Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 21, 2014

The night of the petals

I am in Spello for the Infiorata, a celebration held every year on Corpus Domini, the 9th Sunday after Easter. Around 1,000 people gather on the Saturday evening before to create carpets made of flower petals on the narrow streets of this gorgeous town in Umbria.

Spello is full of flowers anyway. Take a look at some of the lovely gardens.

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This afternoon tents were erected to protect the areas to be covered with flower petals.

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Thousands of flowers were pulled apart and separated into colours.

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The designs are laid out on the streets. Some are very complicated.

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Some are much more simple.

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At about 7.00pm work begins on the designs.

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Food is cooked in the streets to feed the hungry workers.

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At midnight the streets were still full with people creating art and people watching them.

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…and the whole town smells like flowers.

In the morning there will be a procession led by the bishop through the streets, trampling all the beautiful flower carpets.

I will be up bright an early to see the creations before they disappear.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 18, 2014

The bronze horses of San Marco

The bronze horses on the facade of Basilica San Marco in Venice are replicas. ( They are not looking their best now anyway as the facade is under scaffolding )

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The originals were installed on the balcony above the door in about 1254. They were well travelled by the time they arrived in Venice. They possibly once adorned the Arch of Trajan and they were on display at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.

In 1204 Doge Dandolo sent them back to Venice. They were on the move again when Napoleon borrowed them and took them to Paris in 1797. They were returned to Venice in 1815.

The horses were restored slowly and carefully from the 1970s and are now on display in the museum inside the basilica. They are very impressive and you can get quite close to them.

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To get to the museum, take the steps inside the entrance to the basilica. It is well worth the climb and for €5 you get to see the museum, a bird’s eye view of the interior of the cathedral and walk on the outside terrace for views of Piazza San Marco…I’ll show you those another day.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 16, 2014

I want this garden shed

I pass this garden shed each time I come and go to Casa Debbio. I think it may just be the cutest one I have ever seen.

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It possibly doesn’t hold much, but who cares?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 13, 2014

Seven heads are better than one

There is a tabernacle at the end of the street where the Florence Central Markets are…the Tabernacle of Fonticine…named for the little fountain at the bottom.

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Tabernacles are niches with sculptures, often with frescoes or columns and a small roof. They are found on street corners, or on the side of a square, or even in tiny, narrow streets.  They are usually covered by glass. Florentines felt the need to put up holy images  to protect their houses and their families. There are about 1,200 in Florence.

I can’t show you the rest of the tabernacle as it was covered in scaffolding, but it think the fountain is lovely. It is attributed to Girolamo della Robbia and constructed somewhere around 1522, which explains why it could do with a bit of Jif and a scrubbing brush.

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It is good to see it still in use after all these years.

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I hope to see the whole tabarnacle on a future trip to Florence. I am inspired to track down the rest, perhaps not all 1,200, but quite a few.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 10, 2014

Massa Marittima, a Tuscan gem

As soon as we strolled into Massa Marittima on a sunny spring Sunday we were entranced. The spectacular Piazza Garibaldi is surrounded by stunning medieval buildings. The town was founded by the Etruscans.

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The cathedral of San Cerbone sits high above the piazza and is reached by a steep stone stairway, making it seem very imposing. It is built of Travertine and was begun in the 12th century and finished in the 13th century. It has had several renovations over the centuries.

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The interior was largely under scaffolding when we were there, but we could see that it is magnificent. It boasts a rose window with rare 14th century glass, a Romanesque font from 1267, a Gothic reliquary (1316) and a 14th century fresco under which is a Roman sarcophagus from the 4th century…and many other stunning pieces.

Above this part of Massa Marittima, which is called la Citta Vecchia, the old city, is la Citta Nuova, new city. I don’t know why there is this distinction because the Candlestick Clock tower was built in 1228 and the Sienese Fortress dates from the 14th century.

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Of course we had to climb the tower. The stairs were particularly steep and narrow, but the view from the top was worth the climb. On a clear day, which it was, you can see Elba, Montecristo and Corsica.

Climbing down was not much better than the climb up. Most of it required going down backwards.

There is also a beautiful park at the top of the hill. It would be a lovely place to walk for the lucky residents of Massa Marittima.

We found an excellent enoteca, Le Sedici, where we were able to buy some local wine, olive oil and other local products.

On the way back to the car park we located the Fonte dell Abbondanza, the Source of Abundance. It is a covered spring and at the end of the building, now covered by glass, as it is being renovated, is the most interesting frescoed wall. It was dubbed the Fertility Tree when it was discovered in 2,000. Some bright spark felt the need to paint a tree covered with penises. Funnily enough, my youngest brother went through a stage when he was a teenager where he drew penises all over the place, Perhaps this was just the fertile mind of a 13th century young lad.

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Massa Marittima is well worth a visit. It has some pretty streets to wander in. There are interesting shops, restaurants and bars. We will be back as we didn’t have time to see any of the museums.

Massa Marittima is in southern Tuscany, about 50 kilometres NNW of grosseto. The name Marittima doesn’t refer to the sea, but to Maremma, the name of the area.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 7, 2014

Beautiful boy sighting at Florian in Venice

Caffe Florian started as 2 simple rooms in Piazza San Marco in 1720, making it the oldest continuously running caffe in Italy. Casanova was a frequent visitor, largely because it was the only coffee house that allowed women. Later on Lord Byron, Proust and Charles Dickens liked to take their coffee there.

Today the caffe is sumptuously decorated and the prices reflect this. Florian is ridiculously expensive, but it is necessary to try it at least once during your Venice stay. How could you not visit a place that has been open since before Captain Cook sailed along the coast of Australia? (8 years before he was born, in fact)

In the warmer months there is an orchestra playing under the portico, adding a delightful touch to the already wonderful atmosphere. Expect to pay €6 per person if the music is playing…it is worth it.

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Although it is fun outside, I prefer to sit inside in one of the gorgeous rooms.

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We ordered affogato (which means drowned…gelato drowned in espresso)

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It was brought to us by a beautiful boy. Actually he was a handsome man, but there is no alliteration in that. Here he is…don’t say I don’t think of you.

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Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 6, 2014

Adam and Eve and naughty Noah

With our trusty Secret Venice in hand we set off to discover the beautiful columns at the Doge’s Palace in San Marco. The columns end in capitals adorned with 600 carved images. The original works were sculpted between 1340 and 1355. Some of the originals were replaced by copies in the late 19th century. (The originals are in the Museum of the Palace Fabric in the Doge’s Palace)

The images form a narrative combining the created world and divine majesty, history and myth and celebrate justice, wisdom and prayer.

The largest of the sculptures are Adam and Eve, The Drunkenness of Noah and the Judgement of Solomon. The story begins on the southwest corner with the creation of Adam and the eating of the forbidden fruit.

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On the corner beside the Bridge of Sighs is The Drunkenness of Noah. Cham derides his father, while his other son tries to cover his nakedness. What on earth had he been doing and how did he end up naked?

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On the corner nearest to the entrance to the cathedral is The Judgement of Solomon.

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The smaller sculptures cover topics such as birds of prey, Latin women, Solomon and the Seven Sages, Houses of the Planets and more.

A favourite was Seven Deadly Sins, plus vanity. Before I read about the images I thought Gluttony was someone eating a gelato. It is, in fact, a figure raising a cup of wine and biting into a leg of meat…thank goodness for the book. Gluttony is followed by pride, sloth, vanity, envy, lust, wrath and avarice.

Next time you wander aimlessly past the Doge’s Palace, look up and be amazed.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 3, 2014

I smell a rat

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With our copy of Secret Venice in hand, we set off to discover some hidden secrets. The first one we came upon was the rat graffiti at the end of Calle del Traghetto on the magnificent Grand Canal.

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According to the date above the rat, it has been there since 1644. Rats apparently arrived in Europe from distant lands and brought the plague with them. Somebody clearly thought the rat needed to be represented and carved one into one of the thick columns beside the canal.

There has been a systematic sterilisation of the large colonies of cats in Venice, allowing rats to flourish. It is said that there are 5 rats for every Venetian in the city.

…more Venice soon.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 31, 2014

At the end of the rainbow

…is Vergemoli. I was digging holes in the garden in the late afternoon when I looked up and spotted a rainbow. I dropped the pick and ran to get my camera. The whole thing lasted no more than a few minutes.

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I knew Vergemoli was a special place.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 28, 2014

The Great Beauty

La Grande Bellezza, The Great Beauty, is a movie set in Rome, and the city is the star. Many movies have had this glorious city as the backdrop. People come to Rome to throw coins in the Trevi Fountain because of a movie. The money is collected and given to a charity…a good outcome.

La Dolce Vita made in 1960 takes the viewer through the gorgeous streets of Rome with Marcello Mastroianni as a bored writer. Paolo Sorrentino’s movie takes us on a similar trip with another bored writer, Jeb, who wrote a novel early in his career allowing him to live the high life for years to come.

Along with 2 nights at the Regina Baglioni we were driven in comfort on La Grande Bellezza Experience with a fabulous guide, Beata. As well as having an encyclopedic knowledge of Roman sites, art and history, she was charming and led us on a delightful tour of many of the scenes featured in the movie.

The film begins at Gianicolo and the firing of the canon at midday.

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Gianicolo is the perfect place for a panoramic view of Rome.

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Garibaldi sits high on his horse in the park at the top of Gianicolo, keeping an eye on things off to the side, or perhaps looking in the direction of the monument to his wife, who fought beside him.

 

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Nearby, another scene from the movie is the beautiful Aqua Paola fountain, built in the late 17th century to celebrate the reopening of a Roman aqueduct created in 109 AD by Emperor Trajan. Here a tourist dies after photographing Rome below…perhaps it was too much for him.

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A beautiful fountain where the main character drinks while watching children run though gorgeous gardens is another stop, along with the stunning little Tempietto built by Bramante in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio. It has a delightful mosaic floor and you can look through the metal grid to the floor below where a little girl in the film hides from her mother.

In one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie Jeb and his companion look through a keyhole for an amazing view of Rome. We lined up too and it was fabulous, but unfortunately my camera wasn’t able to capture it.

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They are then taken through a series of gorgeous locations by a mysterious gentleman with a precious set of keys allowing him access to secret Rome. You must see the movie for these locations alone.

One of them is the optical illusion in Palazzo Spada. In the arcaded courtyard by Borromini, what appears to be a lifesize sculpture, is only 60 centimetres high.

Photos were not allowed inside, (don’t you hate that?) so my photo taken through glass is not the best.

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In a day of amazing sights, the baths of Caracalla, built between 212 and 216, stand out. The place is huge. Thousands of Romans from all classes could bathe for free every day. In the film a giraffe appears in one of the more bizarre scenes.

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…and this leads to our next stop. Aqua Marcia aqueduct was built specifically to serve the baths. We drove along the Apian Way to one of the remaining aqueducts, surely one of Rome’s most useful inventions.

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We ended our day at the penthouse apartment mentioned in the previous post, just the place for one of Jeb’s party scenes which pop up all through the movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, La Grande Bellezza Tour of Rome is a great way to see this incredible city. Regina Baglioni has put together a special package for a 2 night stay at the hotel, lunch in their restaurant, aperitivo and the tour, and more. Click here to see the details. This is exactly what our little blogging group was treated to and I can report that it was excellent in every way…thank you Baglioni Hotels.

Thank you especially to our guide, Beata, her knowledge of Rome is amazing. It is wonderful to learn the history and stories behind the ancient sites, they become so much more interesting.

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Baglioni Regina, Via Veneto, Rome.

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