From America to Italy

This is a story about The Language of Beauty – a temporary exhibition I had the honor to visit.

I’m a European (Croatian) who once traveled to America (USA) to attend a summer school of intercultural leadership. I was co-living and co-working with people from more than 40 countries. Back home, I became motivated to travel even more and meet more people from different countries – for instance from Italy, my neighbor. I also have one particular dream – to understand the ancient, pre-Columbian American civilizations, such as Mayan. I did not need to travel too far from Croatia this time – I just did a relatively short trip to Italian city of Verona, and visit a temporary exhibition in a palace situated next to the magnificent Roman Amphitheater.

A XVII century congress center

The temporary exhibitions may be the greatest experiences of all heritage and culture travels. While classical museums’ permanent collections may not be particularly fun to most visitors due to their usually traditional designs and labels, temporary exhibitions will tell you more, for being designed for a specific period of time, with artworks and other items coming from many different places and museums at one place, telling one specific story. However, it’s important to invest some time in preparations for finding high-quality temporary exhibitions that fit your passions and interests.

Verona is not a large city – it counts a bit over 200,000 inhabitants. The whole historical center is easily explored by walking, without planning transportations for different districts. Like any other Italian city of that dimension, Verona is full of art and heritage, which makes one-day trips insufficient for visiting all the great things that are offered. In the time of my visit, I immediately noticed that there was a special event in the city – the temporary exhibition called Maya – The Language of Beauty  (Italian: Il Linguaggio della Bellezza).

Exhibition in Verona, Italy
It was a freezing winter night, but we were all standing in line anyway.

The venue was a palace named Palazzo della Gran Guardia, a palace that took more than 200 years to be completed, in spite of its pretty simple design and purpose. When the Doge di Venezia ordered the construction in the early XVII century, he imagined a venue for diverse events, used when the weather is bad. He ran out of money and the construction site remained abandoned until the XIX century when the building would finally be completed. Today it serves the purpose intended by the Doge centuries earlier – it’s an event center and place for exhibitions.

A Crowded Exhibition

When I arrived on site, I noticed not only a long line but also the fact that the personnel was letting just small groups of people (5-8) enter at each time they opened the door, which was every 3-5 minutes (when another group left the building). I waited for about half an hour but it was worthwhile. I became pleasedly surprised with the number of young local people (even younger than me) trying to see the exhibition.

The Language of Beauty is a perfect name for an exhibition like this. Stunning forms of art, never studied and practiced by Europeans of that time (of course!), make this experience fully enjoyable. Diverse types of sculptures, wall decorations reliefs, and wonderful Mayan writing are not the only experiences to have here. The ticket price (14EUR) included audioguide, with enjoyable expressive voices telling the stories about the Mayan culture and civilization.

The exhibition was not much large; it allows an average visitor to take a detailed look within about 45 minutes while more curious visitors would spend a bit over an hour to study details.

The summary of this experience is that – many young people (including me!) are curious about seeing an exhibition of artworks created centuries ago by an entirely different culture. The ways of seeing, noticing and understanding what is beautiful may differ a lot. It’s up to us to learn how and have our own tastes and views 🙂

How to visit a good temporary exhibition on your travels?

1) Get prepared

You may plan which museums, castles, palaces, religious buildings (churches, monasteries mosques etc.), sport venues or historical markets you will include in your wishlist or in an actual timetable. Plan some temporary exhibitions too. Try taking a deeper look at the museums’ websites, particularly in the “news” or “blog” sections. A classical National Museum may have a large exhibition of works of your favorite painter and you will not want to miss it. There might also be an exhibition that will tell you a short but clear story about what you want to know, better than a large permanent exhibition.

2) Make a budget for tickets

Museum tickets might be expensive. Costing 14EUR, the ticket to this exhibition was not cheap at all, however, it included a high-quality audio guidance. Some museums will get you a ticket that includes everything withing the visitors’ area, but sometimes you will be required to pay as much as 1o additional euros (or dollars) to see a temporary exhibition (even though you paid 15 euros for the basic entrance). This advice goes in line with the previous advice – if a visit to a temporary exhibition is really important and valuable for you, take you time, and prepare a budget.

3) Research about the critical reception

This advice will be more interesting to the most passionate fans of culture travel. Find the venue’s social media pages and read their posts about the exhibitions. See if there are user comments. Try understanding how people react on that. Once you arrived at the venue – notice who is buying the tickets. On this exhibition, I noticed crowds of people younger than me and it gave me a good feeling about the exhibition.

4) Exhibitions are not always in museums

This blog is called Fun Museums, but I write about heritage and culture travel that usually goes far beyond the museums’ walls, don’t you agree with me?  As I described, this exhibition was not installed in a regular museum, but in a general, local event venue. Some exhibitions may be held in churches (in the sacristy or crypt, for instance), and they may not be largely promoted online. Try seeing local posters and notice if is there anything interesting to you, if you have time.

In early March, I will write more 6 pieces of advice, exclusively for my readers. Keep up a good work on planning your inspiring travels!


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