• Splendid Venice: Art and History

    A Politics & Prose and Wild Blue Yonder trip


    with Eric Denker, Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the National Gallery of Art

    October 20 – 27, 2024

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    Join Eric Denker, Ph.D., author, expert in Venetian art, and long a favorite lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, on this exploration of
    beautiful Venice. (Yay, Eric speaks Italian!) Among many other publications, he is co-author with his friend Judith Martin (better known as “Miss Manners”) of an etiquette guide to the city, No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice.


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    Eric will take us to his favorite sites, including the Palazzo Ducale, the Accademia art museum, the Scuola Grande San Rocco (where Eric is a rareAmerican member), Ca d’Oro historic house, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the islands Murano, Burano and Torcello in the Venetian lagoon. One day we’ll walk into the Jewish Ghetto, the oldest ghetto in the world, established in 1516, to visit the ancient synagogues there.

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    And of course we’ll visit some of the most iconic places in Venice: Piazza San Marco, several of the art-studded cathedrals – the Frari, SanGiorgio Maggiore -- with Eric to help us find what’s most spectacular, and the Rialto Market. Even if you’ve been to Venice before, you’ll love getting deeper into its art, architecture and history.

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    Our four-star hotel, the Saturnia & International, is perfectly located, just a few blocks from Piazza San Marco, and surrounded by luxury shopping temptations. It has its own water gate entrance directly into the hotel should you decide to arrive by water taxi.

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    Of course, water is a theme everywhere in Venice. We’ll move about the city on the vaporetto water buses,and, of course, on foot, glancing down narrow allies and walking among houses that have been there for centuries.

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    Wild Blue Yonder Trips coordinates trips for Politics & Prose bookstore that are made up of small (maximum 18 people) groups of congenial people who, like you, love to read. You’ll have two experienced trip leaders with you each day –plus Eric to guide you to his favorite places.


    Please note that we may change this itinerary depending on changes in time or availability of some of our destinations. We’ll also adjust in case of weather or other unforeseen events.

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    Sunday, October 20

    You’ll arrive in Venice after your overnight flight from home. The afternoon is free for you to explore on your own. We suggest you take a tour of Teatro La Fenice, the famous opera house very near our hotel, or visit the close-by Museo della Musica de Venezia, a fascinating museum of music. You might simply stroll down to the Royal Gardens on the Grand Canal and people watch. Or have a (very expensive) coffee at Florian in the Piazza San Marco.

    6pm We meet in the hotel for orientation.

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    Monday, October 21

    We begin today with a special treat: we’ll go with Eric to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, where he’s a member. He’ll introduce us to the spectacular Tintorettos all around us, and tell us the history of these scuole who commissioned some of the greatest art in Venice.

    Right around the corner, we’ll then go into the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (generally called the Frari). Monumental in size, the church showcases an altarpiece by Titian and a neo-classical monument to the sculptor Canova, among many other treasures.

    Afterwards,we’ll stroll over to the broad Campo Santa Margherita, where you’ll have lots
    of choices for lunch.

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    After lunch, we’ll take a short walk over to Ca’ Rezzonico, a palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal, completed in the 18th century. Here you’ll experience what it must have been like to live in such a palace. Henry James adored it; Robert Browning once owned it, and John Singer Sargent painted it. It’s a particular
    favorite of ours.

    6pm.Wine and conversation in the hotel.

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    Tuesday, October 22

    This morning we take a vaporetto over to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. First we’ll have a tour of the grounds and monastery, where we’ll walk along the cloisters and see the refectory designed by Palladio. (In the refectory is a facsimile of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana,now in the Louvre after it was stolen by Napoleon.) We’ll also walk through the enormous art history library. Also on the island is Le Stanze del Vetro, a museum of glass.

    Afterwards, we’ll visit the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, which was rebuilt to designs by Palladio in the 16th century. One of the most impressive paintings here is another by Tintoretto. And we’ll take the elevator up to the top of the campanile for spectacular views of Venice. (It’s also the bell tower, so particularly fun when the bells overhead are ringing.)

    We’ll return to the area of Piazza San Marco, behind the basilica, for lots of lunch choices.

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     In the afternoon, we’ll visit, with audioguides, the huge Palazzo Ducale, home of the doges of Venice. Its opulent decorations began in the 14th century and continued through the Renaissance. You’ll learn about the history of Venice and see vast rooms with walls and ceilings covered with art. And, of course, you’ll step into the dungeon briefly, and gaze out from the windows of the Bridge of Sighs.

    6pm. Wine and conversation in the hotel.

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    Wednesday, October 23

    Today we take a short walk, over the Grand Canal to the Dorsoduro and to Venice’s premier art gallery, the Gallerie dell’Accademia. An audioguide will take you through the history of Venetian painting, and you can expect to see and learn
    about works by Bellini, Carpaccio, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Canova and

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    Wednesday, October 23

    After lunch nearby, we’ll walk over to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The gardens are a visual relief from so much Venetian stone, and the works of Kandinsky, Picasso, Magritte, Rothko, Chagall, Mirò and Dalì are there for us to enjoy. The building is right on the Grand Canal and offers stunning views of the many types of boats gliding by.

    You’ll have some time on your own here as well, to explore the Dorsoduro and some of its tempting shops.

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    This evening (no meeting), we’ll gather in Saint Mark’s Square for our small group
    tour of the Basilica di San Marco, the iconic church that dominates both the
    square and the history of Venice. According to legend, Venetians stole the body of Saint Mark from Egypt and entombed it here, and ever after the symbol of the winged lion of St. Mark flew on the republic’s flags; you’ll see the symbol everywhere. After hearing about the architecture, we’ll enter the basilica in the dark, and its dramatic mosaics will be slowly revealed to us as the lights flicker on. Afterwards, we’ll also go down into the crypt, and also get up close to the Pala d’Oro, the golden altarpiece studded with precious stones.

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    Thursday, October 24

    Today you have a choice of two different plans for the day.


    We take a vaporetto to begin our walk with Eric among some of the most important churches of Venice. First we’ll go to San Giovanni Grisostomo, completed in 1525. Of particular interest are paintings by Bellini and Piombo. Next we visit Santa Maria dei Miracoli, well-known for its marble architecture in the Venetian Renaissance. Then we’ll stroll over to Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli, one
    of the oldest churches in Venice, dating from the 7th century.

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    Option 1:


    We’ll take a break for lunch and then walk over to Ca’ d’Oro on the Grand Canal, a
    palazzo considered the best-surviving example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Today it houses the art collection of Baron Giorgio Franchetti, its last owner.


    6pm. Wine and conversation in the hotel.

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    Option 2:

    This morning we’ll take a vaporetto to the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, actually the
    oldest Jewish ghetto in Venice. We’ll have a guided tour to learn about the lives of the people who lived here, the memorials to the Jews who were deported by the Nazis during WWII, and a visit to the 17th century historic synagogues. Afterwards we’ll have a bit of time to shop among the traditional arts and crafts here, and we’ll have lunch in one of the Jewish restaurants nearby.

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    Option 2:

    Afterwards,we’ll take a vaporetto to the Museo Fortuny, the palazzo where art nouveau designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo lived and worked. Both the spaces themselves and his designs for theater and couture are stunning. The Fortuny house still produces luxury fabrics and designs, and is located just a few doors down from our hotel.

    6pm. Wine and conversation in the hotel.

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    Friday, October 25

    Today we head out to the islands outside of the city. Again today, you’ll have two options:


    We motor out to Murano, the island known for its beautiful glass. We’ll visit the Museo del Vetro, a museum of the history of glass. It also has a terrific video on the making of glass objects. We’ll have time to shop (no surprise, one of our favorite stores for glass jewelry and vases is here), and to have a leisurely lunch.

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    Option: 1


    After lunch, you can continue on to the island of Burano. It was formerly known forits handmade lace, but today is mostly famous for the bright colors of itsbuildings. You’ll return to Venice by vaporetto on your own.

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    Option 2:

    With Eric, head straight out to the lesser-visited island of Torcello, a quietrespite from the busy-ness of Venice. (Both George Sand and Ernest Hemingway loved Torcello.) You’ll have time to admire the mosaics in the Basilica Santa Maria Assunta and its campanile, and to just walk around the garden-like spaces.

    Then join Eric for aleisurely and absolutely fabulous (and pricey!) lunch at Locanda Cipriani. Six decades of famous people have stayed at this legendary place, and it well deserves its reputation. (We’ll make reservations for you in advance.)

    After lunch, you can visit Murano if you like, because Murano and Burano are on the way back from Torcello.

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    Saturday, October 26

    Today is our last day in Venice, but there’s still plenty more to see and do. A great treat is our visit to the Scuola di San Giorgio Schiavoni, where we’ll see some of the Carpaccio’s that were recently featured in an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Now we see them back in their home (including the dynamite St. George and the Dragon). We’ll then walk over to the huge church of Saints Giovanni and Paolo (always called the Zanipolo by Venetians).

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    After lunch nearby, we’ll continue to the Rialto, where – if you haven’t shopped enough – you can shop the halls of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, an upscale Venetian shopping mall.

    But if shopping isn’t your thing, you can continue on with Eric to discover even more artistic treasures in Venice.

    6pm Wine and farewells in the hotel.

    Sunday, October 27


    Today we say goodbye to Venice and depart for home, or wherever your next travels take you.

    Important note: This trip is not appropriate for you if you have any mobility issues at all. We’ll be taking long walks around Venice, climbing up and down stairs over the canals constantly, on uneven paving and crumbling steps. Plus, most palazzi include multiple flights of high stairs; sadly the Venetians hadn’t invented the elevator.

    Details and Price

    Here’s What’s Included:

    - Two trip leaders to help you enjoy your time in Venice

    - Every day with Eric Denker, an expert on Venice and its art

    - Vaporetto pass for the week

    - Seven nights in our four-star historic hotel

    - Full (and hearty) breakfast every morning

    - Admissions to every museum or other site mentioned in the itinerary

    - Wine and conversation socials most evenings with the trip leaders


    What’s not included: lunches and dinners, tickets to museums and attractions not listed on the itinerary, out-of-town train tickets, your flight to Venice and back home or anything else not listed under “What’s included.”

    Ready to Pack Your Bags?

    The price for the trip is $6,380. You’ll have your own room without paying an additional single supplement. To reserve your
    space, register here: https://www.wildblueyondertrips.com/trip-registration.

    To secure your space, mail your deposit check, made out to Wild Blue Yonder in the amount of $700, to Sheila Campbell, Wild Blue Yonder, 1001 Spring Street, Suite 623, Silver Spring, MD 20910. If you’d prefer to pay by credit card (there’s a 3% surcharge), email Sheila at scampbell@wildblueyonder.biz and she’ll send you a Paypal invoice.

    A Few Frequently Asked Questions

    Q. How many people will be on the trip?
    The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group.

    Q. How physically demanding is this trip?

    We’ll be doing some serious walking every day. The vaporettos only go down the main canals, so we’ll be walking some distances on stone and over bridges a lot every day. (The city is flat except for all those arched bridges!)

    Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?

    Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And we hate eating at long tables where we haven’t got a choice about what to order. Instead, we’ll find typically Venetian places for lunch, and, there are a number of restaurants very near our hotel for dinner. You can choose where you eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.

    Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?

    No.This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.

    Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate? 

    For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because European hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.

    Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
    We strongly recommend it. In particular, you’ll want to have trip cancellation insurance in case something happens and you can’t come at the last minute, and also medical evacuation insurance which will fly you home if needed. Remember that Medicare is valid only in the U.S., so if you’re on Medicare, you’ll definitely want some basic medical insurance. The best time to purchase your travel insurance is when you pay your deposit for the trip. Some travel insurance companies include covid coverage, so you’ll want to make sure
    your policy does that. And please read the trip Terms and Conditions carefully for our cancellation policy.

    Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
    Donna Morris has lived in Paris, France for the last fifteen years. She founded her business, Best Friend in Paris, in 2009 with her signature tour, Follow Me, an experience for her clients that helps them see Paris with the same love and appreciation for the City of Light that she has. She has developed and organized Politics and Prose trips to Paris, Provence, the Dordogne, and the Loire Valley, as well as in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. She speaks fluent French.

    Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing Politics & Prose trips for nearly ten years, in countries including France, SouthAfrica, Spain, Morocco, England and Italy. In her day-to-day work, she was a group retreat leader who understood how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she has been a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art for many years. She speaks tourist French.

    Q. What is the Hotel Saturnia like?
    The Saturnia is located in a historic building, so you can imagine that no two rooms are the same. It has been family owned and operated for many years, and the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. The breakfasts are bountiful, with both American and Italian choices. The hotel is located very near a vaporetto stop, as well as a very short walk to Piazza San Marco and across the bridge to the Dorsoduro.

    Q. Is there internet access at the hotel? 

    Yes, free wifi comes with your room.


    Q. What will the weather be like? 
    It’s hard to say for sure, but it should be sunny and cool. It’s always a good idea, of course, to come prepared for rain, so do pack an umbrella, a light jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.

    Q. What to wear? 
    Wear just what you would at home – casual jeans, slacks or skirts, even for eating out at night. Of course, for any place where you need a reservation, you’ll want to dress appropriately. But let comfort rule your choices.

    Q. I don’t speak Italian. Can you help mefigure out what to eat?
    Absolutely.We’ll provide a list of common menu terms, and let you know how to do things like ask for the check.


    Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself atnight in Venice?
    As in any city, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. But these are small cities with lots of charm, and our hotels are located where there are lots of people about. You can feel quite comfortable walking around after dark. What you’ll mostly have to be careful of are pickpockets anywhere there are crowds.

    Q. When do I need to sign up by? 
    The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. This trip is likely to sell out very quickly.

    Ready to pack your bags? Register here.

    Terms and Conditions

    Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.

    Trip Prices
    Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotels, daily transportationas mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums if with the group as listed in the itinerary, evening socials to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.

    Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; water taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas;
    personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description. Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.

    Registration and Payment
    The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.

    Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder,
    deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to scampbell@wildblueyonder.biz. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild BlueYonder.


    Please note that, should a covid pandemic recur after trip deposits have been paid, no refunds will be possible (the funds will now be in Italy), but we will reschedule the trip as soon as possible with no change in price.

    Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.

    We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.

    Full final payment is due June 1, 2024.

    Cancellations and Refunds
    For any cancellations made before June 1,2024, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after June 1, 2024.

    We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.

    Changes to Your Reservation
    If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.

    Travel Documents
    You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip.

    Health and Medical Issues
    We welcome all travelers, but you must be ingood health to participate in our trips. Our trips require a reasonable amount
    of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you.


    If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional
    costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).

    Trip Insurance
    We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.

    Arrival and Departure Dates
    It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.

    The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.

    Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within ourcontrol, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.


    Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general
    well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.