|Taking the sun in one of Palazzo Falier's two projecting sun rooms|
|A view of one of Palazzo Falier's liatì (and the Grand Canal), as seen from the other|
And what marvelous spaces those two projecting windowed rooms are! I spent a long time admiring them, imagining (erroneously, as it turns out) that Howells had used one to write in. Then a white cat, whom I'd seen out in the back garden when I first arrived, sauntered in and made the more elaborate of the two liatì her own. And as I watched her arrange herself to best enjoy the sun, I realized that for the first time in my life I was seeing the grand hauteur evident in the attitudes of even the mangiest cats in the most humble contexts displayed in a room entirely appropriate to it. Forget about some old achey-backed, bleary-eyed, inky-fingered writer toiling away in a room like this--this room was made for the imperial and luxurious manner of a cat!
|The interior of the second sun room|
|In this image and the one below: 2 views of Pedro Cabrita Reis's "over-all intervention" in Palazzo Falier|
I'm sure I'll have more to say about Venetian Life after I've read it all, but for the moment I'll just present two of his own descriptions of Palazzo Falier as he knew it:
"We were not in the appartamento signorile--that was above--but we were more snugly quartered on the first story from the ground-floor, commonly used as a winter apartment in the old times. But it had been cut up, and suites of rooms had been broken according to the caprice of successive landlords, till it was not at all palatial any more. The upper stories still retained something of former grandeur, and had acquired with time more than former discomfort. We were not envious of them, for they were humbly let at a price less than we paid: though we could not quite repress a covetous yearning for their arched and carven windows, which we saw sometimes from the canal, above the tops of the garden trees."
"As for our Dalmation friends [a Dalmatian family that lived in the appartamento signorile], we met them and bowed to them a great deal, and we heard them overhead in frequent athletic games, involving the noise as of the maneuvering of cavalry; and as they stood a good deal on their balcony, and looked down upon us on ours, we sometimes enjoyed seeing them admirably foreshortened like figures in a frescoed ceiling."
The complete text of Howell's Venetian Life (along with many other great titles) can be downloaded free-of-charge at the Project Gutenburg website: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7083
|Autumn in the little garden of Palazzo Falier, as seen from the top of the outdoor stairs leading to the first floor|
Yes, as has by now been well-documented, even the most minimal "intervention" in a certain kind of space can radically alter our perception of it. But so can the unexpected appearance of a cat from outdoors. And though it's been a long time since anyone accused me of being a "cat person," yesterday I found myself preferring the cat.
|A panorama of the garden of Palazzo Falier|