Back in 2009 Fiat was busy merging with Chrysler Motors while promoting its larger, roomier Fiat 500C. Merely claiming that the model was bigger wasn't enough--they illustrated the size by taking a giant-sized, 5:1 scale model on a tour of European countries. That's 5:1, not 1:5, which means that the mock-up is 5 times bigger than the actual production model. It left a big impression, for sure, leaving the wheels off as entry and exit points.
On display in Franfurt
Recently, after the curators of the Palazzo Pitti ordered a routine cleaning and inspection of Raphael's La Donna Velata (the Veiled Woman), they discovered some significant and off-putting under-painting through the use of x-rays and ultraviolet techniques.
Amazed at what they found--a bizarre portrait of a bearded Michelangelo, they began to come up with a reason for this horrific image...
As many historians will tell you, Michelangelo and Raphael had a combative relationship and worked on different parts of the Vatican at the same time. As is well documented, Raphael painted the frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the Pope’s private library while Michelangelo was (as Raphael saw it) "laying down on the job" while painting the Sistine chapel ceiling. Raphael procured a key to the Sistine Chapel and had his spy secretly sneak in to check out Michelangelo’s progress. At times, Raphael himself would spy on the Master and record every detail of what he saw in his Eidetic memory.
Michelangelo later accused Raphael of plagiarism and claimed "everything he knew about art he got from me." Michelangelo hated Raphael and spread nasty rumors about him. The two were bitter rivals to the end.
With this new discovery, art experts now theorize that Raphael hatched his plan to get back at him... to paint the most ugly and grotesque portrait of a bearded Michelangelo underneath one of his own masterpieces, the Veiled Woman, knowing full well that someday, somehow, in the distant future, art historians would uncover his monumental joke upon the Master... once and for all times, shaming Michelangelo (who was rumored to be gay) as a cross-dressing, bambolina-hugging monstrosity--even if the shaming occurred after they were both in their graves.
If you love flowers, especially flowering vines, then Italy is the place for you. The flowering season is long and dazzling displays are everywhere, from the northern regions all the way down the Boot to Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. Early spring is best to see the wisteria displays, but don't worry, there are many types of flowers that grow all through the season, such as the amazing tropical bougainvillea. The grow up and around houses, seemingly in an attempt to swallow them up completely. The balcony gardens are another pleasure to see when Voyaging throughout Italy. So, bring your camera, your pastels or watercolors and take in the scents of Fioritura Italia...
You may also want to see Creating a Hanging Italian Wall Garden.
Castello di Ruffo di Scilla (also known Ruffo di Calabria castle) is an ancient fortification, originally built during the 5th century BC, and located on the Scillèo promontory, looking out over the Strait of Messina. The castle is in the town of Scilla, about 20 km north of Reggio Calabria. The castle also houses one of the Navy lighthouses, the Scilla lighthouse.
Mythology tells us that Scilla was a beautiful young girl, daughter of Niso, who was King of Megara. She was loved by the marine god Glauco, and transformed by a wizard named Circe into a monster with six heads of ferocious dogs who devoured sailors passing through the Strait of Messina. Due to the unpredictably strong currents, the Strait of Messina had always been feared by ancient mariners.
It is said that Tyrrhenian pirates were first to settle this coastal area in 493 BC, but others claim it was already settled during the time of the Trojan Wars in the 12th century BC.
Built by the Dukes of Calabria, the Castello di Ruffo costs a mere €1.50 to tour, overlooking the Marina di Scilla and its wonderful pebble beach. The beach-front in summer is frequented by tourists and surrounded by hotels and restaurants. Because of its location in the Straight of Messina, the waters are typically very warm. As such, the fishing in these waters are world renowned for catching Pesce Spada, or swordfish and the Castello contains many exhibits about what it takes to catch this elusive great fish.
When we planned out Voyage to southern Italy, one of the things on my bucket list was to stay in a trullo--the pointy roofed stone houses of Puglia. Trulli are dotted throughout the countryside, some in the more ancient style of chopped-top cone, others abandoned and in ruins, and many in farm complexes made up of as many as 6-8 trulli. Their roofs can be adorned with painted hex symbols by their owners and they are topped with a wide variety of finial, sometimes in the shape of stars. They are restored into B&Bs and year-round villas with some being very chic. But nothing can prepare the Voyager when he visits the UNESCO town of Alberobello, with over 1600 trulli clustered in the town center.
In Alberobello, there are many wonderful gift shops, and while some offer the standard tourist kitsch, what I loved about the town is the amount of local artisans offering their hand made products. You can buy beautiful jewelry in the many different religious and pagan shapes found painted on the pointy roofs, local pottery and ceramics, wooden bread stamps carved with your initials, hand made pocket knives (I came home with a sommelier version)... but my favorite local craft are the miniature trulli. They are all made using local stone to mimic the real stone and techniques used to built the real trulli. There are tiny ones that you can hold in your hand and large ones that you can place in your garden.
Here's a short video about trulli and how they make miniatures.