Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Museo Correr photo set up on Flickr

Just posted a big old hunk of photos of the Museo Correr in Venice today. 137 High Res shots of mostly the interiors. Had to be sneaky or there would have been a lot more!

Ornamental detail from the Coffee Shop area.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 21- Rocky Road to Rome

(originally posted on facebook 7/1/13)

I guess we're having a little hotel karma today- after all these great ones we landed in a stinker in Rome. The location's not bad, it's nice and quiet and near the train station, which means it is very central to everything, but it literally stinks. Cigarettes and sewer gas, mmmmm... We're trying to figure out if it's worth moving or just buy some incense. Or take up smoking.

 After checking in here we decided to go down to the Forum (start from the bottom up). But of course we immediately sidetracked into the Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome's oldest church dedicated to Mary, the core of which was built in 431 using columns that were salvaged from an even older Roman building. Amazing how even after all the great stuff we've seen for the last 3 weeks, this is yet another level.

Beautiful marbles in the area below the altar at Santa Maria Maggiore

We cruised down the dirty and urban Ave Cavour to the Forum area, where there was some kind of demonstration going on with riot police at the ready and loudspeakers blaring. Nevertheless, managed to take in a bit of Trajan's Forum and the marketplace behind it, and then to be dazzled by the ever so imperial Vittoriano Monument, which pretty much defines the word monumental, being a very large pile of bronze, gilding, and white marble statuary right in the middle of Rome.
Confrontation between paraders for immigrant rights vs polizia in front of the Vittorio Emmanuele monument. All ended peacefully, thankfully.
We then wiggled our way by the Teatro Marcellus and the Porta Ottaviana to the Campo dei Fiori area to go to our friends Darius and Erica's house where we outlined some possible visits for the next few days. Then a nice evening walk back to our smelly little hovel, where I drew for a while and Marianne searched for an alternate location.

The Great Temple of Rome, down near the Tiber, was built in 1904 on the site of the former Ghetto of Rome.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Day 20 - Orvieto!

Day 20! - Orvieto

Loads of great surprises today. From our palatial little condo we headed out to check out the Orvieto Underground tour first thing. First thing being around noon today! The underground tour was fascinating- led by a young German musician who had a passion for his subject that someone who grew up here might not. There are over 1200 caves under Orvieto, which is on a built on a a big plug of fairly soft volcanic tufa that's easy to carve out. Some of them go back to Etruscan times (before 500 BC). They were used for all kinds of things, except actually living in them- they're too cold and damp.

These were dove nests dug into the tufa under the  city. In hard times they could eat both the eggs and the birds. Cheaper than chickens since they go get their own food. The stairs went up to the owners quarters.

We then got into more Etruscan stuff in a whole variety of little museums near the Duomo. In the Archeological Museum, we were having fun looking at various artifacts that had been dug up in the Necropolis that's just outside the walls of the town, when a curator beckoned us to come with her and flipped the lights on in two rooms of original Etruscan frescoes that had been moved there from another site. WOW- I just wish I'd been able to take some photos. They were far beyond anything I thought of as Etruscan in their sophistication. Elegant figures and scenes of a feast in a triclinium (Roman era dining room). Very cool!

Lots of Etruscan terra cotta artifacts in the museums- including several gorgon heads like this. This would have been on the peak of the roof to ward off evil spirits. About 500 BC

Hopped upstairs to another museum (these were all pretty empty- seems the tourists only know about the Duomo and the gelateria) and saw some great bits that had been removed from the church over the years and replaced with copies. Cool to see these up close and personal, also a great black and white room by Luca Signorelli (?). 

Little fun poked at the choir director? 

Went through the sottopassagio (underpass) of the rear of the cathedral, which is full of the antique tools used for repairs and some bits and pieces of things to be worked on, including a pair of 40 foot high doors (amazing when you see these lying on their sides!) Finally entered the main cathedral from the side aisle, and, just as we do in all of these monstrous spaces, we gasped. 

Organ in the Duomo. Half expect to see ghosts emerging from the pipes as they are played!
This one is very similar to the Siena Duomo in the use of alternating bands of dark green and white stone, plus it has two amazing alae (side wings). One side is painted in the 1350's, the other side was begun by Fra Angelico in 1447, and later finished by Luca Signorelli starting in 1499. I had forgotten that this exquisite work is here- it's one of my favorite pieces of ornamental art (and the murals aren't bad either!) 

Awesome grottesca work by Luca Signorelli in the Orvieto Duomo

At this point Marianne was about to pass out (I don't know how she keeps up with me- I am truly obsessive about this stuff in a way that no human should be) so we headed back to our luxicon for some snacks. Decided to head out again around 5 so we went to the other Archeological museum (gotta love a town of 6,000 residents that has more than one archeological museum!) Man was I glad we did!! Besides having an outstanding collection of more Etruscan pottery and artifacts, it was also set in a killer neo-classical painted palazzo directly across from the Duomo. Totally unexpected treat!

The Faina museum has great Etruscan art set in a gorgeous neo-classical palazzo

We stayed there til it closed, then moseyed over (most everything in this town is within about a 2 block radius) to the Torre del Moro, a clocktower in the middle of town. Climbed up and got a great view of the town and the surrounding countryside, aided by the fact that Orvieto is on a very high plateau so you really see a long way. It was getting later (6 pm to be precise- which I know because the bell went off right next to us- practically jumped over the parapet it was so loud!) We thought about how many different costumes you might have seen looking down from that tower over the years since it was built in the 13th century.

on top of the Torre del Moro

Wow- this post is getting really long, but you said you liked it! 

Ok- here's the frosting on the cake, and then I'll shut up. After the tower, we walked down the main street to check out the opera theater, which we had seen signs for. The lobby looked really promising, with ornament that looked a lot like the stuff at the neo-classical palazzo we'd been in earlier. Paid the two euro to visit and the disinterested barmaid sort of said- "it's over there, help yourselves" (of course she said it in Italian, so it sounded much more romantic, but bored nonetheless.) We had the place totally to ourselves and discovered not only a great main ceiling and stage curtain, but also 3 or 4 banquet rooms that were spectacularly painted with all kinds of fabulous ornament. Yet another unexpected dazzler.

Spectacular interior of the Teatro Mancinelli

440 new pics today, that should be enough. See ya! 

PS- in case you can't get enough of this stuff (you must be really bored at work!) I'll probably post another one just about the art over on art+works.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 19- Siena to Orvieto

(originally posted on facebook 6/29/13)
Day 19- Wow

Better start writing this fast- I'm fading! We got up at 5:30 this AM to catch the 7 o'clock to Siena, which it turned out, was our best way to get to Orvieto, tonight's stay. Little did we know as we walked into town, it was qualifying day number one for the summer's first Palio- the medieval horse race held in the central square. The whole town turns out for the race, each neighborhood wearing scarves and colors reflecting their particular area. 

The infield of the piazza fills in quickly for the morning's qualifying events

The pageantry is amazing and real- no amplified announcers- the groups erupt in song spontaneously and with gusto. As we were leaving town later one of the groups passed by us in full swing- people were crying and singing at the top of their lungs- it was amazing and stirring. It's also medieval in that the men and women sit and sing separately, and the riders are bareback!

Walking along a side street, this group came up at us singing their anthem. It was very stirring. 

We found a spot in the infield and wandered around to watch the crowds file in, mostly Italians, with lots of families. On the first race, two of the riders fell off their mounts on the first corner- they got up right away, but later we saw one being carted off on a stretcher. The funny part was that their horses kept going- in fact the riderless ponies won the three lap race...and then continued to race each other for another 4 laps, with the crowd cheering them on while their trainers tried in vain to make them stop! 

Bareback! Yeeee hah!!

These were just qualifying races, so they weren't quite as colorful as the finals, but they were also much easier to get into, and they were free. Afterwards we took in the Duomo, a kind of Tim Burton extravaganza in black and white stripes, and the amazing Piccolomini library, extravagantly painted by Pinturicchio in 1503. The downstairs baptistry also had beautiful ceilings, and below that there was the remains of a 13th century church that was just uncovered and preserved in 2003. 

Beautiful doorway in the Siena Duomo

We missed seeing the Museo Civico because of the Palio, but it was worth it. We took another train to arrive in Orvieto, another dramatic hilltop town (you go into town via a funicular railway) just as the sun was beginning to go down. The bells were ringing, the swallows were swallowing, and we arrived at a gorgeous designer pad that passes for a B&B somehow. Feels like we're in a Better Homes spread, and it's cheap!

The stone walls of this apartment were constructed in the 16th century!

Ok- I need to get to bed now- been a long day! Enjoy the pics!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 18- Talamone Rest day

(originally posted on facebook on June 28th, 2013)
Day 18- Talamone Rest day

After a somewhat shaky start last night where we questioned coming here, Talamone has bloomed for us. The music did finally quiet down, and this morning we slept in a bit and then took a walk over to the quaint seaside hamlet, not more than about 6 blocks square.

View of the swim beach from the old tower in town.
Quaint, yes, but not without it's history. In fact there's been a settlement here since Etruscans, who first gave it its name; the Greeks knew it as Telamon. Lord Nelson stopped here (it's a well protected and large marina) on his way to invade Alexandria, where he lost his arm but found fame as a commander. There's a 14th century church and a fortress from the 13th century, it's even mentioned in Dante's Purgatorio!

Looking back from the "beach" to the tower.
Walking into town by the water, we passed by a curious looking building next to the cemetery. Turned out to be a chapel called the Mausoleum Vivarelli, built in 1905 by a local architect named Lorenzo Grosseto Porciatti in a Byzantine influenced Stile Liberty. The stained glass windows and much of the interior were destroyed more recently by accidental detonation of dynamite they had stored there for enlarging the cemetery. Oops!

Mausoleum Vivarelli, built in 1905.

We went through the town in about 5 minutes, saw the church and the tower, both closed for the day, and found the rocky swimming beach where Italians all rent beach chairs and go in a protected pool. Being (fool?) hardy Americans, we pushed on around a slightly precarious bend and got to a very pleasant little inlet that we had all to ourselves. Swam in the beautiful clear water and sunned on a big sofa made of drying seaweed, then walked back to take a nap without worrying about missing some important cultural site.

We just had to wade across a little inlet to have this cove all to ourselves. Water was perfect!

Now we're enjoying the breeze in our cabin, and the music is again blaring as a well directed group of campers dances next to the pool. Ahhhh Italia!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 17- Talamone Ho!

Day 17-

Today we head out for something completely different! We said a fond farewell to Florence and headed to the train station again. Our friend Anne Sharp's son Cesare works at a Camping Village in a very small town on the coast of Tuscany. Talamone, just north of Orbetello, has a pretty coast line with crystalline waters and this crazy resort where average Italians go to get away from the city. I can pretty much guarantee there aren't many Americans here....ever! Believe it or not, they do occasionally get surf here- even had some last week according to Cesare.

Talamone, on the coast of Tuscany

To get here we took the train to Siena, where unfortunately we didn't have enough time to climb the hill into town before we had to board a second train to Talamone. On our way down to the coast we passed by fields of grapes, sunflowers, and ripe grains ready for harvest. We also saw beautiful and remote villas and tiny towns perched on hillsides. Just north of Talamone is a large nature preserve with some very uncrowded shoreline accessible only by boat. Tomorrow we'll head over and try to get into the water! Wish us luck! 
One of many little hillside villas on the way down to Talamone. This will probably end up in one of my backgrounds for an Italianate mural someday.

Right now we are listening to the most goofy Italian DJ music coming up from the pool area. I don't even really know how to describe it. Definitely not techno, more like an old radio show with sound effects, lots of talking, and bad semi-disco sounding music. Marianne just asked "two more hours of this?" Wish us luck with surviving this DJ too!! Really obnoxious! I think the Karaoke may even be an improvement.
Pool area of the Camping Village Talamone. They still get away with insisting everyone wear a swimcap in the pool. Can you imagine trying that in USA?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Florence Redux

Day 16- More Florence

Apparently I missed writing about this day while on the trip (I guess it was because I posted about the day before on that day, and it was my birthday!) Anyways, here's how I recall it from looking at the photos. 

Started out with a quick look at the Brancacci chapel, which is right next door to our little apartment in the cloister. It was cool to see the actual Masaccio frescoes of Adam and Eve, which I used as a basis for a design I did a few years ago at the Villa Tramonto. Masaccio was a very skilled young painter (he died in 1428, at age 27!) and his work at the Chapel is said to have profoundly influenced the young Michelangelo. Masaccio's figures are very expressive for the time, and his mastery of both linear and atmospheric perspective is impressive. The rest of the church has some great baroque trompe l'oeil frescoes of extended architectural spaces. 

Brancacci Chapel by Masaccio, with later baroque ceiling above it.

Then we crossed the Arno into the center of town, stopping first at the Palazzo Davanzati, a 14th century wool merchant's house and workshop that is covered in wall decorations that straddle medieval and Renaissance styles, restored in the 19th century and thus quite complete, if not entirely original. You can only imagine what the smell was like there in the summer months with a wool operation going on on the ground floor!

The Room of the Parrots in the Palazzo Davanzati.
Next we hiked a ways across town to the Casa Buonarotti, which was not actually Michelangelo's house, but was established by his nephew as a tribute to the master. It has some interesting tidbits in it: a couple of early sculptures by Michelangelo, some of his drawings, and a room full of tribute paintings from a variety of masters. It also had an awesome little chapel and a niche full of ceramics that the disinterested guard could only tell me were every day items from the house. Being a museum guard in Italy must be kind of equivalent to working the register at Ace Hardware here, but less interesting.

According to the guard at the Casa Buonarotti, these ceramics were just "every day ware". Oh really?

After various windings and detours we ended up back at the Palazzo Pitti, where we took in the Boboli Gardens, a sprawling but formal series of terraces that give some great views of the city, and where it is easy to imagine the elaborately dressed wealthy citizens of the past seeking shade to avoid the heat in their layers of clothing. Arriving at the "Coffee House" high up on the hill, we realized too late that it was only the building of what must have been a very pleasant place to sip a brew, so we went back thirsty, passing through an elaborate and shady grotto, and trotted back to our place to cook up some grub, rested a while, then headed out once more after things had cooled off to take in the Ponte Vecchio at sunset and have another gelato.

The Coffee House in the Boboli Gardens is a delightful Rococo confection, but alas it does not serve coffee, just views!