Venice (and Hemingway) in Monochrome

We took the train across Northern Italy from Milan to Venice in the spring of 2009 and stayed in Venice for four days. We had just spent the previous four days getting acquainted with Milan and Stresa, two key places in Ernest Hemingway’s WWI tale A Farewell to Arms, and we were now visiting another place in Northern Italy where Hemingway decided to place his post World War Two story that he would publish 21 years after his famous World War One novel.


Venice canal scene. There are two ways of getting around in Venice. You either walk or take a boat. If you walk you better be aware of where the bridges are or you will get lost. We got lost a lot. You have a few choices of boats. We took a water-bus down the Grand Canal a couple of times and a water-taxi to the island of Murano. Motor boats like the two in this photo are usually used for deliveries. Gondolas are mostly for the tourists. Romantic but somewhat expensive.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

Ernest Hemingway visited Venice in 1948 and afterwards wrote Across the River and Into the Trees, a story about a very ill colonel in the US Army, stationed in Trieste, who goes duck-hunting at both the beginning and the end of the book and in between spends a weekend in Venice with his current love, a beautiful and wealthy teen-aged girl who is 32 years younger than he. Her name is Renata but he calls her Daughter.  Most of the story takes place at either the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal west of Piazza San Marco where they sleep and eat and drink or at Harry’s Bar, also on the Grand Canal and even closer to the Piazza San Marco, where they drink some more. In between bites and sips and kisses we learn about Cantwell’s action with the Italian Army during WWI and with the US Army and the taking of Paris when he was a General during WWII. During one point in the long weekend he takes a walk from his hotel to the Rialto food and fish markets and back and mentions that he only had to cross two bridges each way. All the bridges that we saw in Venice have steps and Cantwell had trouble walking up his first bridge.


View of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge, one of only four bridges that cross this wide canal that snakes through the heart of Venice. Those are two water-bus stations on the left.

We had a long weekend, too. We walked a couple of times to the Rialto Bridge (ten minutes from our hotel) and to San Marco (twenty minutes). It took us three days to learn how not to get lost. If you come to the end of an alley and there is no bridge across the canal then you are lost and have to backtrack until you find a bridge. We also took a water-bus and visited the Frari west of Rialto one day and on another day took a water-taxi to visit the island of Murano where we watched a glass-blowing presentation.


Gondolas on the Grand Canal.

We did not go to either the Gritti Palace or to Harry’s Bar during our trip. We stayed at the Hotel Santa Marina for about one-tenth the price of the Gritti and found slightly cheaper drinking establishments than Harry’s Bar where a Bellini cocktail (peach juice and prosecco) costs 20 bucks and a coke will set you back ten bucks.


A statue of St. Jerome by Allesandro Vittoria stands in front of  The Miracle of St. Joseph of Cupertino by  Giuseppe Nogari– just two of the many art treasures we discovered at the Frari, a church west of the Rialto whose official name is The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Titian is buried here and one of his masterpieces,  The Assumption of the Virgin, is the church’s large altarpiece painting.


Monument to Antonio Canova, often recognized as the greatest Italian sculptor of the 19th century. Only his heart is buried at the Frari — the rest of his body is buried in the temple he designed (Tempio Canoviano) in his hometown of Possagno (60 km northwest of Venice). Temple Canoviano is a Catholic Church that resembles the Pantheon in Rome. The monument is based on a Canova drawing for a tomb for Titian that was never realized.

Our favorite spot in all of Venice was the Piazza San Marco with its towers and columns and basilica and the Doge’s Palace. The Piazza was about a twenty-minute walk south of our hotel.


The magnificent Basilica di San Marco overlooks the many eating and drinking establishments on the piazza. The Doge’s Palace is to the right of the basilica (for centuries the ruler of Venice was called the Doge).


Red hats on a tour of the Doge’s Palace next door to the Basilica.


Lord Byron called Il Cielo dei Sospiri the Bridge of Sighs. It connects the Doge’s Palace with what at one time was the local jail. Prisoners were alleged to have sighed at their last look of Venice before entering prison. The bridge and its surroundings were being remodeled during our visit and we saw a lot of ads for Chopard, a Swiss watch and jewelry company.


Where else but in Venice will you find fancy carnival masks like these at all of the souvenir shops and stands?

It rained most of our last day in Venice. We took a water-bus from Rialto to San Marco on that day and from there a water-taxi to Murano.


Murano glassware display at the glassblowing presentation.


The water-taxi from Murano dropped us off here at one of the San Marco – San Zaccaria ferry stations in front of all the gondolas. See the woman’s face on the right with the sunglasses? That’s the Chopard ad that surrounds the Bridge of Sighs. This was the last photo I took of Venice. We left the next morning for Florence.

Hemingway published Across the River and Into the Trees in 1950 when he was 51 years old, the same age as Richard Cantwell, his protagonist. The book was an overwhelming success, reaching number one on the best-sellers list for seven straight weeks.  The critics panned the book, though, claiming that the author was all washed-up.  Hemingway was hurt and irate and he went home to Bimini in the Bahamas to sulk and to write a novella which he called The Old Man and the SeaThe Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952 and even the critics liked it. Most of them probably didn’t notice that they were portrayed as sharks in the story.

Hemingway received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Both prize announcements mentioned The Old Man and the Sea. Neither mentioned Across the River and Into the Trees.

We picked up Hemingway’s path again when we traveled to Spain in 2010 and to Paris in 2014. After Venice, though, we began to follow Michelangelo as we prepared for four days in Florence and another seven in Rome.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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13 Responses to Venice (and Hemingway) in Monochrome

  1. disperser says:

    More than we saw and experienced when we were there in ’95. We had taken a day trip from Udine with the future inlaws of my sister. As a “native” I spent more time entertaining and translating than sightseeing. Uncharacteristically, I remember I had only a few photos of the place (in film . . . which I should probably scan).

    Thanks for the tour I didn’t have when I was there. Also, I confess to not having read Hemingway. By that, I mean that I probably read something of his when in high school, but if so, I have promptly forgotten it.

    • You’re welcome for the tour. In all of our travels we never saw a place like Venice and we are glad that we stayed there in 2009. We are also sorry to hear about all of their environmental problems these last few years.

      I consider about a half-dozen of Hemingway’s novels among the best ever written by an American. Hemingway published more than 50 short stories during his lifetime and about 20 more were published after he died. About a dozen of these stories are the best ever written in the English language. A couple of these stories are rather long but most of them are very short and one of them is only two pages. His best short stories were written in the 1920s and 30s. His first collection of short stories, In Our Time, was published in 1925 and changed American literature forever. Short sentences. No wasted words. Hemingway describes his style of writing as iceberg theory. He writes 20% of the story and the rest is up to readers to decide for themselves.

      Hemingway’s works are semi-autobiographical. When he was 18 years old he signed up to be an ambulance driver for the Red Cross and they sent him to Italy. His experiences there formed the basis for A Farewell to Arms and contributed to the flashbacks and conversations with the head waiter at the Hotel Gritti in Across the River and Into the Trees. Nick Adams is the chief character in most of Hemingway’s short stories and most of his early stories deal with Nick growing up in rural Michigan before or immediately after the first World War.

      By the way, I thought I would let you know that all of the photos in this post were processed with various Topaz products. I have been reading about your use of these products these last few months and on Black Friday last month I bit the bullet and purchased the collection. I used DeNoise AI for all eleven photos and the Ansel Adams preset in Adjust AI for nine of the eleven. I went back to Lightroom to get those red hats in the Doge Palace photo because I haven’t learned how to do that yet in Topaz. I’m also still learning how to use Studio 2.

    • disperser says:

      I’ve always naturally gravitated toward H’s style of writing (obviously, not a good a writer, am I) with minimal description and staccato sentences. Except, I get crap because of it (“how come you don’t describe stuff?” and “more details! we want more details!” again, probably because I’m not as good as Hemingway . . . wait; no probably.)

      As for HSL color tuning, the option is in Studio 2, but it won’t do exactly what you want because when you call up Adjust AI, it will act on the whole photo. I thought Adjust AI had a masking option, but I’ve not found it with a cursory look. You’d have to use it in combination with Mask AI, which is a tad of a pain (but not awful). If you have Photoshop, it’s easier to mask in Photoshop and then call Adjust AI on only the masked portion of the photo.

      You can mask in Lightroom, but I don’t know if you can have an external editor act on only the masked portion. I seldom do HSL tuning or use selective colors with monochrome, so I’m not up on the best way. Basically, I would do it quickly using photoshop and whatever post processor I’d want to apply (Topaz, Nik, Luminar, etc).

      In Lightroom, I would desaturate everything but red, and then send a copy of the photo to Adjust or other post-processors

      • I bought Sharpen AI a few months ago and I think it works well. I also enjoy using the JPG to RAW and Denoise AI. So far I have only used Adjust AI for converting to monochrome and need to learn more about Studio 2. I have not tried Mask AI at all. The only product I have a problem with is Gigapixel AI. I tried out about a dozen 100+ year old photos taken by my grandfather and they turned out horrible, especially the eyes and mouths!

      • disperser says:

        GigaPixel is very good in some things, but not so much in others. I believe you get better results if you can post-process the photo a bit before enlarging it.

        But, the thing is, it can’t add data where data doesn’t exist. It can interpolate pretty well, but because we are so focused and familiar with faces, any distortion will look odd. I suspect the details that aren’t working are not there to begin with, so it’s just enlarging something that’s already lacking.

        You could try to convert to RAW and process with noise reduction and/or sharpening before enlarging, but if the mouth doesn’t look detailed enough to begin with, it won’t magically add stuff to make it look right.

        One other thing I had issues with scanned photos is noise (or, grain if from film). Basically, that gets enlarged as well, sometimes resulting in funky details. Again, cleaning them up beforehand might help, but if the noise reduction “smooths” out details of the face, those too will be enlarged and look weird.

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    What a great travel story you made out of your visit to Venice! I have to admit that I have never heard about Hemingway’s novel “Across the River and Into the Trees”. Perhaps the sharks have prevented me from getting to know this book.

  3. I love your treatment of these images Crow!!! Venice is a special place! All the best of the season!!

  4. allenrizzi says:

    We live in Italy’s Trento Province (Val di Non) and have visited Venice only a few times. Great post! Grazie dal cuore!

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