Three Perfect Days: Venice - United Hub
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Venice

By The Hub team , May 04, 2016

Story by Chris Wright | Photography by River Thompson | Hemispheres, May 2016

“Venice," said Truman Capote, “is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." The first time you set eyes on the city, you get what he meant. Everywhere you look there's a sublimely distressed architectural relic crawling with Gothic, Byzantine, Rococo, and Neo-Classical flourishes. It's almost too much, and that's before you get to the canals.

Nestled in a crook in northern Italy, on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, Venice is laced with 170-odd waterways, which are spanned by 400-odd bridges. While the Grand Canal boasts the city's big architectural pageant, there's a special joy in chancing across a quiet residential strip of water, the gondolas replaced by workaday motorboats. In the city's six sestieri (or neighborhoods), you will not see a single car, or even a bike.

Venice trades on its looks, of course, catering to 20 million annual visitors with swish hotels, shops, and restaurants. Stand on Ponte dell'Accademia at sunrise, however, and you'll also understand why poets and artists have been drawn here for a thousand years—the very same thing that will make you mourn the moment you have to leave.

Day 1 Graphic

In which Chris gets lost, gets lost again, eats the head mush of a baby octopus, visits a church, and gets lost one more time.

I'm eating a spicy Thai omelet, which is a slightly unusual thing to have for breakfast—more so when you consider that I'm having it in the glow of a gilded ballroom, mobbed by marble cherubs, sitting before a window overlooking Venice's Grand Canal. This is actually not the most ornate dining room at the Aman Canal Grande. The one next door looks as if it was egged by the Fabergé kids.

The water outside is the minty blue of mouthwash, its surface mirroring the inflected arches and carved columns of the palazzi across the way, which are also visible from my room. Omelet dispatched, I head upstairs for a soak in a deep tub next to a window, then make my way outside, pausing to inspect the Old Master frescoes, the looming chandeliers.

I have prepared a detailed itinerary, which may be the most futile thing I've ever done. This is Venice, after all, a city whose topography seems to have been drawn by a myopic madman with a twitch. “Getting lost is the only place worth going to," Venetian novelist Tiziano Scarpa once said, as if we have any choice.

Taking the back route down a canal in VeniceTaking the back route

Having abandoned my map, which is clearly faulty, I pick up another and head for Caffè del Doge, a coffee snob's paradise near the Rialto Bridge. I've arranged to meet author, cooking-school doyenne, and Venetian Contessa Enrica Rocca. I was expecting a genteel, maybe slightly doddery person. What I get is closer to Joan Rivers. “I'll eat anything," she says at one point. “If you tell me a horse has been fed the finest herbs, and its [manure] tastes good deep fried, I'll give it a try." With this, she lights a cigarette and strides off in the direction of the Rialto fish market.

The medieval market is open-sided, propped up by ranks of columns. The stalls squirm with spider crab, skate, prawn, octopus, scallop, monkfish, and squid, and the air is misted with brine. Enrica fondles the bulging belly of a scorpion fish. “It must have eaten something. Buy one, get one free!" Nearby is a horse butcher, and she goes into cooking-school mode: “You have to think of the history. When horses fell on the battlefield, the soldiers didn't think, 'Poor horsey!' They chopped the animal up and put it in a stew."

Enrica wants to take me to lunch at nearby All'Arco, one of the bacari that serve wine and cicchetti finger food. We pass a thin alley, its sides spanned by what she calls “a game of arches"—high brick buttresses to stop the buildings bumping into each other. Next, we poke around a spice shop, Drogheria Mascari, then go through an unmarked door into a produce warehouse. “This onion is incredible!" she says, holding up an onion.

Enrica Rocca, founder, Enrica Rocca Cooking SchoolEnrica Rocca, founder, Enrica Rocca Cooking School

All'Arco is a closet-size, family-run eatery crammed with locals and lapdogs. I take a windowsill and a spritz (Aperol and prosecco), followed by a succession of open-face sandwiches: baby octopus (served with head mush), mantis shrimp, baccalà Veneziana (cod paste), lard-stuffed salami. Venetians are preoccupied with the idea that they will lose their city—to rising water, to a failing sense of collective identity—and Enrica is no exception. “This is the real Venice," she says. “It is not easy to find these days."

Speaking of which: I spend the rest of the day blundering into doglegs and watery dead ends, crisscrossing the same square 37 times without ever finding the 12th-century church that, according to my map, is right here. People call Venice a small city, and it is in terms of square mileage, but unravel its snarl of alleys and you'd have Tokyo.

“The thing about Venice is there are no flat surfaces. You have to think about where you put the bed, so you don't end up sleeping head down. It's not a place where you can go out and pick up a cabinet from Ikea." —Enrica Rocca

But Scarpa was right. My aimless hours in San Polo and San Marco reveal innumerable wonders: tilted bell towers, side canals strung with laundry, tumbledown palaces, crumbling courtyards, and quirky curio shops, often set to a soundtrack of bells and the flippant baritone of gondoliers. In Campo Santo Stefano, I wander into a wonderfully gloomy church, then cut across to a shop with a neon cross in the window and a sign on the door: “We open sometime."

This is Fiorella Gallery, an avant-garde clothing shop opened in the mid-1980s by a local character named Fiorella Mancini. As I browse among hand-printed coats and beaded G-strings bearing slogans like “Love My President," Mancini flings T-shirts around trying to find one that will suit me. “Here, this one is crazy," she says, holding up one with a big red skull on it. “Every expression is reality," she tells me as I make for the door, and then she gives me the T-shirt for free.

There are limits to the joy of getting lost, however. I'm only a few hundred feet from the Metropole Hotel—where I'll be dining at the Michelin-starred Met Restaurant—but it takes me an age to get there. This time, the jiggery-pokery doesn't seem so benign. After one particularly arduous loop, I throw my new map away and buy another. Also, possibly due to a combination of fatigue, hunger, and overstimulation, I've started to have unusual thoughts. Have you ever noticed that when lion heads get worn, they look like monkeys?

Fiorella GalleryFiorella Gallery

There is so much here that seems on the brink of falling apart or melting away. While many of the old palaces have been restored, many more are peeling and crumbling, bulging and lurching. But this too is part of the appeal. Certainly, you wouldn't want Venice to be subjected to municipal plastic surgery. The city dates back to the fifth century, and it emerged as a major world power in the 10th century. It looks its age.

I'm not feeling too sprightly myself when I arrive at the Met, but I perk up when presented with the menu, overseen by rising star Luca Veritti. “Enjoy this beautiful tree!" says the waiter, referring to a wooden block studded with wires, each pronging an amuse-bouche. For a starter, I get pan-fried scallops coated with black bread crumbs—crunchy and succulent, they may be the best I've ever had. Another highlight is the roe deer, which is liver-rich and tender, served with bacon popcorn and grapes. Dessert is a ricotta, chocolate, and pear tart, which is lovely but not entirely necessary.

I end the night at the 1930s-era Harry's Bar, fabled home of the Bellini, which tonight is crammed with Bellini-drinking out-of-towners. I order one and sit next to a young man drinking a beer. “Why not a Bellini?" I ask over the din. “Sorry," he replies, “I do not speak Italian." We're near the stop for the San Marco vaporetto, one of the water buses that ordinary people use to get around. I head out and climb aboard, then glide past the huddled palazzi and the bristling bell towers, the gondolas bobbing in our wake. There are worse commutes.

Day 2 Graphic

In which Chris falls in love with a view, plays Cary Grant in a water taxi, whimpers his way through a rowing lesson, and loses his ruffled shirt at the casino.

I wake up at the Gritti Palace, and I do not say this lightly.

The Gritti is one of Venice's star attractions, and has been for 120-plus years. I'm in a third-floor canal suite inspired by swinging American designer Angelo Donghia. The Venetian Gothic palazzo was once occupied by 15th-century aristocrats, and much of the decor reflects this. The Donghia, though, is pure mod. My bedroom is battleship gray, with a silvery chandelier and a curved plastic table. Beyond this is a huge lounge area dominated by two Pop paintings of the Chrysler Building (by Bobo Ivancich) and an L-shaped couch (seats 20).

Then there's the little balcony, where I stand for as long as I can afford to, gazing across at the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, built in the 1600s to celebrate the end of the city's last great plague (fingers crossed). The rising sun has tinged its Palladian facade and teeming angels a faint pink. The mouth of the canal widens here, opening out into the Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. How do you walk away from that?

Palazzo Bovolo's external staircasePalazzo Bovolo's external staircase

I'm having breakfast at the Bauer Palazzo, a few hundred yards to the east. The rooftop deck here has a fair view of its own, taking in the spiked campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore, the endless muddle of red roofs. As I munch on crispy bacon and plump sausages, a seagull brazenly eyeballs the plate of an adjacent diner. “Is that Gina or Gloria?" one waitress asks another, going on to explain that the restaurant has two resident gulls.

I'm waiting for Alessandro Possati, scion of the family that owns this hotel (among others) and a rising patron of the arts. After a brief hello, he whisks me over the sunny bay in a water taxi, which makes me feel like Cary Grant. Our destination is the island of Giudecca, and the old convent housing his Zuecca Project Space, a gallery for emerging artists. He has a smaller space in San Marco, and he has plans to open more, which he sees as a civic responsibility.

“While many of the old palaces here have been restored, many more are peeling and crumbling, bulging and lurching. And this is part of the appeal."

“There has been a mass exodus from Venice," he says. “Often the houses don't find new life. So what we do has deeper implications than just the art itself. It's a way of bringing dignity back, breathing life into empty space." With this, he shows me around his cavernous gallery, pointing to a high window at the end. “That was to keep the girls from looking out at the local butcher and baker boys."

Giudecca used to be a run-down area, home to prisoners and exiles (Michelangelo spent a few years here in the 1520s), but it is becoming like Brooklyn or Shoreditch, a community of artists and musicians (Elton John has a place here). Still, there is a sense of melancholy about the place. “It's the island of the judged," says Alessandro. “You had to sit here and look across the water to Venice, without being there."

The inspired clutter at Libreria Acqua AltaThe inspired clutter at Libreria Acqua Alta

Next, Alessandro drops me off at the nearby San Giorgio island, which has a lovely Benedictine church and that campanile, said to offer the best views in Venice. It is indeed a fine view, giving me my first proper look at the sprawling splendor of Piazza San Marco, but I have a date with a gondolier, so I head down and catch a boat to Sacca Misericordia, in shabby-chic Cannaregio. I've decided it's not enough to ride these things; I want to learn how to operate one.

My tutor, Jane, is a no-nonsense Australian expat, part of the almost all-female outfit Row Venice. Upon her arrival at the dock, she shows me the shrimp-tail boat I'll be rowing and tells me not to fall in, and we're ready to go. As I wobble aboard, two nuns walk by wheeling shopping carts, and one of them gestures.

Waving? Warning? Maybe I should have gone with the romantic serenade for one.

Standing at the bow isn't that bad. My problems begin when I have to climb onto the slick arc at the back, which looks to me like the setting for a hilarious YouTube video. “Use your leg muscles!" Jane tells me. “Lunge back and forth!" I try to use my legs, I try to lunge, but the best I can muster is a bit of dithery splashing and a falsetto catalogue of concerns. Jane rolls her eyes, takes the oar and rows me safely back to shore.

Titian's radiant Frari altarpieceTitian's radiant Frari altarpiece

I'm in a hurry again, so from here it's into the 14th-century Madonna dell'Orto for a look at Tintoretto's massively murky Last Judgment (Jesus at the top, do-badders below), followed by a whirlwind tour of the nearby Jewish Ghetto, and a stride-by survey of the canalside shops and bars. I do make time to try a dark La Birra di Meni, one of the 300 beers on offer at Birre da Tutto il Mondo, and (thank goodness) to pop into Libreria Acqua Alta, located 15 minutes southeast, in Castello.

The sign outside says that this is “the most beautiful bookshop in the world," which it isn't. Inside is a musty muddle of books, maps, cards, and magazines, many of them heaped in a large gondola. Gianni, the guy behind the counter, adopts a tone of mock outrage when I suggest the arrangement is haphazard. “There is a lot of system," he says, cigarette in mouth. “In this room, it's 50 percent new and 50 percent used." In the yard out back, there's a staircase and platform, maybe six feet high, built out of rotting encyclopedias. Gianni calls the structure “a way to be elevated by culture."

Lunch is at the nearby Osteria di Santa Marina, a local eatery serving traditional cuisine with a creative twist. It's a low-key place, but I find it easily enough (ta-da!) and take a seat in a small back room. Oddly, the music is a classical rendition of a song from Toy Story 2, but the food is faultless: tuna tartare with shaved truffle; tagliatelle with cuttlefish and pistachio pesto; veal cheek topped with crispy leeks; plenty of wine.

Alessandro Possati, founder, Zuecca Project Space GalleryAlessandro Possati, founder, Zuecca Project Space Gallery

From here, I make my way to the Rialto Bridge, which was built in the 16th century and now stands amid the city's densest concentration of gift shops. I cross the bridge and find what I'm looking for: a tiny brick building with a dinky belfry and an oversize clock. This is San Giacomo di Rialto, which is said to date back to 421. That's a heck of a thing to think about, even with 150,000 novelty-mask retailers within earshot.

A stroll west takes me to Scuola Grande di San Rocco, one of the city's grandest confraternities. I enter an enormous and ferociously decorated room, then climb a broad stairway to the aptly named Great Hall, which is cluttered with dismal Biblical scenes by Tintoretto (Agony in the Garden, etc.). My attention turns to a row of grotesque allegorical figures carved into a wooden wall—contorted, grimacing men whose bodily parts end in stumps. Fun.

“Venice is beautiful, but it is also challenging. We live on an island, with all of the physical complications this implies. There are times when you can feel isolated, disconnected from the outside world." —Alessandro Possati

A survey of local churches ends at the 14th-century Gothic behemoth Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, whose brick bell tower is one of the few here that hasn't, at some point, toppled over. The Frari is one of the dominant features of the Venetian skyline, and it contains some of the city's finest religious art, including Titian's gleaming altarpiece, Assumption of the Virgin. The artist was entombed here in the 1570s after succumbing to the plague.

Right, let's eat!

A vaporetto takes me to Ca' d'Oro, close to Trattoria da Bepi Già 54. This is not a flashy place, but the food is spectacular. I have a warm salad with scampi and artichoke, followed by sweet and tender grilled eel served with polenta. The charismatic owner, Loris, took over the restaurant from his father in 1978. “This was my first baby," he says. “Since then I've had five more."

I end the night nearby at the Casinò di Venezia, which has been inviting people to throw their money away in elegant surroundings since the 1600s (Richard Wagner had a fatal heart attack here in 1883). Today, there's an odd juxtaposition of slot machines and Renaissance art, but the basic idea is the same as at casinos everywhere: You walk in with some money, you walk out with less. Time for bed.

Day 3 Graphic

In which Chris gets personal with Picasso, endures sensory overload at Piazza San Marco, and survives an endless Venetian anecdote.

I start the day on a vaporetto to Dorsoduro. My first stop is the sweet Art Deco interior of the hotel Ca' Pisani for a delicious breakfast of eggs, two kinds of Italian sausage, and homemade orange tart. My big job today is to hit Piazza San Marco, but first I want to explore Dorsoduro, an increasingly fashionable area whose alleys aren't quite as touristy as those across the canal. The area is also home to the city's best art museum: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

A warren of sculpture gardens and small rooms, the museum amounts to a who's-who of modern art (Miró and Rothko, Picasso and Pollock), but the real joy is the presentation—this used to be a private home, and it still feels like one. There's an intimacy and informality that brings the work to life. It's wonderful, especially after a couple of days of supersize religious parables.

I leave the museum and head west, pausing for a spritz at the Ai Artisti trattoria. Now, at last, I'm ready to tackle the epicenter of Venetian history, majesty, and over-the-top design: Piazza San Marco. To help me ease into the experience, I've recruited Sabrina Scaglianti, the engaging and knowledgeable proprietor of A Guide in Venice.

A quiet backstreet in DorsoduroA quiet backstreet in Dorsoduro

Entering the square, which is flanked by grand municipal buildings, with the triumvirate of tower, church, and palace at the end, I'm reminded of the old gripes about Canaletto, whose doggedly faithful Venetian cityscapes are derided as a kind of visual accountancy. In fairness to him, it's hard to see how you could improve on this. If you were painting a van Gogh, would you stylize it, try to one-up him?

The Piazza, Sabrina tells me, was where Venice announced itself to the world. Ships would moor near the south side's looming twin columns, one of which bears a statue of St. Theodore, the city's dragon-slaying patron saint before St. Mark, and the other a winged lion, the symbol of the city and its thousand-year rebuttal of autocratic rule. Prisoners were executed between these columns, facing the 15th-century astronomical clock tower across the square so they could pinpoint the time and day of their demise.

St. Mark's Basilica is impossibly grand, a cluster of onion domes and Gothic spires, allegorical statues and solid gold mosaics. This was an expression of power rather than faith, possibly more so than the arched and crenellated Doge's Palace next door, or the skyscraping campanile. As I try to take it all in, Sabrina provides historical context, along with a little light relief. At one point, we come to a spot that used to be popular with assassins. “That's Venice," she says, lunging at me with an invisible knife. “People in masks stabbing each other and running away."

Patrizia Fiorenza (right) co-owner, Godi Fiorenza boutiquePatrizia Fiorenza (right) co-owner, Godi Fiorenza boutique

I say goodbye to Sabrina and set about exploring the palace, which was built in the ninth century and, over the years, has vanished beneath a series of mix-and-match updates—a bit of ancient Rome here, a dab of Islam there, a medieval cherry on top. The rooms in its befuddling interior range from dingy torture chambers to the Higher Council Hall, which is the size of Madison Square Garden and looks like Catherine the Great's jewelry box.

Next, I look around the glowing interior of the 11th-century basilica, which is such a dense concentration of architectural elaboration and historical consequence it makes my head hurt. For respite, I head into the nearby Caffè Florian for a cup of hot chocolate.

Good grief. Opened in 1720, this multi-chambered café is, if anything, even more ornate than the church and has hosted everyone from Lord Byron to Andy Warhol. I sit, surrounded by angels and voluptuous women, in the gilded Senate Room. David Bowie was in this very room not long ago, I am told. He had the blinds drawn and the doors closed and sat in here on his own for a few hours.

“Venice has a lot of history, but we don't want to be stuck in the past. There's a sense that artisans will take the city forward, making Venice a center of excellence again." —Patrizia Fiorenza

I'm having lunch in San Polo, home to Antiche Carampane, a no-fuss trattoria adored by locals and frequented by visiting celebrities. There's a sign on the door saying “No pizza, no lasagne, no menu turistico," which is fine with me. I get tender, tasty platters of mantis shrimp and cuttlefish, scampi with orange sauce, tagliolini with baby octopus, and tiny soft-shell crabs, deep-fried and served whole. Perfetto.

I have a date now with the fashion designer Patrizia Fiorenza, who owns the San Marco boutique Godi Fiorenza with her jeweler sister, Samanta. We meet at the shop, which is very chic and very small, with a 14th-century well in the back yard, and then head out to stroll among artisanal bootmakers and indie galleries. “Venice can't get any bigger or any taller," Patrizia says, ducking into a particularly narrow alley. “People just fit themselves into the available space."

A flooded Piazza San Marco at nightA flooded Piazza San Marco at night

As we take in the sights—including the arched external spiral staircase at Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo—I ask Patrizia to identify a local personality trait. “We have a strong sense of humor," she says. “The endless anecdote is classically Venetian. Walk along any street and there will be someone listening to a story saying, 'I have to go!'" Also, she adds, Venetians are not easily impressed by celebrity. “You can be as famous as you like here, and people will famously ignore you."

I leave Patrizia and head back to Piazza San Marco for dinner. Quadri, one of the city's most highly regarded restaurants, is strangely situated, nestled as it is among snow globes and selfie sticks. It has a relatively informal café downstairs, but the red damask walls and gilt cornices above tell a different story. The views alone are worth the price of admission—if, that is, you occupy a certain income bracket.

I have a seven-course meal that includes a rich, raw langoustine, seared sea scallops (“from our lagoon") with razor clams and black truffle, stewed cuttlefish and red shrimp with veggies and balsamic vinegar, and rib-eye steak with beet puree and smoked leek cream. It's not so much a meal as a fantastic journey, each course paired with an equally fantastic wine, and by the time the caramel millefeuille arrives I am begging for mercy.

My last stop is across the square and over the Bridge of Sighs, at the Hotel Danieli's Bar Dandolo. The bar, set beside a splendid Gothic atrium, is overseen by Roberto, who has worked here for 32 years. He makes me an Americano cocktail and I take a seat beside U.S. expat Marie Micheaux, who tells me she's the author of The Other Side of the Wall, a “paranormal memoir/psychological thriller" set in Venice. As Roberto reminisces about the celebrities who have drunk here, I'm reminded of Patrizia's earlier comment, about the Venetian propensity for yarn-spinning.

Morning at the Bridge of SighsMorning at the Bridge of Sighs

“Paul Newman came here and said, 'I need a table, please, and I don't want anyone to disturb me.' So I gave him a table in the back. He stayed there for an hour and nobody recognized him." He also has a story about Bruce Willis. “He used to drink cold latte in this glass." He holds up a cognac glass. “What, that very glass?" I ask, and Roberto gives me a pitying look. “No, this kind of glass." The famously prickly Sean Connery drank here too, during the filming of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. “What was he like?" I ask, and Roberto shrugs. “I don't remember."

It's getting late, so I take a vaporetto to Palazzina G, the last hotel of my stay. Unlike the majority of Venice hotels, this one has forsaken the doge-for-a-day look in favor of a boutiquey feel. It's located in another canalside palace, but the interior was designed by none other than Philippe Starck, whose efforts to meld tradition and modernity are visible in his stylized take on local conventions, typified by the serpentine glass light fixtures in the restaurant and the enormous decorative mirror in my very white room.

I wake early and begin the ritual of making sure I haven't left anything under the bed. I have a little while before the water taxi arrives, so I pop down to the dock for a last look. The canal is quiet, cobalt blue. As if on cue, a flock of slow-motion cormorants goes skimming by, heading out toward the lagoon. I watch the birds round the bend, and continue watching long after they've gone.

Ink Global U.S. editor Chris Wright is finding it very hard to eat breakfast these days without any classical statues looking over his shoulder.


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Taking action to make a global impact

By The Hub team , January 17, 2020

Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).

Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes

Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.

These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.

Australian wildfire relief efforts

Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.

Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.

These medical supplies will fly to MEL (Melbourne) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.

By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives


Help us (and Ellen DeGeneres) support wildfire relief efforts in Australia

By The Hub team , January 08, 2020

Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.

On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.

Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund

We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.

Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.

In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.

20 Reasons to Travel in 2020

By Hemispheres Magazine , January 01, 2020


20. Spot Giant Pandas in China

In 2016, giant pandas were removed from the endangered species list, and China would like to keep it that way. This year, the country plans to consolidate the creatures' known habitats into one unified national park system spanning nearly 10,500 square miles across Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces—about the size, in total, of Massachusetts. —Nicholas DeRenzo


19. Follow in James Bond's Footsteps in Jamaica

Photo: Design Pics/Carson Ganci/Getty Images

When No Time to Die hits theaters on April 8, it marks a number of returns for the James Bond franchise. The 25th chapter in the Bond saga is the first to come out since 2015's Spectre; it's Daniel Craig's fifth go-round as 007, after rumors the actor was set to move on; and it's the first time the series has filmed in Jamaica since 1973's Live and Let Die. The Caribbean island has always had a special place in Bond lore: It was the location of one of creator Ian Fleming's homes, GoldenEye (which is now a resort), and the setting for the first 007 movie, 1962's Dr. No. Looking to live like a super-spy? You don't need a license to kill—just a ride to Port Antonio, where you can check out filming locations such as San San Beach and colonial West Street. Remember to keep your tux pressed and your Aston Martin on the left side of the road. —Justin Goldman


18. See the Future of Architecture in Venice

Every other year, Venice hosts the art world's best and brightest during its celebrated Biennale. But the party doesn't stop during off years, when the Architecture Biennale takes place. This year, curator Hashim Sarkis, the dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, has tasked participants with finding design solutions for political divides and economic inequality; the result, on display from May to November, is the intriguing show How Will We Live Together? —Nicholas DeRenzo

17. Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday in Bonn

Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Catch a Beethoven concerto in Bonn, Germany, to celebrate the hometown hero's big 2-5-0.

16. Eat Your Way Through Slovenia

When Ana Roš of Hiša Franko was named the World's Best Female Chef in 2017, food lovers began to wonder: Do we need to pay attention to Slovenia? The answer, it turns out, is definitely yes. This March, the tiny Balkan nation about two hours east of Venice gets its own Michelin Guide. —Nicholas DeRenzo

15. Star- (and Sun-) Gaze in Patagonia

Photo: blickwinkel/Alamy

Come December 13 and 14, there will be no better spot for sky-watchers than northern Patagonia, which welcomes both the peak of the Geminid meteor shower and a total solar eclipse within 24 hours. —Nicholas DeRenzo

14. Explore Miami's Game-Changing New Park

About 70,000 commuters use Miami's Metrorail each day, and city planners aim to turn the unused space beneath its tracks into an exciting new public space, a 10-mile linear park aptly named The Underline. Luckily, the Magic City is in good hands: The project is being helmed by James Corner Field Operations, the geniuses behind New York's High Line. “Both projects share similarities in their overarching goals," says principal designer Isabel Castilla, “to convert a leftover infrastructural space into a public space that connects neighborhoods, generates community, and encourages urban regeneration." When finished, Miami's park will be about seven times as long as its Big Apple counterpart. The first half-mile leg, set to open this June, is the Brickell Backyard, which includes an outdoor gym, a butterfly garden, a dog park, and gaming tables that call to mind the dominoes matches you'll find nearby in Little Havana. “We envision the Underline dramatically changing the way people in Miami engage with public space," Castilla says. —Nicholas DeRenzo

Photo: philipus/Alamy

13. Kick Off the NFL in Las Vegas

Photo: Littleny/Alamy

Former Raiders owner Al Davis was famous for saying, “Just win, baby." His son, Mark Davis, the team's current owner, is more likely to be shouting “Vegas, baby!" Swingers-style, as his team becomes Sin City's first NFL franchise, the Las Vegas Raiders. After years of threats and lawsuits, the Raiders have finally left Oakland, and this summer they're landing just across the highway from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in a 65,000-seat, $1.8 billion domed stadium that will also host the UNLV football team, the next two Pac-12 championship games, and the Las Vegas Bowl. Construction is slated to be finished July 31, just in time for the NFL preseason—and just in time to lure football fans from the sportsbooks to the grandstand. —Justin Goldman

12. Celebrate the Suffragettes in Washington D.C.

All eyes are on the ballot box this year, but the electorate would look quite different if not for the 19th Amendment, which was ratified 100 years ago this August. Many D.C. institutions, such as the National Archives Museum and the Library of Congress, are honoring the decades-long struggle for women's suffrage with exhibits. In particular, the National Museum of American History unveils Sarah J. Eddy's portrait of Susan B. Anthony this March, before putting on a 'zine-inspired show on girlhood and youth social movements this June. —Nicholas DeRenzo

11. Go for a Ride Through Mexico City

If you want to get somewhere quickly in Mexico City, try going by bicycle. During peak traffic, bikes average faster speeds than cars or public transportation—which might explain why ridership has gone up almost 50 percent since 2007. And riding on two wheels is getting safer and easier. In 2019, the city announced plans to invest $10 million (more than it had spent in the last six years combined) into the construction of about 50 miles of new paths and lanes. Now, you can cycle on a two-mile separated path along the Paseo de la Reforma, from Colonia Juárez and Roma to Chapultepec Park and Polanco. Future plans include a route along the National Canal between Coyoacán (where Frida Kahlo once lived) and Xochimilco (with its floating flower farms). “The goal is to finish the six-year [presidential] term with 600 kilometers of bike infrastructure," says Roberto Mendoza of the city's Secretariat of Mobility. Time to start pedaling. —Naomi Tomky

10. Consider the Mayflower's Legacy in Massachusetts and Abroad

Photo: Thianchai Sitthikongsak

Before they came to America in 1620, the religious separatists now known as the Pilgrims lived in England and the Netherlands. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing will be commemorated not only by those nations but also by a fourth: The Wampanoag, the confederation of tribes that live in New England and whose role in this world-changing event has been at best left out and at worst distorted.

“We're challenging the myths and stereotypes," says Aquinnah Wampanoag author Linda Coombs, a board member of Plymouth 400, Inc., which is planning cultural events such
as an Ancestors Walk to honor the native villages pushed aside by settlers, as well as
an indigenous history conference and powwow (plus an $11 million restoration of the replica Mayflower II).

Kerri Helme, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag nation and cultural programs manager at Plimoth Plantation, says that “people want to hear the whole story." She notes that it's a commonly held belief that the Pilgrims were welcomed by the natives, when in fact their first encounter was violent, since the English had been stealing the Wampanoags' food.

“The Wampanoag are key players in all of this," says Charles Hackett, CEO of Mayflower 400 in the U.K. “It's a whole other aspect of this history." In England, a Mayflower trail will connect Pilgrim sites in towns such as Southampton and Plymouth, and in Leiden, the Dutch town where the Pilgrims took refuge before embarking for the New World, the ethnology museum will run an exhibit about the natives.

“The most important thing for us, as the Wampanoag people," says Paula Peters, a former Wampanoag council member, “is to be acknowledged as a vital tribe comprised of people that, in spite of everything that's happened, are still here." —Jon Marcus

9. Discover Lille's Design Scene

Photo: Mark Bassett/Alamy

Previous World Design Capitals have included major cultural hubs such as Helsinki and Seoul, so it came as a shock when Lille, France's 10th-largest city, beat Sydney for this year's title. Judges cited Lille's use of design to improve its citizens' lives; get a taste for yourself at spots like La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, a gallery in a former Art Deco swim center. —Nicholas DeRenzo

8. See Stellar Space in Rio de Janeiro, the World Capital of Architecture

Rio de Janeiro is renowned for the beauty of its beaches and mountains, but the Cidade Maravilhosa's man-made structures are as eye-catching as its natural features. For that reason, UNESCO recently designated Rio its first World Capital of Architecture, honoring a city that boasts such landmarks as the stained glass–domed Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, the fairy-tale Ilha Fiscal palace, and the uber-modern Niterói Contemporary Art Museum.

"Rio is an old city by New World standards, having been founded in the mid–16th century," says architectural photographer Andrew Prokos, who took this shot. "So the city has many layers of architectural styles, from Colonial and Rococo to Art Nouveau, Modernist, Brutalist, and contemporary." In the case of this museum, which was designed by perhaps Brazil's greatest architect, Pritzker Prize winner Oscar Niemeyer, Prokos was intrigued by how the 24-year-old building interacts with its surroundings. "The upward slope of the museum complements the slope of the Pão de Açúcar across the bay," he says, "so the two are speaking to each other from across the water." – Tom Smyth

7. Join the Avengers at Disneyland

This summer, Disney California Adventure unveils its Marvel-themed Avengers Campus, with a new Spider-Man attraction, followed later by an Ant-Man restaurant and a ride through Wakanda. If the hype surrounding last year's debut of Disney+ is any indication, Comic-Con types are going to lose their fanboy (and -girl) minds. —Nicholas DeRenzo

6. Listen to Jazz in Cape Town

Photo: Eric Nathan/Alamy

Cape Town's natural wonders draw visitors from all over the world, but there's a hidden gem beyond the mountains, beaches, and seas: music. Much as jazz was born from America's diverse peoples, Cape jazz combines the traditions and practices of the city's multiethnic population, creating genres such as goema (named after a type of hand drum) and marabi (a keyboard style that arose in the townships). Cape Town has hosted an International Jazz Festival for
20 years (the 21st edition is this March 27–28), and now UNESCO is giving the Mother City its musical due by naming it the Global Host City of International Jazz Day 2020. The theme of the event—which takes place on April 30, features an All Star Global Concert, and is the climax of Jazz Appreciation Month—is “Tracing the Roots and Routes of African Jazz." During the dark days of slavery and apartheid, music became an outlet through which repressed people could express their struggle for freedom. What better way to mark a quarter century of democracy here than with a celebration of that most free style of music? —Struan Douglas

5. Take a Walk Around England

Many hikers love walking around England—but how many can say that they've truly walked around England? When it's completed, the England Coast Path will be the longest managed seaside trail in the world, completely circumnavigating the coastline, from the fishing villages of Cornwall and the beaches of Nothumberland to the limestone arches of the Jurassic Coast and the sandy dunes of Norfolk. Much of the trail is already waymarked (the 630-mile South West Coast Path is particularly challenging and beautiful), with new legs set to open throughout the year. If you want to cross the whole thing off your bucket list, be warned that it's no walk in the park: At around 2,795 miles, the completed route is 605 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail and about the same as the distance between New York and Los Angeles. —Nicholas DeRenzo

4. Get Refreshed in the Israeli Desert

Six Senses resorts are known for restorative retreats in places like Fiji, Bali, and the Maldives. For its latest location, the wellness-minded brand is heading to a more unexpected locale: the Arava Valley, in the far south of Israel. Opening this spring, the Six Senses Shaharut will offer overnight camel camping, off-roading in the surrounding desert, and restaurants serving food grown in the resort's gardens or sourced from nearby kibbutzim. While the valley is said to be near King Solomon's copper mines, the Six Senses is sure to strike gold. —Nicholas DeRenzo

3. Say konnichiwa on July 24 at the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which plays host for the first time since 1964.

The Japanese capital plays host for the first time since 1964. This year, softball and baseball will return after being absent since 2008, and four new sports—karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding—will be added to the competition for the first time. Say konnichiwa at the opening ceremonies on July 24, which will be held at renowned architect Kengo Kuma's New National Stadium. – Nicholas DeRenzo

2. Score Tickets to Euro 2020

Still feeling World Cup withdrawal? Get your “football" fix at the UEFA European Championship. From June 12 to July 12, 24 qualifying national teams will play games in stadiums from Bilbao to Baku, culminating in the semi-finals and final at London's hallowed Wembley Stadium. Will World Cup champion France bring home another trophy? Will Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal repeat its 2016 Euro win? Will the tortured English national team finally get its first title? Or will an upstart—like Greece in 2004—shock the world? —Justin Goldman

1. Soak Up Some Culture in Galway

Photo: Ian Dagnall/Alamy

Galway has long been called “the cultural heart of Ireland," so it's no surprise that this bohemian city on the country's wild west coast was named a 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Rijeka, Croatia). The title puts a spotlight on the city (population 80,000) and County Galway, where more than 1,900 events will take place throughout the year. Things kick off in February with a seven-night opening ceremony featuring a fiery (literally) choreographed celebration starring a cast of 2,020 singing-and-drumming locals in Eyre Square. “This is a once-in-a-generation chance for Galway," says Paul Fahy, a county native and the artistic director of the Galway International Arts Festival (July 13–26). “It's a huge pressure. There's a heightened sense of expectation from audiences, not just from here but from all over the world." Art lovers will no doubt enjoy Kari Kola's illuminating work Savage Beauty, which will wash the Connemara mountains in green light to coincide with St. Patrick's Day, or the Druid Theatre Company's countywide tour of some of the best 20th-century one-act Irish plays. Visitors would also be wise to explore the rugged beauty of Connemara on a day trip with the charismatic Mairtin Óg Lally of Lally Tours, and to eat their way across town with Galway Food Tours. But beware, says Fahy: “Galway has a reputation as a place people came to 20 years ago for a weekend and never left." —Ellen Carpenter

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