Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Tour of Italy Installment 3 Venice

As we visited various museums and historic sites on this tour, local guides would join us, they would be guides whose specialty was the particular site or area.

One tour in Venice was of the Doges Palace. 

The architecture of the Doge’s Palace is Gothic, and the foundations were built in the 14th century. They say the first settlements in the lagoon were just after the fall of the Roman Empire (476) and were part of the Byzantine Empire. In 810 the seat of government was moved to this location but nothing remains of that 9th century building.

The Palace consists of several different buildings that were put together to create the Palace. In the 10th century part of it was destroyed by fire, and the new palace portions were decorated with Byzantine elements.

There are paintings here by Bellini, Pordenone, Titian and others from the 16th century.

The palace also contained a jail, which we toured, I can't imagine what it would have been like to be there, I'm sure it was horrible. When going to be exceuted the prisoners walked across the Bridge of Sighs, we walked across it too.

Since the Palace was the heart of the political life of the Venietian Republic, when it in fell in 1797 its role changed.  Venice was first ruled by France, then Austria and then in 1866 French rule, then to Austrian, and ultimately, in 1866, it became part of united Italy. By 1900 the building was really decaying so was restored and it became a public museum.

It's amazing that all this artwork survives in such a humid climate.

From the Palace we visited the Cathedral then  we had free time, which I used to tromp around the island. Venice is beautiful but it has a serious problem being overrun with tourists. 

There were thousands and thousands of people being dumped off. Fortunately while our hotel was only two blocks from San Marco Square it was off the main tourist streets.

I picked up a book called "The Politics of Washing, Real Life in Venice" by Polly Coles. She, her Italian husband and children moved to Venice. She describes the challenges of living in todays Venice.


I would say 20 years ago would have been a better time to visit Venice, but it was beautiful all the same. 

We took a boat ride to the island of Murano where the glass blowers have their studios. Many of the glass blowers we carry at Carolina Creations have studied in these studios. And while the studios do beautiful work I’m partial to our American glass blowers. Their work is more original and not so cookie cutter. i enjoyed walking around the quiet island and getting a few shots.

Back in Venice.

Our hotel had an outdoor patio restaurant where I ate a beautiful lunch while waiting for the “must do” gondola ride. I noticed it was hard to get your bill, a phenomenon that would continue the rest of the trip. 

There were 5 gondolas carrying our group and we had a singer and an accordian player that added to the allure. Seeing the Island from the water gave you an entirely different perspective. 

Our ride

Don't pick up vegetables in a stand like this, (I knew better), tell the storekeeper what you want and he will pick them out.

Next post, the last afternoon and evening in Venice.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Tour of Italy Installment 2 Lake Garda to Venice

On the way from Milan to Venice we stopped at the resort Simione on Lake Garda.

It was picture perfect! 

Full of tourists but beautiful all the same.

It's on a peninsula with a castle and Roman ruins.

They say it has been populated since the stone age and Romans built holiday villas there, one of which still exists.

As you walk in you pass the castle, Rocca Scaligera, that was built at the end of the 12th century.

Of course what I loved the most was the windows and flowers.

Back on the bus for a short trip to Venice.

We arrived by boat at the patio of our hotel - The Monaco and Grando Canal. While my room did not have a view it was beautifully decorated. 

The Monaco & Grand Canal is a former 17th century palazzo that has been converted into a classic hotel. Overlooking the Grand Canal, the hotel is close to Piazza San Marco. It offers stunning views of the Grand Canal, the church of Santa Maria della Salute and the island of San Giorgio.

There is an outside terrace with a very nice restaurant. It was restored in the early 2000’s. Outside, the terrace is a special feature of the hotel and, weather permitting, is a great place to eat while taking in the atmosphere of the Grand Canal and they serve traditional Venetian cuisine.

This is the terrace with fabulous views.

Just steps from our door was Channel, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany. And across the street was Harry’s Bar.

Now i’ll have to admit I’d never heard of Harry’s Bar but they are all pretty famous - and famous for the fact you stumble upon them because there are no big signs, at least at the one in Venice. It was established in 1931 and there are now Harry's Bars all over the world. This one was frequented by a lot of famous people like Earnest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Aristotle Onassis and others.

Next post - Touring Venice!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

A Tour of Italy Installment 1 Milan to Venice

I just returned from my first visit to Italy - I have enough inspiration to paint for some time!

My adventure started with flying Alitalia and being served Limoncello, which I had never had prior to that but had quite a few times throughout the trip.

It’s a liquor made from the peel of the lemon…... which is mainly produced in Southern Italy, especially around Naples, Sorrento, Capri and the coast of Amalfi (Amalfi is on my list for my next Italian visit!). 

It is made from the zest of lemons (just the peel not the white part). The lemons grown in the area mention are especially good for this drink because it's a little cold for growing lemons so their peels are very thick. Everywhere there is a small space you'll see lemon trees growing.

To make it the peel is soaked in vodka until the oil of the lemon is released, then mixed with simple syrup, and served very cold.

Questo e’ delizioso!

Since I had never been to Italy before and I speak very limited Italian (actually zero) I went on a tour with Perillo. It was a group of 28, our guide Tony was excellent and it was well organized. Would travel with them again.

We landed in Milan and were transferred to our hotel - we never touched our suitcases the whole time, they were always delivered to our rooms and picked up from them.

We spent the evening getting settled and then i walked around the neighborhood looking at shops and having my first gelato!

The biggest interest in Milan for me was the Duomo and the adjacent upscale mall in the Galleria.

The Duomo - the Milan Cathedral, was started in the 1300's and took six centuries to complete. 

They both were beautiful.

This photo is not mine but shows the whole square, the main piazza of Milan, including the Royal Palace, the Duomo and the Galleria.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the oldest (and I'm sure most beautiful) shopping malls in the world. It was built  between 1861 and 1877. 

I've developed a real interest in mosaics (am going to Philadelphia to a workshop with Isaiah Zagar in August) so was glad to see a lot of them in Italy.

Photo of a corner of the Duomo and the entrance to the Galleria.

The interior of the Duomo - the largest church in Italy and fifth largest in the world.

We took a day trip to Luguano and Como, seeing the beautiful Lake Como.

What I like most of the photo above is catching the pigeon in flight. I would take LOTS of photos of windows during this trip. For most people it's the only place they have to grow flowers.

Next post - From Milan to Venice.


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Michaels Banner on Broad Street

The banners on Broad Street, a project by the Craven Arts Council, are a way to see how important the arts are to our community.

Each year sponsors chose an artists work they wish to promote.

Of all the banners on Broad Street my favorite is this one.

Michael would be so honored that John and Susie Ward chose him to sponsor.

A big thank you comes from Michael (and Jan)!