Most people watched the recent solar eclipse through pinholes projecting tiny images on a piece of paper. Or they wore very dark orange eclipse viewing filters, looking like they were about to watch a 1950s 3-D movie. My son and I built a large projector using a pair of binoculars that gave us a crisp 4" large image to view. But the most interest method is the way Italian Nonnas might have used in to view eclipses in the past... just go in the kitchen and grab a scolapasta--a common colander. You'll have to agree, the varied patterns of holes make for some great eclipse art... some of which look absolutely astronomical!
Between Venice and Padua you will find one of the most beautiful maze gardens in the world... the Villa Pisani in San Pietro di Stra. The villa and garden labyrinth was built on the banks of the Brenta river, by the rich and powerful Pisani family in 1722. Its nine concentric circles are formed by 900 boxwood hedges with a tower in the center with a confusing double helical external staircase. The labyrinth has an ancient origin in the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur being imprisoned in the labyrinth of the Knossos Palace on Crete. In the Middle Ages such labyrinths represented the struggle of life with Faith guiding us through. One can also look at the labyrinth at Pisani as getting oneself lost in Love...
When my father was a boy, he and his brothers swam in the Hudson River... brown on some days, green on others, always polluted from industries up river. He lived to be 86. Similarly, in Rome people often took a swim in the muddy, polluted Tiber River, even though it has been polluted and undrinkable for many centuries. Today, the river always runs green. The saying, "swimming the Tiber" or "crossing the Tiber" at one time became a metaphor for a Protestant converting to Catholicism. Today, it is illegal.... swimming, I mean.
As the rivers nears Tiber Island adjacent to Trastevere, fallen trees, debris and other flotsam don’t escape the pressures of a low-head dam. A swimmer drowning in the Tiber would more than likely be discovered stuck in the dam. Paddling or swimming the river nowadays is a fools game...
Graffiti is as ancient as the cave walls of Lascaux in France when man put strange images in the walls and ceilings. They have found political graffiti on the ancient walls of Pompeii. I even saw graffiti on the walls of the dungeon where Joan of Arc was held. In New York City back in the seventies, the subway cars were so covered with colorful graffiti their windows were useless.
Nowadays, in cities around the world, a new type of more sophisticated, artistic graffiti has morphed into what many consider a type of public, urban fine art. I'll admit to having issues when I see the more inartistic, random "tags" plaguing the walls of historic architecture in Cities like Rome. But there are artists that are really making a statement--whether political or simply surrealistic--on the aging walls of Italy. Many of the artists have received accolades in both the fine art world and cult circles: Clemes Behr, Herbert Baglione, MOMO, Banky, Alice Pasquini, Sten Lex, Augustine Lacurci, Jerico and Hitnes.
Isola Bella is found on Lago Maggiore in north Italy just 1500 feet from the town of Stresa. A mere thousand feet long, it contains a small fishing village, a grand palazzo and one of the most formal and beautiful Italianate gardens in all of Italy. Begun in 1632, the rocky islet was transformed with the construction of the palazzo and gardens. Forty-nine years later the gardens were completed. Isola Bella is a popular tourist attraction, with a regular ferry service from Stresa, Laveno, Pallanza and Intra. It plays host to the annual Stresa music festival.
The Pugliese town of Vieste has a unique geographical location at the end of a rocky peninsula called the Gargano in Puglia. The white houses in Vieste give a Voyager the feeling that they are in Greece--in fact, the Greeks, Saracens and Slavs all influenced the history of this town. At either side of the town are long sandy beaches, one with a large white rock monolith over 80 feet tall called Pizzomunno (lacy beard). The white cliffs in the surrounding landscape contain many grottoes, weathered rock formations and sea arches, created by the action of wind and waves on the calcarerous rock. Some of the best beaches and grottoes are best seen by boat. This is one of the most picturesque beach areas in all of Italy with the most pristine water environment.
If visited during summer, the hotel and lido beach club adjacent to the beach at Pizzomunno will offer loud music and lots of resort types... Better to enjoy the natural environment during the off season when the hotel and lido are closed.
The Legend of Pizzomunno
Every day Pizzomunno--a handsome, strong fisherman--went out into the sea to fish, and every day beautiful sirens tried to seduce him with their songs. They even offered him immortality and the honor of being their king. But Pizzomunno always returned to his lover, the beautiful Cristalda. One night, as the two lovers were together on a small island, the sirens kidnapped Cristalda, pulling her down into the depths of the sea. Pizzomunno could not save her. The scorned mermaids' vengeance was yet to be satisfied... the next morning he was found on the beach, his enormous strength and anguish transformed into the white pinnacle we see today. Legend says that once every century, Cristalda rises from the abyss for one night to join her young lover again.