Category Archives: Art

The Park of Monsters

Standard

I subscribe to  Atlas Obscura’s facebook page, and just today this video popped up on my feed. The timing was perfect as the book I just reviewed, Michelangelo’s Ghost, takes place here in this park located a little outside of Rome. I had never heard of this place, and now, within a few days of each other, I heard about it twice! It sounds like it might be a very interesting place to visit – what do you think?

Walking on Water

Standard

962669679a94b607e119035c204ceaaf577fd3228c2d1[2]

What better way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Fendi fashion house than to create a runway on the water’s surface of the incredible Trevi Fountain in Rome! Many large corporations (and among those, many fashion houses) have taken on the costs to restore Italy’s monuments and treasures. Fendi’s project was the Trevi Fountain – and to commemorate the end of the restoration as well as their 90th anniversary, they put on this incredible runway show!

4f1a5087ba501ee457511ab9751725be577fc39f8dda3[1]

Watching the models stroll across the fountain on a sheer runway truly looks like they are walking on the water’s surface. The backdrop and the fashions are one of a kind – absolutely a phenomenal sight to behold. (Photos are from PanoramItalia)

The Floating Piers of Lago Iseo

Standard

0627_floating-piers-christo-01-2-1000x667

The beautiful northern Italian Lago Iseo, located between Milan and Venice, has become the canvas for the latest work of art by Christo and his late wife, Jean-Claude (their other works include Wrapped Fountain and Wrapped Medieval Tower in Spoleto; Wrapped Monuments in Milan; and The Wall – Wrapped Roman Wall in Rome).

1465495278110

The Floating Piers was conceived in 1970 by the duo and finally brought to fruition. For 16 days this summer (from 6/18 to 7/3), visitors can walk on these piers which will create walkways into the lake and around the island of San Paolo.

0627_floating-piers-christo-02

The docks, or piers, are created with modular cubes of high-density polyethylene and covered in a shimmering yellow fabric.

26

The wind and the waves create a living art exhibit that offers a unique experience – no two people will experience the exact same thing! The piers undulate with the waves and the sensation will be like walking on water!

0627_floating-piers-christo-03

The exhibit is free to all, and open at all times (as long as the weather cooperates!).

As much as I can appreciate the engineering involved and the experience that this “living art” exhibit offers, I can’t help but feel it’s an eyesore to the beauty of this magnificent lake. I’m probably not very popular with this thought, but if I was visiting this lake as a tourist to see its beauty (and not the exhibit), I would be disappointed that I couldn’t see it untouched by the orange piers. Thankfully it’s just temporary and soon the natural beauty of this beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains, will be restored.

iseo-lago

The photos are courtesy of Here & Now.

 

 

.

The Coldest Piano Concert Ever…

Standard

Italian pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi, braved the cold and chill to perform a piano concert on a floating platform in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, near the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Norway. He was assisted by Greenpeace and together they orchestrated this endeavor to demand protection for the Artic. During the concert “Elegy for the Arctic”, I was worried that the reverberation from the piano would cause some commotion on the glaciers and at one point, it did. Whether it was related or just coincidence is hard to tell, but scary nonetheless. The backdrop is stunning and the music, though a bit long, is eerie and mysterious.

The Tourist – A Movie Review

Standard

The_Tourist1[1]

Now I know that this movie didn’t get very good ratings – they said it was slow and predictable – but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. I guess I’m not that much of a movie critic and I much prefer an easy to understand plot with great scenery! After all, I like to watch movies to be entertained and not to have to put on my thinking cap for too much analysis!

Angelina Jolie was absolutely stunning in this movie – from her hair, to her make up, to her wardrobe – she was so elegant and beautiful!

tourist001[1]

 

She is always a very pretty woman, but in this movie, I think she was the prettiest I’ve ever seen her! Johnny Depp was entertaining as always – even though he wasn’t as good looking as he usually is! He was a bit disheveled but I guess that was the point!

Tourist piazza[1]

The scenery in Venice was incredible! I had to notice, though, that the director used some creative license in filming locales. The Hotel Danieli’s lobby was truly the real hotel’s lobby, but the dockside entrance was another hotel altogether. The Hotel Danieli does not have a dockside port on the Grand Canal but a side entrance along one of the little canals instead. The movie also made a plug for SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) properties when it was mentioned that the 3 most elegant hotels in Venice were the Hotel Danieli, The Gritti Palace, and the Westin Regina (all SPG properties!). Maybe SPG was a secret sponsor of the movie? Hmm….

If you want a great location movie, then I would highly recommend this one – the scenery will not disappoint at all!

The Walled City of Cittadella

Standard

Not far from Padova is Cittadella – one of Italy’s best preserved medieval walls.

1

Washed out frescoes can still be seen decorating the gates into the citadel.

2

It’s duomo is majestic and the Old Town allows you to step back in time!

3

We found the town really deserted with the shops closed down and hardly anyone on the streets. A bit confused, we tried to figure it out. As it turns out, we were wandering the town around 1 pm (right during the main meal time of the day) and everyone was either home eating or at the restaurants. We were proven right when we decided to eat at Al Cappello on the main drag – upon entering, we saw all the people that were missing from the street inside! It was packed! I had the special Vitello Tonnato – it was good but a little rich for my tastes. Next time, I’ll know to order something simpler…

 

Padova Finale

Standard

During our trip, we split up our exploration of Padova over several days. Padova is actually very small and you can visit the same places several times over – but the beauty is that you can explore these places at different times of the day and have a completely new experience. During our final saunter into Padova, during daylight hours, we revisited Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta (along with the “food court” located between the two underneath the Palazzo della Raggione.) The food court is actually a marketplace for meats, cheeses, pasta, and fish.

1

 Everything looked delicious and fresh, and you can be sure if I lived there, this is where I would do all my shopping! In either piazza, you could also pick up your fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Supermarkets are great, but I don’t think anything can replace the quality of food that can be found in these establishments – some of them in existence for centuries. I heard a rumor that these kinds of shops were dying…let’s hope not! This slow food movement (at least, that’s what I’m calling it) has to persist and I feel has a very important place in society – not only for our physical health but also our mental one! Neighbors and friends find each other here, and even take a break from their shopping to share an espresso or glass of prosecco! Relaxing and socializing with each other is good for us…we are social creatures who need interactions with others! You can’t get that at the supermarket!

After wandering and lusting over all the food we saw, our appetite was getting the best of us – as well as the desire to sit in an Italian piazza sipping on a glass of wine while eating a delicious panino sandwich! In the Piazza delle Erbe, tucked into a corner, is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant, Bar Nazionale, which specializes in panino’s and tramezzino’s (small sandwiches grilled on thinly sliced bread and filled with all sorts of goodies!)

You can people watch, drink an aperitivo, and eat simple fare while surrounded by stunning architecture.

Right above us was the old Palazzo della Raggione which deserved a quick look see. We had purchased a 48 hour Padova Card for our time in Padova – many of the buildings are free with this card. The buses are free, too, so it’s a pretty good deal. The Palazzo della Raggione was included in the Padova Card and so we thought we’d take advantage of the card and have a look. You need to walk up some stairs, but once up, you have a great view of the piazza below as well as a chance to walk under some heavily frescoed arched ceilings. Anytime I see painted ceilings, I fall in love!

2

From here, you enter into a huge hall, which once again, is completely frescoed. The decorations are always so stunning and it’s unbelievable how many places have such rich wall and ceiling decorations! There sure were a lot of artists being kept employed in all this decoration!

3

Near these piazzas and definitely within walking distance is the Palazzo del Bo. It is actually one of the University of Padova’s many campuses and, surprisingly, one we had walked through the evening before. Little did we know at that time that this was one of Padova’s main attractions! Within this campus is the Anatomy Theater where the inside of the human body was originally explored. We took a tour to see this interesting theater – it includes 6 or 7 tiers of balconies where the students could look down on the cadaver and observe the interior of the body.

4

The cadavers were those of dead convicts and it was believed that by allowing their bodies to be used for science, they would be forgiven their sins and find an easier way into purgatory. The scholars had to find ways to appease the Church in order to perform these scientific experiments and this arrangement seemed to make everyone happy. This campus was also where Galileo Gallilei taught mathematics for many years, before he was excommunicated from the Church for his astrological beliefs.

From here, we walked to the Piazza dei Eremiti to explore the church there. This old church, built in the 13th century, was heavily bombed during WWII so many of the frescoes were damaged.

5

An orchestra was setting up on the altar and we got to hear a bit of their practicing – the acoustics were incredible and the sound unbelievably beautiful. Too bad we couldn’t stay for the concert, but we had tickets to see the Scrovegni Chapel decorated by Giotto. This was the private chapel of a nobleman name Scrovegni, who had a gorgeous palace built for him and his family on the grounds of an ancient Roman arena. Sadly, the palace is gone, but fortunately the chapel has remained.

The wall frescoes tell the story of Mary and Jesus, and you can “read” the stories from the Bible within the panels. The Scrovegni Chapel is included in the Padova Card with free admission.

6

Dinner tonight was at Gourmeteria – an excellent restaurant and shop! Everything we ate was delicious and very fresh. I had gnocchi with a butter/sage sauce – so good!

7

 

 

 

Lots to See in Padova – Even at Night!

Standard

Padova’s noble status becomes evident as you wander around the Old Town. Large plazas, huge churches, immense public buildings, and one of the oldest universities in Europe can all be found within steps of each other.

4

One of my favorite spots is Prato delle Valle where on Saturday you can find a huge mercato, but whose immenseness and grandeur need to be appreciated without any obstructions!

3

Walking up pedestrian only streets, passing gorgeous storefronts, you arrive at Piazza dei Signori with its ornate public buildings housing the City Hall.

2

At one end you find a huge clock which tells you not only the time but the date and the current moon phase (among, I’m sure, other useful information)!

1

Passing through an arch, you walk through the most impressive food court that has been there for hundreds of years, ending up in Piazza delle Erbe!

There is so much to see and do in close proximity to each other. Even though we saw most of these sights at night and in the rain, they were still captivating!

The Artisan’s Star – A Book Review

Standard

3729259[1]

I just finished reading The Artisan’s Star by Gabriella Contestabile for Italy Book Tours.  In my opinion, if I had to use one word to sum up this book, it would be “passion.”  Everything that happens in the story involves some form of it – from the passionate love between a man and a woman, to the passion an artist has for his craft.  The story revolves around Elio at it’s center, and how he became passionate about perfume making.  We learn about the loves of his life: his beautiful Greek mother who taught him about scents, the two older women with whom he learned the passion of love, his wife who shares his life, and his little “stellina” (his daughter!) who is the star of his life. The story takes place mostly in Florence where the author goes into great detail to make you feel like you are walking with the characters through the streets of this ancient city.  We are introduced to other artisans who are passionate about their crafts and learn how, even in these modern times, they create their beautiful crafts like they were created hundreds of years ago.  We are also transported to Grasse, the perfume capital of France, where we learn a lot about the art of perfumery.  I have to say that this was all new to me and I never realized all the hard work and study that goes into making a perfume.

Ms. Contestabile’s book was very detailed and very descriptive, but at times, almost too much.  I found my interest waning at times and I had to force myself to continue reading.  She switched back and forth in the timeline, too, which was a bit distracting.  The basic premise of the book was good, with the central theme of passion for one’s craft, excellent.  She was successful in relaying that passion as it was evident in Elio’s and the other character’s lives.

Meet the Author:

2075665[1]

Gabriella Contestabile is an author, educator, and owner of SU MISURA JOURNEYS, a boutique travel company connecting people to the artisans of Florence. She emigrated, with her parents, from Italy to New York City in 1959. In her pre-writer life, she worked as a foreign language teacher, management development specialist, and fragrance/cosmetics executive. Gabriella is a strong advocate of the arts, of multiculturalism, and of social justice—a passion inspired by reading Dickens and Dante at a very young age. She has been an active volunteer with Dress for Success for over eight years and is a member of the Slow Food NYC Food and Farm Policy Task Force. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, her daughter, her mom, and a furry Shih–Tzu named Oreo. ‘ The Artisan’s Star’ is her first novel. She is currently working on a collection of short stories, also set in Italy, and a screenplay.

The Gondola Maker – A Book Review

Standard

imagesGV11J420

The setting is Renaissance Venice.  Wouldn’t you know it?  That’s one of my favorite subjects, so when presented with the opportunity from Italy Book Tours to review the newest book by Laura Morelli, I jumped on the bandwagon right away.  And boy am I glad I did!  The book was everything I wanted it to be…and more!

Laura Morelli, the author of several shopper’s guides – Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest – has done a wonderful job bringing Renaissance Venice to life in her first novel.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

 

The Gondola Maker follows the story of young Luca, the heir to one of the best gondola-making families in Venice.  After the death of his mother and a terrible fire that destroyed the gondola “factory”, Luca left the only life he had ever known and went off on his own.  His adventures in “Our Most Serene Republic” take him from some awful lows to moments of extreme pride and accomplishment.  Laura’s vivid descriptions of everything – from the plush fabrics used to decorate the gondolas and the garments worn by the noblemen, to the stench of the sewage-filled canals – makes you feel as if you’ve ventured back 500 years with all the romance and strife of life in a Venice so different from today.

images[1]

Luca’s passionate attention to his craft of restoring and creating the beautiful work of art that is the Venetian gondola makes us appreciate, all the more, this unique mode of transportation that is so synonymous with Venice, itself.  And anyone with a passion for creating art will relate to that most innate passion that is part of one’s being and cannot be taken away, no matter the circumstances.

images02AVSUSP

I can promise you that after you read this book, you will pay careful attention to every detail of the next gondola that you ride in – once you get to Venice, of course, and fork over the 100 euros it takes to ride one of these beauties through those same canals and by those same richly decorated palaces of so many years ago.

The Gondola Maker has won several awards including:

IPPY Award for Best Adult Fiction E-book 
Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award 
Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 
Shortlisted for the da Vinci Eye Prize 

Here’s a little bit about Laura Morelli, the author of this great book:

View More: http://sarahdeshawphotographers.pass.us/laura-morelli

Laura Morelli earned a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and an Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She has taught college art history in the U.S. and at Trinity College in Rome. She is the creator of the authentic guidebook series that includes Made in ItalyMade in France, and Made in the Southwest, published by Rizzoli. Laura is a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler and other national magazines and newspapers. A native of coastal Georgia, she is married and is busy raising four children. The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Would you like to win a copy of her book?

Just click here, a Rafflecopter giveaway, and you will have the chance to get your very own copy FREE!

Of course, you can also purchase the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository.

5c5ec-italybooktourslogojpeg225pixels