“To us, to good health, and to good living.” Sitting at a table on the water across from the illuminated façade of Il Redentore, thoroughly satisfied by a delicious last supper with an assortment of homemade pastas and specialties of meat and fish, Dr. Lazar raised his glass and offered this simple toast on our final day in Venice.
On this day, we made our way to our two last churches. The façade of the Church of Santa Maria del Giglio raised our eyebrows as we discovered that it also served as a monument to a Venetian admiral.
Our eyes were further confounded by trompe-l’œil on the wooden ceiling of the Church of Santo Stefano, and the unlikely use of brick covered in plaster painted to look like brick. As another surprise, Drs. Beall and Lazar brought us to the courtyard of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, where we marveled at the recently restored spiral staircase, which could have come out of any fairy tale.
The Casa di Carlo Goldoni was our last stop, commemorating the home of this prolific author of dramas and comedies in Venetian dialect, Italian, and French, and preserving examples of antique puppetry.
It was no surprise that drama and spectacle were so admired in this most theatrical of cities, and the museum helped make sense of the creativity and inspiration for the thousands of mask shops selling magnificent papier mâché confections for an annual Carnival feast celebrated like no other. Upon exiting Carlo Goldoni’s home, I discovered just such a shop across the street. Enticed by its window display, I entered and immediately came face to face with a mask of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, modeled on his portrayal in the Basilica of San Vitale. (Encountering a two-dimensional mosaic found in Ravena, which I studied in Art & Politics, in the third dimension at a Venetian mask shop was a unique experience to say the very least.)
After my chance meeting with the emperor, I joined Drs. Beall and Lazar for a Tridentine Liturgy in Latin at the Church of San Simeone Piccolo. The service was incredibly beautiful, accompanied by Gregorian chant. Returning to the hotel (with my last pepperoni pizza in hand), I began the arduous process of packing my bags. With that unhappy task completed, I joined my classmates for a last but necessary highlight, a tour in a gondola. While our gondolier was tight-lipped (besides letting slip that his family had been gondoliers for longer than the United States of America had been in existence), the chance to ride in these sleek wooden boats and admire the labyrinthine canals and majestic façades was breathtaking. There is no more elegant way to travel.
Returning to the hotel, the staff greeted us with hors d’oeuvres and glasses of sparkling Prosecco. We then set out for our farewell dinner. Comprised of wine, bruschetta, vegetables, pasta, fish, duck, chicken, and lamb, it was amazing. As dessert was served (chocolate cake with chilled apricot mousse), Dr. Lazar offered his toast.
We then went around the table, reflecting upon our time in Venice and the Veneto. Words like beautiful, delightful, joyful, lovely, stunning, and marvelous were common in each reflection. Appreciation was also expressed for the Fortin and Gonthier Foundations of Western Civilization Program, Dr. and Mrs. D’Amour, the program’s generous benefactors, and Drs. Beall and Lazar, our fearless leaders over the past five months.