There is a reason people have flocked to la bel Paese as part of their Grand Tour in the nineteenth century and are still doing it today. Tourists gather en masse in hopes of discovering the romance, history and beauty of Italy. Blame the artists. That's right, the romantic movement in art filled the salons, galleries and the homes of the elite (who could actually afford a "Grand Tour" for a year or more) and in essence promoted the beauty of Italia. Here are a dozen of what I consider the most beautiful and romantic of this type of painting... who wouldn't want to travel to Italy after seeing the grandeur?
Gulf of Naples by moonlight by Ajvazovskij
Ponte Rotto by Hubert Robert
River Beggers by Caneletto 1780
View of the canal channel from the Ponte San Marco, by Giuseppe Canella - 1834
Ragusa, Sicily by Emil Jakob Schindler
Fireworks in Naples by Oswald Achenbach
The Shipment, by Segantini Giovanni
View from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence over the Arno, by Palladini 1862
Rome and Castel Sant Angelo by Silvestr Fedosievich Shchedrin
I stumbled across the compelling videos of Andrea Giraldo on Facebook this week. Both his Facebook page and You Tube channel share the name, Il Mio Viaggio a New York, and contain many videos of an Italian's look at tourist sites and everyday life in and around the Big Apple. He speaks in Italian, but the visuals tell his story well enough. Here are a couple of my favorites...
The first is when he visits a "Chuck and Cheese" (as he pronounced it), a kid's party and game venue for the "working class"....
The next video is his visit to a street vendor selling hot tins for lunch. As most Italians take 2-3 hours to go home for lunch (their riposa) he must be in shock with the long lines of people getting take out food from a cart and gobbling their lunches down in 10 minutes while sitting on ledges on the sidewalks of Manhattan.
There are industrial creations that become iconic images in our minds and in history... the VW Beetle, the iPod, the Moka coffee pot, the Coca Cola bottle, the Fiat 500 (Cinquecento). Many have become inspiration for artists worldwide.
One more comes to mind: TheVespa motor scooter.
The classic shape of the Vespa has been around since 1946, evolving in design over the years by its parent company, Piaggio, but keeping its basic elements: a unibody with covered engine and wheels, a two-person boat-shaped seat, a flat floorboard with cyclops headlight and a fairing to protect legs from the weather.
Many use the bodies of their scooters as their canvases, while others prefer to interpret the iconic shape of the Vespa in other mediums. They have been painted, bejeweled, sculpted, photographed and made into jewelry. Right now we will take a look at the art of mosaic, where cut pieces of tiles or stone used--some mosaics created on the vehicles themselves.
Finally, there is this amazing mosaic illustration by Chris Sumka, an amazing mosaic artist from Edmundton, Alberta, Canada. Chris uses ceramic tiles and natural stone in his pieces. He often has existing creations for sale but also works on commissioned assignments.
Wrinkled skin, warts, black shawl, flying broomstick... sounds scary, right? Such a witch on a flying broom would strike fear in the hearts of most children, but not in Italy, and not on January 6th, the Epiphany (Epifania in Italian) .
This witch--la Befana--comes down chimneys and leaves gifts for children. And if they've been bad, she'll leave a lump of black coal... but she's usualy compelled to leave a black sugar lump rather than real coal. She's that good!
Since the 13th century, La Befana has been leaving her presents in children's stockings, but her story goes back much further than that. La Befana was stopped by the Three Wise Men and asked her to lead them to the manger and stable where baby Jesus was born. La Befana was so nasty and shoved them away without helping. But seeing the Christmas Star in the sky, she was drawn to find the reason for their quest and brought her own gifts for the Baby Jesus. Although she followed the Star, she wandered without finding Him. To this day, she flies around the world in search of that special child, and just in case she misses him, she leaves gifts for each and every child to make up for her past indiscretion.
In just about every town in Italy there will be celebrations, feasts, parades, marching bands, flying witches, floating witches, puppet witches and witches brooms and black cats everywhere...
On January 6, children will find their stockings filled with presents... and also discover that all too suddenly (at least to an Italian child), the Christmas season comes to a close. Some slices of sweet panettone, a cup of cioccolata calda, and playing a few rounds oftombola with the famiglia after playing with their new toys, and this magical Natale season tucks gently into their lifelong memories...
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Experience the Italian lifestyle, heritage, cuisine, art, music, language and traditions, while learning how our own Grand Voyage to Italy affected our lives back at home--per sempre--forever. Andiamo, take a Grand Voyage with us...