venetian lagoon and the cultural value of Venice itself.

The article takes this as an example of many cities with similar areas near a waterfront, and suggests that these areas should be seen as opportunities rather than problems.

In the case of Venice, there has already been considerable success in this area, itemized in the article with many links, including Pandora, described as the first "intelligent" building, a green oil refinery that will produce biofuels, additives and antioxidants for foot, medicines and other things from biomasses, a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF or CDR) power plant supplying green electricity to the island of Venice, the world's first hydrogen power plant, and a project to build an algae power plant, among others.

I first came across the algae power plant here (from which the above image comes). Recent links about the project ("recent" meaning in the last year relative to when you look at this post) will be found here.

The use of algae is one of the most promising developments in the field of biofuels, and some very interesting recent links on the subject will be found here.







The wonderful Licia Maglietta as Rosalba

Pane e Tulipani (Bread and Tulips) is one of those movies that makes you think: "This is how life should be". It is basically an Italian variant on Shirley Valentine, where Rosalba, an under-appreciated housewife, gets left behind at a motorway rest-stop (for a reason that will make you wince in sympathy) by the rest of her family who don't even notice that she isn't on the bus.

Rosalba starts hitch-hiking, deciding on the way to take a detour via Venice and live a little for herself. Without much money, she finds lodging with Fernando Girasole, a kind but gloomy (even suicidal) Icelander who runs a not-too-great restaurant, and whose Italian is peppered with archaic literary expressions (conveyed nicely via subtitles). In the same building she befriends Grazia, a "holistic beautician and masseuse", and in the city she eventually finds work in a florist's shop, run by a crusty old man with the general charm of a Basil Fawlty, whom she gradually wins over, entertaining him in the absence of customers with an accordion lent to her by Fernando.

(About that accordion... Fernando got it in payment for a gambling debt. Rosalba's grandfather taught her to play one when she was 12, shortly before he died cycling over a bridge which he believed, erroneously, to have been completed...)

Meanwhile, Rosalba's cheapskate husband, finding himself deserted by his chief cook, maid and bottle-washer, hires Constantino, a bumbling, over-weight plumber, as a private detective to locate his wife, whom he knows is somewhere in Venice. Constantino isn't as lucky as Rosalba in finding accommodation in that super-expensive city, ending up in a seedy converted barge on a canal. In his search he encounters and falls in love with Grazia, the masseuse. Fernando, discovering who Constantino really is, confronts him with an ancient rifle while he is with Grazia, in a scene made hilarious by Fernando's style of speech.

The movie delivers everything that a romantic comedy should, but with a delightful, quirky Italian flavour that makes it unique. It took me a long time to track down a Region 2 copy of the DVD (exasperatingly, Region 1 was readily available), but you can get hold of it at the moment (I see that Amazon UK currently has 3 copies). If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it...



"Venice" (which the artist says he drew from this photo by Monika)


"Milano - Santa Maria Nascente"


"Szczytno in the Rain"

Some of many beautiful watercolours by the Polish-resident artist Minh Dam

Found via this site recommended by Cyrion, who has so many beautiful things on her pages.




This is one of my own photos of the quiet Western Quarter of Venice.

It has appeared before (in my Venice post) but I just wanted to see it again...


[Venice, September 2001]




This was Venice in early September, 2001. It was our first trip, and we loved it. We only had a week, so we saw all the "must see" places like the Ca' Rezzonico...




...and the Piazza San Marco (and many more that you have seen zillions of photos of before).




Only a few hundred yards west of the Rialto Bridge, the crowds magically disappeared...




...and we greatly enjoyed exploring the (much) quieter Western Quarter.







Such a beautiful place - and nobody here but ourselves!




The weather was hot and brassy that week, so we mostly had a siesta in the afternoon and went out for an evening stroll just before sunset. We caught the low sun reflecting on the gold leaf of the Basilica...




...and enjoyed window shopping (much cheaper than the real thing!)...










...while trying to choose a nice place to eat. At one of these places, we learnt the hard way that fish was priced by the 100g, not by the course!




Walking home one night after our meal, we encountered this spooky looking wall of masks in the window of a shop that had closed for the night.


And then we returned to England. It was September 11th, and we were greeted by our daughter running across the drive, telling us what she had just seen on television.



We knew, over the next hours and days, that the world would never be quite the same place again. There were acts of incredible tragedy and heroism. There was a feeling of solidarity across the Atlantic that was quite astonishing, as the e-mails, forums and phone calls went to and fro.




A few days later, in our small town of Epping, England, scenes like this were taking place, similar to those in many, many other places.




At the time, I remember thinking that there were going to be very bad times ahead - and there were - but also that really bad times seem to bring out the best in people - and they did, nowhere more so than in New York. Among the good things that came out of this tragedy, there was New York's "Pay It Forward" programme, described here on my web site.