This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Transforming A Corte

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Today I give you a short transformation. This is where I show you how one of my photos goes from a snapshot to something more in line with a fine-art photograph.

I really like the lion medallions above each side of the entrance. And I also found the plaque, with what I will call a coat of arms, interesting.

Last week, I showed you the sestiere of San of the six districts (aka sestiere) of Venice. I have taken several photos within San Polo over the years, and as I was looking through those for last week's article, I came across the one which is the subject of today's transformation.

The site to be transformed is the Corte Petriana. A 'corte' is what we would call a 'courtyard' in English. I could find no translation for Petriana, so I would assume that's the name of the family to whom this courtyard belongs.

Here is the original snapshot of the entrance to the corte.

Ugh. I have to agree with you...not a very pretty site as it sits in the real world. But, as it is my job to transform the real into the Venetian world that I imagine, that's exactly what I did.

First, things are a bit wonky with the alignment of the entrance to the corte. Then, within the corte itself, there are some distractions, like a water pipe and an electrical conduit. 

[As an aside, let me write a few sentences about water and electrical conduits. You will see these throughout Venice. They are not something that one enjoys seeing, but they are necessary. Imagine a Venice of 1,000 years ago, or even 300 years ago -- you will not see water or electrical conduits because they didn't exist. Water was gathered at the local pozzo (which I wrote about here), and electricity had not made it on the scene. The houses in Venice do not have basements (obviously) and all of the walls are made of stone. This pretty much necessitates running both water and electrical conduits up the outside of walls, and then through them. But just for you, in my quest to present you a Venice of days past, I feel compelled to bring a Venice to you without these distractions. OK, now back to the photo transformation.]

Next, I felt the whole areas surrounding the entrance to the corte was not what I would want to personally discover as I was wandering my romantic, ancient Venice -- so I got rid of the walls on each side of the narrow calle (aka street). This required a good bit of demolition and masonry work on my part, but that's my job, and I love it. 

So here is the final photo of Corte Petriana. 

And here is a black and white version if you prefer.

I really like the lion medallions on each side and above the entrance. And I also found the plaque, with what I will call a coat of arms, interesting. Here is an enlargement of that feature.

Note the crescent with the tree on the shield...hmm.  Then there are the two dragon-like creatures at the bottom. A couple of angels are at the top corners. But then there is the curious main feature of person and child. One could assume that the adult is Mary, but it isn't too clear, and perhaps there is a crown on the head? The cross is the hand of the adult is the kicker for me...if the child is the Christ-child, the cross would be a concept that is about 30 years too early. If you have thoughts, please put them into the 'Comments' area, below.

Just so you know...and I figure that you are wondering...I had not Photoshopped the basketball backboard and hoop into the was there when I showed up...really. But, I decided to have a bit of fun with it, so I've titled the resulting photograph "The Court of the Venetian Baseketmaker". Your absolutely right, that was clever! 

But, I decided not to stop there. So, in the next more whimsical and non-official photo, I've added a basketball in its arc towards the basket, as well as a bit of shadow of the ball's shooter. 

So, there you have it. A transformation of an ugly snapshot into the more charming "Court of the Venetian Basketmaker".

Ciao for now,


My Instagram feed...

Venetian Sestiere: San Polo

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A couple of weeks ago, I reminded you what a 'sestiere' is. Don't remember? Read that article here.

The San Polo sestiere ('sestiere' = 'district') is our second favorite – right after San Marco. But San Polo is not a distant second.

< Check out the map at left to see where the San Polo piece fits into the Venetian puzzle.



There is a lot to see and do – and eat – in San Polo. Click on the map and you will see the rather convoluted layout of this sestiere.

Map of the San Polo sestiere of Venice


First, the term ‘San Polo’. You may remember that ‘San Marco’ refers to Saint Mark; well, San Polo refers to Saint Paul. 

San Polo is the smallest of the six sestiere of Venice. It is also one of the oldest neighborhoods, as the highest banks of the mud flats where Venice began were located here. And today, it is one of the liveliest of the six sestiere – there is a lot to do here, both day and night.

Below you can see just a portion of San Polo as it sits across the Grand Canal from San Marco.

A portion of San Polo, across the Grand Canal from San Marco


Some of our favorite Venetian attractions are found in San Polo.

Rialto Bridge

First, to get to San Polo from San Marco, you will most likely cross over the Rialto Bridge. Because of the need to get to the Rialto Market from San Marco, a wooden bridge was originally constructed in 1255. After being burned in 1310 in a bit of a revolt, and then collapsing (with people on the bridge) in 1444 and then again in 1524, a call went out for a design competition for a more substantial bridge.

In 1591, Antonio de Ponte completed construction of the current bridge based on his winning design -- his bridge has become one of the iconic structures in Venice. I'm not sure if he was born with the name "de Ponte" (translates 'of the bridge') or not, but it was sure a good gimmick to get the bridge job if he wasn't.

Here is a photo of the Rialto Bridge, taken from a romantic gondola ride.

[click any image for a larger view]

The iconic Rialto Bridge

You can see that the bridge is composed of two inclined, shop-lined, ramps with a central portico.

And in the next photo, you can see the steps of the inclined portion of the bridge. And you get an idea just how big this bridge is, as the buildings in the distance are at the mid-point of the Rialto Bridge. Those are shops on each side of the bridge, lining its edge.

It is almost unimaginable how many feet have gone over these steps, as most every visitor to Venice for 400 years has been funneled over the Rialto Bridge.

A lot happens on the Rialto Bridge. Here are a couple of images from a photo shoot that I did for a bridal fashion magazine.

Just kidding. Even though I did take the photos, this is actually just a kind of reverse photo-bombing event…rather than me jumping into the background, I just joined the commercial photographer in shooting the false bride.

Another day on the Rialto Bridge, and another bridal fashion shoot. It must be some sort of bride magnet.

And such drama!


Around the bridge is a lot of action. As I’ve mentioned before, everything brought into Venice travels either by boat or foot. Here you can see that the area around the Rialto Bridge is a hub of delivery activity.

And here are a couple more photos showing detail of the Rialto Bridge.

Finally, it was from the Rialto Bridge that I took the photos to create one of my most popular images…”Busy Day on the Grand Canal”.

Rialto Market

Moving on just a few feet from the Rialto Bridge you will find the Rialto Market. As I’ve covered this market in detail in another article, you can see that article and photos of the market in “The Rialto Market of Venice”.

The Frari

One of the most beautiful churches in Venice is Chiesa Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. [‘chiesa’ (key-‘ā-suh) = ‘church’] Also known as The Friari, it is not much to look at on the outside, as you can see here.

But, don’t let the starkness of the outside fool you. Inside are treasures of all sorts, like the almost 20 burial monuments.  


Here is a monument to Antono Canova, who is perhaps second only to Michelangelo as a sculptor. 

Though his body lies a few miles away in Tempio Canoviano (The Temple of Canova) which he designed and financed, his heart belonged to Venice, so it is enshrined in this monument. It's interesting that this heart tomb was originally designed by himself to be the tomb of Titian. But, there sits Titian’s final resting place (shown below) right across from that of Canova’s heart. It's nice to be famous, isn't it? I guess...wouldn't know.

One of my favorite parts of The Friari is the choir seating. It is made of carved wood, and each of the ‘seats’ is different, and includes both carvings and inlaid marquetry, as seen in these photos. Please click the photos to get see the beautiful detail.

Then there is Titan’s famous altar piece titled “Assumption of the Virgin”, which you can see here…but which we were denied viewing on our last visit due to restoration work…there is always something being restored in Venice…thankfully. 

And there are other works, like Bellini’s triptych titled “Madonna with Child and Saints”, which sits in the Sacristy. I absolutely adore this assemblage! Here is its setting and a detailed photo.

You'll see more of Bellini's absolutely gorgeous work when we head to the sestiere of Dorsoduro in the near future. 

 It is fortunate that you are not prohibited from taking photos in The Frari, as you are in many other Venetian churches.

Some of you may recognize this golden angel from a recent family Christmas card.




Finally, there’s this poor gentleman, whose fate it is to hold up a good part of the church, whilst being eternally pestered by that seriously macabre figure behind him. Could that be hell, itself?


Scuola Grande di San Rocco 

Then there is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Shown here is its grand room.

San Rocco (or Saint Roch) was known for his plague healing miracles, which is what got him institutional recognition in this city which was hit hard by the plague. There are a number of ‘scuola’ in Venice. A scuola is a Christian association of lay people that promote special works of charity…maybe like a lodge in the U.S. that takes on charitable work.

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is chock-a-block full of Tintoretto paintings. Both walls and ceilings hold his huge masterpieces. The most famous being his “Crucifixion”, which is 40 feet across, and is shown here.

Tintoretto's "Crucifixion"

As one cannot take photos within the Scuola, I harvested these from the official Scuola San Rocco website here.

And for a more entertaining view of the inside of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, just watch the Woody Allen movie, “Everyone Says I Love You”, where he just happens to bump into Julia Roberts in the Scuola.

My feet are already hurting from all the walking we’ve done thus far. Let’s move on to eating in the sestiere of San Polo.


Da Fiore

I will focus on the premier restaurant of San Polo, and all of Venice, in most people’s opinion…and I can’t argue.

Da Fiore is a culinary experience. I can’t put my finger on why that is. They are not into the culinary chemistry thingie that so many top-rated restaurants are want to put out these days (and yes, we've experienced a 22 course meal of these delights, where upon leaving the restaurant, my wife said to me, “I’d sure like a hot dog”). The dining room is not opulent, though it is charming and has the look of a ships galley to me for some reason…I think it is the curvature of the ceiling, perhaps?

What you get here is really great food…Italian, of course…featuring seafood, of course…serving great wines, of course. And the service is friendly, not overly stuffy, and attentive, of course. Here are a couple of our friendly wait staff.

One of the internationally recognized food critics puts Da Fiore in the top 5 restaurants in the world. ‘Nough said. Here are some photos from some of our visits there.

Here are a couple of photos from a visit on a cold January night in 2004. The grappa was to warm us for our journey back to our hotel in San Marco.

Poste Veccie

Of course, there are other fine restaurants scattered throughout the San Polo sestiere…and we’ve eaten at several. Poste Vecie is particularly nice. Our traveling companion Mike picked this one out years ago, and we were not disappointed. You get to it by passing between the two red-striped barber poles and over the small bridge…

…or by going down this narrow calle [‘calle’ (‘cä-lay) = ‘street’].

Poste Vecie is said to date from the 1500s and like many restaurants in Venice, it claims to be the oldest.

Ristorante Terrazza Sommariva

And there is very nice alfresco, canal-side dining just south of the afore-mentioned Rialto Bridge. Here is the quaint Ristorante Terrazza Sommariva. It is skinny and long enough that we had no idea that our traveling companions Debbie and Scott were eating at the other end during our ‘on-your-own’ time. Here are some lunch-time photos.


I would have to say that the shopping for high-end fashion goods is not as prolific in San Polo as it is in San Marco…and personally, I like that. I like to find those little, out of the way gems. Here is one of those shops where the craftsmen carve wood into fabulous works of art, like these in their window. I stopped in for a chat one trip and got invited to visit the workshop. Fascinating.

And on the Rialto Bridge, we were so charmed with the fine jewelry in Jovon that we got my lovely wife a beautiful 35th anniversary ring. This shop, which specializes in carved coral cameos, has been on the Rialto bridge for 83 years, and is still owned and run by the same Jovon family. Again, friendly shop keepers are the rule in Venice!


I can’t give you any personal experiences regarding staying in San Polo. There are a number of well-regarded hotels here, though. We find TripAdvisor to be an excellent source of user-reviewed lodging. 

I would say stay here if you want to be close to some great food and want to be off the beaten path. But realize that San Polo does get lots of tourists seeing the marvelous things I’ve pointed out above, so you might not get the tranquility you seek if you are near the main thoroughfare between the Rialto Market and the Accademia (which will be covered in an upcoming article on the sestiere of Dorsoduro). 


I found a lot of families out and about in San Polo.

I'll close with a few more photos taken within the sestiere of San Polo. Please click and enjoy!

And I say goodbye by presenting these two lovable characters. We love Venice, and we especially love its people!

I hope to bump into you as we walk the calle of the sestiere of San Polo.

Ciao for now,



ps: A reminder once more that language will not be a barrier in your Italy speak English...they speak English...everyone happy!

The Results Are In -- Part 12

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This one's kind of a big deal!

I am excited to let you know that I have been asked to participate in a large, international art show starting October 6th. This is a show that is held in a varying international venue every two years. This go-around is called the Berlin Foto Biennale. As you can undoubtedly tell, this current showing will be in Berlin.

This one’s kind of a big deal!

I was asked to participate because of my first place award in the 7th Annual International Pollux Awards. You may remember seeing that announcement back on July 14th of 2015. If you missed it, here is that announcement

The promoters of the showing provided an invitation for me to send to those who might be interested. Here is that invitation, which includes my three photos that will be featured in the Berlin show. 

If you happen to be in Berlin during October, consider this your invitation to attend so you can see this show featuring photographers from 41 countries. 

The photos that I will have in the show have been printed as 24"x36" prints, mounted on diBond. 

A just-returned-from two-week trip to the UK and Ireland prevent us from attending the opening vernissage and artists reception, but we will be there in spirit. [To save you the trouble of pulling out a dictionary, the term 'vernissage' refers to the night-before-opening showing of the photos for the artists' benefit]

As a regular reader of my articles, I thought you would like to know.


Ciao for now,


p.s. Well, at least one of the photos was taken in Italy! I'm sure you can guess which, by process of elimination.

Getting There: Bellagio

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Bellagio is worth getting to...but just how should one go about it?

You've no doubt heard of Bellagio. But we are not speaking of the beautiful Bellagio Hotel of Las Vegas, but the real Bellagio...the one from which the hotel was modeled, complete with lake, though no fountain and light show exist at the real Bellagio.

Just one of the many lakeside towns you will see on your slow-boat journey to Bellagio

The northern-Italian town of Bellagio has been dubbed ‘the most romantic town in Europe’, and we must agree. What a marvelous setting!

Lake Como and Bellagio

Bellagio sits on an interesting point in the lake district, about 45 miles north of Milan. What is interesting about Bellagio's location is the spit of land on which it is located on Lago di Como (Lake Como).

As you can see on this map, the lake is said to be shaped like a running person, with Bellagio sitting right in can I say this in a decorous way...well OK, the crotch.  

There is no direct train service to Bellagio, so one must travel to Bellagio either by boat or auto. And, as one can get around through most of Italy using trains, with no need for renting an automobile, let's assume are not traveling by automobile. 

The quickest way to get to Bellagio is by taking the train from Milan to Varenna, and then by a short ferry-boat ride to Bellagio. But be forewarned -- this is not the best way to get to Bellagio, as I will explain below.


The Slow Boat

The most pleasant and most excellent path to Bellagio is by a slow boat from Como. The route of the slow boat takes you to between 10 to 16 stops on your journey and the ride will take between 2 and 2 1/2 hours to complete (the number of stops and journey time depends on your departure time). Be warned that there is a fast boat, which is shown on the boat schedule in red as 'Speed Service' -- don't take this boat unless you are going to be late for a dinner reservation at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (or better yet, change your reservation time). The speed service? It's a hydrofoil boat that takes only 45 minutes to complete its journey.

Since there is a boat that is a good bit faster than the slower boat, why extend your journey on this slow boat? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will be using just a few words -- and many pictures -- to explain why you should take the slow boat to Bellagio.

Your Journey Begins

Your journey to the town of Como will start in Milan. For us, we had taken the overnight-sleeper train from Rome to Milan, so we continued our journey to Como early in the morning from Milan. We wanted to catch to 10am boat, so we would arrive in Bellagio just in time for lunch.

These photos were taken as we worked our way through the train yard at Milan.

It's about 20 miles from Como to Bellagio, and our journey should take about 2 1/2 hours.

The lake opens up before you as our Lake Como journey begins

When you get on the boat, take the stairs up to the upper deck for the best views. 

This is why you are taking the slow boat -- beautiful town after charming town all along the lake

This boat is similar to the one we are on right now

Lago di Como is surrounded by mountains...and the auto road that ends at Bellagio can be seen cutting across the hill on the right

Another lakeside town you would love to visit, but we won't be stopping here

A lot of mountain, with just a hint of civilization

The clock shows that it is almost 11am; as we left at 10am, we are about an hour into our journey

There is still a lot of lake left on our journey

Many of the villas along the way have gazebo-like embellishments...a quiet place to sit and contemplate the depths of the lake - which happens to be 1,340 feet at its deepest point!

I wish we were on this boat together right this very minute, enjoying the scenery

That one tree looks like they got it at Hobby is it so perfectly shaped?!

This photo and the four below it show the most beautiful house on the've seen it in many movies, like: A Month by the Lake; Star Wars: Attack of the Clones; and Casino Royale. The villa is called Villa del Balbianello. It had fallen into disrepair in the early 1900s and was bought and restored by an American. When the latest owner died in 1988, he left it to the National Trust of Italy. It is open to the public (see their website here).

Looks to be a little after noon...just about 25 minutes more and we will be at Bellagio

Ahhh...bella Bellagio -- we are at the Cadenabia stop and Bellagio is just across the lake and it's next!

As we approach Bellagio, we see one of the auto ferries that travels between Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna

As we near the dock, we can see our hotel dead center...we are on the top floor of the Metropole, second balcony from the left

And here is our journey's end...and we are just in time for lunch

It's time for a journey's end glass of wine with Scott and Debbie...

...and Ellen has one of her favorite snacks, a grissino, or breadstick

I hope that you are convinced that taking the slow boat to Bellagio is the ultimate journey, one at a pace that gives you time to absorb the charming sights of Lake Como. But, of course, you could have opted for the faster conveyance, below.

The 'Speed Service' of the hydrofoil

The Logistics

Here our friend Scott purchases our tickets as soon as we arrived at the boat dock in Como. It is a good idea to get your tickets early, as the boat does fill up quickly.

Below is the boat schedule, as posted at the ticket office. In the orange box, note the dates for this schedule are between the 1st and 28th of October, 2012. The schedules change drastically after the summer tourist season, so be sure you check online for the correct schedule as you plan your trip. 

In the green box is the schedule for the direction of the slow boat from Como to Piona, which is the way we want to go. In the blue box is the yucky hydrofoil Speed Service.

You can see the Navigazione Lago di Como boat schedule on their websiteAt right is the schedule as of today during the summer of 2016 (but be aware that it is only for service through October 2nd). 

So, now you know how to get to Bellagio. Next week, I'll tell you more about the town itself. But trust me, it is a place you will enjoy visiting. 

For a related article on an adventure starting in Bellagio, see my article of 07/28/2015 titled 'Stumbling Upon Something Magnificent'. 


Ciao for now,


Eat Here: Il Flauto di Pan

In a followup to last week's article on the beautiful Villa Cimbrone, I present their fabulous restaurant, Il Flauto di Pan.

Wow! I’m very excited about Villa Cimbrone gracing the walls of a new development in San Antonio, Texas. Be sure to read the late-breaking addition to this article at the very bottom.
I have never lied to you, and I won’t start now — so when I say ‘we ate every bite’, trust me on that

We have a general feeling in our family about the quality of a restaurant versus its height above its know, the meals in space-needle-like settings, tops of very tall buildings, etc...often it is the quality of the view that takes precedence over the  quality of the food...not always, but often enough that we steer clear without a recommendation.

Here is a restaurant that sits high above the Amalfi Coast, which has both a quality view and quality food. 

The remarkable gardens of the Villa Cimbrone extend to the entrance of Il Flauto di Pan, as you can see here with a wall of petite white flowers.

As you are seated, you will find a lovely welcome at your place setting, as shown in the first photo at the top of this article, complete with embroidery hoop. So striking, don't you think?

As we sat, we were treated to both a view of the Amalfi Coat and bread sticks -- two of our favorite things!


In addition, there were two varieties of butter from which to choose. 


Il Flauto di Pan is a Michelin-starred restaurant. Having a star is of great significance, and it is extremely hard to get.

If you have watched 'Chopped' on the Food Network, you know that they judge the food on taste, presentation, and originality.

These, of course, are important to the Michelin folks, too. But beyond the food itself are the aesthetics of the restaurant and the ways in which the diner is pampered. Touches like the orchids on your table are taken into account. 


As Italian wine lovers, we seldom have cocktails whilst in Italy...well maybe a Negroni or Campari & soda on occasion -- but the suggestion of a Bloody Mary made with fresh-squeezed tomato juice sounded too good to pass we didn't. And man-o-man was it ever good! 

We had course after course, some of which I'll show you here. I won't try to tell you exactly what each dish is, because frankly, I can't remember.

I think you can get the gist of a Michelin-starred restaurant from the photos...lots of garnish, debris, drops and plops on decorative substrates with well-placed and tasty sauces. Not only is it pretty to look at, but it is most excellent in taste!

Of course, right now you are asking, "But what about desserts?" My response would have to be, and is, "Yes, they have admirable desserts -- which we did indeed admire, right before we ate them." I have never lied to you, and I won't start now -- so when I say "we ate every bite", trust me on that. And, as unusual, we also enjoyed a dessert wine.


I have to say that we had a wonderful afternoon and evening at the far reaches of Ravello at Villa Cimbrone -- at the villa, the gardens, and the extraordinary restaurant. As I finish, we toast you and say 'thank you' to all of you who loyally read the articles of Italy, Our Italy.


Villa Cimbrone in San Antonio!

You can now find Villa Cimbrone in San Antonio, least photos of the villa. 

I'm pleased to announce that 210 Development Group, one of the premier property developers in San Antonio and beyond, has ordered eight of my photos of Villa Cimbrone as the wall art for a model in their recently completed Aviator project. This housing project is on the site of the old Brooks Field of World War II fame, now called Brooks City Base.

Here, you can see photos of the installation. My thanks to Alyson Callison, Director of Design for for 210DG, for putting her confidence in my work, and for creating the beautiful model that surrounds my photos.

I suspect you will recognize these photos from last weeks article, titled A Visit to Villa Cimbrone.


Ciao for now,



p.s  You can see other Amalfi Coast blog articles here: