Italian Windows

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This gallery contains 7 photos.

“A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books” Walt Whitman When I was in Italy, I found myself often looking up, trying to catch glimpses of the interiors of the gorgeous old buildings, wondering about … Continue reading

Travel Theme: Bridges

Even monkeys need a little help to get across the road.  A group of school children raised money to make rope bridges for the monkeys so that they could get safely across the roads in the Manuel Antonio beach area and the town of Quespos in Costa Rica.    monkey on rope bridge saving the rainforestThe rope bridges sharply contrast to the bridges that span the Tiber River in Rome.

Pont Sant"Angelo across the Tiber RiverIncredibly, this bridge, built in 134 AD and has stood the ravages of war, floods, and time.  It’s a beautiful bridge with a gruesome history.  For centuries, the bridge was used to expose the bodies of those people who were executed.  Currently, the bridge is only used for pedestrian traffic. It sits directly across from the Castel Sant’Angelo, a fortress historically used by the Popes and their families.

Ponte vittorio Emanuele II, RomeThe Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, built in the early 1900’s sits just down the river from the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? for this theme.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

 

Bernini's Chair of Peter This illuminated window sits above the altar in the apse at the end of the central nave in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. It is part of a larger sculpture, called the Cathedra Petri, by the artist Bernini designed to commemorate the chair that reportedly belonged to St. Peter.  The stained glass is divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the twelve apostles.

It is hard to image the size of this sculpture or the overwhelming size of the Basilica itself.  The Basilica is 186. 3 m (628 feet or about two football field lengths) from the front doors of the cathedral to the opposite end where this sculpture sits.  Bernini also sculpted the bronze canopy that stands at the entrance of the apse. The photograph below gives you some sense of the dimensions (although have I have to apologize for the poor quality of the photo).

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The sheer size of the cathedral and the centuries of art work housed in this church was overwhelming but the illuminated Cathedra Petri dominated our attention.

Thanks to Cheri at WordPress for this week’s challenge.

Travel Theme – Multiples

Outdoor food markets with fresh produce piled high atop shelves and crates comes to mind when I think of this week’s travel theme. The Campo de Fiori (Courtyard of Flowers) is one of the oldest markets in Rome.  The stalls are set up in the midst of a cobblestone courtyard surrounded by medieval buildings. The market sells fresh produce as well as packaged foods (pasta), flowers, kitchen utensils.  Or you can people watch from one of the cafes.

artichokes    I loved the rows of artichokes.

chestnutsAnd who knew that multiple chestnuts grew in a larger hairy shell.

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack for this week’s travel theme.

Reflections

As I was reflecting on my trip to Italy a year ago, I thought of this photo for this week’s WP weekly photo challenge.  I took thi photo in the Cortile della Pigna, the courtyard of the Vatican Museums.  Vatican Museum garden sculptureThe Vatican Museums are vast and overwhelming, especially for artistically ignorant folks like us so we hired a guide.  Our guide, Andrea from New Rome Free Tour was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and entertaining (using children’s picture books to explain the history and architecture).  We originally booked a three hour tour but Andrea generously spent five hours with us – well worth the 130 euros.

A shady bench in the courtyard provided MOO a perfect spot for a quick nap before entering the Sistine Chapel.   You can see MOO and I and Andrea reflected in the bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

It you are planning to visit the museums book your tickets on-line directly with the Vatican Museums to avoid the long queues and check out the free daily tour by New Rome Free Tours meets everyday at 5:30 at the Spanish Steps. It’s a wonderful way to get your bearings in this historic centre of this incredible city.

 

You know you’re in foreign country when…

When I travel, I want to feel like I’m in a new place and sometimes the best indicators of a new place are the signs.  Sara Rosso of WP highlighted this in her weekly photo challenge post.  I love taking photos of the signs I come across. They remind me of the places I’ve visited or the things that I’ve seen.  I’m not even sure what some of these signs mean but I do know they mean I’m no longer in Canada (or at least my neck of the woods).

Travel Theme – Spooky

 

Catherine of Siena relics

You never really know what you might find when you wander into churches in Italy. We found ourselves exploring the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena one lovely evening. This is a large gothic church and fairly spartan inside.  We were drawn to the more ornate Chapel of St. Catherine of Siena along the right wall of the nave, and as we approached we found ourselves staring at the preserved head of the saint herself.  We experienced mixed emotions, fascination, horror, disbelief and finally awe and reverence as we gazed on the face of a woman who died more than 600 years ago.

St. Catherine of Siena died in 1380 in Rome and her body is buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. According to some legends, the people of Siena wanted Catherine’s body  returned to her city but knew they would not be able to smuggle her whole body so they took her head only.  When the Roman guards stopped them the smugglers prayed to St. Catherine for help. When they looked in the bag where Catherine’s head was placed the Roman guards only saw rose petals. Thus, the smugglers were able to successfully return Catherine’s head to her home.  St. Catherine’s thumb is also preserved in a reliquary next to her head.

The whole idea of preserving relics is both fascinating and a little creepy (no disrespect intended here).  I wonder how this practice would be interpreted if it were to occur today?

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my Backpack for this week’s theme.

 

 

Venice – La Serenissima

Grand Canal, VeniceI didn’t love Venice the first time I visited, 20 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong – I thought the city was spectacular and beautiful in so many ways and I was grateful that I was able to see the city at the time, but I didn’t love it.  It was another city to mark off my list during a backpacking trip through Europe. So when we put Venice on our itinerary during our recent trip to Italy, it was mostly because MOO wanted to visit this world heritage site rather than any personal desire on my part to see Venice again.

So I couldn’t have been more surprised when I realized that I had fallen in love with Venice this second time around. It  wasn’t your typical love at first sight.  I wasn’t struck with a cupid’s arrow or lightening bolt.   Rather, it was a slow-growing sense of peace and tranquility that accumulated throughout the day, coupled with a sense of awe at this incredible city standing in the water for centuries that touched my soul and filled my heart.

We arrived by train, early in the morning from Treviso (just outside of Venice).  It was a spectacular, sunny day and as we exited the Stazione Venezia-Santa Lucia, we were met with the sight of the Grand Canal. Despite the early morning, the city was bustling with throngs of tourists milling about on the piazza, collecting their bags, consulting maps and taking pictures.  Tourists and Venetians lined up for the vaporetti, the local water buses.  We bought our day passes for the vaporetto and as it started to move along the route, I felt an overwhelming feeling of wonder and reverence.  Who built these palazzo’s gracing the canals?. What secrets did the waters and the walls hold?  Who had lived in these magnificent homes and who lived in them now?  I wanted to drink it all in, to capture the feeling of the place, the energy, the mystery. It was a place that I remembered from my last visit and yet I had no memory of this city I had once visited.  This time, I wanted to experience the city, to be in the city and even though we only had the one day, I wanted to somehow be a part of the rhythm and truth of this incredible city.

Palazzo, Grand Canal, Venice

In the end, we chose to wander through the city, mostly by foot and the occasional ride on a vaporetto.  We didn’t visit the many museums in the gorgeous Palazzos.  We didn’t enter many churches and didn’t make it in time to enter the Basilica di San Marco before it closed.  We didn’t enjoy a gondola ride.  And yet it somehow didn’t matter.   It was the experience of being in this city that mattered most to me.

We browsed the fruit and vegetable and fish stalls of the Rialto markets with the local Venetians and walked on the famous Rialto Bridge.  We visited local bake shops and enjoyed specialty shops that sold art and fashions and trinkets and maps.  We had lunch in a quiet piazza and supper in an Osteria (a restaurant serving simple traditional Venetian food) with locals.   We wondered about the woman sitting in a window reading a book. We discovered a floating fruit and vegetable stand housed on a boat.  We watched as a bride and groom in traditional carnival masks greeted their guests outside the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).   We navigated the throngs in Piazza San Marco to find MOO’s cousins who she was meeting for the first time.  We explored the shops that featured famous Murano glass sculptures.  But mostly we wandered along and explored the streets and bridges that were not featured in the guide books; the quiet, peaceful canals off the main waterways.  MOO learned something of her heritage from Resa and I took photos of twisting streets and canals, occasionally surprised by a gondola gliding silently around a corner carrying a couple holding hands, smiling happily.   A wizened, white-haired woman watching the pedestrians below her window smiled at me and held her hands in a gesture of triumph as I walked by and took her photo.  As the sun began to fade and we made our way back to the train station, I realized that this beautiful, mysterious, serene city had captured my heart and I was in love.

Rialto Bridge, Venice

GondolasBasillica San Marco, VeniceVenetian Bride and GroomFloating Market, VeniceVeniceVenice canalVenice CanalVeniceVenetian woman

Weekly Photo Challenge – Growth

Michelangelo's Renaissance PiazzaRenaissance Gardens overlooking the ruins of the Roman Forum

If you stand on the grounds of the Roman Forum, near the ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgins and look towards the Capitoline Hill, you can see the gardens of Michelangelo’s Renaissance Piazza atop ancient Roman ruins.  The excavations of these ruins has provided us an understanding of the growth of civilization.  The dilemma however that remains – to continue to excavate, the archeologist would have to risk destroying the history above.

These photos don’t begin to capture the overwhelming awe that I felt standing where ancient Romans once walked and looking at the gardens that were later created by one of the greatest artists and thinkers.