Since my return from Italy, I've been reading a dense and rich book about Venice by Garry Wills: Venice: Lion City: The Religion of Empire. He writes about Venice through the window of its art and architecture. The book brilliantly explains the meaning of the art of Venice, its monuments, architecture and painting, linking the works to the powerful families and organizations that commissioned them. Right now I am reading the chapter about Palladio in Venice and his great churches: San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore. The group of students who accompanied me spent alot of time on the Zattere looking at Il Redentore, and sketching and painting it. I think it really added to my appreciation of this amazing work of art. I grasped ahead of time that it might be one of the easier architectural subjects in Venice--the Gothic palazzi with their ornately decorated arched windows are daunting for a plein air artist, requiring hours to get them right (although a couple of students spent alot of time on them and did impressive work.) The simplicity of Palladio's geometric shapes lend themselves to painting with a big brush, once you get the proportions right. I loved Wills' description of the triangular shapes of the pediment as being "fugal," repeated in harmonious proportions throughout the facade of the church. The church is obviously inspired by Classical temples, adapted to its contemporary purpose of commemorating deliverance from the plague. Wills describes the facade as "a sequence of imaginary chambers through which one moves to the inner place of light and calm. This is the most illusionistic front of all--and therfore the most Palladian." Sitting on the Zattere and gazing across the Giudecca Canal at this beautiful work of art (and drawing and painting it) was for me perhaps the defining experience of our trip, and really instilled a feeling of calm satisfaction, that is until the incredibly out of scale cruise ships completely dwarfed the church and in a matter of seconds demonstrated what an impoverished visual world we live in in the 21st century. Imagine having your first in-person view of Venice from the deck of a giant cruise ship--the monuments would look like children's toys. Not to mention the ecological damage inflicted by the passage of the ships on the Canal--the immense draft of the ships displacing so much water that the tidal influx of water that is so damaging to Venice becomes even greater and more menacing. There's a very good article in the September 25, 2014 issue of the New York Review of Books about this subject: Venice: Devious and Destructive.