Almost anybody can go to Venice, mingle with the disconsolate touristic swarmsshuffling from St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto, to the Accademia Bridge, taking a few selfies and buying a trinket or an ice cream along the way. But, a much finer alternative would be to join a group of Save Venice supporters who recently gathered there to celebrate their contribution of 50 years of funding the restoration and preservation of many of the most important buildings and works of art which make Venice the special city it is.
Save Venice’s 50th Anniversary Il Gran Gala a Venezia,sponsored by The Gritti Palace of Venice and Dolce&Gabbana, played host to 200 international guests whose participation helped ensure the organization’s work continues for years to come.
This year’s four-day weekend was packed with activities both educational and entertaining, from Friday night’s welcoming supper and performance by five-time Grammy award winning artist Dianne Reeves with guitarist Romero Lubambo, to Monday’s boat journey to the romantic island of Torcello and lunch at Locanda Cipriani.
Activities were staged all over the city, including a visit to the Jewish Ghetto and the Italian Synagogue worksite which Save Venice is helping restore. The light-filled Procuratie Vecchie, after 500 years just opened to the public, was the setting for a lively and fascinating conversation between Save Venice President Tina Walls and artist Fred Wilson, the US Representative to the 2003 Biennale.
An evening concert of 16th C. music featuring mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and conductor and harpsichordist Tim Ribchester was appropriately held at the Basilica dei Frari below Titian’s altarpiece, Assumption of the Virgin, newly, and dazzlingly, restored by Save Venice.
Another day, Dolce & Gabbana tempted shoppers with a glimpse of Venice inspired, specially-designed dresses.
An excursion to the island of Murano to see the restoration workof the church of Santa Maria e San Donato (built in the 7th century) provided guests refreshments at the NH Murano Villa Hotel, a former 1940’s glass factory, just opened in 2021, as well as a chance to learn about art conservation and try their hands at the painstaking work.
It wouldn’t be a Save Venice gala without a ball.This year’s Il Ballo d’Oro Anniversary Ball at the 15th century Palazzo Pisani Moretta where the 200 or so well dressed and well heeled (some stilettos despite possible hazards of rocky boats, rough ramps and boardwalks) enthusiasts arrived in a traffic jam of water taxis. Guests danced into the late hours against the exquisite backdrop masterfully created by Venetian designer Matteo Corvino.
One of the most fun traditional features of the weekend is always the treasure hunt designed by Michael LaPlaca. Determined hunters scoured the city to identify the glimpses of frescoes, paintings and mosaics pictured in the booklet. And no wonder, the prize was an exquisite gold and silver diamond studded lion head brooch, donated by Alberto Nardi of Nardi, Jewelers of Venice since 1925. Although there was only one who won the brooch, after such a lively, interesting, well organized — and sunny — weekend, I think everyone went home happy.