Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rome: Colesseo, Forum, Arch of Constantine, Bathhouse

Colesseo - the more things change, the more they don't. This is the venue for the original blood sport (now UFC). It had the capacity to hold 20% of their population. It is multiple leveled plus the subterranean area where it is compartmentalized ( for the gladiators and exotic animals). The coliseum has been looted of many materials before, so it is not in fantastic and complete state. (better condition but smaller is the one in Arles in France)

Forum - is an early Roman village/community. It is made up of housing, commerce space, gymnasium and other necessities of a civilization.

Arch of Constantine - the model for the one in Paris.

The bathhouse - wow, those Romans knew how to pamper themselves. Magnificent and enormous skeleton of the structure.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Left Country Side for the Big City

Well, I left Tuscany yesterday for Rome. It's a 2 hour bus ride.I am sad and excited at the same time. It's a huge change -- no more rolling hills, olive groves and cypress lined roadways and villas. I spent the first day of my 2 1/2 weeks walking around, getting an over view of the city. I can't wait to go in and explore the many historic places. It's hard not to think of La Dolce Vita when I was at the Trevi Fountain. I'm hoping to catch La Traviatta playing near the Spanish Steps.

So much to see.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tuscany: Florence: Piazza Della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria - this plaza I consider to be the centre of Florence. 
You know how the  Vancouver Art Gallery is our hub for gatherings and protests, well this is theirs. For the two weeks that I was here, there was something happening almost everyday. Even if there is no scheduled event, there are always a throng of people sitting in the Loggia (roofed, Roman arches and columns,  open space with various statues through the ages - Classical to the Renaissance).

Some major works are here - a replica of David stands in front of Piazza Vecchio (their city hall as well as an important museum, it really is a palace), Hercules, Fountain of Neptune, etc.

Tuscany: Florence: Academia

David by Michelangelo

You do not see Michelangelo's David, you experience it. It's similar to looking at a photograph of the Grand Canyon, it just doesn't do it; it doesn't take your breath away. Sure, you can appreciate the beauty, but you cannot grasp the magnificence. Being in its  presence is a religious experience.

I looked at it from every angle. David stands there tensely with veins on his hands and neck very apparent, brows furrowed. From the front, you will see David eyeing Goliath with great determination. From the right side, you will notice that his expression changes to a bit of worry (probably thinking how the heck he's going to beat the giant), and from the back you his fantastic ass. His abs, arms, his thighs, his calves, that hip bone that juts out on men are chiseled deliciously to perfection (I won't go into detail about his other manly parts). David is perfection (aside from the fact that his hands are unproportionally large because he was commissioned to be placed way above hanging on top of the church, so it was meant to be viewed that way). 

You go, Michelangelo, you got yourself a hottie!

Make sure that if you go see it, that you see the real thing at the Academia. There is an exact replica that stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza Della Signoria -- but it's not the same. You must see the original under that setting, with the slaves leading us into him.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day ? (I lost count): Tuscany

Whenever I am traveling, my mind and my excitement usually gets way ahead of me. I have decided to make this a different one. While in Florence, I have planned to go to Milan and maybe see an opera at the La Scala, see the Last Supper, see Pisa, see Siena. After all, I'm here for two weeks. 

I've changed my mind, I'm staying put. I am going to savour and luxuriate in every day, every minute, every glass of wine, every tomato, every Donatello, every Michelangelo, every Botticelli, every sunshine, every downpour (it's actually quite frequent - but not like in Vancouver), every olive tree,every olive, every cypress tree, every coffee, every people watching moment on the patio, every Italian general strike (also a regular one day thing), every limoncelo,every bite of cheese, every dip in the pool,every ... Well you get the point.

So, i hope you guys will pardon me for not being punctual with my daily account of my trip, I am a little busy with my proseco.  I will get back into it eventually, maybe even later today, hhhmmm, right after I make some brushcetta for later.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuscany: Florence: Orsanmichele & the Bargello

Orsanmichele used to be a loggia (open space), but has been closed in and has become a church. It is notable for its statues of patron saints made by notable artist such as Donatello and Ghiberti. It is an interesting place to compare various emerging Renaissance styles. It also has a magnificently opulent altar by Daddi.

The Bargello comes second only to the Uffizi. At some point, it was known for the executions that took place in its courtyard. This is THE place to find Italy's more prominent Renaissance statues. It has Donatello's David, the original party boy - Bacchus by Michelangelo, Mercury by Giambologna. This is a must see!

Picasso, Miro & Dali
This is a traveling exhibit that just happens to be in town. Really interesting -- the progression of the 3 artists and how their styles influenced each other. It has works that you could not guess to be theirs. Also had Picasso's sketches on some notepads for the beginning of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 

Pizza for lunch. Excellent deal for a small dinner plate size of procuitto and mushroom pizza for €5. It was thin crust and made in front of you in their nice wood stove pizza ovens.

Afternoon snack on a nice patio for people watching:
 panna cota with strawberries, 2 bottles of rose (share between 3) 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tuscany: Florence: the Baptistery & St. Croce

The amount of art history greatness of these two places blows your mind. The Baptistery is a church where ALL of Florence children of the time were baptized-- Michelangelo, Donatello and such. Outside it is similar to many churches of the area in style, made of green, white and pink marble in geometric patterns. The entire dome ceiling shimmers, it is made of glass mosaics in gold ( yes, real gold) background in Byzantime style. The central focus of it is Christ in Judgment Day. Dante's Inferno was in reference to the left side of this piece which is hell.

St Maria Croce is a church and the burial places of the many wealthy and notable Florentians -- Galileo, Michelangelo, Machievelli, Rossini. Their tombs are all around. I must admit that it's not easy not to get all choked up being here.

I had such a fantastic lunch. Starter was this pear with pecorino cheese drizzled with walnuts and honey. Main was a variety of grilled meats with salad and wine of course. It cost me €25 for the entire thing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Florence Overview - walking tour around the city

May 1st (aka  Labour Day)

It actually may be a bit of a blessing in disguise that I may not be able to post my pics up ( haven't figured out how on ipad). I have travelled to several  places, many of them, I feel, I cannot possibly capture their essence on a photograph. Photographs do not give justice to what you are seeing/experiencing in real life. This is true of this trip so far. 

Today, already with matching battle scars on my feet from too much walking, (V-shaped scabs on the top of each foot) from my Gladiator sandals, I walked around Florence. Starting from Santa Maria Novella, I  walked all over to the major sites looking on the outside of such places as the Dome of Brunelleschi, Giotto's Bell Tower, Baptistry  of San Giovanni, Basilica of San Lorenzo, Medici chapels, Uffizi Gallery, palazzo Vecchio, Church of Santa Maria Novella, church of Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Dante's House, Pitti Palace and all in between including an Iris garden at the far side bottom of Piazza de Santa Croce. For the next two weeks, I will be visiting these historic sites individually and hopefully have the opportunity to share and post my visits.

It so happens that today is labour day. There was a lot going on in Piazza Della Signoria. There were marching bands and a variety of celebratory pageantry (that I couldn't see because I'm too short and there were too many people). 

Food:  I had tagliatelle with porcini in a restaurant near Piazza Della Signoria. It was delish -- so simple but so tasty. I made a mental note to try to make it when I'm home. It cost €12 + €2 service charge.