31 December 2015

Italy Heaven highlights of 2015

My year began and ended with trips to Venice, my home from home, always so much better outside the peak tourist season. As usual I spent a lot of time in Venice. One of this year's most memorable experiences was walking along the sea walls protecting the southern lagoon from the sea.

In April I visited the low-key island of Ustica. Nights were cold but the days were warm and sunny, and I walked the entire circumference of the island on attractive flower-strewn footpaths.

In June I visited the lovely Aeolian islands. First stop was posh little Panarea, where I enjoyed the views and - on a very hot day - climbed to the island's summit.

 I caught the delivery boat to the volcano island Stromboli, where I ate a pizza at dusk while watching the volcano's eruptions.

The islands are great for delicious and affordable eating. I sampled an ice granita every day (essential for cooling down on hot days).

This year I've visited quite a few volcanoes. I walked around the crater of Vulcano on another blazingly hot day.

I returned to the islands in September for more island ascents - and a leisurely boat trip.

In October I visited Taormina with my parents and visited another volcano.

We visited the atmospheric village of Savoca and stayed in the excellent Borgo San Rocco run by the wonderful Vittorio, to whom all guests are personal friends.

There were lots of memorable moments in Rome in November, including a return to the wonderful palace of Nero and my favourite Roman meal, pasta with squash flowers at a trattoria called Da Carlone in Trastevere.

I made a video of the daily life and starling murmurations of Rome.

On a pre-Christmas trip to Venice I enjoyed the peace of the city and made a few videos to show some of the different facets of the city.

I haven't made my travel plans for 2016, but if you follow me on Twitter or visit the Italy Heaven website and this blog, you can catch up with my latest destinations, discoveries, meals, ice drinks and off-the-beaten-track experiences, as well as all the latest website updates and Italy recommendations.

26 December 2015

Maison Giulia apartments, Rome - my guest review

Do you fancy an independent stay right in the heart of Rome? I've stayed twice in a little studio flat in the historic centre of Rome which is managed by the hotel Maison Giulia. My most recent stay was last month, when I stayed for one night. A couple of years ago I spent a few nights in the same studio.

My night in November in a flat sleeping two people cost just €74 - very good value for Rome. There was also the option of an even cheaper, non-refundable tariff. This is a quiet time in Rome; generally the decent low-to-mid-range hotels were a little more expensive than this for the same week, while a few budget B&Bs were slightly cheaper.

Maison Giulia has several holiday apartments to let. Mine (for both stays) was described on the booking page as the 'Gonfalone studio flat'. It's in a building with several other apartments on Via Gonfalone, between the river Tiber and Via Giulia. Guests check in at the hotel, at the far end of Via Giulia, a long straight street lined with historic buildings. This is around a ten-minute walk from the apartment, over Rome's bumpy little cobblestones. Given the hassle of bouncing a suitcase along, I was pleased to find the hotel staff would ferry me between the hotel and Via Gonfalone. The short journey, in a golf buggy, was actually quite fun.

 Maison Giulia staff were friendly and helpful. This attitude carried over into the presentation of the apartment, where I found a folder filled with useful information such as the wi-fi password.

The flat is a reasonable-sized room with a couple of structural columns complicating the design. It's very nicely decorated and furnished: cool, white-painted, simple and sensibly-planned, with decent furniture from Ikea. Convenient design features include lots of lights, plugs by the bed and bedside tables. The bed is two singles which can be joined or separated (request this in advance). Other furniture includes a small table, three chairs and a TV.  The wardrobe space has limited height and is high up (guests have to use a pole provided to get clothes up and down), with shelves underneath. There's storage for small items and fair bit of space to put things, but no suitcase stand and no coat hooks.

The kitchenette is along one wall of the studio, quite close to the bed; this would be rather a small space for cooking and eating in, but I don't know how many guests would actually do that on anything more than an occasional basis; not with so many cheap restaurants nearby. Kitchen facilities include a kettle, toaster, hob, oven, fridge (noisy at times) and a freezer.

The bathroom is nice but small. Again there are no hooks and little surface space for toiletries (although there are empty shelves in a cupboard under the washbasin). The shower has a choice between an overhead rainfall head, partly blocked, and an adjustable head. The apartment has a full length mirror. Nice towels and bedding are supplied along with basic toiletries, and a hairdryer. There's air conditioning and heating.

I didn't use the kitchen facilities for anything more than storing food or making tea. There are lots of good, cheap restaurants, cafes and take-aways in the centro storico, so it seemed a shame to eat in. But if you want to cook for yourselves or make a lunch or picnic, there's a handy supermarket very nearby (this was pointed out by staff as I arrived). The morning fruit and vegetable market in Campo de' Fiori is a fun way to stock up on provisions. A proper local cafe around the corner will provide a simple Roman breakfast of coffee and a croissant to eat in or take away (90 cents).

A sign informs guests that there is no smoking allowed in the building.  I'd recommend that guests note the position of their flat in the building, and the street number. I came back on my first night and tried my key in a couple of wrong doors first;  having first arrived with a hotel porter, I hadn't noted the precise situation on my return I realised there weren't any obvious name signs or identifying features.

Considering it's in the centre of an Italian city, the apartment was pretty quiet at night. It was occasionally possible to hear guests in other apartments (although perhaps only because one woman was shrieking with high spirits).

Campo dei Fiori is a few minutes' walk away, along the attractive little Via dei Banchi Vecchi, a lane lined with interesting little shops and a few bars, somewhere between artisan and bohemian. There are advantages and disadvantages to the location. This part of Rome is problematic for public transport. You'll be relying on buses, which can be crowded and unreliable, and your feet. But if you want to experience the lovely and unique atmosphere of Rome's centro storico and you're happy to walk a lot, this is a wonderful location to stay in. It's romantic, pretty, full of medieval atmosphere and very convenient for restaurants and bars and strolling. If on the other hand you want to make trips out of town or have easy access to the metro system, you'd be better off looking around Stazione Termini/Monti, or Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps).

The easiest way to get to Maison Giulia from the airport is to catch the local train to Trastevere station. This isn't the direct airport service Leonardo Express, but a double-decker commuter train. A one-way ticket costs €8. Plan ahead and buy travel tickets or a travel card for Rome at the airport too. At Trastevere station, take tram number 8. The tram stop is outside the station forecourt/car park area, on the left in the middle of the multi-lane street. Get off at the first stop across the river, Via Arenula/Ministero Giustizia. From here you reach Via Giulia by walking a short way along the busy riverbank road and then branching right when you are level with Ponte Sisto. Via Giulia runs diagonally away from the river, and the hotel is just a short walk along the street, with a low-key entrance but a nameplate outside.
I love staying in this flat as I've always appreciated evenings pottering around the centro storico, and being surrounded by history. With an apartment all of your own, you can fantasise that you are living here, and seeing Rome as its luckiest residents would. Both times I've stayed in the flat, I've wished I could stay for longer - months longer. For a taste of Roman lifestyle, it can't be beaten. When I did actually live in Rome, of course it wasn't anywhere as romantic as this; I much prefer this idealised version of 'living in Rome'.

I would really recommend this apartment very highly for an independent stay in Rome. Other apartments on offer from Maison Giulia are larger, so would suit families or bigger parties.

> Book at the Maison Giulia apartments
> Where to stay in Rome

4 December 2015

Shopping on the Strada Nuova, Venice

The Strada Nuova (or Nova) is a name used to cover long chain of shopping streets running through Venice. The route runs from Venice's railway station towards the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's; it was driven through existing buildings and canals in the nineteenth century. Although sections of the way have different street names, Venetians tend to call the whole route the Strada Nuova. I used to live near the street and it's one of my least favourite places in Venice, partly because of the relentless hordes of tourists flooding along, generally day-trippers who are too tight-fisted to pay for a ferry ride down the Grand Canal,

But although it may be tourist hell for much of the year, the lane is also an important local shopping destination. Like elsewhere in Venice, useful local shops are steadily being replaced by tourist stores, but here there are still shops where you can buy bedding, old ladies' clothes, window blinds and all sorts of other everyday items. And the shops for tourists aren't all tacky chains and Chinese souvenirs. As I've been staying on the Strada Nuova this week, I've hunted out some of the more interesting boutiques. The businesses I've listed can all be found on the section of the lane between the Cannaregio canal and the Ca' d'Oro vaporetto stop. The first stretch is officially called the Rio Terrà San Leonardo. I've listed shops consecutively; note that the numbers in the address relate to the district of Cannaregio, not the street itself (Venice doesn't have street numbers).

Oreficeria alle Guglie (Cannaregio 326).
Right next to Ponte delle Guglie, the large bridge over the Cannaregio canal, on the railway station side, this jeweller's has a nice range of jewellery and gifts. I particularly like the Venetian cameos with scenes of the city and of the Lion of St Mark. It also stocks lovely pendants of Murano glass made with the millefiori technique.

Nerovenezia (Cannaregio 1591)
A cut above the many tourist glass shops on the street, Nerovenezia is an artisan boutique whose owner makes some striking and unusual glass jewellery, including some romantic pieces of embracing couples which would make a good Valentine's gift. Everything is handmade - and if you want to have a go yourself, you can also buy beads, ribbon and cord to make your own creation.

Nave de Oro (Cannaregio 1370)
This is a wine shop selling vino sfuso by the litre (locals bring their own plastic bottles to be filled). A cheap way to buy local wine.

Fanny (Cannaregio 1647)
With a couple of branches in Venice, Fanny is a good place to buy quality leather gloves, in many colours and styles. I've been buying my gloves from them for years.

Rizzo (Cannaregio 1355)
Rizzo is a Venetian institution; a tardis-like shop which is full of treats for foodies: foccacia, rolls, pastries and sweets, fresh pasta ready for cooking, cheeses and all sorts of packaged speciality biscuits, jams and sauces to take home in your suitcase.

Ca Macana Atelier (1374)
A Venetian mask shop selling authentic, good-quality papier mâché creations for Carnival or just for fun.

Giunti al Punto (Cannaregio 2001)
Useful bookshop which sells books in English as well as Italian, including guides to Venice.

Vladi Shoes (Cannaregio 2340)
An artisan business selling colourful  and stylish shoes, specialising in bold and slightly quirky designs. They're not cripplingly expensive either.

Farmacia Santa Fosca: The Merchant of Venice (Cannaregio 2233
This historic pharmacy is fascinating to visit; the right-hand part of the business now houses The Merchant of Venice perfumes and it's one of the most interesting shop interiors in Venice. All the traditional historic features have been restored to their 18th-century appearance: carved wooden shelves housing blue and white pots of medicine and herbs. There's another interior like this preserved in the museum at Ca' Rezzonico; you can appreciate this one for free and in its original context. The perfumeria is also a good tourist destination in itself. With eau de toilette from €45, you can choose from a wide range of scents inspired by Venice's historic trade routes.

Less exciting than some of these other shops is the Conad supermarket, by a bridge at Cannaregio 3660 (near San Felice). It's a crowded and useful store where you can stock up on food for your apartment, a picnic, or bits and pieces to take home.

If you're ready for refreshments after all the shopping, you can try good wines and local food platters at La Cantina (Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice). Alternatively, if you want colder refreshment, pay a visit to Grom (Cannaregio 3844), a quality Italian ice cream chain (their granita is quite good, too).

You can read more about Venice, including the details of other interesting shops and boutiques, in my guidebook and on the Venice section of Italy Heaven.

10 November 2015

Hotel Amba Alagi, Venice (Marghera) - Review

Hotel Amba Alagi: exterior
I usually advise travellers to stay in central Venice, but there are times when lodging outside the city - on the nearby mainland, for example - may be be a practical option. Or indeed, the only option. I visited Venice in October at short notice, when all the decent and affordable central hotels were booked up. Not wanting to stay in a hostel nor to spend hundreds of euros per night, I broke my own rules and tried out two cheap mainland hotels. First of the two was the Hotel Amba Alagi, where I paid just €55 per night for a double room.

I found Hotel Amba Alagi very decent for a one-star. It's in Marghera, on the Venice mainland, and on the far side of Marghera for Venice. That's the disadvantage – but that's also what makes it a budget option. With car parking and easy road access, it's a practical idea for travellers with a car who want to go into Venice once or twice by public transport, or for travellers on a tight budget.

Marghera was designed as a kind of 'garden suburb', across the railway from Venice's sibling town Mestre, and separated from the Venetian lagoon by a large industrial port area. It's composed of wide modern streets radiating out from roundabouts with leafy parks in the middle; nowadays it's a combination of respectable and down-at-heel side-by-side. Buses and trams connect the suburb with Mestre and with Venice.

The hotel is around the corner from a tram stop. Named 'Beccaria', the stop is on line T2. This runs quickly to Mestre railway station and on into the centre of Mestre. You could travel there and change to Line T1 which crosses the lagoon to Venice, although this would be a circuitous route into town (I didn't time this, so it's possible it would be quick and more comfortable than the buses). More directly, ACTV bus 6L runs from Piazzale
Double bedroom
Concordia, a few minutes' walk away, into Venice. From the hotel door to Piazzale Roma in Venice I'd allow 20-30 minutes. At the time of writing the tram service continues until 9pm and the 6L runs its full route until around the same time. As an alternative, bus service 6 has its nearest stop at Piazza S. Antonio, which is walking distance of the hotel, and on the route of the tram. This bus also runs into Venice and continues until after midnight. At night, therefore, you'll need to get a bus back as far as S. Antonio and then walk (easy as you can follow the tram tracks, but a bit creepy if  you're alone).

I booked a double room at the hotel. It was on an upper floor (room 8), was a reasonable size and better than I would have expected from the one-star rating. The only negative points were that the room wasn't terribly bright, and the paint on the walls was a bit marked. Otherwise, I was impressed. The décor was fairly neutral, with a hard tiled floor, rugs by the bed, a small table to act as a desk, a wall-mounted TV, a couple of chairs, a suitcase stand, coat hooks and two bedside tables and plug sockets: everything you'd need and extra too (coat hooks are welcome but rare in Italian hotels). The complimentary hotel slippers and little bag of local speciality biscuits were an unexpected and hospitable touch. 

To control the temperature there was a fan above the bed, an air-conditioning unit and a radiator; I didn't need any of these during my visit, although the room was quite cool in the evenings (early October). During my first night I took the spare blanket from the cupboard and pulled it over me; when the cleaner visited the next day, he/she carefully remade the bed to include the blanket between sheet and coverlet: good service, I thought. The room and bathroom had windows with the kind of external slatted shutter you pull down using a strap. Not elegant, but it saved opening windows and leaning out at the mercy of the local mosquitoes.

En-suite bathroom
The en-suite bathroom was small but again, fine. The shower was decent, and there was some space for toiletries. The only niggle was that the towel rail was squeezed in rather close to the toilet seat.  Toiletries provided were soap, shower sachet and a shower cap. There was a hairdryer in the bathroom attached to the wall – a good one with different settings and a directional nozzle, although inconveniently placed for right-handed guests.

The hotel's location was very quiet. The rooms/doorways weren't soundproofed though, and I did hear other guests talking and using the TV, (ear plugs fixed this) and there was a very faint smell of cigarettes a couple of times. I slept very well. The bed was two singles put together; the mattresses were comfortable enough. 

The people who run the hotel were friendly and helpful – I'm not sure how much English they could speak, as we talked in Italian, but they provide guests with a map indicating the nearest bus and tram stops. Breakfast wasn't included in my room rate. 

Welcome biscuits
I would say this hotel is a good option if you're looking for cheap and practical, and are prepared for the travel required to get into Venice. I found this a drawback at night; though if you aren't alone or aren't staying late in Venice, this won't be such an issue. An advantage of being a bit nearer the start of the bus route means you've a fair chance of getting a seat on the busy service to Venice. There are hotels in Marghera which are nearer to the lagoon city; though these tend to be either significantly more expensive or poorly-reviewed (and you'll generally have to stand on the bus). I later switched to one of the nearer hotels, and I missed the Amba Alagi; the décor may have been tired but the room's amenities were better.

Getting to the hotel by public transport from the airport is fairly straightforward. On festivi - i.e. Sundays and public holidays - the ACTV bus service 15 runs all the way from the airport to Marghera. Check the latest information, or ask at the ACTV desk at the airport, as previously this bus used to run every day, and it could change again. In the absence of a direct service, take the ATVO express or the ACTV bus 15 to Mestre FS (the railway station) before changing to the tram T2. The tram stop is in an underpass beneath the bus parking area; there are stairs and a lift, labelled with the direction: Marghera. Alight at the Beccaria stop.

29 October 2015

Visiting the Conservatorio di Musica in Palazzo Pisani, Venice - a Biennale treat

There's a Biennale in Venice every year - the Art Biennale in odd-numbered years and an Architecture Biennale in even-numbered years. The Art Biennale is the better-known and larger of the two, but both give added interest to the city's visitors over a period of several months (generally June-November). Although there are major exhibition spaces at the Giardini and Arsenale sites, my favourite thing about the Biennale is the access to smaller, private spaces.

Many 'national pavilions' and associated exhibitions are housed in Venice's palaces, halls and churches. These are almost all free and many offer the chance to visit an interior you would never otherwise see. Sometimes this is a last chance. Two of the finest palaces I've visited for Biennale exhibitions in the past have now been renovated and altered; they'll never again have that authentic decrepit charm which made them magical. (One is now yet another luxury hotel chosen by George Clooney for his wedding celebrations). Once Venice's historic buildings are modernised  and converted to hotels or private dwellings, a lot of their character will disappear; as will easy public access. So getting into these buildings when they are temporarily open may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a bit of history. You'll also, of course, see an art display - although the standard can be highly variable and to be honest I am almost always far more interested in my surroundings.

There are maps available of Biennale-affiliated shows, and you'll see posters and sandwich-boards outside palazzi as you walk around Venice or cruise down the Grand Canal. I've not really bothered with the Biennale this year; the exhibitions can get pretty tedious and
repetitive. But I did accidentally come across one treasure. Wandering to a quiet court off Campo San Stefano in order to take a phone call, I saw a Biennale banner on the outside of one of the most intriguing buildings in Venice. Palazzo Pisani is the home of Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello  (it has housed the municipal music college since 1897). It was once one of the grandest private palaces in the city (perhaps the grandest).

Having only ever seen the building from the outside, I was fascinated. Built between the 17th and 18th centuries for the hugely-wealthy Pisani family, the palace is even more imposing inside than you would guess from the splendid exterior. The most striking features are its two internal courtyards, separated by four storeys of loggia, and the way the building climbs upwards towards the sky.

This year there are two Biennale exhibitions housed in the Conservatorio, giving visitors the chance to explore two sections of the building:  The Sound of Creation: Sound Paintings by Beezy Bailey and Brian Eno and the Angolan exhibition On Ways of Travelling (both closed on Sundays).

The first of the two exhibitions (with paintings to study and headphones for listening) is displayed up the length of a grand monumental staircase. The stairs climb up and up, and once you finally reach an attic room at the top and peer through its windows, you can see that this must be among the tallest buildings in Venice. You also get an idea of how vast and rambling the building is; this is just one staircase in one corner of one courtyard. Piano music drifted onto one landing through the closed double doors of an auditorium (I peeped through the crack between the doors). Off another landing I caught a glimpse of a meeting where modern business-suited attendees contrasted sharply with the ancient and faded grandeur of the surroundings.

The second art exhibition is housed on a piano nobile at the far side of the building, above the entrance hall, in a long frescoed chamber with chandeliers. When the Pisani family had money trouble in the nineteenth century they sold off the palace and its contents, including important works of art, but the wall and ceiling paintings are still in situ.

Getting a chance to nose around Palazzo Pisani was an unplanned treat. For me it was also a reminder of how many fascinating sights there are in Venice; you can spend years here and still come across something new. It is always worth keeping an eye open for special events and openings, and the Biennale is a great chance for this kind of off-the-beaten-track exploration.

The Art Biennale runs until 22nd November this year. As the Conservatorio is a music college, it may (perhaps) be possible to glimpse Palazzo Pisani's courtyards on other occasions. The building may occasionally be open to the public for other special events. Many of Venice's other buildings are also open to host Biennale exhibitions. A map of Biennale locations can be found here (pdf file).

More of my insider tips for visiting Venice including out-of-the-way sights can be found in Venice: Italy Heaven Guide.

24 June 2015

The magical Aeolian islands

I've just got back from a trip (my second) to the Aeolian islands. I'll be writing lots more about the islands soon, but in the meantime I just have to write again about how marvellous the islands are as a holiday destination. Both times I've visited, I've been so reluctant to leave that I've postponed my flight home in order to enjoy another couple of days surrounded by sea and sun.

My favourite beach of the holiday, Lipari

The islands are volcanoes and in places potentially dangerous; for many travellers this just adds to their drama. You can watch eruptions on Stromboli from the rim of the volcano's crater - or from a more comfortable pizzeria further down the slope (my choice). You can walk around the rim of the crater of Vulcano, close to steaming fumaroles. Hot gas bubbles up through the sea, and the beaches are littered with chunks of volcanic rocks like obsidian and pumice.

Highlights of the islands include trekking along mule paths with amazing views, eating leisurely pasta lunches by the bluest sea, taking jolly boat excursions around the shorelines, spotting dolphins, enjoying ice-cold fresh-fruit granitas by pretty harbours, and relaxing into an island state of mind: mornings exploring, afternoons on the beach, evenings sipping local wine and watching the passeggiata.


The islands offer all the best of Italy, pumped up to an intense level: sunshine, good food, archaeology, glorious views, wine, warm and friendly people, vivid colours bursting with flowers, sparkling sea and lots of fun.

This time I spent two weeks in the islands, which still didn't seem long enough. But it's a good amount of time to get to know most of the seven islands. My itinerary worked well, with a mixture of smart hotels with pools, island-hopping, and settling-in.

I took an afternoon flight to Catania Airport, which meant spending a night in Catania. If you fly earlier in the day, you can get to the islands the same evening. I spent two nights on Panarea, one night on Stromboli, two on Salina, and then stayed in a holiday flat in Lipari for the last week, making day trips to Filicudi and Vulcano.

The little fishing hamlet of Pecorini a Mare on the island of Filicudi

The islands are busiest in July and August, visited by thousands of holidaying Italians. Outside this time they're much quieter, even in the balmy warmth of June, so it's a good idea to travel in May, June or September.

I've travelled all around Italy and there's pretty much nowhere I haven't loved. But when I'm on these islands I really, genuinely, just can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

> More about the Aeolian islands (written after my last trip)

Slow boat to Stromboli

13 March 2015

Carpaccio in Conegliano

This spring there's an extra reason to visit pretty little Conegliano in the Veneto. I paid a return visit yesterday, to see the exhibition Carpaccio: Vittore e Benedetto da Venezia all'Istria.

Vittore Carpaccio will be known to many visitors to Venice. He painted lovely Renaissance scenes of saints, heroes and heroines, all filled with life, charm, curious buildings and cute animals. The story paintings in the Accademia Gallery telling the tale of St Ursula are among his finest works. This exhibition focusses on the later stages of his career, with paintings taken from various obscure locations, and adds the story of his son Benedetto who took over his workshop and produced his own paintings in the style of his father.

The exhibition is nicely presented and thoughtfully laid-out. As I had already tracked down most of the paintings in and around Venice, there were only a few inclusions which were new to me, and other Carpaccio lovers will be in the same situation. One of the works most celebrated by the exhibition, St George and the Dragon (not the famous one from the Scuola di San Giorgio), actually lives on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. It's a bit of a secret; you have to ask to see it - a friendly monk took me the first time I visited. Now the painting is featured in this exhibition, you can even buy a fridge magnet reproduction of the painting (and I did).

Other highlights include the late work St Paul, from Chioggia, where the saint walks on a field of lovely flowers, the famous painting of the Venetian winged lion from the Palazzo Ducale, and the beautiful Pala di Pirano (now in Padua).

This isn't the grand career-encompassing exhibition of Carpaccio that a fan would dream of. Some of his greatest paintings are so large and significant that it is hard to imagine them being moved. But given that limitation, this is a good opportunity to see works gathered from as far afield as Koper and Brescia. It is also interesting to contrast Vittore's varied works and those of his son Benedetto, who - we see here - used his father's sketches and designs in his own work. Benedetto's painting is clearly more stilted and lacks the magic of his father. But it's not without charm and occasionally his scenes and faces are lovely - I especially admired a fine St. Nicholas.

Best of all, the exhibition is an excuse for a day out in Conegliano. This historic town close to the Dolomites has a pretty centre with a long arcaded street, traces of fresco on its houses, an altarpiece by local hero Cima da Conegliano, and a medieval castle with a small museum housed in its tower (which also has superb countryside views). Arrive early enough to visit the church and museum before they close (the church closes at noon, the museum-tower 30 minutes later), enjoy a leisurely lunch and then tour the museum. Conegliano is under an hour from Venice by cheap regional train. And if you need any more persuading, the town is also famed for its Prosecco production.
> More about Conegliano

Back in Venice today, I was thinking about the exhibition's lesson in the stock 'types' Carpaccio and - and, later, his son - used and re-used from his sketchpads. I popped into the church of San Vidal to look at the Carpaccio altarpiece there. Sure enough, there was that familiar and handsome flag-bearing St George, half-turned and clad in armour, from yesterday's Pala di Pirano. And checking the exhibition guide I spot him again, in an altarpiece by Benedetto.