Lock and key

March 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

If you make it through this entry, I promise you will be rewarded with a funny story near the end.

This morning Valentina went to visit her grandmother, so I slept in. When she arrived home, she then went to her other grandmother’s, who had baked a huge pot of pasta which we then consumed with her brother and dad… along with plentiful bread, cheese, and raw anise (which has henceforth become my favorite healthy snack). At this point Valentina made the astute comment that “spending a week in Italy is like passing through a pregnancy.”

We then drove to Villa Pisani, a huge villa about 40 minutes away from Valentina’s house. From Wikipedia:

Villa Pisani usually refers to a large, late baroquevilla at Stra on the mainland of the Veneto, northern Italy. It was begun in the early 18th century for Alvise Pisani, the most prominent member of the Pisani family, who was appointed doge in 1735.

Deserted by its eponymous family, the villa has had a share of notable and infamous visitors: Napoleon I who acquired the villa in 1807. It has been a national monument since 1882. Here Adolf Hitler first conferred with Benito Mussolini in 1934.

I actually didn’t know that bit about Hitler when I was there (perhaps it is not advertised?), but I did see the bedroom that Napoleon slept in. (Granted he only slept there two nights.) (Another interesting bit about Napoleon: The Basilica Di S. Marco that I went to on the first day here had all different kinds of marble pillars and marble making up the walls. Story has it that the marble was taken from around Europe by Napoleon and brought back for the construction of the basilica. Thought that was neat.)

Anyway, this villa was enormous and so extravagant, which seems to be a theme here in Venice.

The front (I could only fit half of the building in the frame, even though I stood as far back as possible without being in the street). I also really liked these dudes who were holding up the front:

I know you are getting tired of looking at my pictures of ceilings, so I will keep this part short and sweet. Apparently the villa is known for art which paints a third dimension, so to say. For example, there are pillars and windows and molding painted onto the walls and ceilings. Without further ado, some cool ceilings:

Like if you see in the last photo, the ceiling is supposed to look like a skylight with vines on it. This theme was repeated through the whole room, as you can see in the photo below. As explained, even the pillars in the photo below were painted on. They looked really 3D.

OK, moving on. The requisite picture of Napoleon’s bedroom. Pretty cool that I’ve been walking on the same floors Napoleon walked on:

And the main party room:

My favorite room, however, was the “Ladies room,” which had the most fantastic paintings of Apollo and the Flying Hours. According to the placard in the room (yes, I am a huge nerd and took a photo of the placard so that I would remember what it said)     :

The figures of the Hours at the centre of every picture are inspired by the dancing maidens painted on the walls of the houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The images of these girls at once became generally known by means of the engravings and always fascinated Neoclassical artists. The classical models were not copied exactly but were freely interpreted as if the artist saw his own feelings reincarnated in them.

I will now picture spam you with photos of this room.

Love love love love.

Anyway, then we went outside, where there is a huge reflecting pool that leads up to another house (guest house maybe? we didn’t have time to see it.) The weather was again perfect (65 degrees and sunny), so we laid outside for a little and enjoyed the rays.

Now for the funny story I promised:

So at this villa, there is a big garden labyrinth made up of shrubs, and you have to navigate to the center where there is a tower, and then find your way out. I’ve always read about these mazes in books and have wanted to try one. Valentina had looked up this maze online and it said it opened in April. Since it has been super warm here though, we thought maybe it had opened early. We walked over to the gate of the maze and it was locked. Cue sad face. Some other people came up also and saw it was locked. While we were staring sadly at the gate, I realized the lock was just hanging on the gate, and it wasn’t actually fastened. I say this quietly to Valentina, and we wait for the other people to disperse before discussing our plan.

I suggest we just take off the lock and walk in. Valentina brings up the valid point that what if someone comes and actually locks the gate and we are trapped inside. Problema. So then I decide that we will take off the lock and I will put it in my bag as we go through the maze. We also notice at this point that there are actually two people in the center of the maze, but we can see they have fancy camera equipment and are professional photographers.

Against Valentina’s better judgment, we open the gate and I put the lock in my purse and we go into the maze. We purposefully don’t actually go into the center because we don’t want to run into the photographers. After about 25 minutes of walking around, we decide to find our way out. Easier said than done. We keep going down the same (wrong, dead end) paths. The maze is also by the outskirts of the Villa, and there are these old people peering into the Villa gates and shouting at us (in Italian) “You are lost! You will have to spend the night in the Villa!”

Anyway, we are wandering around in this maze for about 30 more minutes, not making any progress, when we turn a corner and there are the photographers! Ooops. So we give a little chuckle and follow them. Valentina and I had decided that she would pretend not to speak Italian (I obviously didn’t have to pretend) so that we wouldn’t get into trouble for the whole lock issue. The photographers ask us if we are lost and I just say “English??” We follow them out of the maze (they luckily know the way), and then when we get outside the gate, the photographers are still standing there.

Problem: the lock for the gate is still in my purse. So there is nothing to do but uhhh, announce we have the lock. So Valentina says to the photographer, “Oh they gave us the lock.” (Who they was, we have no idea? The idea was to act like we worked at the villa or something) She says, “Hannah, you have the lock in your purse, right?” At this point I am laughing, 3/4 because it is so damn funny and 1/4 because of oh shit…. I rummage around in my purse and I can’t find the lock. Valentina says, “You have the lock right? Can you find it?” I finally find it and put it back on the gate, and the photographer gives us a weird look and closes the lock.

We walk away laughing about what he must have thought. If we had the lock and worked there, why didn’t we speak Italian? And why didn’t we know our way out of the maze? And why on earth did I put the lock in my purse? If we didn’t work there, why did I have the lock?

OK, I don’t know how well that story translated into print, but it was super funny. In any case, I’m glad the photographers were there to lead us out, because I really think we would have been there for at least another hour. Apparently the trick is: make all right turns to get to the center, and all left turns to get out. Or maybe it was the opposite.

Anyway, we then drove back to town and got gelato (this is becoming a problem), met some of her friends, and then had dinner at her house, where her mom made this amazing lasagna (half the pan was meat lasagna and the other half vegetable). After dinner, her mom showed me how to make these marinated red peppers that I’d had a few nights early and were so tasty.


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§ 2 Responses to Lock and key

  • KA says:

    LOL! very very funny! and bring home lots of recipes! luv u. Dad is relieved you weren’t arrested and end up in the cell next to Amanda Knox!

    • Hannah says:

      Haha, me too! I asked Valentina a few days ago and she said the Amanda Knox story wasn’t that big in Italy.
      I am getting the recipe for this amazing almond cake she made also. So good.

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