Malibu Seen / By Kim Devore


Locals such as Laurel Karabian, Bonnie Palef and Erika Brunson have experienced the magic of Save Venice and its lavish Carnevale fundraising bash firsthand. Now it was time to dash out and see the final results of the organization’s labors of love. “2010 has been a landmark year for Save Venice,” said President Matthew White. “After 40 years of restoring art and monuments in Venice, we now look forward to what the next four decades will hold.”

We started our trip by checking into the cozy surroundings of the sweet Hotel Flora, which never seems to go out of style. We feasted on Venetian specialties at favorites Acqua Pazza, Da Ignazio, Do Forni and Corte Sconta and even discovered one of the few operating fireplaces anywhere in Venice at Da Raffaele. But soon we were off to eye the precious projects.

Up first, the Church of San Salvador. Save Venice has restored nearly 20 works at the beautiful 16th century church, including two paintings by Titian. Be sure not to miss the sacristy where you’ll find two exquisite frescoes, which create the illusion of a celestial garden within the monastic walls. The organization is also in the process of restoring a dramatic oil on canvas in the Church of San Pietro di Castello as well as the spectacular 15th century Fra’Antonio da Negroponte altarpiece in the church of San Francesco della Vigna.

Another miraculous restoration project is the storied La Fenice Theater. The place was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1996 and after years of dedication and care, reopened in 2003. At its heart is a vibrant hand-painted ceiling designed in 1854 by Giambattista Meduna. Save Venice is responsible for its impressive restoration. It provided the perfect backdrop for this season’s operatic highlight – Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore.”

But there was more music in store and it doesn’t have to cost a doge’s ransom. For about 60 euros you can treat yourself to a concert by Interpreti Veneziani at Chiesa San Vidal. It was an enchanting program of Geminiani, Vivaldi and Mozart. The evening kicked off with Geminiani’s “La Follia” before kicking into high gear with Vivaldi’s “Concerto per Violino, Archie Cembalo Op. 7 n.8” and “Concerto per 2 Violini, Violoncello, Archi e Cembalo Op.3 n. 11,” called “Estero Armonico.” Violin soloists Giuilano Fontanella and Nicola Granillo gave it their all and were rewarded with a standing ovation. The evening wrapped up with Mozart’s “Divertimento per Archi K. 138” and Vivaldi’s “Concerto per Violino, Archi e Cembalo Op. 9 n. 8,” called “La Cetra.”

Other than the dueling orchestras that you might enjoy while strolling Piazza San Marco or a distant serenade by a passing gondolier, Chiesa San Vidal is perhaps the best value in town.

There’s no better follow-up to the city’s amazing art and music than a trip to the glorious countryside. We were invited to some rustic villages down south to check out the latest trend in agritourism. That’s where an entirely new adventure was on tap, so stay tuned.

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