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
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.
Sorrento is one of the most beautiful places in southern Italy with it's high perch overlooking the bay of Naples with the best view of Mount Vesuvius. The historic center of town is beautiful most days of the year, but it's during the Christmas season that the place takes on a really magical aire.
Starting in late November, the Christmas tree in Piazza Tasso is lit which leads off the celebrations which include a Christmas Treasure Hunt, weekend street performances, concerts in churches and other venues in all sorts of musical genres and Villaggio di Babbo Natale (Santa’s Village) at Villa Fiorentino.
If you're planning to visit, you might consider their Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) party with pulsing music rocking in Piazza Tasso, followed by a fireworks display down at the port.
Some highlights: 19 December 2016: Lauro Square from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, "Papers Christmas" 20-21 December 2016: Campo Italia Soccer tournament “Christmas Stars” Piazza Tasso 6pm, Christmas Concert Basilica di S.Antonino 5 pm, Christmas Choir 22 December 2016: Church of SS. Rosario 6:30 pm, Traditional songs 23 December 2016: Church of Lourdes 7:00 pm, Carlo Morelli Gospel Choir 24 December 2016: Neapolitan fried pizza at Pizzeria Da Gigino; Street Animation 25 December 2016: Street Animation; Christmas Treasure Hunt 26 December 2016: Casarlano from 6 pm to 20 pm, Living Nativity; Cattedrale Sorrento 7:30 pm, Christmas concert; Christmas Treasure Hunt 27 December 2016: Christmas Treasure Hunt; Chiesa SS. Rosario 7 pm, Concert “Christmas Melodies” 28 December 2016: Teatro Tasso ore 7 pm (free), Nino Buonocore 29 December 2016: Teatro Armida, Concert 31 December 2016: Historical center, 10 am to 9 pm, Street entertainment; Teatro Tasso 11:30 am, New Year’s Concert; Piazza Tasso 6 pm, “Ciuccio di Fuoco” Fireworks; Piazza Tasso from 11 pm to 2 am, New Year party/dancing,music After Midnight, 1 January 2016: Port of Sorrento Fireworks During the month of January: Many weekend concerts, street performances and events.
Most of us know Papier-mâché as a craft we had fun with in grade school--slopping together strips of newspaper, flour, water and some glue--to create a silly mask molded on an inflated baloon. The more artistic among us might have produced more ambitious creations in high school--a dragon, a dog, maybe even an abstrat Papier-mâché obect of art. But in Italy, Papier-mâché, or Cartapesta, as it's known there, is considered a high art medium, with some amazing Masters of the craft creating monumental works that can look like they were coming out of the workshops of Renaissance Masters.
Guerrino Lovato is one of these Maestro di Cartapesta. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, in 1983 he opened his Venice studio and workshop where he creates, along with his now famous Venetian paper mache masks, sculptures and architectural props for theater, opera and cinema. For many years he has organized the Venice Carnival, and in 1993 he created a monumental work--sculptures for the Nativity of Venice, an impressive 75 foot moving sculpture with narration by Marcello Mastroianni. This exhibit attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.
In 1995 he wrote and published "Objects and Sculptures out of Papier mâché ". More of his creations include sculptures for Gulliver Park in Tokyo, Japan; two large statues of Santa Rosalia for the famous feast in Palermo; for the Vatican, a statue of Christ in Michelangelo's style that stoof 18 feet tall; and he created the interior decorations for The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Each year at Christmastime, inside the church of St. Isidore Agricola in Palermo, an ancient brotherhood of bakers creates a Presepe di Pane (Christmas Nativity of Bread) made entirely of bread, and they've been doing so since 1991.
The Presepe of artistic bread is baked and displayed in the beautiful ChiesaSt. Isidoro Agricola (...of the Bakers). St. Isidore was built in 1643, belonged from the beginning to the Society of Bakers.
The Presepe is made completely out of bread, a representation of the importance and symbolism of bread to Catholics... Bread is the Christ. All the characters are made painstakingly by the skilled hands of the bakers.
The Presepe di Pane is on display from December 9 to January 6 hours 9: 30-12: 00 16: 00-19: 00
Here is a video (in Italian) that profiles the Presepe di Pane....
In the next video, a baker-artisan works his magic and creates a detailed human figure. If you bake, this is well worth watching!
If you enjoyed this article, please SHARE it and LIKE it on your favorite social media site. Buon Natale!
Italy is much more interesting than just going there to check off "must see" tourist sites from a list. And there's more than one way to take a Voyage around the country. In a country shaped like a boot, surrounded by crystal clear seas on three sides, filled with volcanic activity in both the people and geology, and with architecture that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years... and being the birthplace of the world's most favorite foods--pasta and pizza--well, this place makes for one hell of a visit... from space on Google Earth.
First, take a look at this straight looking shape jutting out over half a mile into the Adriatic Sea at Trave, Italy? It looks like a man made jetty with boats anchored on the leeward side. Well, it's not man made. It's a natural geological formation--a angled uplift of layers of ancient seabed that you can see in the second photo going straight op the mountain. The effects of vulcanism in Italy are amazing to see.
What do you think these strange arrow shapes are that I came across on Google Earth while trolling around Trevignano, Viturbo on Lago di Bracciano? They are an interesting type of fish trap called an arrowhead trap. Fish swim toward shore, then when they swim out to deeper water again, they get trapped in the arrowhead. They look very cool when seen from above.
How about these circular shapes I found just off the southern coast of the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia? Yep... floating fish farms.
This wasn't planned.... or was it? Looks like a bull dog puppy staring into the eyes of his master.
I wish we were seeing more of this next one in the States. This is one of the largest solar power plants in Italy. It's almost a mile long and produces 70 megawatts, enough to power over 16,500 Italian homes. Why aren't we doing this here?
Everyone knows what this shows... snow on mountaintops, right? Wrong. This image shows mountains entirely made of white marble, just outside of Carerra where Michelangelo found David hidden in a huge hunk of the stuff.
Another jetty? No... it's actually a shipwreck, left there to rust. Italy has a decent number of these wrecks making their coastline much more than just a place to lay out in your Speedo.
This is the Italian Space Agency's radio telescope field in Ortuccio in Abruzzo, but Google Earth shows the importance of this complex. Built in 1963, the Fucino Telespazio Center contains over 100 working dish antenna radio telescopes.
I was checking Google Earth for the location of a museum in the town of Mantova (also, Mantua) in northern Italy when I saw this sight. Mantova is a town with three man made lakes surrounding it (built as protection in the 12th century). In one of the lakes is this mile long leaf shape. It's the Isola del Fior (Flower Island), not an island at all, but a one mile long bed of water lilies.
This one is a shocker. I knew where it should be, but I didn't know Google Earth actually had an image of it.... Here's the Costa Concordia laying on it's side, as view from space. AMAZING!
And now, how about a little salt on your steak? Sea salt, that is. Yes, these are salt drying marsh pens in Trapani, Sicily. They flood the fields with seawater and let the sun do its work.
Now this one is one of the oddest things I've found on Google Earth. Believe it or now, this huge pattern is concrete--covering the ruins of an entire town that was destroyed in an earthquake. The artist entombed household items--dolls, beds, chairs, tables--in this web of concrete. The really strange thing is, the pattern are actually the old streets where people can visit and wander through this oddity. Read more about Cretto do Gibellina HERE.
In the end, this one gets my vote as the absolute strangest sighting found on Google Earth: The giant white rabbit in the Italian Alps. An art installation on a mountaintop, it has suffered the ravages of the Alpine extreme weather--along with and hikers and skiers climbing all over it. The current Google Earth image shows a mere road-kill outline of the bunny's former self.
I hoped you enjoyed this bird's-eye view of la Bel Paese...
Casa Malaparte is a house in the Italian Moderne style on Punta Massullo, a peninsula on the eastern side of the Isle of Capri, Italy. The house was conceived in 1937 by Italian architect Adalberto Libera for Curzio Malaparte. Malaparte eventually rejected Libera's design and built the home himself with the help of Adolfo Amitrano, a local stonemason.
Casa Malaparte looks like it was designed by my son in Minecraft--a strange, fish-shaped building with pyramidal stairs clinging to the edge of a hundred-foot cliff at the edge of Gulf of Salerno. Access to this private property is either by a half mile trek from the edge of the Town of Capri, or by boat and a staircase cut into the cliff.
We came upon these beautiful grapes near San Gimignano
Chestnuts are a really big deal in Italy
In September and October (depending if you are in the North or South of Italy), the hanging bunches of grapes swell and beg to be picked. Flocks of wine aficionados go to Italy for the sole purpose of taking part of this miracle, vising wineries, walking through vineyards, taking part in the harvest and of course, paring the wines they discover with the amazing food of Italy. When to harvest is a tricky thing. It depends on the variety, the weather (rain, cold, frost, hail and wind) and the ripeness of the fruit on the vines. Wine makers have ways to measure the sugars, acid and tannin levels in their grapes. They look for a perfect time to send their pickers out to the fields--when the grapes reach the perfect ratio of sweetness and acid. Some fields are harvested in August, others in September while still others wait until October. Believe it or not, much of the grapes are still harvested by the old fashioned way--a mano (by hand). It costs more than harvesting with machines, but many vintners believe it helps them produce a superior product in the end. Hand picking allows the human hand and eye to selectively pick the grapes that are at their peak. At any given time there might be grapes that are not even close to being ripe, some that are perfect while others are mushy and moldy or rotten entirely. Hands and eyes can pick and choose--a mechanical harvester cannot. Grapes harvested by hand need a lot of sorting afterwards by humans--which costs more time and money.
A good example of harvest time.... in Chianti at the end of September, the fields will be full of people picking grapes from the vines. They fill plastic milk-type crates up with grapes, then carry them to the end of the row and dump them into a big open container that is pulled by a tractor or a three-wheeled Treroute. You'll see many rigs driving down the roads loaded with grapes on the way to the fattoria. You will probably smell the fermenting process when driving by some vineyards.
Truffles, Truffles and more Truffles in Alba
Another reason to Voyage to Italy during harvest time is to enjoy the many various types of sagre (festivals) at this time of year. There's a lot more being harvested than just grapes. Local festivals are held for wine, cheese, bread, nuts, pumpkins, chocolate, mushrooms, sausages.... you name it, and there's a festival for you--some for food, some for history, all in the colorful autumn Italian countryside. Here are just a few...
Lucca: Festa della Esaltazione della Santa Croce - September 13, La Luminaria procession. The streets are illuminated with candles during the Luminara di Santa Croce, the principal event of the year in Lucca and part of a series of festivals during September. A wooden crucifix figure is carried along the streets of the old town center illuminated by thousands of small candles. There is also the "Mottettone" concert inside the cathedral and fireworks on the banks of the river.
Panicale: From Sept 8th to 11th, Panicale holds their Festa del l'uva - grape harvest festival, an interesting event dedicated to wine in Umbria. You can taste local dishes at the tavern and, of course, the excellent local wines.
Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany: Gran Premio Nuvolari - one of the most prestigious Grand Prix of classic cars in Italy, the Grand Premio Nuvolari (named after Tazio Nuvolari, one of the greatest drivers in the history of car racing), which takes place every year from 18th to 21st September. Over 500 drivers, in 250 classic cars start out from Mantua, driving over 1000 km through many towns in Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. For instance, on September 20th the cars will parade through the Piazza del Campo in Siena from 12:00 am to 2:30 pm. More info HERE.
Aquaviva: The Viva Rock Festival will be held from September 7 through 11 in Acquaviva, a few kilometers from Montepulciano, featuring rock, world music, electronic music and reggae, admission is free for all the concerts.
Siena: There seem to be festivals going on all the time in Siena. In September you might visit Siena and see a procession of hundreds of people dressed in medieval costumes or red devil costumes.
Chianti: The olive harvest takes place in November. There are farm rentals (agriturismo) where you can actually take part in picking the olives. A perfect time to buy some oil.
Chianti: The chestnut harvest takes place between the middle of October and the middle of November. Chestnut flour is available a month or two after harvest. Chestnuts are grown in many parts of northern Italy.
Marradi: Northeast of Florence in the town of Marradi is the The Marradi Chestnut Festival, running every Sunday in October
Pisa: Within the province of Pisa, the prestigious International Market and Fair of the White Truffle at Corazzano.
San Miniato: In San Miniato, one of the more important truffle towns, you’ll have the chance to taste and buy one the most prestigious food products you’ll ever find on the first weekend in October. This is a "preview" of the main San Miniato market and fair that takes place every weekend in November.
Asti:Festival Delle Sagre is a one day event with food and wine from 40 villages in the area. It’s only 45 minutes from Turin. Sample tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms, frittata with chickpea and herbs, fried frog and cured donkey meat. Processions and live music entertain the large crowd throughout the day and into evening. www.festivaldellesagre.it
Alba: In October there is the Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco--a festival for the Tartufo biano, or white truffle, is a veritable celebrity in Alba and the month-long autumn festival devoted to the famous fungus is a must-see. Last October, Prince Albert of Monaco made a royal appearance at the opening ceremonies, a fanfare fitting for one of the world’s most sought-after delicacies. www.fieradeltartufo.org
Caluso: 20 miles outside Turin in the small town of Caluso, every September droves of wine enthusiasts celebrate the locally harvested grapes at the Festa dell’Uva. www.festadelluva.tn.it
Negroamaro: In Puglia, the Negroamaro Wine Festival is held in Brindisi every November.
Gubbio, Umbria:“Il Mese del Tartufo” (the Month of the Truffle) from November 19-20 and November 26-27, with events centering around different truffle-related products and other Umbrian specialties.
Piegaio: The Festa della Zucca (Squash Festival) is held in early October in Piegaio, a small town near Lucca. Growers from across the region head to the village to show off their biggest and best produce. There are also stalls brimming with squash-based dishes (as well as local honey, meats and cheeses) and even dolls made out of the fruit.
Montalcino: Beekeepers Week in Montalcino, Tuscany is held in early September. Honey tastings and all sorts of foods made with honey.
Bra: The Slow Cheese Festival happens this year from September 18-21 in Bra, Italy, a town in the northern Piedmont region, which is also the birthplace of Slow Food movement.
Buonconvento: In early September the walled town of Buonvonvento hosts a beer festival.
Verona: The Tocatì, the International Festival of Street Games in Verona, is an interesting opportunity to check out games, sounds and flavors of the past. Sept 15-18.
Greve: In Greve in Chianti there's the Expo del Chianti Classico celebrating the ubiquitous Chianti wine. There's music, lessons on wine and food sampling. There will be over 60 wine producers attending. In 2016 the event will be from the 8th to the 11th of September.
Milan & Turin:The MITO music festival takes place in September in the cities of Milan and Turin, and lasts throughout the month.
Ciminna:San Vito's day is celebrated in Ciminna, near Palermo, Sicily during the first week of September. There is a large parade where scenes from the life of the Saint are re-enacted. A livestock fair is also organized.
Florence: One of the oldest September festivals takes place in one of Italy's best known and most beautiful cities, Florence--the Feast of the Rificolona.
Pienza: The Pienza Pecorino Fair and "Cacio al Fuso" takes place on the first Sunday in September. Pienza is known for the pecorino (sheep cheese) in Italy and a wide range of excellent cheeses is available to be tasted and bought during this fair. The Cacio al Fuso is a cheese rolling competition--contestants roll a round of cheese to see how far it goes.
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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...